Speaking of fathers, I have to say that my local rag, The Eldridge Gazette, can occasionally take a stand and deliver a story that actually has some depth to it. Today’s cover story concerned the growing debate regarding gay marriage in Massachusetts.
The state’s four Catholic bishops recently came out (no pun intended) with statements publicly opposing same-sex marriage and urging Catholics to do the same, in reaction to a pending state Supreme Judicial Court ruling in July on whether gays and lesbians have a right to marriage “and all its benefits.” (whatever THOSE are...)
Forgive me for being snide, but I found this passage unintentionally amusing: “The Catholic bishops predict serious consequences if gay marriage is allowed, namely that the state would no longer be able to presume that having a mother and a father in a home is ideal for children. Churches might also have to change their employment practices or risk facing discrimination suits, they said. ”
Am I the only one who finds that last statement totally absurd? What, it’s okay for a large segment of the priesthood to be gay, but God forbid that their staff should be???
On another page, I was pleasantly surprised to find my old friend Sandy the subject of a large article (with three color photos) in the “Trends” section. “On the hunt: Yard sales a way of life for this Eldridge woman,” ran the headline (in three different fonts—egad! Designer sin!)
To know Sandy is to love her. Think an unholy mating between Sally Jessie Raphael and Lucille Ball and you’re almost there...
Back in the days that I was President of the local theater group, Sandy was my second in command. I adored her because she had no guile whatsoever, and it was always a delight to watch her take down the pretentious and preening that always seem to populate any community theater that’s ever existed. Sandy’s holy grail was for Eldridge Community Theater to hold a cowchip raffle, but for some reason (good taste being a predominant factor), we never got around to it.
Sandy was probably my biggest cheerleader in ECT. I suspect that she was fond of me because I always provided her with ample opportunities to ham it up during an ongoing series of mystery nights that I wrote and directed. The first one was called “The Phantom Strikes!” The plays took place in a make-believe medieval kingdom called Fufolatia, and usually featured a cast of thousands. I always had a fondness for directing three-ring circuses.
Each one would pick up where the last one began. I actually think that the first three weren’t bad (“To Kill A Queen” and “The Battle Royal” followed “The Phantom Strikes!”), but the last one suffered the same fate as all those other blockbuster Hollywood sequels—“Dead Men Don’t Vote,” my attempt at a satire of the then-recent presidential elections between Clinton and George W’s daddy, sucked big time. I had gone to the well one too many times. But also, it was my last year as President and I was tired as hell.
Sandy would always play the same character—Connie the Court Cook, although Connie fell in love with the Duke of Hamburg and moved up in the world, to become the Duchess of Hamburg. The guy who played the Duke spoke like John Wayne and would always correct people on the pronunciation of his name: “That’s ‘Hahmburg,’ pardner...he also, a propos of nada, wore an eyepatch on his left eye.
My favorite joke out of that bit of nonsense came at the end of the first play, when Connie, who has been bustling around the kitchen for most of the play, comes face to face with the Duke and it’s revealed she used to serve as his first wife’s handmaiden.
“Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed. “The Duke of Hamburg! I didn’t recognize you...” Then she scratched her head for a moment. “Didn’t you used to smoke a pipe?”
“I sure did, pilgrim,” he’d drawl. “But I kicked the habit.”
“Really? How?” said Connie, setting him up for--
“How else?” he’d reply, deadpan, and then touch his left eye. “The patch...”
(Insert rim shot here)
Or this line, in the second play, when the Duke is accused by Princess Piccadilly of being Connie’s accomplice in offing the Queen Bea. “Princess!” exclaimed the Court Jester, “Are you saying that Connie had Hamburg, er, help ‘er?”
The first play was revised a few years after the first series ended, during the height of the O.J. Simpson trial. We had great fun with that one. At one point, when a critical piece of evidence is introduced, Prince Henry instructs his servant Igor Stravinski to store it in a safe place, for example: “I’ve heard great things about that L.A.P.D. Crime lab. Ask for that nice Fermin fellow….” At another point, the Queen Bea is questioned about here whereabouts, and is interrupted while reading a newspaper on her throne. “I’m innocent, I tell you, I swear!” she hisses. The newspaper she’s reading, of course, has O.J.’s face plastered all over it.
Those were really fun times. Waiting for Guffman had nothing on us.
Sandy was also the inspiration behind my first novel, which I called “Friday Nights at the Red Pine Motel.” That all came about because she used to work at a monastery, and once did something so outrageous to get an employee fired that I laughed about it for days, and then decided that it was a great basis for a story. Sandy’s character, appropriately enough, was named Nancy Nutt.
Anyway, enough about the good old days. I won’t even bother to mention the slinky geisha girl outfit (complete with a black and white yin yang symbol painted around her bellybutton) that Josie wore in the first production...