ON ICE PART III

The other of the big three ice productions came about when Maurice Chaflen took his ten year old roller blade touring show, Skating Vanities and converted the idea to an ice show, Holiday On Ice. It differed from the other two in that it had several productions traveling all at the same time and it carried it’s own ice making equipment, which meant they didn’t have to confine the tours to cities with ice arenas in the US or around the globe.

Holiday began it’s US operation in 1945. The first international company was called Ice Vogues and started with a tour of Mexico in 1947 and toured Mexico and South America. In 1956, the name was changed and Holiday On Ice now toured all over the globe.

Except for a few years when Sonja Henie joined the company, the show did not use big name skaters. It featured the spinning wheel, skaters linked arms one by one, ending in the spokes of the wheel skating from a central hub. Each performance ended with a kick line and fireworks.

To attract a new audience the reviews introduced kiddie themes like Bugs Bunny, Peter Pan, Ali Baba, and the like, the first of the costumed ice show that led to today’s Disney On Ice.

In 1964, the North American show was sold to Madison Square Garden, leaving Chaflen as owner of Holiday International, which grew to have three companies traveling around different countries at the same time breaking new ground in Russia and China. The US version ended in 1985, but the International shows are still touring.

Tom Collins, a Canadian skating champion, joined Holiday, and when his skating days ended, he and Morrie Chaflen started Champions On Ice. No sets or chorus lines. Just figure skating champions performing the routines that brought them fame.

Morrie Chaflen sold out his share to Tom, but not until he married Tom’s sister, Martha, also a Canadian champion skater.

At first Tom could use only amateur champions but when the rules were changed to allow professionals he brought in names like Brian Boitano, Katrina Witt and Michelle Kwan, and every big name skater in the 40 years he had Champions. Sometimes he used skaters that hadn’t made their mark yet, just talent and promise. One such promising youngster was 12 year old Dorothy Hamil.

When he staged his final tour in 2007 and sold his company, shortly after his wife died, he was regarded as the most powerful person in figure skating.

Tom’s father had been a gold miner, but never found a mine as rich as his son found in figure skating. He was grossing over 50 million a year. But when he was sitting backstage talking to hands like myself you would think he just one of the guys.

But Tom Collins wasn’t one to sit back and enjoy retirement. He went on tour with Neil Diamond and revolutionized the selling of swag at concerts. No more just a CD was for sale. Tom had T shirts and caps, posters and autographed pictures. Swag was now big business. He went on tours with other performers and bands. His brother, Butch, had been working for me as a stagehand and Tom got him involved in selling Swag for Sesame Street Live whose headquarters are in Minneapolis, and I lost a good hand in Butch.

The big shows of Ice Follies and Ice Follies are now just show business memories like Ziegfeld Follies and Vaudeville. Their time maybe over but they broke ground in figure skating. They proved there was a market for skating shows, and a career for skaters even if they never became household names giving a reason for the hours needed in the grueling task of becoming a figure skater. And they introduced the art of figure skating to a new audience, an audience that continues to support the ice shows that followed.

The people behind ice shows, past and present, had for the most part, one thing in common, ice skating was a big part of their life since they were old enough to have skates laced on.

But one of the biggest mover and shaker in the business was a non- skater, Morris Chaflen, a true entrepreneur. Chaflen, ‘call me Morrie’, was a man who dove into things without worrying about the depth of the water. Once you met him, you never forgot him.

Morrie grew up in Minneapolis. He was still in knee pants when he started his first business, selling newspapers and candies on a street corner. His first big-boy enterprise was a combination pool hall and bowling alley.

I knew a lot about hawking newspapers and playing pool. That’s how I grew up, not shooting basketballs or ice skating.’

In 1947, he and his partner, Ben Berger, bought the Detroit Gems, a professional basketball team, to Minneapolis and renamed it the Minneapolis Lakers. Luck of the draft brought them George Mikan when the Chicago team he played for two years folded. Mikan helped establish the NBA into a major sports organization and was name the Greatest Basketball Player of the 1st half of the 20th Century.

In 1957, he and Berger sold the team to Bob Short, another Minneapolis entrepreneur and politician, who moved the team to Los Angeles, three years later’. It broke a lot of hearts including your truly.

Yeah, Short was always running in state or federal elections. Running but never winning. Maybe some voters figured he’d sell them out just like he did with the Lakers. You think?’

