Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tales from the Ville: Daddy Goose

As Father's Day approaches, it's high time I pay tribute to the other significant pater familia in my life, the one, the only Daddy Goose.

Without going into a long list of my credits, I have to admit that the years I spent out at Pollardville were the most creatively prolific in my writing life with material that continue to pay off to this very day. But for all the melos, sketches and gags I wrote or re-wrote over time, there is one person I managed to short-change:

Me.

When I first ventured onto the Showboat stage in 1979, I had just come from the Ghost Town where I had been the entertainment director for much of the past season. Therefore, I was full of piss, vinegar, beans and hops and wanted to take the theater by storm after that most amazing of all years playing in the streets of the Ville's backyard. I had already co-written LA RUE'S RETURN a couple of years earlier. And Bob Gossett, who was to direct his first melodrama, a revival of DOWNFALL OF THE UPRISING or WHO DO THE VOODOO? written by Marian Larson, asked me to be his assistant and to help him punch up the script. Naturally, I wanted to do more, submitting many a gag for the vaudeville section only to be roundly shot down by olio director Phil DeAngelo. I did manage to squeeze in one piece which, coincidentally featured myself as a cowboy and his dancing bear which he accomplished by shooting at its feet. Later on, the tables were turned as the bear made the cowboy dance in the same matter. Goldie played the bear and I believe that was where our long friendship was cemented. (Kind of a metaphor, eh, wot?)

But as time passed, I wrote more and more for the greater good which turned out to be those talented individuals I worked with. If I ended up in the melo/sketch/blackout, it was usually an afterthought or happy accident. Don't get me wrong. I had some great roles, but sometimes it was by default. I was my brother, Charlie. I shoulda been looked out for me a little bit. (As I try to make a point, I make no sense. Sue me.)

Further down the road came the first total rock n' roll olios, ROCK N' VAUDEVILLE. Since GOODBYE TV, HELLO BURLESQUE's guys number, "Hot Patootie" from ROCKY HORROR SHOW, more and more vaudevilles had more contemporary numbers, including rock ' n roll, so why devote a whole show around it? We decided to have a DJ character set up in a side stage studio set and that's when I developed the character of Daddy Goose, a beatnik well past his prime. this piece was just a variation on the old FRACTURED FAIRY TALES segment from THE ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE SHOW. (Jay Ward, the creator of that show and GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE has always been and always will be a major influence) So, I wrote a new version of Cinderella called Cinderbaby. She was a Valley Girl who lived with her Step-Mommy, a riff on Flip Wilson's Geraldine character, and her two hideous stepsister-The Lee Sisters, Ugh and Home. With the help of her Fairy Godfather (and all it implies) Cinderbaby was able to go to the ball thrown by the Prince, Little Red Corvette and all. Since this was a all out assault on Mother Goose, I came up with some nursery rhymes as well. This pre-dated Andrew Dice Clay’s X-rated versions by at least of couple of years or at least my awareness of them.

Look at me! I'm a weiner!
This was the beginning of my very short-lived stand-up career. Playing Daddy G twice a week on the Pollardville stage gave me the confidence to give it a try outside my comfort zone. It all culminated in 1987 when I entered and won the one and only Stockton Comedy Competition. At the finals, I performed a truncated version of Daddy Goose. Winning that event in itself was one of the definitive moments in my life. If somebody ever plays a highlight clip reel when I die, that night will be included. Okay, so maybe there are those of you who don’t get it. Perhaps you think that this is a lame claim to fame and that winning first place in a stand-up competition in Stockton, California is the equivalent of say, being crowned Miss Picante Sauce at the Salsa Festival in West Cowpie, Texas. But you know what? This brief moment in the sun means the world to me and, in my life, I will always have this particular fame to claim.

After I won, I attempted to bring Daddy Goose into the clubs, but it didn't translate and died a thousand deaths, sometimes in one night. I began to lose faith in the Goose, doing about as far as I could with the character, so I put him up in mothballs. When Ray Rustigian booked outside variety show gigs for many of the Palace Players, he always requested I bring back the Goose. I resisted, preferring to go with newer material instead. Ray had more faith in Daddy Goose than I did. In retrospect, he might have been right, considering the audiences we played to during those shows who might have preferred the old over the new. .

When I appeared in ANGRY HOUSEWIVES at Stockton Civic Theater, board president Helen Kastner wanted to put together a series of separate variety shows on Sunday afternoons that summer. She asked if I would throw something together and so I took that Pepsi challenge. The all comedy revue entitled NOW THAT'S FUNNY! turned out better than I ever could have hoped. The cast, made up of some Ville alums and other theater friends, was a total dream and the show itself, a combination of some of my original material interspersed with some old vaudeville bits like Dr. Cure-All (featuring the one and only D. W. Landingham) as well as other kibbles and bits I gathered hither and tither, made for a damn decent show if I say so myself.

As MC, not to mention director of this one time only event, I took advantage of the situation. I performed some stand-up, cast myself in some sketches and made damn sure that Daddy Goose would make a  grand entrance. I never had this much freedom of movement before. At the Ville, I was trapped on the side stage behind the KPOL set. Other times, I had to make due with a postage stamp size platform. But on the SCT stage, I felt unleashed. This is exactly how this bit was supposed to go, The end result was a personal triumph, probably the best performance of Cinderbaby I ever gave. I think for the very first time I totally owned Daddy Goose and it showed.

When I moved to Portland, I used snippets of the Goose for various audition pieces, mostly out of laziness so I wouldn't have to learn a new monologue. But I thought that was about the size of it until I put together a collection of my comedy sketches together for a book I titled NOW THAT'S FUNNY! (Hmm, that' sounds familiar...) Naturally, I included Daddy Goose,nursery rhymes and all, never thinking I would dust off the beret and shades again.

Then the Pollardville reunion reared its head in 2007 and when I was asked if I wanted to contribute to the show, naturally I had to bring back the Goose one...more...time. It had been 15 years since the last appearance of DG and I'm talking about from beginning to end. I rehearsed like a mofo at my Oregon home,until I made the trip back to the site of the Big Chicken in the Sky. Oh boy, was I outta shape and by the end, damn near outta gas as I plowed my way through the story of Cinderbaby and all her kin. I wasn't a hundred percent happy with the result and if you look at the tape, it ran a too long 14 and a half minutes. I also looked like a bloated hungover bus boy at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Bar and Grille.Once again, I felt handicapped by the space I was given, restricting my movements and quite frankly, I should have edited the piece. No one but me really gave two hoots in Hell if I told the whole damn story. I could have cut it short and ended with a Mick Jagger send-off which would have put a sweet exclamation point on the bit. But hindsight is 60/40 so I should quit my bitchin'. It wasn't meant to be all about me This was the last telling of this tale and I'm eternally grateful I got the chance. I did put my heart and soul into Daddy Goose's swan song in the place of his birth. It was a true homecoming, if only to say goodbye once and for all.

Daddy Goose is now retired, living in an assisted living yurt somewhere in Humboldt County, but his legend may continue. I may still do something with the character, perhaps an adaptation of Cinderbaby in some form or another. It would need an overhaul since much of the material is mired in 1980s culture. And the Fairy Godfather could use a makeover as well, not in the name of political correctness rather for the sake of evolution.

What can I say, Daddy? Not to get all Brokeback, but I just can't seem to quit you. Over the years, you've been good to me and I want to give you the respect you deserve with this overdue tribute at long last.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy Goose!

And to all of you fathers out there,
Peace, love, rock n' roll

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