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

MARCEAU / HAMILTON BOOED

After the first performance of his sold- out week at the Minneapolis Pantages, the great mime, Marcel Marceau stepped to the apron of the stage, and breaking out of his character, Bip the Clown, SPOKE.

And the Audience BOOED!

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hamilton

Shortly after the election VP-To-Be Pence attended a performance of the hit musical HAMILTON on Broadway, and as he walked down the aisle to his seat, the audience booed! The ­­audience, not the cast, booed.

I can’t believe Pence attended a hip hop/rap musical/opera, based on the life of an immigrant bastard, whose mother was reported to have been part Black, for his own entertainment. More of an ego trip, a test of his newly granted status to be able to jump in line ahead of others.

Mr. Pence was a good choice to ride shotgun on Mr. Trump’s Hatemobile. He has a record of attacking Human Rights and the laws that protect them, first as a right wing radio talk show host, and later in his political career. Unlike Trump’s Twitter approach, Pence uses the evangelical-tunnel-vision-Tea Party-judgmental method. Thump the Bible, or what you think should be in the Bible, to support your stance against fellow human, and be sure to avoid any reference to the second part of what Christ said was the most important commandment: To love your neighbor as yourself.

As Pence was walking out after curtain call, Brandon Dixon, who played Aaron Burr, stepped foreword from the cast and spoke to Pence, who turned and listened. The words were courteous, well thought out, short and to the point. It was a thank you for attending, followed by an expression of fear that the new regime will not defend the planet, the children, their parents and uphold the inalienable rights of every American. The closing was, ‘We thank you for sharing this wonderful American story, told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds, and orientation.’

Pence was silent about the affair but not the Head Hater, Mr. Trump. Trump got on Twitter, declaring Pence was harassed by the cast of HAMILTON. He demanded an apology from the cast and producers of the show, which Trump said he heard was very overrated. Trump also said the theater should be a ‘safe’ place.

To say the theater should be a ‘safe’ place is proof he knows about as much about theater as he does about Human Rights and the Constitution. From the time of the ancients Greeks the theater has been a place to shake up the audience and their hard fast ideals, whether the performance is tragedy, comedy, or a musical.

Nothing is more topical in our current atmosphere of hate than the play that premiered in London during the worse persecution of English Jews. The popular actor, director, theater owner and playwright, William Shakespeare, risked his career, his theater, his life, alone with the specter of causing riots with his new ‘comic’ offering, The Merchant of Venice. Going along with the hatred of Jews, he created a villain, Shylock, in the stereotypical role as a Jewish money lender. And then addresses the hatred and prejudice against the Jews  by giving Shylock one of the most poignant speech in literature against prejudice and hatred. ‘If you prick us, do we not bleed?’.

            As Mr. Dixon argued against an apology, he pointed out, ‘Art is meant to bring people together; it’s meant to raise conscientiousness.’

To say that it was not the time or place to issue such a statement goes against the history of theater. To step forward and speak to the audience directly, to break the 4th wall, is a time honored tradition. No playwright was more adept at it than Shakespeare, in the play itself, like Hamlet’s many monologues: at the end of the play, like Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream which starts: ‘If we shadows have offended…’  While the type of breaking the 4th wall as Mr. Dixon did, is not that common in America, it is quite common in other countries.

Personally I have seen this speaking directly to the audience used many times.

From the serious: On 9/11, we were setting up for a run of RIVERDANCE. Prior to the performance that evening, the multi national cast assembled in full on the stage. A spokesman spoke of the sorrow and offered condolences and prayers. At the end of the curtain call a dancer stepped forward and requested the audience join the cast in silent prayer.

To the silliest: During a performance of a play by the Stratford Theater at the Guthrie, Bill Hutt, a veteran Canadian actor made his entrance in a scene; but before he spoke his lines, he informed the American audience that the Canadian National Hockey Team had just beaten the Russians.

Trump’s Tweets accomplished what he wanted, keeping his Cesspool of Hate aboiling, giving his Brown Shirts something to rail against.

They called for a boycott against HAMILTON, a record breaking Broadway show with tickets sold out for months and waiting lists for more tickets both in NY and other cities where the touring companies are or will be playing. Frankly, I don’t think many Trump hard core supporters would go to HAMILTON with or without a boycott.

Of course there is a good possibility that the new regime will declare the musical to be VERBOTTEN and shut it down. But even then it will continue to be played around the globe as a symbol of American art and a remembrance of American freedom.

The Brown Shirts also called for a boycott of a small theater which has nothing to do with HAMILTON the musical. It has had the name Hamilton for decades because it is located in – wait for it – Hamilton, Ontario, Canada!