Morrie was active in politics also. A behind- the- scenes worker. Never a candidate. In 1944, he was in the liberal arm of the MN Democratic Party when, under the leadership of Hubert Humphrey, merged with the larger MN Farmer Labor Party. He became friends with Humphrey from the time Humphrey came to study at the University of Minnesota and he worked for Humphrey’s city, state, and federal campaigns, as Humphrey went from Mayor of Minneapolis, to MN’s Senator in DC, to Vice President under Johnson, and back to Senator. The two remained close throughout their lives.

US Senator at that time, Hubert Humphrey met with Morrie Chaflen at the 1958 Brussels’s World Fair and the meeting resulted in a warm up of the Cold War and the beginning of the Cultural Trade Treaty between the USA and Russia as it was originally intended to be.

When Hubert worked out that exchange of the Moscow Circus and Holiday On Ice, a lot of people said it wouldn’t work, but we showed ‘em. Up til’ then it was just we’ll send you a piano player and you send us a cello player. After we went to Russia, the exchange went big time with theater groups, museum things, opera, and ballet. Just think, without ballet companies coming over, all those dancers never would have defected.’

Humphrey had purposed that the US would send over the Ringling Brother’s Circus with America’s famous clown Emmett Kelly, even though Kelly was no longer with Ringling. In return, Russia would send the Moscow Circus with it’s great clown, Popov. The USSR said da and nyet. They would send Popov and the circus to the US, but they wanted Holiday On Ice, instead of a circus…and it had to bring everything including the ice making equipment and the machine that shaves the ice.

Without asking Chaflen, he quickly signed the agreement, He knew Morrie would be more than happy to take the show to Russia. Humphrey had a caveat though. The first stop on the tour would be a week’s engagement in Minneapolis, MN where he started his political career.

Soon after the Russian adventure, Holiday broke the barrier of another closed nation, China.

Chaflen traveled around the world with his Holiday On Ice shows playing before European Royalty and World leaders like Nikita Khrushchev, and a Who’s Who of celebrities at the time like Princess Diana and Elvis Presley.

Morrie lived a life he never could have imagined as that ten year old kid standing on that corner in Minneapolis back in the day.

But it also had two tragedies that could have had driven him into a life changing depression, if he had been a weaker man.

On St. Patrick’s Day 1960, his wife, Martha Collins Chaflen and their three children, ages 2, 6, 7, were flying to Miami when the plane broke into pieces in the air and crashed. Morris Chaflen’s beloved wife and children were among the 63 people who lost their lives in that still unexplained horror.

On Oct 31st, 1963, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Arena, just as the opening night performance of Holiday was into the finale, a leak from a LP tank, stored under the bleachers, was ignited by an electrical short and blew up, killing 81 and injuring some 400 more. Morrie was not there and none of the cast or crew were hurt; but the fact that there was 81 deaths and so many of the over 4,000 in the audience, and a statement from the sheriff stating that if the show had not started 15 minute late, the deaths and injuries would not have been as great, hit Morrie hard.

Criminal charges against six of the arena’s staff were dropped after more investigation. The arena reopened and hosted a cattle show six weeks later, and The Beatles a year later, followed a month later by a return of Holiday On Ice, which broke the arena’s attendance records.

It took Morrie quite awhile to get back to being the easy going person he was before, but slowly he reverted to the man who was so much fun to be around. He remarried and had two sons with his second wife. He lost his ownership in Holiday International by a court ruling over a stock issue. He started Chaflen International and dabbled in various businesses. He died in 1949 at the age of 72, a year after the death of his good friend, Hubert Humphrey.

Morrie was a natural story teller, and you never forgot him or his stories. He loved to sit backstage and regale young stagehands like your truly.

Now did I ever tell you about…’

You probably heard the story before but any story Morrie told was worth hearing again. He had a twinkle in his eye and just a slight accent. He used his hands in telling a story. He could have had a career as a story telling comedian.

He had that gift of entertaining through the art of telling stories that seems to be second nature to those who lived in the shtetls of Eastern Europe. Like the Boston barber, Max Nimoy, father of Leonard Nimoy, who told stories of living in and escaping from a shtetl in Ukraine.

And like Myron Cohen who came to the US from Russia at the age of two. Cohen was a traveling salesman who endeared himself to his customers by telling them funny stories. He was talked into performing at comedy clubs and soon became a household name because of his appearances on the TV variety shows of the 50’s.

