Monday, December 31, 2012

ALKA-SELTZER...WHEN THE CURE IS WORSE THAN THE SICKNESS

When was the last time you said? "Geez, my esophagus hurts."  Well, if you suffer from acid reflux, a chronic affliction involving stomach acid coming up into the esophagus, then you know the discomfort...all the way to agony, it can cause. 

In my case, acid reflux tolls inside me like a grim, interior alarm clock that reminds me it's time to diet.  The feeling is, as if I stuffed myself so bad that the food is backed up into my neck.  In the beginning, I get a burning sensation in my chest, at its worst, I get a continual warped, tingle (not in a good sense) near my heart. Therefore when the symptoms, like heartburn on steroids, become a tidal wave of pain, it becomes a survival instinct to immediately knock off some of the poundage.

I talk about acid reflux on New Year's Eve as a reminder to avoid over doing it.  We all need to make 2013 a big comeback year.  So don't crush the positive vibe by ushering it in...painfully.

In the early 90's, there were so many employees at my job that on every break, I had at least one person to chat with.  The big bonanza...which was common...was when big groups of friends had the same break.  The ensuing "laugh-orgy" drew many dirty looks from outsiders who craved quiet as well as the curious and the envious, who wanted to break into our clique.  So to insure that our esteemed, late arrivals didn't have their seats taken by mopey undesirables, it became necessary to reserve seats.

I bet seats haven't been saved in our cafeteria for fifteen years. Today, most of my coworkers do nothing but complain.  That means, I seek quiet, (further proving...we mock, what we are to be). Occasionally, I get lucky and find the right person to chill with but overwhelmingly, I prefer to sit alone and watch sports highlights, CNN, cartoons or infomercials, (I'm kidding about the infomercials...not all the TV's have remotes).

The fading memories of my round-table laugh-a-thons are put on a high pedestal.  That's why I appreciate the opening scene of Woody Allen's 1984 comedy, "BROADWAY DANNY ROSE." Because the spirit and hilarity I once experienced, is captured by a group of comedians who meet for lunch in Manhattan's, Carnegie Deli.  These veterans of show business get on the subject of Danny Rose (Woody Allen at his pathetic, lovable loser best) and swap anecdotes of this fourth-rate theatrical agent. 
WHO WOULDN'T WANT TO GATHER WITH THEIR FRIENDS AND SWAP FUNNY STORIES.  (Above) BORSCHT-BELT STALWARTS (PLAYING THEMSELVES) THAT INCLUDE CORBETT MONICA AND MORTY GUNTY REMINISCE ABOUT INCOMPETENT TALENT AGENT, DANNY ROSE...AND HIS BLIND XYLOPHONIST, ONE-LEGGED TAP DANCER AND STUTTERING VENTRILOQUIST. UNTIL SANDY BARON ANNOUNCES THAT HE KNOWS THE BEST STORY...WHICH USHERS IN, THE ACTUAL MOVIE.
Baron says that out of Danny Rose's talent-challenged stable of clients, he did represent one, somewhat able, lounge singer who was trying to make a comeback, (Lou Canova, played by Nick Apollo Forte).  (No need for a spoiler alert, I'm not discussing the plot of the movie...so go find it and watch it...it's one of Woody's best).

We soon learn that Canova's play list specializes in Italian standards like, "FUNICULI, FUNICULAR," "TAKE ME BACK TO SORRENTO" and "MY BAMBINA."  However, his show-stopper is, "AGITA."  Agita, is derived from the bastardized Italian-American word for agitation...more specifically food indigestion.  The song is the centerpiece of the movie and we eventually learn that agita is also symbolic of emotion distress or turmoil...similar in that regard to "tsuris," in Yiddish.

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW, FOR THE 2 1/2 MINUTE YOUTUBE VIDEO OF NICK APOLLO FORTE SINGING, AGITA. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3WzmKISWMc

Broadway Danny Rose also has a Thanksgiving theme.  So even though the lyrics to the Agita song are stuffed with every Italian specialty dish you can imagine, it's still easy for me to think of Lou Canova belting it out when I overdo it on Turkey Day...or any holiday...like New Years Eve.

Due to acid reflux, it's important that I carry generic antacids, (I discovered that the no-names have the same curing power as leading brands like; Tums and Rolaids, so why pay more).  I keep antacids handy because through the years, I have gone on a shaky, indirect path to neutralize my excess stomach acid by taking seemingly toxic products like; Bromo-Seltzer, Pepto-Bismol and Maalox.  But when I pull away the layers of my negative discoveries, it is clear to me which poison was first and which one was the granddaddy of nasty.

I was fifteen when I first had a need to settle an adult-sized upset stomach.  Unfortunately for me and my parents, my adult-sized upset stomach really meant I was hung-over and nauseous, (that aspect was strategically glossed over ...omitted....in my January 9, 2012, "BABY OTT, MAN OF A THOUSAND NICKNAMES," blog).

I woke-up that morning with my head and stomach spinning in different directions and my folks lecturing me.  They included words like; disappointment, trust and punishment. When they were finished reading me the riot act, they went to work. Thus, leaving me to my own devices.

By 1:00PM, my head was still pounding and I wasn't sure which end of me was going to get the next volcanic eruption.  I was doubled-over on the toilet waiting for that decision when I swore for the millionth time, to never touch another drop of alcohol. That's when I was led astray by what seemed to be an epiphany...Alka-Seltzer!
THIS EFFERVESCENT ANTACID PAIN RELIEVER WAS DEVELOPED IN 1931. IT WAS MARKETED TO SOOTHE MINOR BODY ACHES, FEVER, HEADACHES AND INDIGESTION.  (Above) ICONIC "SPEEDY ALKA-SELTZER" WAS THE FACE OF THE PRODUCT, IN MANY 1960's COMMERCIALS.

I staggered to my feet and found the foil Alka Seltzer's packets in the medicine cabinet.  Click on the link below and see how a kid can be lured in by a cute, animated spokesperson.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snZi5WA5gGE

It should be noted that I knew the stories (probably urban legends) of spiteful spinsters who targeted kids, by disguising horrible-tasting Alka-Seltzer in candy wrappers during Halloween.  So I understood that I was taking hard-core, icky-tasting medicine but I figured I'd be okay because I really needed it. 

Just like in the commercial, I dropped the two tablets in a glass of water.  I was fascinated by the fizziness and it looked like 7-UP, so I took a big swig.  At no point in my life did I ever taste anything as revolting as that.  I swallowed a little and spit out the rest.  Seconds later, I started gagging and soon there after, I was introduced to the "dry-heaves."  That disgusting, recurring gift would last for hours and spurred the concept of, the cure being worse than the sickness. 
PHILOSOPHER, STATESMAN, SCIENTIST, FRANCIS BACON (1561-1626) BEAT ME TO THE LINE BY ALMOST 400 YEARS WHEN HE SAID, "THE REMEDY IS WORSE THAN THE DISEASE." BUT I THINK HE WAS REFERRING TO HIRING HIS WIFE'S KID BROTHER.
In a way, I was victimized by the very meaning of television...SELLING.  Alka-Seltzer (to their credit) has always utilized snappy ad campaigns.  So in addition to Speedy, how could I resist a history of indoctrination that included several other, well-crafted, TV commercials.