Then there was incident during a performance of the road company in Chicago, where upon hearing the word ‘immigrant’, a drunken Follower went ape. Screaming, swearing, threatening to kill the ‘Democratic assholes’and women and Blacks. threw wine on his own son. His wife was in tears pleading for him to stop. And even as he was being expelled from the theater by three security guards, he kept screaming, ‘We won! Get over it. This is Trump’s America now!’ PS: He is the CEO of a national company.

(That kind of behavior hits close to home for me. My nephew, Rick Dalglish, is Head Props for that touring company of HAMILTON.)

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marcel  

          The Marcel Marceau incident took place at the first performance of his farewell to America run at the Pantages in Minneapolis. And in spite of the boos, this brave man repeated his breaking the fourth wall after every performance.

            It was that terrible time in our history. Using the never proven pretext that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Bush the Younger was about to loosen the dogs of war against Saddam Hussein. It was a time of bad intel, half truths, and outright lies.

            Unlike the 1st Gulf War, where Bush the Elder had a large coalition of nations and U.N. approval, the only backing Bush the Younger had was Tony Blair of the U.K., who later admitted he had been wrong in his backing of Bush.  Neither Bush nor Blair had approval of the majority of their advisors. And even though the terrorists of 9/11 were Egyptians and Saudis, and had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein, much of the backing for this invasion of Iraq was wanting revenge for 9/11.

            France, who backed the 1st Gulf War, was outspoken in its disapproval of invading Iraq this time. France was hated by the American hawks. A Congressman sensing a chance to pick up future votes, actually submitted a bill to change the term French Fries to Freedom Fries.

            It was in this time of rupture in America and in the Western World, that Marcel Marceau spoke to the audience and was booed. This French Jewish gentle man of peace did not preach, did not take sides. This man who had known the horror of war first hand, simply asked the audience to pray the whole affair could be worked out without violence, without war.

            I doubt if many in the audience feaared they would have to fight in Iraq. Let the kids in the service take the risks. I doubt if many in the audience had ever served in the military, let along fought in a war. Yet these chickenhawks booed Marceau’s request for prayers for a peaceful resolve.

            Marceau was just a teenager when Germany breached the Maginot Line, the ‘Wall’ that France had built to stop any German invasion and took over France.  The Nazis took his father to Auschwitz where he was ‘exterminated’. Marcel and his brother joined the French Resistance.

            (This also strikes home to me. My wife’s birth father, a French Jew, left his Mexican wife and new baby girl, my wife, and to back to his homeland and fight in the Resistance. He was never heard of again.)

            Marcel was personally responsible for smuggling 500 or so children to Switzerland. It was during this time, he got into mime, silent entertainment to keep the children quiet.

            With the Liberation of France he joined the Free French and was a translator for General George Patton.

            He knew the horrors of war.

            I was standing in the wing with a flashlight waiting to help him offstage. I clapped as loud as I could after his prayer for peace, but the boos won out. As I led him off I commented, ‘Dumb, damn, chickenhawk S.O.B.s!’

            He put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘C’est La Vie, Don. So many fought and died so people can speak their mind, or even boo. This great freedom  is not allowed in a Fascist government . Let us hope it will always be that way in America and France and all over the world. ’

            When Marcel Marceau went to leave the Pantages for the last time, he paused and hugged me. ‘Merci, Don, for joining me in the hope for peace. And, when things happen that you disagree with, just remember, C’est La Vie. That’s Life, mon ami.’ When his farewell tour was over he went back to his home in France where he died a few years later.

            To Mime aficionados Bip the Clown will always be the King of Mime. And we who knew him also as Marcel Marceau, we  are twice blest. We admired his deft artistry of silence and also the deep humanity in his speech. To us he was both an artist and a hero.

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This was written in the time between Trump was elected by the outdated procedure  of the Electoral College, 

which overruled the fact that he did not win the Popular Vote, 

and the time he took the Oath of Office.       

Sorry, Mr. Trump, if you can’t stand the booing you chose the wrong road to travel down. I suggest you have the First Amendment of our Constitution explained to you. And maybe even go to a performance of HAMILTON. Learn how that immigrant from Nevis and the other Founding Fathers created the foundation that makes America great.

Soon Mr. Trump, barring a successful revolt by the Electorial College voters, you will have to take an oath to protect and obey this Constitution for ‘the diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds, and orientation’ that make up our great country, America.

Oh! Oh! Little did we know or even imagine!

And now we must do what we can do

Vote!  Wear a mask! Abolish the hate!

C’EST LA VIE

 

 

WHERE’S ‘EDDY’?

            Stagehands come in all shapes and sizes. They come from vastly different backgrounds and educations. Some specialize in one aspect, such as sound, lighting, building sets etc.. Some take pride in being jack-of-all stagehand trades. Some are content to push boxes, pull cable, work in trucks, etc.. Some try to learn as much as possible about the show or project they are working on. Others are content to concentrate only on what concerns them at the time.