And like Zero Mostel,’If I were a rich man’, who, when cast as the original Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof’, balked at the concept that the original stories by Sholem Aleichem, who lived in a shtetl in the Ukraine before coming to the US, being ‘too Jewish’ to succeed. Using stories he heard from his father of life and dreams of the inhabitants of an East European shtetl, he crafted the Fiddler we know today. And over the years his Tevye was adhered to by actors like Herschel Bernardi, Theodore Bikel, Leonard Nimoy among others.

Morrie’s favorite story was what happened on that first Russian tour. It also is my favorite Morrie story.

I took off running. They weren’t going to pull something like that on me. No way! But I pulled up in a hurry when the KGB’s answer to the Three Stooges came from behind the Zamboni.

Moe, with his hands in the pocket of his black leather ankle length coat, stood in the center of his two stooges. He had that come-on-I-dare-you look on his face.

Larry and Curly were wearing their black leather knee length leather coats. And each had a BIG pistol pointed at me.

Thinking back I should have been praying but at the time all I could think of was, “What in the name of Hubert Horatio Humphrey did I get into???”

Whoa! Whoa! Morrie’s story needs a post of it’s own.

Stay tuned for KGB AND THE ZAMBONI.

DESSERT AT THE NIMOY’S

Nora Max and son

The is a continuation of DINNER AT THE NIMOY’S.

Max watched his wife go into the kitchen. ‘Ah,’ he sighed. ‘The love of my life. I was so lucky to have found her. Can you guess where I first met her?’

‘The village where you grew up?’

‘Boston?’

‘No. You’ll never guess. We first met in South America.’

‘South America!’ Dennis and I spoke in unison.

Max laughed. When Mrs. Nimoy came back into the room carrying the dessert Max asked his wife to tell us where they met.

‘South America’, she said without any hesitation. ‘But we did notice each other on the boat.’

‘Ship, Momma, ship,’ Max corrected her. ‘But we never talked. Just nodded shalom to each other. I didn’t even know she was a girl. Dressed in boy’s clothing. Had a very short haircut, like a boy. I thought she was a shy young man who was very attentive to his bubbe, his grandmother.’

‘And to me, Max was this young man who set up his barber chair at the same place on the main deck at the same time every afternoon.’

‘Not every afternoon,’ Max corrected her, ‘Not on the Sabbath.’

‘No. Not on the Sabbath,’ Mrs. Nimoy agreed. My bubbe thought that made you a very religion boy. And he was always talking and making his customer laugh. That made me like him, even from a distance.’

‘And tell them, your grandmother thought I was cute, didn’t she? Didn’t she?’

“In this case, boys,’ she said, ‘I have to humor him. Yes, Max, my bubbe thought you were cute. And she thought you would make a fine husband for me. Okay? And she wanted to be the shanchanit, matchmaker…’

‘Tradition! Tradition!’ Max sang out.

Chagall's Fiddler

CHAGALL’S FIDDLER

Mrs Nimoy frowned at him. ‘But she had to wait several years before she really began because we were both too young even by old country standards.’

‘So,’ Max interjected, ‘I guess you could say we were kind of childhood sweethearts. At least Momma was. I was a young man with a trade.’

‘And,’ Mrs. Nimoy smiled, ‘my bubbe convinced Max when we were in Valenzuela to come to Boston instead of New York. She was serious about marrying me off to Max.’

‘Very serious,’ Max said. ‘She kept a close eye on me when we got to Boston.’

‘And weren’t you lucky bubbe did?’ Leonard said.

‘Very lucky,’ Max agreed, holding up his hands. ‘Boys, not only is this woman beautiful, she is also a real baleboste.

‘A baleboste, boys,’ Mrs. Nimoy explained,’ is a woman who is a great homemaker and cook.’

‘And is in charge of the home,’ Max continued, ‘And nobody better forget that.’

‘You know, there is an article about Leonard and it says that Leonard’s parents were childhood sweethearts. Grew up in the same shetl. Not so. We were born in shetls about 20 miles apart. Now 20 miles in the Ukraine in those days was a distance that was more like a 100 miles here. I never traveled to her village and she never traveled to mine. We didn’t know the other one existed. Until the ship that brought us to South America.

‘We lived in the Pale of Settlement, the western part of Imperial Russia. It was not a good place to live in in best of times. But that is where the Tzars forced Jews to live. Except Jews that had a trade important to the Russians.