Click on the link below to see the animated,"When you and your stomach disagree" commercial, featuring a man arguing with his belly.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FBPPfZCdqYo

In one of their earliest TV ads, food attacks a man at bedtime.  It wouldn't fly today, so please notice the assortment of weapons carried by the food.

Legendary Hollywood tough-guy George Raft, stars in this 1969 commercial set in a prison mess hall.  Raft always told the story that it took seven hours to get his thirty second segment perfect.  So by the time they got it right, Raft was so worn out, frustrated and angry that everyone thought he nailed his portrayal of a pissed-off convict.

When I was about ten, I loved this commercial because it was filmed at Yankee Stadium and that the audience (me) was fooled into thinking that they were football players.  The tag line was, "Take it from guys who over eat for a living."  

When I was hung over, this (1969) Hall-of-Fame Alka Seltzer commercial was fresh in my mind.  This advertisement, is about the taping of an Italian food commercial, that requires countless takes.  With each take, the actor takes a bite before delivering his line and eventually gets a stomach ache.  Of course those of us who lived back then remember the catchphrase, "Momma Mia, thatsa spicy meatball."  But watch till the very end because you'll be rewarded by the pure genius of the oft-forgotten, voice-over punchline.
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQhwNtY3N2k

From the ads above, you can see how a teenager would be influenced to use Alka-Seltzer, (once). I'm glad I never had to use it again (or anything else for the malady mentioned above). Even better, after 1970, I'm thrilled that Alka Seltzer continued making their clever ads into an art form.  Such as;

From 1971, please notice that only the mid-sections (no faces) were shown in the, "Whatever shape your stomach is in," commercial.  Interestingly, the song was based on the 1966 rock-n-roll hit by, "THE T-BONES."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59ZY7CcpYs4

Soon, Alka-Seltzer added another catchphrase into 70's pop culture;  I can't believe I ate the whole thing.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFKifpMtlNs

Because I was a picky eater and my mom was always trying to add to my sophistication, she single-handedly wore-out the next slogan.
http://www.bryanfields.com/samples/alka/mem/restaurant.html

Guaranteed to put a smile on your face, it's Sammy Davis Jr., (1978), singing the ever-popular, "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh What a Relief It Is," jingle.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWqlws-vqjM

So tonight, while you regale in the end-of-the-year festivities, try to avoid eating every Italian dish mentioned by Nick Apollo Forte in the "Agita" song...and washing it all down with cheap strawberry wine...we wouldn't want you to hurt your esophagus.  So in such emergencies, please keep some supermarket brand antacids in your pocket.  After all, wouldn't you want some relief before you found yourself sitting in a phone booth vomiting between your legs, (not like it ever happened to me).  Isn't that right E and E?  (I would hate to think that I'm the brunt of your humor when you and your friends have your round-table laugh-a-thons). 

More importantly, just remember...sometimes the cure is worse than the sickness.  That means, there are better options than Alka-Seltzer...HAPPY NEW YEAR !

Monday, December 24, 2012

NEW FOR CHRISTMAS 1976, THE COLOR ECRU

In my adolescence, it was rare that I'd be alone with my father as we drove past Cooper Avenue.  When we did, he'd get on the subject of surnames and mention that it was likely that many of today's last names were derived from the occupation of that family's descendants.  Common examples were, Cook, Hunter and Miller. Less obvious ones were, the Fowlers raising chickens, ducks etc., Clarks were shopkeepers and Carters used their carts for hauling. Dad would then add a few more obscure names like; Mason being a brick layer, Ferris an iron worker, Cobb (shortened from cobbler) was a shoemaker and Wainwright, someone who made or repaired weather vanes.

Dad would also say that the same principle worked with foreign languages; Schneider, means tailor (Taylor) in German and our name means "good bloom" or "good harvest." So, many generations ago, our lineage came from (successful) farmers.  The end of this discussion was signaled when he said, "Some day, some part of this knowledge will come in handy...so never forget that coopers were barrel makers."

In late September 1976, SLW juiced me into a part-time job at, MURDOCK DESIGNER LACE (MDL).  Located a half block from the iconic Flatiron Building, my new "assistant to the warehouse utility man" job was in a 100+ year-old, ten-story factory/warehouse, on East 23rd Street (off Broadway, facing picturesque Madison Square Park).  
ORIGINALLY CALLED THE FULLER BUILDING, THE TRIANGULAR, RENAISSANCE-STYLED FLATIRON BUILDING  WAS COMPLETED IN 1902.  IT WAS ONE OF THE FIRST SKYSCRAPERS IN MANHATTAN AND IS NOW A HISTORICAL LANDMARK.
The MDL office manager was tiny, fifty-ish, Pearl Murdock.  She had interviewed me and a week later provided orientation at her desk amid the bustle of the six-woman secretarial staff that were typing, banging away on adding machines and taking product orders over the phone. 

Pearl made it clear that this near-minimum wage position was labor intensive, (which meant it was nothing more than a "bimmie" job).  She also said that of the thirty-two employees in my non-union section, I was the absolute bottom man on the totem pole...and answerable to ANYONE who needed me. Despite her directness, Pearl was especially sensitive to my needs and let me mold a Monday, Wednesday, Friday work schedule that fit perfectly into my Tuesday, Thursday college schedule.  Plus her motherly warmth combined with a charming, perky and friendly manner, made me want the job even more.

I was led out of the remodeled Victorian office and into a short, dark paneled corridor that was punctuated by a fire door. The buzz of machinery was getting louder as we passed one other door, (adjacent to the office).  Through its opaque window with black, block lettering that read, EDGAR N. MURDOCK, I glimpsed the cloudy silhouette of a man, standing against the outer window (overlooking the park) as he angrily waved his arms and ranted obscenities into the telephone. 

I was thinking the big boss was an asshole as diminutive Pearl pushed through the fire door.  On the other side, we encountered SLW at his shipping clerk's nook.  Before Pearl released me into his custody she pointed to a lacy, custom-framed sign with Victorian lettering that read, "NO SMOKING, FOOD OR DRINK OUTSIDE THE BREAK ROOM," and said, "Please respect that one rule.  Other than that, remember, you have no specific supervisor.  Be ready to help anyone here who needs you. SLW will give you the fifty-cent tour, show you ropes and get you started. If you have any questions or problems that he can't handle...please never hesitate to come see me."

