Tag Archives: Troy Donahue

The Thrill of Opening Night

Once upon a time long, long ago, theatre was invented. About 15 minutes later, I was cast in a production of George Bernard Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion.

Peering back through the nainsook scrim of geezer memory, it seemed like a real good time.

The planet, at the time, was lousy with hippies…when hippies were still hippies and not yet freed from the specter of the Selective Service. Student loans and Aids had not yet been invented. Ways were free, which was good ‘coz we didn’t have much money. But, as Bob Dylan explained; “When ya got nuthin’, ya got nuthin’ to lose…How does it feel?” Well…actually…it felt pretty good.

There was no snow ever. I didn’t own a coat. For a buck-ninety-nine you could get a 21-shrimp plate (plus fries and a drink) for a vegan (as defined in those days before we learned to spell keto and sushi) lunch at the Kampus Korner. Two more bucks would get you a burger and a beer at the Paddock Club for dinner. I didn’t need the beer so I was left with some change for the pinball machine. Besides, I had rehearsal for Androcles and the Lion to navigate and needed a clear head.

Androcles and the Lion featured an actor in a floppy lion suit growling and crawling about the stage.

You just know that’s gonna be cool.

I remember I played a beggar/criminal type in rags and scabs. I remember I yelled a lot. I remember I was definitive. I was excellent. I was the reason to buy a ticket.

I remember being shocked that the play’s review overlooked my six lines. I assume it was a rigged review.

I recall there was a character named Ferrovius; another poor person destined to be devoured in the arena. Ferrovius would come to the theatre each night, put on his make-up, and dress for the show. He would then report to the costume shop, where the costumer would tease and spray his hippie-ish hair into a foot high maelstrom of chaos. Ferrovius would then leave the costume shop, march directly to the full-length mirror in the green room, whip out a comb, and fiddle with his “do” until he had a Troy Donahue thing happnin’ that Troy woulda envied.

In those ancient days, this is what we called a Proud Boy.

I learned from watching this routine.

I knew that as a species, we lie.

I learned from this observation that within the spectrum of deceit we practice, we lie most fiercely to ourselves. We preach against vanity and we teach against vanity as a cautionary tale in the theatre.

But then we put a full-length mirror in the green room.

(sigh…)

But in a world of modern Proud Boys, and coronaviruses, and children in cages, and the designated hitter, this vanity and self-foolery seems more charming than destructive.

One night I watched the rehearsal of the first scene of our show. It was a lively and erudite scene between Androcles and his harridan wife. It ended with the wife slapping Androcles.

I knew Androcles, and I had done a couple of shows with the actress playing his wife. After his scene, Androcles and I were chatting and I decided to be helpful.

“You know, I’ve worked with your wife. She’s a remarkable actress.”

“Yes. I’m glad she’s playing the part.”

“You may not know…uh…she…uh…gets very…uh…pumped up…on opening night. You…might want to be prepared.”

“Oh, I get excited too! It’ll be great.”

I watched the opening scene from the wings on opening night. The big first moment came. The wife’s eyes grew eggs-over-easy. Her hair began to rise like Sigourney Weaver’s in Ghostbusters. Her face ruddy-fied to borderline ruby. She inhaled and several audience members fainted from the dip in available oxygen.

She swung.

It was titanic.

Her heels were firmly planted. Her hips opened in front of her shoulders. The arm came through after the hips with flashing bat speed, and the launch angle was a pure 30 degrees.

Androcles dropped straight to his knees on contact and spun 180 degrees, which was good: it left him aimed in precisely the correct direction to slither off the stage.

There were several seismic centers in the region that measured the event and one even issued a tsunami alert before realizing the Town Branch of the Elkhorn Creek was completely underground in Lexington.

No one was seriously hurt and the play went on and I was great.

I don’t really remember what I did.

Probably, after that first scene, Androcles didn’t remember either.

Creepy Times

We’re living in creepy times.