‘The Russians had a habit of harvesting Jews. They would march into a village and conscript the young men. Some into the Army for cannon fodder. Some into work camps, especially for the mines in Siberia

‘ And the young women… Enough said about the poor young women.

‘People tried to escape the Pale all the time. Escape over the border to find a better life. Escape networks were set up to help the fugitives.

‘It is said two million Jews from the Pale immigrated to the United States in those years. And Momma and I were among the lucky ones.

‘Momma and her grandmother escaped in a hay wagon. Hid under the hay most of the time. Her family had cut her hair like a boy and dressed her in boy’s clothing. Not that that would make any difference if she was caught. Some of her family had escaped before and had settled in Boston. Others would follow after Dora got there.

‘The two women made it to the rescue liner without any problem, thank goodness. Ships were rented by the Jewish Federation for the purpose of bringing Jews to America. The ships would wait offshore in the Black Sea or Baltic until there was enough Jews on board to set sail. Momma had to wait over a week on board the ship before it left. I got there a day before it sailed. I kid Momma that they waited especially for me.

‘I escaped through the woods. There was an escape route much like the Underground Railroad. You went to a safe place and there you could rest and learn how to get to the next safe place. It was a long journey. And once you made it out of the Pale, crossed the border, you still had to watch out. There were gangs of thugs who captured escaping Jews and brought them back for the reward. Or sold them to slavers.

‘Dora and her grandmother had money sewn in their clothes and paid for their passage to their passage to South America. I didn’t. I made a bargain to work for passage. If I hadn’t worked enough to pay my bill I could have gotten the remaining amount once we reached the Jewish relocation colony in Venezuela and set up a way to pay it off once I got to the US. Since I wasn’t skilled in working as a hand, I talked my way into working as a cook’s helper. Each night I would clean the kitchen and peel vegetables for the next day.

‘Then I would sleep a few hours and set up my barber shop on the main deck, weather permitting. My hair cutting had nothing to do with my working for the ship’s passage. Oh, my barber’s apprenticeship was paying off. I not only paid off my passage between the two jobs, I put some money in my pocket for the next leg of the journey.

‘Like the barber says in the song,“If I were a rich man, Max sang out, “Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.” Max stopped singing and said “If I was rich as a Rockefeller, I would be richer than a Rockefeller because I could always barber on the side. Y ha deedle…’

‘Max,’ Dora stopped her husband’s singing, ‘That joke is not in the song, and it is not about a barber, it is about a tailor who can tailor on the side.’

‘Poetic License, Momma. Poetic License.’

‘To continue,’ Max went on, ‘up until the time I actually met Dora’s and her grandmother, I had planned to go to New York. But once her bubbe told me all about Boston I thought that might be a better place to go.

‘I went to the relocation administrative office and told them I changed my mind. I want to go to Boston instead. They found me a sponsor in Boston and I signed the necessary papers to say I would pay back any money the sponsor would use for my passage and for my getting settled in Boston. I managed to get it done in time to sail on the same liner as Dora and her grandmother.

And got to know them better. Both Dora and I were too young to think seriously about  marriage, but the seed was planted in my mind.

‘Once again I set up a barber shop on main deck. “Have scissors will travel, reads the card of the man,” he sang to the tune of Paladin.

‘By the time we got to Boston my passage was paid for and I had money in my pocket to live on. My sponsor set me up with a barber in Mattapan, the Jewish section of Boston at that time. When the time came for me to court Dora in earnest I was in a good position to marry her. I couldn’t wait to ask her to marry me.’

‘And I quickly said yes.’ She smiled at her husband and got up to clear away the dessert dishes. And as she reached for Max’s she touched his hand.

Since the meal started at six, it was still relatively early; but the three of us knew that Mrs. Nimoy would not go to bed until everything was spic and span. And we knew to volunteer to help would be an insult. We decided we better leave, using the excuse of having a big day tomorrow.

We shook hands and said our heart-felt thanks in the hallway. Naturally the two elder Nimoys had to kiss their son and told him to be sure and give their love to his family. And they would see him the next week.

Later in my hotel room I thought back on the night and meeting Leonard’s parents. And I thought of all the framed pictures around the dining room. All the pictures were of their two sons, their weddings, their children. There wasn’t any pictures showing off their celebrity son in his many roles like Spock or Tevye. Oh, I imagine somewhere there were scrapbooks filled with pictures and articles of Leonard; but that was a something not to be confused with their pride in their FAMILY, the most important part of their lives.