I looked around.  The second floor of the factory/warehouse was such a huge space that it was hard to believe that this floor was a small portion of the operation.  To my right, twenty, long aisles of twelve-foot high shelves packed with cardboard boxes extended to the back wall.  Each row had a sturdy, sliding ladder on runners that could be pushed into position to reach the highest box.  SLW pointed out that each carton had a magic marker code (a letter followed by a number that represented the pattern and width of the lace) plus a ribbon stapled to the outside that identified the color of the spools.
LACE HAS A GREAT  MANY USES AND IS MANUFACTURED IN  COUNTLESS STYLES, SIZES AND COLORS.
Beyond the sea of shelves was a large square table with a free-wheeling, fluorescent lamp dangling above it.  Seated at this brightly lit table with his back turned was a silver-haired man measuring orange lace.  SLW whispered to me, "Everyone here is very nice."  Then he said in a disproportionally loud voice, "Hi Leo."  The man did not react.  SLW tapped his shoulder and virtually shouted, "Leo, I want to you to meet the new (assistant) utility man."  I would soon discover after he slowly stood up and faced me that the old-timer was the whitest white man I ever saw. SLW said, "Steve, this is Leo Bugner, the world's foremost expert in lace..." 

Unlike everyone else who was dressed casual, Leo looked sharp in a contemporary, medium gray suit with his jacket (complete with a satin, orange handkerchief in the breast pocket) draped over a chair.  He also was wearing a white shirt, matching gray vest and an orange bow-tie.

Leo squinted as he stared me down with his steely blue eyes as he mumbled in a heavy Eastern European accent, "What, what did you say?"
I SMIRKED AT SLW BECAUSE I WAS REMINDED OF COMEDIAN TIM CONWAY (1933-PRESENT) AS HIS SLOW MOVING "OLDEST MAN" CHARACTER FROM THE "CAROL BURNETT SHOW."

When SLW repeated himself, I extended my hand.  Leo's liver-spotted hand was a fragile, frozen dead fish.  In my awkwardness, all I could manage was, "Geez, what a coincidence...the orange lace you're working on matches your tie and handkerchief."  Mr. Bugner looked at me strangely and coughed, "The lace is...persimmon and the tie...is apricot."  I was wincing from his medicinal, old man breath when it occurred to me that I was only ten minutes on the clock and that my color blindness was going to be a major obstacle.

SLW said, "As long as we're here, do you need anything?"  Bugner said, "Yes."  What he said after that was hard to decipher.  Luckily SLW interpreted, "Two spools of  'T', 59 ecru...coming right up."  We turned onto the "T" aisle and I said to SLW, "Ecru?  What the hell is ecru?  When Leo said it, I couldn't tell if it was an actual word or another cough."  SLW said, "The color ecru, is a light tan, like a creamy beige...and be nice to Leo, he's ninety-one."

At the "59's", SLW slid the ladder into place and pointed up to a box that read "'T', 59."  A whitish, sample ribbon was stapled next to the code.  I climbed up MDL's Everest and said, "This?" When he said, "Yeah," I removed two spools and came back to earth.  I said, "That ribbon looked off-white to me."  SLW said, "Here's your first Murdock Designer Lace fun factoid...those so-called ribbons are called swatches."

I had just delivered my ecru spools to Leo as the freight elevator doors opened.  SLW introduced me to Ernesto the elevator operator and said, "If you ever need to know sophisticated Spanish profanity, Ernesto is your man."  Ernesto showed me that although the building was ten stories, that there were only six lettered elevator buttons (G, B, M, F, L, and P).  The G button was the loading dock at ground level, B for business office was this floor, M for mezzanine, the main warehouse, F was the actual factory, L was the loft which housed the gallery for entertaining buyers as well as apartments and storage areas and P was the penthouse where the executive office was. The rest of the space up there was a glass enclosed atrium that had an indoor pool, work-out room and sauna, surrounded by a hot house and garden.

Ernesto said he was also the MDL night watchman twice a week and he had just started a third job, on two other nights, as an elevator operator, at Lenox Hill Hospital.  During his explanation, a bespectacled man around my age (looking like a cool version of Boris Karloff) walked by sipping a can of Coca-Cola through a straw.  SLW whispered to me, "Bacardi and coke breakfast."  Then he said out loud, "This is Don Bertrand...but he likes to be called Bert."  Bert looked stoned as he said to SLW and Ernesto, "What are you two jerk-offs doing...teaching a NFG (new fucking guy) the tricks of your trade?"

Suddenly, a stern looking man in his late forties called out to Bert, "Hey, no comestibles in the warehouse!"  Bert scurried away and the man comically followed with dogged determination.   SLW said, "I guess I should amend what I said about everyone being nice.  Bert is a royal screw-up.  He's related to the Murdock's, that means they can't fire him.  He's the utility man, so, because he doesn't do anything, they hired you to be his assistant.  More importantly, whether he's a drunk, an addict, a heavy user or what...I don't know...but here's another MDL fun factoid, never turn your back on your wallet when he's around."

Ernesto was smiling as SLW added, "And don't turn your back on that the other nimrod.  That's Lew Fredricks. Don't be intoxicated by the jingle-jangle of his thousand keys, the lab coat or his lovely, plastic pocket saver.  You'll soon see, he has an inflated perception of his self-worth. He's so delusional that he thinks he's indispensable and he'll blindside his own mother to get ahead here. Luckily, he's a cutter and all-around trouble-shooter.  That means, Lewie-Boy spends most of the time upstairs torturing the union guys in the factory.  Just be prepared, he'll try to dazzle you with his fancy vocabulary and intense work ethic but you'll see, he's just a schmuck.  And to prove he doesn't really know his ass from a hole in the ground, he's been bucking for a promotion for twenty years. He's so stupid that he can't see that this is a family business and no outsiders get into the inner sanctum." 

Ernesto interrupted, "That's right, Eddie Murder doesn't let anyone get too close."  I sighed, "Okay, whose Eddie Murder?"  SLW whispered, "Mini-Pearl's husband...Edgar N. Murdock, the Grand High Mystic Ruler of MDL."  I was thinking that it was funny that little Pearl the office manager was nicknamed Mini-Pearl as Ernesto said, "Eddie Murder's like the all powerful Wizard of Oz because nobody ever sees him.  In eight years, other than Christmas parties when he dresses like Santa...and cuts out as soon as he hands out the bonuses, I bet I only saw him five other times."  SLW laughed, "You're right, if I was standing next to him in the subway, I might not recognize him."
(1965 PHOTO)  BEST KNOWN FOR HER SIGNATURE HAT WITH A PRICE TAG ON IT, SARAH OPHELIA COLLEY aka MINNIE PEARL (1912-1996) WAS AN AMERICAN, COUNTRY COMEDIENNE WHO PERFORMED ON STAGE AT THE GRAND OLE OPRY FOR OVER 50 YEARS.  I BEST KNOW HER FROM TV's "HEE-HAW."
SLW completed our tour in an alcove behind his work station that had twenty or so women at sewing machines.  They were doing specialty work, attaching lace to panties, doilies, table clothes and other items.  Up front a sexy woman (Celestine Duvalier) was pushing Bert away from a chubby seamstress, (Rita).  Bert placed his hand on Celestine's hip and she slapped it off.  When he scampered away, she yelled at him in bastardized combination of French and English.  Over the whir of the machines SLW said, "Celestine is in charge of the fine sewing department."  She handed SLW a short list of spools she needed and loudly said, "I'll be Leo Bugner's age by the time Bert brings me anything."

