Tuesday, April 19, 2016

You First...

Busby Berkeley was a director choreographer in the early days of movies. He was responsible for some of the most extravagant dance spectacles in movie history.  He created over head camera shots with hundreds of dancers forming human mosaics of color and spinning sets that "out Follied" Ziegfield. He lived long enough to see young Turks, who had more money than experience, take over the movie industry.  
Late in Busby's career, in an meeting/job interview with a producer 40 years his junior the producer said, "So, Mr. (stumbling on his name) Berkeley... Tell me what you have done."  Berkeley paused for a moment and said, "You first." That story came back to me on a elevator yesterday.  

I joined the ship I chased for three days and headed to the cabin with my luggage.  I drug my tired ass and my luggage into the midship elevator.  A nice middle age couple looked at the luggage and said, "Are you one of the entertainers coming on board?" I said I was, indeed.  The man said, "Are you a magician?"  
"No" I said, "I am a ventriloquist."
It seemed to be the right answer, the man said, "We love ventriloquists. That guy who won America's Got Talent, uh.... " 
"Terry Fator." I said.
"Yes Terry Fator and the the guy who just won AGT this this year....uh.. "
"Paul Zerdon."
"Right. They're doing alright now aren't they?" The wife said.  I agreed but it was not the end of the elevator ride. 
The man continued, "I heard Terry say that,  before he won America's Got Talent he performed at a theater with one person in the audience."
"Yep... We've all been there", I said. 
Then I remembered a revue show I did just out of college and thought it was an appropriate story to tell.
"We were doing a late show in a supper club for one person once.  In the middle of the show he went to the restroom. Until he returned we were doing the show for an empty house."  
There was a pause and the lady  said, "Well things are getting better for you now, I hope." 
I chuckled and said, "Yeah, That was a long time ago."  But the elevator was still a couple of decks from my stop. With a bruised ego I decided to play the Soap Card.  
"Did you ever watch a show called SOAP?"  
"Yes." They said as I was hauling my luggage out the elevator door.  
"I played the part of Chuck and Bob, the ventriloquist on that show." It was my parting shot.  As the doors close they say.
"Wow... That was a VERY long time ago." Slam.
It was then that I thought of Busby Berkeley and how most of us show biz types out live our pop careers.  In my head I heard:
"So.. Mr. Johnson, tell me about your ventriloquism career?"
"You first!"

As you were,


Craig said...

Brutal. But just a wisp of mortality to a storied career. Here's to the new now.

Bob Carroll said...

Reminds me of On The Waterfront
"You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it" or That's Life song.

etallguy said...

Shelley Winters told me she often brought her Oscar to meetings in a large shoulder bag. Inevitably a young, naive producer would ask, "So, what have you done?" Out would come the statuette, bam on the table, as she said, "You first!"

P.S. Avoid elevators with civilians.