I never had the privilege of seeing Dora and Max again. Max died in July of 1987. Dora died the following December. But meeting them that one time under those homily circumstances showed me where their son Leonard got his down-to-earth humanity.

Leonard as Teve

Leonard as Tevye

And that’s a wrap.

DINNER AT THE NIMOYS’

Nimoys

The elder Nimoys, Dora and Max, were living in a first floor apartment in a red-bricked building in a middle-class section of Boston when I met them. It wasn’t the house where they raised their two sons, Melvin and Leonard, in. This was their retirement home they moved into after Max left his barbering trade.

It was during the second leg of Leonard’s one-man show ,VINCENT, tour. During the first leg, which ended months before, our little troupe consisted of Leonard, his wife Sandy, his dresser Erik, Dennis Babcock, who was the Special Events Coordinator for the Guthrie and the person responsible for converting the bare-bones VINCENT that Leonard brought to the Guthrie and turning it into a full-blown show and for booking the first tour in which he also served as Tour Director. I was the show lighting director, show set-up carpenter, and show electrician.

On the first leg of the tour, a Guthrie production, we jumped from city to city. We spent a lot of our time together, stayed in the same hotel, often on the same floor, and ate many of our meals together. We even spent three days living in Leonard’s home in L.A..

The second leg was completely different, a week of brush-up and four weeks of shows, all in the Wilbur Theater in Boston, Leonard’s home town. It was no longer a Guthrie show, but was promoted by a New York producer. Leonard and his wife, Sandy, stayed in a hotel downtown and were kept busy with friends and relatives. I stayed in a theatrical hotel in the theater district. The first tour had been something special. This time it was like theatrical tours usually are.

I had left the Guthrie shortly after we got back from the first tour and was free-lancing off the Union Hiring Hall. Dennis Babcock had taken a short leave of absence from the Guthrie and helped us get the show back on it’s feet, and then he went back home. Like I said, things had changed.

Leonard said no matter how busy he would be in Boston he wanted Denny and I to met his folks. ‘They want to meet you two. Dora will cook us one of her great dinners and Max will entertain us.’ Leonard set it up for the third evening the set-up week.

The faint aroma of the food cooking welcomed us as we stood outside the Nimoys’ door, and when Mr. Nimoy, (Call me Max), welcomed us in, the aroma hit us full force, and I knew that, if offered seconds, I would take them.

Mrs. Nimoy, Dora, followed her husband in the hallway to greet us. She was wearing a kitchen apron over her dress and used it to wipe off her hands before she shook hands with Denny and me, and kissed Leonard.

One of the things I was surprised by was the fact that both of Leonard’s parents barely came up to his shoulders. One thing I was not surprised by was the immaculate condition of the apartment. Sandy, Leonard’s wife had not come with us, but she had warned us not to feel guilty about making our visit extra work for Leonard’s mother.

‘Her house is always dust free and polished like a mirror. You could walk in at two o’clock in the morning or six o’clock at night, anytime, and the place would look the same, like she worked hours to clean. And as far as cooking a big meal… Max might have left for work with only a cup of coffee and a bagel and lox for breakfast, but no matter what, there was always a big meal waiting when he got home. Of course,’ she added, ‘Homemaker and mother was the only job Dora ever had.’

We walked into the hard wood floored dining room and sat down. Denny and I both had made an attempt to take our shoes off in the hallway, but Max wouldn’t let us. We sat down and Max poured us a glass of wine. ‘Nothing fancy. Kosher. Gets the taste buds alive for Momma’s cooking. L’chaim,’ he said raising his glass. ‘To life.’

Mrs. Nimoy set a bowl of soup in front of each of us. ‘We heard Leonard introduced you to bagels and lox when you stayed at his house. Now Momma’s going to introduce you to matzah ball soup’, Max explained..

The soup was so delicious. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it tasted a lot like my mom’s chicken soup and dumplings. I refused a second bowl because I didn’t want to fill up before the main course. But I sure wanted more soup.

The main course was pot roast with potatoes and carrots cooked with the meat. It made me lonesome for my wife’s cooking, and I had only left home less than a week before.

‘Now,’ Mrs. Nimoy said, ‘I know maybe you boys would rather have a steak or something,’…Oh no, Dennis and I quickly argued. ‘But this is the kind of meal Leonard wants when he comes home. He and Sandy are always so busy they don’t get enough good old fashioned home cooking.’