At twelve, SLW and I went to Madison Square Park for lunch.  At a bench, SLW opened his brown bag and was disappointed to see a meatloaf sandwich.  "Damn," he said, "All I want out of life is a mustard sandwich with a little ham and a slice of cheese.  Instead I get this or tuna with so much mayonnaise that the bread gets saturated and the whole mess disintegrates before I take a..."  SLW bit into his sandwich and writhed in pain, "This meatloaf is friggin' fossilized!"  He was holding his jaw as he added, "I'll have to gum it to death."

Seconds later, Celestine appeared from the other side of the fountain. She came by and asked SLW in her cute French accent, "Did you ever call Christine?"  Christine I soon learned had worked full-time in fine sewing during the summer and had resigned to enter her freshman year at nearby Baruch College.  SLW coyly said, "I never got her number."  Celestine grinned, "I know.  I got it here.  I also know she likes you and that she has her lunch in Baruch's third floor cafeteria every day at noon...call her, meet her there...you never know."

We were running late getting back to MDL.  SLW said, "Let's take the stairs next to the freight elevator, it's the shortcut." Ernesto and Bert were sitting on the edge of the platform, drinking Colt 45 Malt Liquor out of paper bags and whistling at the female office workers going by.  I cracked, "Hey, it's Bert and Ernie all grown up."  I guess SLW was preoccupied with Christine because all he said was, "Bert and Ernesto.  Yeah, yeah very funny."
ERNIE (left) AND BERT WERE MUPPETS CREATED BY JIM HENSON IN 1969.  SINCE THAT TIME THEY HAVE BECOME A COUPLE OF THE MOST LOVED CHARACTERS ON PBS's, "SESAME STREET."  THEIR NAMES WERE INSPIRED BY THE CAB DRIVER AND POLICEMAN IN THE 1946 CLASSIC MOVIE, "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE."

A UPS truck pulled up as we neared Bert and Ernesto.  The driver in his brown uniform leaped from the cab and accosted Bert.  He said Bert owed him forty dollars.  Ernesto pried them apart and said, "Calm down Brownie-Brown, if you hit him you'll lose your job...come on Friday and I'll make sure you get repaid."

SLW guided the agitated UPS man upstairs and along the way, sang a silly song he invented.

CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW TO HEAR SLW'S "BERTY, BERT, BERT" SONG... PERFORMED BY ME, TODAY.  LET'S CALL THIS 1976 NUGGET, A CHRISTMAS GIFT TO EVERYONE FOR 2012.  MY ONLY REGRET IS THAT DUE TO ECONOMIC CUT-BACKS, THE HIGHLY NECESSARY MANDOLIN ACCOMPANIMENT WAS NOT IN MGTP's CURRENT BUDGET
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D5BjipSeBNMs%26feature%3Dyoutu.be&h=SAQEyawzF


At the shipping clerk station,  SLW showed him an antique, wooden pushcart with a dozen packages ready to be shipped out.  Brownie-Brown was saying how he doesn't like having his kindness taken advantage of and how much he hated being called Brownie-Brown.  He continued, "My name is Bryan Brown, not Brownie-Brown and..."  Suddenly, Lew Fredricks hustled towards us.  SLW slapped Brownie-Brown on the back and gave him the bum's rush, "Just leave the cart on the loading dock Bryan, I'll bring it back up in a minute."

Lew got in SLW's face and called him a malingerer.  "You're teaching a new man bad habits on his first day and you should both be docked, thirty minutes."  SLW said, "Get over yourself, L.F."  Lew hesitated because he could never figure out what the L.F. abbreviation really stood for but he was certain that the "F" bomb played a role in it.  Lew said, "No! You left five minutes early and came back twenty minutes late.  I got you this time and I'm taking this matter all the way to the top...and Mr. Murdock isn't going to like it.  Especially when I tell him the hostile moniker you ascribed to him."  SLW knew he got under Lew's skin but the L. F. was just the man's initials.  He said, "Shut up!"  When Lew gasped he continued, "Since your genius idea of shorting each (lace) spool a hundred feet to save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars backfired, I bet Eddie Murder wants to see a pisher like you, like he wants a hole in his head." 

SLW laughed as our antagonist stormed off.  Then he whispered to me, "I'd love to tell that douche, eat shit and die...but I gotta work with that slug."  I was laughing as he added, "Lew is scared shitless of Eddie.  Whenever he gets a wild bullshit hair up his ass, the only Murdock he talks to is, Mini-Pearl.  So if Lew busts your balls, just name-drop Edgar N. Murdock and that worm'll slink away."

By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, SLW was spending all his lunch hours with Christine.  Which meant that he was sneaking out early and coming back late.  So he was already gone when Leo Bugner needed three spools of "I" 37 heliotrope.  I needed the poor Leo repeat the color three times before I could piece together what he said.  Then, I vanished into the "I" aisle on my impossible mission to find heliotrope.  In the past, SLW was there to help me differentiate between toughies like forest, kelly, army and olive green.  So I knew it was a waste of time even trying to find a particular shade when I didn't even know what family the color came from.

That's when I got my million dollar idea.  To avoid putting SLW in jeopardy for slipping away early, I waited to rationalize not asking him.  At 12:05, I approached Mini-Pearl in the office.  "Leo Bugner needs some 'I' 37's but I couldn't find it, in heliotrope." She looked at her watch and sweetly said, "Dedicated, working into your lunchtime, very admirable.  And asking me for help instead of running the risk of using the wrong lace is important to our overall efficiency.  Plus that heliotrope is a nasty customer. We're on the verge of designated it an '86' (the code for getting discontinued) because even Mr. Bugner, depending on dye lots, has trouble distinguishing it from lilac and lavender."

Mini-Pearl showed me the heliotrope and I gave it to Leo.  Then I realized it was drizzly and cold outside. I decided to gobble up my sandwich and really work during my lunch period.  My mission was to alleviate the problem of my own color blindness.  I got a marker and began spelling out the color on each lace box.

After that first day, I did it on company time.  I was frequently taken away from this self-imposed task, so it took weeks to finish.

By early December, anyone who needed me, knew they could find me in the lace aisles.  A lot of times people mistook my self-serving enterprise as a special project.  So without questioning my motives, they assumed that one of the Murdock's assigned me there...therefore, they did the task they had in mind for me, them self.