            The last group puzzles me and very often gives me great amusement.

 

Joey B and I were on spotlights for a rock concert. The cue caller told Joey to swing over and pick up the bass.

“What?”

“The bass player. Pick him up!”

“Look,” Joey, who was a second generation stagehand with over thirty years in the business, explained, “I know a piano and drums and a guitar. I don’t know nothing about basses.”

“Okay,” the called sighed, “Pick up the ‘black guitar’. Ah, forget it! His solo is over.”

From then on, he used me on the solos.

 

I was working a spotlight at Orchestra Hall for one of the Oldies group.(Four Lads, Four Freshman,?) Hollywood, another stagehand, was on the other spot. Dick N was backstage working the light board. Since the group didn’t bring a cue caller with them, they gave Dick a cue sheet and asked him to cue the spots. Instead of cueing them as they came, Dick just read all the cues to us before the show started.

For the most part, they were simply fade out at the end of the song. Count to three and come back up. They did have one special cue though. During a certain song, when the quartet hits the bridge, the spots were to switch the gels to red and then to switch back to white at the end of the bridge.

“Dick,” Hollywood asked, “Where’s the bridge?

“How do I know?” Dick answered. “You can see the stage. I can’t.”

“Well,” Hollywood said, “There’s  gap between the key’s platform and the drum platform. Do you think that’s what they call the bridge?”

“Sounds good enough for me,” Dick said.

I cracked up. Since my mic was off, neither Hollywood nor Dick could hear me laughing, but customers sitting in the seats in front of my lamp could. They turned around and glared at me. Luckily, I got control of myself before the show actually started. Between Hollywood and Dick, they had some sixty years in the business and had no idea a song had a bridge. Basically, it is verse, chorus, verse, chorus, – bridge – chorus again.

The song came. I counted the verse and chorus twice and went red. Hollywood looked over at me, gave me a dirty look, and stayed in white. Since the quartet never did go to the gap between the two platforms, he never did switch to the red gel.

 

The-Beach-Boys In fairness though, there are some cues given stagehands that make no sense. For instance, Jimmy R came in to run a spot for a show of the Beach Boys at the Guthrie. He wasn’t there for the In, or the sound check. It was that dormant period where the Beach Boys were no longer hit makers and had not yet been designated America‘s Band. Jimmy was too young to have been a fan.

Cue caller – ‘Spot 2, (Jimmy), stand by to pick up Carl.’

Jimmy – ‘Which one is Carl?’

Cue caller – ‘He’s the one that was wearing the cowboy hat at sound check.’

 

Of course, it’s not just some stagehands that have tunnel vision in doing their work, some actors operate in the same manner.

One of my favorite actors was Ollie C. He excelled in taking a small role in a play at the Guthrie, and getting all he could out of it. He never fluffed his lines; but he never bothered to read any of the play other than his own part. And I doubt if he ever read much of anything else, like books or newspapers.

For instance, he came bounding in to the rehearsal for BECKETT, in which he had a small part as usual. ‘Guess what!’ he said to the director, ‘Do you know Beckett was a real person?’ The director just smiled and thanked him for telling him that fact.

Ollie’s cameo in KING LEAR occurred in the early part of the play and then he left the theater, never bothering to stick around for the curtain calls. One matinee though, he came up in the lighting booth and sat in the chair next to my lighting board.

‘I never saw it through to the end,’ he explained. ‘You don’t mind if I watch it from here, do you?’

‘Of course not,’ I said. And then I wisecracked, ‘Spoiler alert! He dies.

At the end, Lear dies. Ollie jumps up and looks at me. ‘He does die!’ he shouts. For the life of me, I never thought that Ollie, with all his years in theater, had had no idea of what happens to Lear.

 

To get back to Dick N. Dick was a very funny person, only he didn’t know he was funny. He was such a nice guy that you didn’t want to laugh when he came out with some wild statement and hurt him.

For instance, Dick and I were sitting in the stagehands’ room and Terry, Orchestra Hall’s sound man, walked in. Dick asked where he had been for such a long time.

‘I was down in the smoking room,’ Terry said. ‘Had a cigarette and then played some Solitaire.’

‘Playing Solitaire – by yourself!’ Dick said.

Each summer, the Minnesota Orchestra holds a Sommerfest. This particular year the theme was Vienna’s music. An Austrian flag was hung on the stage right and left wall of the orchestra shell. In the second week of the festival a patron pointed out that the two Austrian flags were hanging wrong. The imperial eagle’s head was at the bottom of the body. Tim E. told Dick to rehang the flag the right way. He showed Dick a picture of how the flag should look, the same picture he showed Dick when he told him to hang the flags in the first place.

‘I don’t remember seeing any flags with eagles on them when we toured there last winter,’ Dick commented. The Orchestra had made a tour of Australia the previous January.

