Monday, September 28, 2009

My Sorted Past
I think you know my feelings about FaceBook. The right wing of the country is worried that we are becoming a socialistic state while FaceBook and MySpace are stealing our souls. We never seem to see the conquest coming because we are always looking in the wrong direction.

However, once in a while there is a picture on FaceBook that is worth seeing. This is a case in point. I publish it here because unless you are my friend on Facebook (or friend of the friend of the friend that put this picture up on FaceBook) you won't see it. I had never seen it before and do not really know who took it. But I remember the time like it was yesterday.

It is the summer of 1970 during the run of a show called "Desert Fiesta". I am the guy in the back with eye glasses and a bottle. The guy who's girlfriend told him the "scarf around the neck look" was sexy. I am wearing blue because that is the color shirt my mentor and boss Charles R. Meeker, Jr. is wearing. He is the older distinguished gentlemen beside me and to the right, pouring the champagne .

I worked in shows for Mr. Meeker for ten years from the time I was 15 til I was 25. Mr. Meeker was a producer, writer, director, speaker and crap shooting business man. He taught me more than I can ever express. Most of what I know about performing came from him and it is so much a part of my DNA, I forget that he is the one who planted it there.

He was unique, tough, eloquent beyond words, interesting, creative, tough (you have to say tough twice because he was Louis B. Mayer on a local level) and very inclusive. If you were part of his show you were part of his family. If he hired you again, you became a favored family member. The fact that we are both holding champagne bottles is of great significance to me.

Mr. Meeker is the one who taught me how to open a bottle of champagne.
"You open it carefully and slowly so it makes the sigh of a lover not the pop of a canon. It is the drink of love not war, Jay."
I was his official champagne bottle opener starting from a time when I was too young to drink it. Thinking back, he probably put me in charge of the champagne specifically because I was too young to drink it. He is probably demonstrating a pouring technique to me in this picture.

The other guy, also in the blue shirt, (we were all sucking up to the Boss) being served by Mr. Meeker is my old room mate, David Wylie. I use the work "old" advisedly. He was older than the rest of us at the time and I believe he remains so to this day. Wylie was one of Mr. Meeker's favorites as well, we I worked together in Meeker shows for several seasons. I remember the summer David Wylie turned 25 years old. We teased him unmercifully for being a quarter of a century old. It was mainly a joke but at the time that seemed to be very mature.

The girl in the picture is a dancer, Cheryl Armstrong. I don't think we were dating at the time but she was a dancer so I know for sure I asked her out. I can't recall the occasion for this party but it was difinitely in Carlsbad, New Mexico. I believe the restaurant was called Mama Batiste's. It served Italian food and obviously stood out from all the Mexican food places in Carlsbad. Mama herself cooked and ran the restaurant. She was about 80 years old. Probably not that old but at the time she seemed ancient to me. The place became the hang out for the kids in the "Desert Fiesta" show.

I remember one afternoon on a day off my girlfriend Vaunie (dancer) and I stopped at Mama Batiste's for dinner. The restaurant had just opened for the day and it was empty. We walked in and sat at our favorite table. No one greeted us nor came around with menus. After 20 minutes I went looking for Mama. I finally found her asleep in the kitchen, her head resting on the counter. I just didn't have the heart to wake her up and make her go to work, so Vaunie and I just left a couple of dollars on the table and split.

Last I heard they turned the Desert Fiesta theatre into some sort of manufacturing operation. There is probably no one in Carlsbad still around who will remember the summer that there was a theatre at the edge of town. Or that 60 college performers invaded the desert community to entertain there. Mr. Meeker passed away in the mid 1970's. I am now older than he was when that picture was taken. (Wylie is WAY older than that now) and none of that seems right. Thank you to whom ever it was that snapped this picture. It's not just a picture to me but a memory capsule I'm glad to recall.
As you were,


Roomie said...

Mandy and I have been "unavailable" for several postings and think this is a great blog....the photo is a marvel of the 4 of us....and your memory is much better than just 8 years my junior..25...what a milestone...and what an opportunity to work with/for that man...everything you said is "right on the money." He will always hold a special place in my heart, as will you, and even I can remember parts of those years with you, him and me vividly....another time...thanks for lifting the pic off MW's G and putting it here....
We love you and fondly cherish those memories, even though I wasn't "the party animal" you wanted me to be....seems as though I had a pretty good time....
Carry on,

Roomie said...

Oh....and did you mean "sorted" or "sordid" past.....the latter sounds better in context of all the things that went on with us in those years.....HA!!!
Carry on,