Early one morning Mini-Pearl sought me out.  She didn't ask what I was doing up in the 86's (the unusable junk section) but out of nervousness I said, "These shelves haven't been dusted in years."  She said, "At 2:30, take the cart, up to the loft.  There will be two big boxes in the hallway outside Suite-942.  Tie them with twine and I'll meet you at my car, in the loading dock."  I said, "Okay."  She added, "And it's great that you are so ambitious to clean those shelves.  But don't kill yourself now.  Tomorrow, I'll get you something better to use on it." 

At ten that same morning, Lew Fredricks questioned why I spent so much time in the lace aisles.  As per SLW's suggestion, instead of addressing Lew's concern I said, "Mr. Murdock wants me to finish this top row before I go to the post office."  His response was, "Why do they mollycoddle everyone here?"  I looked down at him both literally and figuratively.  He snapped, "Look who I'm asking, you probably don't even know what mollycoddle means." He was satisfied that he got the last word in and was muttering about discipline and how things would be different if he ran the show, as he trudged off.

A half hour later, SLW had prepared forty, small, sample boxes as Christmas gifts for MDL's elite customers. He had loaded them on the Victorian, rolling cart, (the one I needed for Mini-Pearl's request at 2:30).  SLW said, "I need you to take these to the post office and send them out by standard mail."

SLW was putting the finishing touch on the last shipping label when Celestine came by and said, "I need Steve for an hour, to sweep out my section and replace the air filters."  Just then Bert came out of the break room with a soda and chips.  I was thinking a Bacardi and coke lunch as SLW said, "Bert, take the cart to the post office."  He said, "Umm, uh, I gotta get Leo Bugner sixteen spools of "F" 69, pink."  Celestine barked, "There ain't no 'pink' lace in the whole damned building."  Just then Mini-Pearl and Brownie-Brown pushed through the fire door from the corridor near Eddie Murder's office and into the warehouse.  Bert who still owed Brownie-Brown money, grabbed the wooden cart and pushed it towards the freight elevator.

At noon, I had finished Celestine's chores when I was approached by Ernesto, "I need the pushcart and can't find it."  I said, "Before eleven, Bert took it to the post office."  He cursed under his breath in Spanish and began searching for Bert. 

By 2:00, Ernesto was disgusted that he had to lift damaged armature sprockets from the factory upstairs and bring them to the dumpster outside.  I didn't care if Bert was AWOL because he was napping, shooting up between his toes or having his way with Rita the seamstress, I was more worried about lugging those two big boxes down from the loft.

At 2:30, without the cart, I found the two boxes outside Suite-942.  I tied the first box and was starting the second when a handsome, well-built stranger in his late-thirties who resembled Clark Gable, came from an apartment towards me.
IN HIS LATE-THIRTIES, CLARK GABLE (1901-1960) WAS THE ULTIMATE MOVIE STAR AND SEX SYMBOL.

This stranger with a big friendly smile and a swagger of confidence saw the slack in the twine and demonstrated a better way to tie chord.  Then he said, "Shouldn't you have a hand truck to carry these?"  There were many men in the building that I didn't know so I accepted him as a union bigwig and just said, "Another worker took the rolling cart up the street this morning and he, and it, never came back."  Sincerely he said, "You'll hurt your back if you pick them up.  I say, go ahead and slide them, one at a time on the floor.  I doubt there's any perishables inside so you can use your feet to shove them along."  He walked to the public elevator.  When it came I called out, "Thanks for the tying lessons."

I met Mini-Pearl at the loading dock and she said, "I'm sorry you had to carry these heavy bundles...we still can't account for Donnie (Bert)."  We mutually shrugged before I loaded the boxes into the trunk of her Mercedes.  I joked, "Before I worked here, I never would have called your car's color ecru."  She smiled, "Technically, it's called pearl...aren't I special, they named a color after me...but I know off-white when I see it."  I was smiling as she continued, "And don't worry about dusting those shelves, I saw what you were really doing and I think you are very clever."  I didn't want to admit I was color blind and said, "So many times those swatches fall off..."  Mini-Pearl nodded and said, "Wow."

The next day, the unthinkable happened, the Murdock's fired one of their own. Apparently, Donald "Bert" Bertrand was so wasted that after he mailed the packages, he forgot the cart outside the post office and ditched work.  I found this news out from a gloating Lew Fredricks although he had no idea that the family sent Bert to rehab. 

At first, I was skeptical especially when L. F. said, "That's what you call twenty-three skidoo."  When I didn't react he said, "Get it, the Murdocks said skidoo to him on 23rd Street."  When I didn't react again he added, "You kids today have no sense of humor but it's true, the original catchphrase, twenty-three skidoo was derived from the Civil War draft riots right up the street..."  I was walking away before he finished his thought.
 (The photo above comes from a video I couldn't transfer), "23 SKIDOO" IS A SLANG EXPRESSION FROM BEFORE WWI.  IT GENERALLY HAS THE SAME MEANING AS, "GETTING OUT WHILE THE GETTING IS GOOD."  HOWEVER, SOME FEEL THE TERM CAME FROM A WOMAN WALKING OVER A STEAM GRATE ON 23rd STREET AND A GUST OF AIR BLEW HER DRESS UP.  THERE WERE OTHER EXPLANATIONS TOO...BUT NONE WERE EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE TO LEW's CLAIM.

On the day of the company Christmas party, I was off.  But because I was finished with my college finals, I came in for two reasons.  One was to share in the festivities with my coworkers and the other was to give notice because in three weeks, my spring semester had me at Brooklyn College every day.

The area around SLW's work station was festive and the decorations included a Christmas tree surrounded with loads of professionally wrapped gifts.  A boom box played 8-track tapes of Christmas music as we stuffed our faces on the international cuisine brought in by Celestine and other foreign workers plus catered trays provided by MDL.
(1986 PHOTO) BOOM BOXES, (GHETTO BLASTERS) WERE AT THE HEIGHT OF THEIR POPULARITY IN 1976.

Mini-Pearl lowered the volume to get our attention and then acted as emcee.  She made a flowery speech about teamwork and thanked us for making the Murdock name tops in the lace industry.  Then on cue, Ernesto pushed in another 8-track.  The song, "HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS," came on and a man in a Santa suit burst through the fire door. 

Old St. Nick circled our party area calling out, "Ho-ho-ho," and hugged and/or kissed most of the females and shook the men's hands. Then he started handling out identically wrapped gifts (Barricini chocolates) from the sack that was slung over his shoulder.  When everybody got one, he made some naughty and nice jokes and took a gift from under the tree and called out names, one at a time.

The ceremony was made better as he whispered a humorous comment to just about everyone he handed a present to.  I saw the chintzy stuff the others were getting and hoped that I'd just get cash. When my name was called, I looked through Santa's fake glasses and beard and thought he looked familiar.  I muttered, "You're Clark Gable."  He quietly laughed, "No...I'm Eddie Murder."  Then he announced to the revelers, "Steve here, has revolutionized our warehouse organization system."  After more yaddy yadda he whispered in my ear, "Are you taking any business courses in that college of yours."  I didn't say anything and he added, "Come see me in my office on your way out."