‘Know what a Jewish Princess makes for dinner?’ Max interjected. ‘Reservations!’

‘Max!’ Mrs. Nimoy said, shaking her finger at her husband, ‘You promised, none of your silly barber shop jokes!’

‘Sorry, Momma,’ Max said.

‘Dad,’ Leonard said, ‘After we eat, tell the story of the first time you gave somebody a haircut. The guys will get a kick out of it.’

Leonard has promised that his mother would feed us and his dad would entertain us. And he did. But not until we had second helpings of the main course.

In the last of the 19th Century and the first of the 20th a large immigration of East European Jews settled in America. These immigrants and their children became leaders in the Arts, Music, Science, Entertainment Industry, vaudeville, movies, radio and TV. Leonard is a good example of a child of Jewish immigrant parents from East Europe, an actor, entertainer, poet, playwright, an artist with a camera, etc.. And if Mr. Nimoy had not stuck with barbering, he could have been a stand-up comic.

‘I was still three years from Bar Mitzvah when the village barber came to my father with the offer to teach me the trade of barbering. ‘Crops depend on the weather. Hair grows in the sun or the snow.’ he told my parents.

‘My father thought it was a good opportunity for me. My pay was a meal brought to the shop by the barber’s wife at noon. Usually beet soup with bread. And a promise of getting my own pair of scissors when I was ready for them. Here we call it apprenticeship. The more I worked for him the more I thought of it more as a form of slavery. He thought of it as him being the Tsar and me being a serf.

‘The barber had came with his offer just before the fall ended. The time of the year when you needed a fire to fight off the chill. I was given a key to the barber shop and instructions that I should get there an hour before the shop opened and get the fire going so it was toasty when the barber came to work. And naturally during the day, I had to chop kindling for the fire. During the nice weather we still had to have a fire to heat the water for shaving a customer. Since most every man in the shtetl, (shtetl is the name for a Jewish village in the Ukraine), had a full beard, shaves were not something he did very often; but he still wanted his hot water just in case. And it was something for me to do when I wasn’t sweeping the floor.

Sweeping the floor! Sweep up the hair was quick as it fell. Sweep up the floor when he took the cloth off the customer and shook it on the floor. I offered to take it outside and shake it, save having to sweep the floor after the shake; but he did it his way. It was something for me to do in order to learn his profession.

‘Chop wood. Sweep the floor. Two years before I was allowed to hold his scissors, and then I all he did was let me hold them when I brought them to be sharpened. When I complained to my father that I wasn’t learning the barber trade, just how chop and sweep, and I knew that before I ever went to the barber shop. My father just said that I had to learn the trade from the ground up. That is how the world goes. Sometimes I thought he got together with the barber to get their excuses straight.

‘Finally in the third year of my apprenticeship, I was sixteen by then, the barber began to actually teach me how to cut hair. When he presented me with my own pair of scissors you would have thought he was giving me the greatest gift in the world. He thought so. And every time after the giving ritual, Mrs. Barber would make me show her the scissors before she gave me the soup. She had to inspect them to be sure I was keeping them clean.

‘Keep them clean! It was another three months before I actually got to use them to cut hair. First I had to learn how to hold them correctly. How to properly operate them. I actually got to watch as the barber gave haircuts. But naturally I still had to sweep the floor as the operation was being performed…

‘We could smell Gregor the Goat before he opened the shop door and came inside to get his hair cut. He was known as Goat, not just because he owned a large herd of them, or because he was as stubborn and as crabby as a Billy Goat; but because he gave off a horrible odor like a goat. No, like a herd of goats.

‘The barber, standing as close to the open door without actually going outside, motioned Gregor to sit in the chair. Then with a smile, he mouthed to me that I was going to perform my first haircut.

‘Now The Goat had a twice-a-year cleansing ritual. Early spring and early fall he built a bonfire by the river. Then he peeled off his unwashed clothes that had worn continuously for the past six months and threw them on the fire, and went naked into the river and washed six months of dirt, sweat, and stink off his body.

‘Lastly, he put on his newly purchased shirt, pants, and socks, more befitting the upcoming season than the ones he was wearing. And those clothes would be his only attire for the next six months. And for few hours, twice a year, Gregor was fit to be around people.

