Friday, October 02, 2009
Just at the edge of the right frame you can make out the posterior of another Elephant. The jockey riding that Elephant, the one in the lead, is me. Although you can't see me, at this point I am laughing so hard I am about to fall off my Elephant as well.
Now Richard Paul loved to laugh and eat and is generally known for his "portly character roles" in television and film. Click on his name in the previous sentence to link up with all his credits. You have seen him millions of times. His career is very impressive.
On this day, April Fools day to be specific, we were booked to do a publicity stunt in conjunction with Circus Vargas. We were to be the Celebrity jockeys for an Elephant race down Hollywood Blvd benefiting Muscular Dystrophy. I'm not sure how the MDA collected money from this event. For all I know there could have been para mutual betting on the out come.
Richard was a very funny guy and had a great laugh. It was that laugh that was always the prize. His laughter was so infectious it would make anyone around him laugh just as hard as he did. I can't even remember all things we did together or the places we went, all I remember is laughing until I was crying and hurting.
Back to the race. So I am out in front with my Elephant, but riding an Elephant is not a smooth ride. There is as much backward movement as forward as I now recall. I am holding on for all I'm worth because it is a long way to the ground. Richard, however, has more weight to manage and he begins to lose his "Elephant balance". From the rear I hear that incredible laugh punctuating moments of terror. I look back and he is sideways on the beast but hanging on dearly. The site of him hanging on that Elephant and that laugh makes me start to laugh hysterically. Richard, who did a killer impression of W.C. Fields, channeled him at that moment as he is yelling, "Beelzebub stop this monster. Godfrey Daniel. This a pachyderm on a rampage."
Of course all the trainers run to help Richard, which leaves my Elephant totally un- supervised. I have to tell you, the natural instinct of an Elephant, with a novice jockey and no trainer running beside, is not the instinct to continue straight down Hollywood to LaBrea and finish the race. My Elephant decides to head for the crowd of spectators on the sidewalk. The people scream and run, I start yelling for the trainers to come back and redirect my steed, but no one pays any attention to me because I am laughing so hard I can't make it sound like real panic. As my Elephant was reaching the entrance to the Chinese theatre one of the trainers finally gained control. Richard never fell completely off, but the race was declared over due to safety concerns for everyone.
In 1998 Richard died rather suddenly after fighting a very aggressive cancer. His wife Patty asked me to be a pall bearer and speak at his funeral. She asked me to recall some of the funny times we had. I pulled together my top five and prepared for the day I would bid a final goodbye to my friend.
That day in the church Patty came up to me before the start and said, "Thank you so much for remembering Richard like this... He wanted a show biz friend to send him off. I hope you are going to tell the story about the time you both raced Elephants down Hollywood Blvd. That's always been one of my favorite stories."
I was stopped short. Until that moment I had forgotten that story. It was not even in my top ten list of funny stories involving Richard. During my remembrances I said. "How many good times do you have to have with a friend when there would be so many that you would forget about the time you both raced Elephants down Hollywood Blvd." That was my friend Richard.
There is a passage from the Koran that says, "He deserves paradise who makes his companions laugh." I guess this paradise place must be a lot of fun with guys like Richard around.
As you were,