After everyone got their gifts, "JOY TO THE WORLD" was pumped in and Santa and the secretarial staff left. SLW made a face when he showed me his bottle of Australian wine and said, "What did you get?"  I held up a fancy stainless steel pocket watch by its chain.  He was impressed and said, "Last year I got a box made out of five-thousand toothpicks glued together...and thought I scored."  Lew Fredricks but in, "They gave you that!  What could you have possibly done, to revolutionize this shit house?"  SLW cut him off, pointed at the party-goers and said, "Look, Leo Bugner left comestibles next to Rita's sewing machine."  When he looked away, we ran into the break room.

SLW knew I came to the party with the intention of giving notice.  I told him I felt like an ingrate after they were so good to me by allowing me to work the hours I needed, rewarding me so well for such a common sense idea and that Mr. Edgar N. Murdock now wanted to know if I was taking any business courses.

SLW said, "It's because the Murdocks are so great that they'll appreciate your honesty.  Trust me, they know its a bimmie job and the fact that they occasionally score with a guy like you can only be a plus." 

Lew Fredricks flew into the room, interrupted and went off on us.  SLW called him a weasel.  Lew countered, "You idiots are just wisenheimers. You come up with one grandiose idea and Murdock makes a federal case out of it.  Well let me tell you two street urchins something... you don't know squat! "  He pointed at the Victorian-styled trash barrel and said, "You don't know anything important...I bet neither of you know what a barrel maker is called.  SLW and I looked at each other.  I was thinking, thanks dad, thanks Cooper Avenue as I winked at my buddy and said to Lew, "It's no big deal knowing such nonsense but if you must know, a barrel maker is a cooper."



                                                                         *



       PEACE   ~   LOVE   ~   AND HAPPINESS TO ALL

Monday, December 17, 2012

THE 12-12-12 CONCERT FOR SUPER STORM SANDY

Super Storm Sandy's incredible depth of destruction and its lingering, long-lasting effect will be evident along the east coast for years to come.  The estimated $63 billion of damage does not even address the loss of lives, the loss of our natural sense of security and the invaluable collection of sentiments that were washed away.

On December 12, 2012 (12-12-12), New York's Madison Garden hosted a five-hour benefit concert to raise money, (to take a bite out of the $63 billion), for the victims of Sandy.  Some the greatest legends of music as well as other notable entertainers and sports figures associated with the Tri-State area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) donated their time, energy and talents on stage...as well as hundreds more working behind the scene, (organizing, coordinating, producing and accepting phoned in donations).
SOME OF THE PERFORMERS WERE; BRUCE SPRINSTEEN, BON JOVI, ERIC CLAPTON, THE WHO, THE ROLLING STONES, ALICIA KEYS, BILLY JOEL AND PAUL McCARTNEY.  ADDITIONALLY, THEIR MUSICAL SETS WERE SEPARATED BY HEART WRENCHING HURRICANE VIDEOS TOGETHER WITH COMEDIANS AND OTHER NOTABLES, (BILLY CRYSTAL, JIMMY FALLON, CHRIS ROCK, BRIAN WILLIAMS, JON STEWART, SUSAN SARANDON, ADAM SANDLER, WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CHELSEA CLINTON, STEVE BUSCEMI, JAMIE FOXX, QUENTIN TARANTINO etc), WHO DID THEIR SCHTICK WHILE IDENTIFYING PARTICULAR COMMUNITIES THAT WERE DEVASTATED AS WELL AS HONORING ORGANIZATIONS (TEAM RUBICON AND THE GRAYBEARDS) OR INDIVIDUAL HEROIC ACTS DURING THE CRISIS.

The charitable, ROBIN HOOD RELIEF FUND took center stage.  Through their efforts, 100% of the "12-12-12  Concert" proceeds will go directly to programs that will help the needy.
FOUNDED IN 1988, THE ROBIN HOOD FUND HAS TARGETED THE IMPOVERISHED, IN NEW YORK CITY.  FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE SUPER STORM, THE FOUNDATION HAS WIDENED ITS INFLUENCE TO ASSIST THE EXPANDED METROPOLITAN AREA.

One of the consistent messages that the speakers brought out was the idea that the Sandy disaster severely crippled many beach communities.  And while it's true that the suffering of recreation areas can never be compared to deaths, entire homes swept away and other colossal calamities...it is something we almost all have in common.
BEACHES HAVE BEEN TORN APART, BOARDWALKS RIPPED TO SHREDS, MOM AND POP BUSINESSES HAVE BEEN FLOODED AND AMUSEMENT PARKS HAVE BEEN DEVASTATED.  THE ROLLER COASTER AT SEASIDE HEIGHTS NJ (above), SUBMERGED IN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, EPITOMIZES THE STORM'S WRATH.

Regardless of where you live, you can understand, at least indirectly, to the many happy memories of "going down the shore" represents, (in New Jersey, the beach is called the shore.  I was here over twenty years before I finally started properly calling it, the shore).

The great "going down the shore" moments of our childhood, coming of age with our friends or starting the cycle over with our own kids are now at least temporarily, in jeopardy.  Yes, these areas will be rebuilt but when and what form?  Is it possible that a whole generation will miss out?  Or even worse...never be seen again.

I grew up in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn.  If my memories of Coney Island, Rockaway Playland, Freedomland and Palisades Park were erased from my mind, a huge chunk of my idealism and imagination would be missing.  Just the anticipation and the excitement of the car ride there would fire me up. Similarly for my son Andrew, it would be criminal to take away the beach and everything associated with an outing there from his development.

Back in the day, my wife Sue, Andrew and I spent a week in Ocean City Maryland ten different years.  From the time Andrew was six-months old when we spread our blanket under the protective fishing pier, to the boardwalk junk food and schlock-store shopping sprees, we all had a ball. 
 THE SHANTYTOWN SECTION OF OCEAN MARYLAND 1998.  IN HIS EARLY YEARS, MOTION-SENSITIVE ANDREW SAVED ME MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN QUARTERS BY INSISTING I DON'T PUT MONEY IN HORSEY RIDES.

When he got a little older, we spent a lot of time in the arcades. Andrew didn't take to the kiddie rides right away but he loved watching his mom catapult a rubber frog with a mallet into a lily pad for chintzy prizes, posing in the fun house mirrors and dancing to the music of the antique circus calliope.
ANDREW GOT HIS FIRST, "HOW TO DRIVE LIKE AN OLD LADY" LESSON AT THE JOLLY ROGER AMUSEMENT PARK IN OC MARYLAND.