‘Dick,’ Tim explained. ‘We went to Australia. These are Austrian flags.’

‘I know,’ Dick snapped. ‘I still don’t remember any flags with eagles on them in Australia when we were there.’ Then he muttered, ‘Eagles! You think they’d have kangaroos on their flag. I seen plenty of them down there.’

 

         gorme_320x245The recent death of Eydie Gorme got me thinking about the stories in this post. I have always enjoyed her singing ever since I first saw her on The Tonight Show starring Steve Allen. 

        She came to Orchestra Hall for a benefit. Dick had gone down to the smoking room after we had the stage set up; and either he smoked a whole pack or he took an afternoon nap, because he was gone for quite a while. He looked out on stage, where Eydie was doing sound check, and then he marched into the stagehands’ room.

         “Where’s Eddy? What’s that woman doing out on the stage? Get her off! Tell Eddy to get out there and do his sound check! That goofing around and we’re going to miss our supper break.”

         Dick needed his supper break. When he was just an ordinary stagehand, his supper was always two or three whiskeys and waters. Since he got the steady job at the Hall, he got refinement. He switched to vodka martinis.

         “Dick! She is the main act.”

         “Where’s Eddy? He get sick?”

         “Her name is Edyie. She’s the main act. Look, Dick, go take your supper break. We’ll take care of things here. If she takes too long, we’ll send out for some food.”

         “Oh! Okay.” He changed his attitude and put on his jacket. “She doesn’t look like an ‘Eddy’ to me. Probably short for Edna or something. I have a cousin we call Phil, short for Philomena.” He was almost out of the room when he stopped. “But my cousin looks like a Phil. That girl on the stage don’t look like an ‘Eddy’ to me.”

         The show went well. The audience finally came in from drinking in the lobby and bidding on the silent auction. There was the usual speeches and awards that are always a part of a benefit. Finally, Edyie came on and sang like an angel. She was only on for about 45 minutes. The audience still had to go across to the Hilton and dine and dance.

         Edyie and Dick had spent a long time waiting for her to go on and sing. On the Out, Dick did nothing but talk about what a nice person ‘Eddy’ was. A real nice person!

         “We talked and she asked me what we did up here in the winter. So I told her how we go deer hunting and snowmobiling.”

         Dick was one of very few stagehands who ever went deer hunting. And his idea of snowmobiling was to transport his sled and ride on his favorite trail. It was his favorite trail because it was never more than a 15 minute ride to the next bar.

         Somehow I don’t think that Edyie was interested in either deer hunting or snowmobiling. And, if she sat there and listened to Dick going on and on about them, she must have been the ‘real nice person’ that Dick thought she was.

         “So, Dick,” I said, “Did you ask her if ‘Eddy’ was short for Edna?”

         He frowned at me. “Of course not,” he said belligerently. “You think I want to embarrass her?”      

          

A WREATH FOR THE POSSUM

The sweetest male voice in music went silent today. The way George Jones, aka the Possum, partied, I don’t think many people would have thought he would live to be 81. In his early years, I imagine the over and under on his age would have been about 40. I never got to work him. It seems like every time he was scheduled to play a venue where I could work, he cancelled due to sickness. Sickness being caused by Jack Daniels and snow. Even after he cleaned up his act, thanks to his long-suffering wife, Nancy, promoters thought twice about booking him.

I did work Tammy Wynette at the Guthrie, shortly after she finally threw in the towel and divorced George. Originally, it was booked as a show with both Tammy and George. I imagine their album, ‘We’re Going To Hold On’, would have been featured. Instead she sang songs like ‘Til I Can Make It On My Own’ and ‘D-I-V-O-R-C-E’, and did a lot of tearing up, especially when she sang, ‘Stand By Your Man’.

She said when they split their assets, she kept the band and the bus. George kept all the booze. ‘And,’ she remarked, ‘George thought he got the best of the deal.’

Such a voice! Such a waste of talent! But, then too, when he sang his songs, you knew, that he knew, what he was singing about.

Guess now I’ll go listen to ‘He Stopped Lovin Her Today’ for a few more times today. His live voice is gone: but thanks to Memorex and YouTube, we don’t have to stop lovin him today.

RIP Possum.

A while back, a very talented cartoonist, Joel Orff, had a weekly cartoon,Great Moments in Rock and Roll, in a local paper called The Pulse. A stagehand, Rich Labas, suggested to Joel that he get together with me and do some of my stories. I asked him to use the name Old Hand on our stories. That’s the Old Hand in the hat. He did several, Elton, Prince, James Brown. And then the paper folded. Joel does his magic for a paper out in California now. Here’s his cartoon of my Facebook on George Jones.
Joel’s work can be seen at much better at:
http://jorff.com/

http://www.jorff.com/rock/georgejones.html

George Jones