Saturday, July 07, 2007

Tales from the Ville-Who Do the Voodoo?

Memories of Pollardville still keep flowing out of me like a hooker in a confessional. From time to time, I'm just going keep pouring them into here, the perfect outlet for stuff like this.

The first Palace Showboat production I had appeared in was the second go-around of Marian Larson’s melodrama The Downfall of the Uprising or Who Do the Voodoo? Bob Gossett had approached me to be his assistant director and to re-write the script. This was our "re-imagining" the original material as they say these days. We took all of the songs out of the show (including "People Gotta Learn to Get Along Together", a tune I didn’t really appreciate until the reunion), changed a couple of characters around (Melvin became Melissa, for example) and set out to add a multitude of gags. The result? A frickin’ mess, but a lovable frickin’ mess and pretty damn funny as well. The cast included, among others, Bill Humphreys as the villain Boogaloo, Cory Troxclair as Governor Julian Beam, Carol Lyon as an angel (yes, really) and Grant Lee Phillips as Bombo, Boogaloo’s henchman.

Bob cast me as Bertram Beam, an army officer who wore a bandleader’s uniform that would have made Michael Jackson jealous. (Check the photo) Bert was turned into a zombie by a voodoo spell and spent about 75% of the show totally immobile. For most of the melo, all I had to do was sit around, not move a muscle and bug my eyes out. Of course, this gave everyone in the cast the license to fuck with me incessantly. I had things stuck in my nose (thanks, Grant), my head used as an arm rest and so on.

On one particular evening just before the curtain opened, I had just gotten into place on a love seat and got into character, zombie-ing myself up. Goldie Pollard, playing somebody I don’t remember, some Tramp Du Jour, began to pace back and forth in front of me as she did at the beginning of the scene. Just as the curtain started to open, she looked down at me and said, “Do you know that you have a hard-on?”


My eyes bugged out even more than usual as I tried to hold myself in check without breaking. I couldn't move. I was a zombie. I couldn't even check to see if there was any downfall to my uprising. Just as I was about to calm down, here came Cory, striking a match on my shoulder to light a cigar. Yes, it was pre-planned, but it didn’t help.

Next came Carmer Kiefer as my daughter Melissa. Now Carmen really threw herself into her characters. Sometimes she threw her characters into everyone else. If you couldn't move, you were an easy target. Melissa, pronounced Melittthhhaaa with the ultra-exaggerated lisp Carmen gave her, came bounding in the room and plunked right next to her dear old dad, drenching him in Melittthhhaaa thpit with every thingle tholitary line she thpoke. Needless to say, I was drenched. Working with Carmen in that show really prepared me for living up here in the rainy Pacific Northwest.

Finally I got some peace. No one could mess with me the rest of the scene. So I scanned the audience with my eyes, still not moving a muscle. Hey, I was a young actor. I wanted to see if any babes were out there in the audience that might enjoy the company of a zombie. I panned from stage left to right until I got to the center aisle. There in the fourth row was Al Hanley.

Al was probably the Ville's biggest fan. He was the equivalent of Mrs. Miller, the perpetual audience member who sat in on the old Merv Griffin Show back in the '60 and early '70s. Al and his family showed up every Friday night without fail sitting in the same exact place every time, the aisle seat of the fourth row. Neil Pollard even had that chair padded especially for Al, the only comfortable seat in the house. Well, sort of. Anyway, as I checked out the audience, I stopped dead center only to see Al Hanley, staring right at me and pretending to focus a pair of imaginary binoculars.

That did it! I started to lose it again. This time I thought for sure I was going to break. My eyes darted all over the stage in an attempt to hold tough until the end of the scene. I didn’t think I was going to make it. Any second now I would just explode. So I looked to the one place where I knew I could get support…right to the orchestra pit.

There was my friend Joel Warren, sitting at the drums. Deadpan, he lifted a drumstick and began to stick it up his left nostril.

Thank you, Jesus!

I had six months of this. Oh, and I got to wear tights and ride a tricycle around the pit in the vaudeville section, Under the Big Top.

But that's another story...
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