A couple of years later, after 36 holes of Jungle Golf, my boy was driving his own Winnie-the-Pooh racer.
UNLIKE HIS DAD, MY HARDCORE NASCAR HOPEFUL TRADED PAINT WITH THE KID IN THE FLINTSTONES CAR AND FORCED HIM INTO THE BARRIER. JUST AS ANDREW WAS LAPPING HIM, AN ATTENDANT HAD TO ASSIST THE POOR DRIVER OFF THE TRACK.

We also had loads of other oddball adventures too. Andrew was five when I watched him march from our beach blanket to the waters edge and make a sharp right hand turn, (I followed him ten blocks along the wet sand, in the middle of 4th of July chaos), until he started to scale the rock jetty.  At that point, I tapped him on the shoulder.  He turned around and said, "Dad, what are YOU doing here)?
OCEAN CITY MARYLAND BOARDWALK JULY - 1998.  WHAT IF THIS NEVER HAPPENED, ANDREW LETTING ME RIDE HIS BIKE RENTAL FOR TWO MINUTES, (MY NUMBED BUTT WAS SORE FOR TWO WEEKS).

Another golden moment was Andrew's first time playing a pinball machine.  A man let him use up the 20+ games he still had after he got bored, (the SOUTH PARK-themed game was accidentally calibrated to give a free game by reaching a small amount of points).  We hadn't been exposed to the South Park TV show yet so we were all mesmerized by the strange toilet flushing and farting sound effects.  While laughing, Andrew felt like a champion every time that thunderous knock signaled another free game, (if we didn't get bored...we might still be playing it now).
SAME DAY, SAME ARCADE...ANDREW WON 5000 PRIZE POINTS ON THIS POKERINO MACHINE.  LOOK AT THAT SMILE, LOOK AT HIS PRIDE...BUT ALAS...HIS SWEET VICTORY WOULD BECOME THE FIRST REALITY CHECK OF HIS YOUNG LIFE BECAUSE ALL THOSE POINTS ONLY TRANSLATED INTO A PAIR OF CHINESE HANDCUFFS AND ONE PLASTIC ARMY MAN, (ODDLY, HE STILL HAS THE SOLDIER).

In 1966, baseball's Casey Stengel said of the new Busch Stadium in St.  Louis, "It sure holds the heat well."  That could also be said of Ocean City Maryland.
JUNE - 1997. BEFORE ANDREW GOT HIS "SEA LEGS" WALKING ON THE OC BOARDS MEANT ONLY SWEATING PROFUSELY... UNLESS YOU MET BOOMER THE DOG, AND THE OWNER LET YOU FEED HIM STICKS.

Four-year old Andrew first recognized the beach as a great plaything, in the summer of 1998.  We met my sister's family and my mom in Seaside Heights and we all witnessed his love of getting smacked around by the waves.

Closer to home, Brigantine Beach was visited multiple times each year and therefore played the greatest role in Andrew's beach development.  Sandy ravaged the north end of town but we are hoping that the stretch of shoreline we like (around 26th Street) will be the same.
IN FIFTH GRADE, MY LITTLE MACHO-MAN FLEXED HIS "HOT DOG BUN" BICEPS ON BRIGANTINE BEACH. 

Other local hot spots that were spanked by the super storm include nearby Ventnor and Margate.
THE MARGATE STREET FAIR (SEPTEMBER 2000).  ICONIC 100+ YEAR OLD LUCY THE ELEPHANT (A HALF BLOCK FROM THE BEACH) WAS BRUISED BY THE STORM WHEN THE OCEAN MET THE BAY.

It seems like eons ago but my wife Sue's casino used to provide an annual employee appreciation day in Wildwood.  I cherish those golden moments and hate to think of the emptiness of never experiencing; the look on Andrew's face when he became tall enough to go in the haunted house, the first time he got a putt-putt hole in one, the time he sat in automotive grease at the bumper cars, when his wrist got sliced open from the friction of the burlap bag he was sliding down in, splashing around in the water park, the fudge shop, his imitation of "w-w-w-atch the tram car please" and of course the fireworks.
2006, NOTHING BEATS THE EXHILARATION OF RUNNING IN SOGGY SOCKS AFTER A LOG FLUME RIDE.

Twenty miles (south) from home, there's an Ocean City New Jersey. In the summer, every Thursday night is family night.  Before Andrew was born, we took my sister, her husband and two daughters there.  The girls(four and six ) got disoriented in the "House of Mirrors."  Their dad heroically charged in to "save" them and smashed his face into a mirrored wall...he's lucky he didn't break his nose, (it's still funny to me, too bad, that was pre-camcorder days).

My best Ocean City NJ memory was Sue pushing Andrew in his stroller (with another mom) on the boardwalk.  Sue motioned into the distance and her tennis bracelet detached from her wrist.  In slow-motion, she watched in horror as her favorite bauble got launched through the air and landed, in a million-to-one-shot, between the only narrow slit in the boards wide enough that it could slither through.  While her girlfriend stood over the spot, Sue went underneath the boardwalk to search and after a while, she sifted enough sand and actually recovered it.

Twenty miles north is Long Beach Island (LBI).  The beach and amusement areas suffered catastrophic damage.

MAY - 1998.  THE TOWN OF SHIP BOTTOM ON LBI, REGULARLY RESTORES ITS SAND DUNES.  IN THE AFTERMATH OF SANDY, THIS YEAR MIGHT BE A LOT MORE DIFFICULT.

The many layers of the Hurricane Sandy 12-12-12 Concert supports a wide range of needs.  I chose to share my great memories and my wish that new ones will continue for everyone, starting next summer.
BOARDWALK FOOD?  I PREFER SAUSAGE AND PEPPERS, SOME PEOPLE LIKE CRAPPY PIZZA, OTHERS PUT VINEGAR ON THEIR FRENCH FRIES INSTEAD OF KETCHUP.  BUT NOTHING SCREAMS OUT EATING AT THE SHORE LIKE COTTON CANDY.
I thank all the performers, other celebrities and support personnel who made the 12-12-12 Concert a huge success.  In particular, I appreciate Bruce Springsteen who has become the living symbol of New Jersey, the working man and the joy of (Jersey) life. Additionally, I thank Mick Jagger who at 69 (what else would he be)  who dropped my jaw in amazement with an incredible, if not awe inspiring two-song set complete with all the gyrations that we would have expected in '69 (what year would you have picked?). If he can still do what he did...anything...even rebuilding the Jersey Shore and other beach communities is possible.
JAGGER WAS ASKED HOW HE SUMMONED ALL THAT ENERGY FOR HIS BRIEF APPEARANCE DURING THE 12-12-12 CONCERT.  HE WAS QUICK TO POINT OUT THAT HE'S BEEN TOURING AND DOING IT FOR WHOLE SHOWS.  HE THEN ADDED, "I JUST DO WHAT I DO."

I hope that the Robin Hood Relief Fund can just do what they do.  And that is, get money, goods and services to the right people and those effected can get beyond the sadness and reach some decent level of resurrection.