The bad thing for the barber was Gregor always got his hair cut before, not after his cleansing.

‘I thought I was going to throw up when the barber got through to me to breath through my mouth instead of my nose. It helped – a little. I tried clip-clipping with my scissors, but I ended up chop-chopping trying to cut through that greasy was of hair that hadn’t been washed in six months and probably never been combed in all that time. And I was sure it would break my scissors.

It was my first. I wanted to do a good job even if it was for Gregor. I was shaking. The barber was trying not to laugh. And Gregor… Gregor was sound asleep the minute he sat in the chair..

‘Boy, though, did I ever wake hand he moved his head.The scissors slipped. And I cut out a chunk of his ear!

‘He jumped out of the chair, roaring more like a bear than bleating like a goat.im when I was trying to hack through a solid wad of hair

‘I don’t think I waited until his feet touched the floor when I threw down my scissors and ran out the door pushing the laughing barber out of my escape route. The barber swears that I was screaming like a little girl; but if I was, I never heard anything but the roaring and swearing coming from The Goat. I took off for home. ‘Figuring the first place anybody would look for me would be under my bed, so I crawled under my parents’ bed. I stayed there even when I knew my parents were about to eat. I was hungry, but I was scared more than hungry. And when I heard the voice of the barber I knew I was going to have to face the music.

‘He told what happened to Gregor’s ear.. My mother yelled; but my father laughed, and he was joined by the barber. ‘Took a chunk right out of his ear!’ They both thought it was funny. I crawled out from under the bed and went to the dinner table. The two men saw me and laughed louder. My mother gave me a hug and told me to sit down and eat.

‘The barber stopped laughing long enough to say he had to go home to eat, but made sure that I knew that I had to be in the shop at the usual time in the morning.

‘The next day the first customer the next day was The Goat. He had a large make-shift bandage over his ear.

‘Barber,’ he said in a softer voice than normal, ‘I was thinking about what you told me. It is better to have the haircut after I clean up. It was not the boy’s fault. I want him to cut my hair now.’

‘I did and it was a good job. And from then on, Gregor The Goat had his haircut done after his river bath. And I was a barber.’

I had accepted the offer for seconds, but politeness made me turn down the offer for thirds. Mrs. Nimoy told us that they were going to see VINCENT the night after the opening. She said that they had seen it when we were in Washington D.C. I remembered many of Leonard’s family attended a wedding there. That is where I met Adam, Leonard’s son, but did not meet Leonard’s folks.

She said that she really enjoyed VINCENT, but it made her sad. ‘Such an artist. And such a life. But,’ she added, ‘It is a great show. You all should be very proud.’

‘Momma’s favorite though is when Leonard plays Tevye in FIDDLER, Max told us.

‘Tradition! Tradition!’ Max sang out. Mrs. Nimoy frowned at him.

‘It reminds me of our life in the Ukraine’, Mrs. Nimoy said smiling. ‘Even when Leonard is not in it. I like the story.’

Max laughed. ‘And she really like it when Leonard’s friend, Zero Mostel was in it. They were rehearsing it here before they reopened it on Broadway. Leonard brought him over here for supper one night’, Max told us. ‘Now there was a man wasn’t afraid to accept thirds.’

‘Charming man,’ Mrs. Nimoy said. ‘I cried when he died last year. Way too young to die. Such a shame. Such a good actor, too,’ she added.

‘And a brave man who wasn’t afraid to stand up for his principals,’ Leonard said, his voice drifting off as he spoke.

Max jumped in breaking the sad mood that had settled in. ‘You know, Leonard, I think maybe my story about cutting The Goat’s ear had something to do with you liking Van Gogh so much. What do you think?’

‘If you say so, Poppa,’ Leonard smiled. ‘And maybe your talking about your scissors subliming gave me the idea for Spock’s Vulcan salute.’

‘Leonard,’ Mrs. Nimoy said as she stood up, ‘Don’t humor him! Now who wants dessert? Apple pie and ice cream.’

She didn’t have to wait for our answer, but stood up and went into the kitchen.

Max watched her go. ‘Ah,’ he sighed. ‘The love of my life. I was so lucky to have found her. Can you guess where I first met her?’

‘The village where you grew up?’

‘Boston?’

‘No, you’ll never guess. We first met in South America.’

South America!’ Dennis and I spoke in unison.

This is a wrap for today.

I will continue the story in the next post. I promise.

Leonard in Vincent