There’s the in-yer-face daily creepiness covered by breathless reporters on CNN/FOX/MSNBC/OAN/EEYI-EEYI-OH and promulgated with ghoulish delight by Mr. Trump and his how-many-fingers-am-I-holding-up swarm.

  • Life-stealing creepiness like 175,000 US citizens dead from a worldwide plague while we fret over bits of cloth — flags and masks.
  • We fret about whether professional baseball should play 60 games this year or 75, while black parents and spouses worry about whether their loved ones can even make it home alive this evening. I think that qualifies as pretty creepy.
  • We are titillated by the daily televised travails masters of hard-eyed greed like Bannon, Manafort, Stone, Cohen, and Flynn, while nuclear-equipped hard-eyes like Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Erdogan, and Xi chat with our president regularly and off-the-record about who knows what. How creepy of us and them.

But enough of all that mundane, casual life-sucking, je ne sais yuck.

Let’s talk real creepy.

Like…

…how Facebook and Amazon and Google seem to know what we’re thinking, almost before we do.

I wrote a blog about my battle with beetles on our roses and the next day an organic bug spray was offered to me by Amazon. The beetles were creepy enough, thank you very much.

I watched a Roger Corman/Vincent Price flick; The House of Usher. It was my disc, copied from a VCR tape of a local late-night TV showing (commercials intact) from the 80’s. The next day Facebook flashed a sponsored ad for a Lego Castle-Building set. I adore Lego, but my skin crawled.

Last week, Janie and I were working in the yard (our lilies are spectacular this year BTW) and we commented that the bushes had exceeded our capacity to keep up and several trees had pruning needs that were above our pay grade. That evening, a gypsy landscaper dragging his tools behind him knocked on our door. What are the odds? Two hours later, our urban farming needs were met…and at a reasonable tariff. I’m convinced that Google was somehow eerily involved.

And now, just when I was thinking there’d be no vacation for the Leasors this year and how much I might be missing an ocean (I have long believed that my beloved Lexington was pretty much heaven on Earth but for the lack of an ocean and a major league baseball team) when Turner Classic Movies read my mind.

Presto!

The next thing I know I’m watching Annette and Frankie in a yellow jalopy convertible toolin’ down a Pacific-bound highway singin’ “Beach Party Tonight” in several unrelated keys, three chords, lotsa breath, and devoid of harmony. Annette’s hair helmet and Frankie’s skinny arms are impervious to the breeze of the convertible and the demands of the curvaceous road. Soon I’m thrilled by Frankie and Deadhead and the boys challenging the fearsome one-and-a-half-foot waves on their surfboards, Annette and the girls bouncing from beach blanket to beach blanket in their hair helmets and Mouseketeer-approved one-piece swim suits (which have clearly never known dampness), and the wearisome wonder of Candy Johnson gyrating in her fringed swim suit (which has clearly never known dampness) to the sterile rockin’ sounds of Dick Dale and his Del-Tones.

I, of course, have all his albums.

There it is! There’s the missing ocean vacation, courtesy of TCM.

It’s an all-night bikini binge of beach movies from 50 years ago.

I can lose myself for a night to Deborah Walley, Tommy Kirk, surfboards, Annette, Harvey Lembeck, skateboards, Connie Stevens, Troy Donahue, ersatz mermaids, Frankie, Morey Amsterdam, chimpanzees, Tony Curtis, Claudia Cardinale, feeble motorcycle gangs, Annette, Yvette Vickers, and Sharon Tate.

How. Did. TCM. Know?

Creepy.

But it was great…

…just what I needed…

…for about fifteen minutes.

Then, insidiously, a notion crept into my head.

What if Mr. Trump had been around this frolicsome group?

  • Surfing?
  • Dancing in the sand? To Dick Dale and his Del-Tones?? With Candy???
  • Leading a motorcycle gang?
  • Getting his hair wet?

Grim…and yes, creepy.

Suddenly, the bloom was off that rose.

I drifted off to sleep, pondering what a beach flick made by Ingmar Bergman might have been like; Summer With Santa Monika, Smiles of a Summer Surf…The Virgin Summer……