Thursday, January 11, 2018

On the Lighter Side

I am an admirer of show biz trunks.  Steamers, traveling wardrobes and big cases are the icons of show business to me.  For a long time I had Edgar Bergen’s steamer trunk.  It was too big to get through the back bedroom door of my house, so it was limited as to where it could be displayed.  After some time it was moved to storage as children’s things took over.  Eventually I sold it to a collector who hopefully has more space to display it properly. .  My one man show was a set composed of old cases.  The luggage of today is sleek, functional and as light as possible. The vaudeville trunks of my fantasy are bulky big and heavy.  That is because there was and army of  porters  at every train station with dollies to transport the bulky trunks.  People used to make a living taking care of travelers luggage.  That job like the guy who used to pump your gas with a smile and wipe your windshield has gone the way of self service now.  Too many service jobs have been thrown out with the technology of today.

The picture below is a close up of the luggage tags on Bob’s case. It is a stage case, which means it is only good to transport Bob from dressing room to the stage, or when I am doing a show locally. It is very light and has a classic “traveling case” look... read old style. It is a stage prop for all intents and purposes, it would not hold up to the normal airline handling of today.  I remember exactly when and where I bought that trunk.  It was at Harrods of London on one of my first professional trips over seas.  It replaced a similar case that had simply worn out from use. I didn’t get to use it very much as I was soon using anvil cases to transport my act around the country. To get this case to Australia it traveled in a case of its own with other props for my show. (Note: Bob always travels with me on board the airplane. It’s in his contract rider.) 

One of the cast members, Brett Loudermilk the sword swallower, recently admired the case in my dressing room. He said it was a very old style but seemed in such good condition.  I explained that it had only been checked on an airline a few times.  This sparked my memory of how I had aquired it on my trip to do Live London Television from the Palladium.  Brett put up with my reminiscing about the first time I heard a British Stage Manager say, “Act one beginners on stage please” rather than “places” as we say in American theater.  I remember at the end of my act at the Palladium they asked me to pause and take an extra bow at the stage left wing.  As I bowed they turned up the house lights to take a television shot of the audience clapping. The audience was suddenly lit up and no longer in the darkness I had performed for.  I was able to clearly see the entirely sold out audience of the Palladium in applause.  It was breath taking.  As I put the dates together in my mind I realized the case is four years older than Brett.  To me it’s not so old, to him it is more than a lifetime old.  

Everyone in the cast and crew of this show is someone I admire and am honored to be on stage with. I think if someone could package the fun we are having backstage and sell that to an audience it would make a fortune.  A few days ago the juggler, the hand balancers and the quick change artist (I know it sounds like the set up to a joke already) came running off the elevator and took threatening positions at the entrance to the stair well. They took the elevator but the strong man (yep another cast member) took the stairs to the stage level.  The gang was ready to yell in unison and scare him when he walked out of the door. I was walking by and realized what was going on,  so I decided to join in.  We waited and waited, and waited some more. He didn’t show up.  It was only a couple of flights but he was not arriving.  Finally I said to the group, “I have lost interest boys. Moving on”  Like hooligans after a disappointing soccer game the rest of them also gave up.  The hand balancer who speaks no English turned to me and said in a very thick Portuguese accent, “Dat, Muther Fuck”.  It was followed by a very proud smile on his face that he had cursed in English.... I laughed for ten minutes.  
For most of the show we are only passing back stage as people go on to do their solos. At the end of the show for the bows we all get together as a team back stage. Most of us end up in the green room just off stage left in costume ready to hit the wings when the final act wraps.  Yesterday I looked around and everyone was in wardrobe except Sos (pronounced Sauce). He was in shorts and casual shirt. I thought to myself... “He is cutting it close to get on stage for his bow.”  I think I said something like... “New look for you Sos?”  He shrugged it off and said in a German accent, “I’ve got plenty of time”. It was then that I realized Sos is the designer and creator of the quick change act he does on stage with his wife Victoria.  They change clothes 16 times in four minutes..... DUH.... of course he had plenty of time.  
As you were,

1 comment:

P. Grecian said...

I love this. Thanks for sharing this with us, Jay.