Monday, December 10, 2012

DEVIANT BEHAVIOR, a.k.a. SOCIOLOGY 39.0

I was recently asked, "When did you first know that you wanted to write?"  Oddly, the writing I do today stems from the lack of faith I had in my father.  I was afraid that while I lived in Las Vegas that he'd worry about me, so I avoided telling him about my dangerous experiences and questionable associations.  But once I was out of that hedonistic environment, I still assumed that he would've thought less of me even though I was safe. 

My dad suddenly passed away in 1995.  I had only shared a few candy-coated stories that were highly entertaining to him; in particular, "FREDDIE THE FINGER." So because of my perceptions, he missed-out on being amused by the bulk of my adventures. That's when I realized, he was short-changed.   A year went by and that's when...in dad's memory, I started to write (poorly) those events.

In 2001, after a twenty-five year hiatus, I had a chance meeting with my friend and high school football teammate CHARLIEOPERA.   We rekindled a long distance friendship with occasional get-togethers and regular communication. Coincidentally, Charlie was a successful crime novelist.
CHARLIE STELLA'S LATEST OF EIGHT BOOKS IS CALLED, "JOHNNY PORNO."
I shared some of my Vegas experiences with Charlie and he told me I was a natural story teller.  He suggested that I write-out my ideas.  He said, "This way, while your having creative fun, the result will be a legacy, to your son and family.  And as a long shot, writing might even be a lucrative enterprise if you can attract a wide audience."

I told him I already wrote some down. Charlie read them and said, "You need to sharpen your skill as a writer but your subject matter has universal appeal."

He was right.  It is embarrassing to re-read what I wrote ten years ago, (I'm a work in progress with a long way to go.  So for those of you who stuck with me, I apologize for making you suffer through my fledgling, "learn as I go" years).

The root of my scribblings can be traced to when I had pen pals as a kid.  As I got older, in my travels, I became an avid letter (and post card) writer.  Usually, I got a positive response to my humor.  However, in so far as my technical skill was concerned, my teachers (through high school) let me squeeze by without ever smacking me in the face and informing me that I writted poorly.

In 1973 at Brooklyn College, incoming freshmen were required to take an introduction to English Composition, (English 1.2).  I earned a "C."  But more importantly, the professor made it clear that I didn't have a firm grasp of writing fundamentals and that any teacher who failed to point this out to me in the past had done me a disservice.

At the end of my sophomore year, I took Creative Writing 11.1 and earned a "D."  I tried every last-minute trick in the book I knew to persuade that professor into giving me a "pity-C."   He only sighed at me in his own futility; how did you get this far in life without any concept of the rules of grammar.  It was at that point I realized I had no talent as a beggar.

I was slipping through cracks until my junior year at college (spring 1975).  That's when Sociology 39.0, a.k.a. "Deviant Behavior" was brought to my attention. This course had a reputation of being both entertaining and an easy "A."

Professor Mark Tunnicliffe, in his late thirties, was a walking sideshow freak.  This chubby, hippie-type had a slight limp, uncool black horn-rimmed glasses (as thick coke-bottles) and dressed like a slob.  His greasy, unkempt (light black or dark brown?) hair gave him a crazed look and his bird's nest beard usually had visual crud in it, (when I saw that stuff, my knee-jerk reaction was...three-week old mashed potatoes).

The first of many weird things he had us read was an article (I can't remember the author) concerning, male-to-male...non-homosexual sex, (remember this course was called Deviant Behavior).  During the semester, he made so many references to the article that it became not only laughable but an apparent, if not obvious invitation to all takers.

Tunnicliffe did make the course interesting.  He had a few guest speakers and none was more eye-opening to the generally naive student population than transsexual Raechel Hart, (the former Raymond Hart). 

In our darkened, semi-circular lecture hall, (not unlike a corner of the Roman Coliseum) Hart (around forty) appeared, along side Tunnicliffe, in the spotlight, "on stage" below us.  While she was being introduced, the class recognized that despite her teased-up plantinum blond hair, revealing cleavage, short skirt and glittery off-white go-go boots that she was a train wreck.

Rae had some 8x10's of her circulated through the class prior to being interviewed by our professor,   I can still picture how natural she looked as Raymond, a decent looking and seemingly masculine twenty-year old, (in his all-white, navy uniform).

The other "before and after" photos of her specific body parts as well as diagrams detailing the process of hiding (tucking away) his genitalia and creating hers...was disturbing and easily forgotten.

Beyond the initial shock of the subject matter, Raechel's explanation of her ordeal was mostly unspectacular.  She came off like an uneducated knucklehead and her broken, raspy voice was far from feminine...and a lot further from alluring.  It didn't take long for us, (the audience) to get the impression that Ms. Hart was an unfortunate, confused soul, looking to capitalize on her situation and pick up a few dollars. 

Tunnicliffe had guided her towards discussing the social mores that effect the mindset of a potential transsexual.  But she frequently went off on tangents so the bulk of her lecture concentrated on her travails to psychologically become eligible for the operation as well as her personal difficulty in obtaining the necessary funding. 

At times, the intimate details of her life were shocking.  I was so rattled by her nonchalance over the surgery that I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  Then her presentation ended with a question and answer period. 

Raechel seemed uninformed on the major issues of her own case even when only her opinion was required.  When she was asked about the discrimination she had endured by switching genders at the workplace, in church or socially, she was cavalier in saying, "You mean like public toilets?  I always use the ladies room."

She was equally elusive when asked about clinical particulars...such as whether her procedure needed scheduled maintenance  But towards the end, the questions degenerated to sexually oriented areas.  That's when her suddenly boastful, robust and clear answers were preceded by either an unlady-like leg crossing or a suggestive adjustment of her hormonally enhanced breasts. 

My friend RS asked the most notable of these tawdry questions, "Can you achieve a female orgasm?" Raechel side-stepped the issue and crowed, "I can get nine-inch penetration."

At the end of the school year, Tunnicliffe assigned a project in lieu of a final exam.  He said we were to do something deviant and write a paper on our experience that fit into a framework of requirements.

A week before the paper was due, I was still stumped for an idea.  My friend RS told me he already did his deviant behavior by going with seven friends to the Kingsway Theater and trying to get his entourage in for half price.  The baffled woman at the ticket booth called the manager.  When the manager poo-pooed the idea RS said, "It's a Tuesday night, your showing "MR. MAJESTYK" and the theater probably has less than twenty people inside.  You can see we're not drunk or crazy...we just want to see Charley Bronson.  Plus, we'll spend more money on candy when we get inside.  So if we go shoot pool instead, how do you profit from it?  Think about it, isn't a little something for you, better than nothing." 

The manager spouted on about "the principal" but reluctantly agreed.  He led RS's group to the box office and explained the plan to the ticket lady.  She punched up four tickets and said, "Ten dollars please."  RS smiled and said, "We changed our mind, nobody wants to see this shit."

RS's story sounded pretty deviant to me but I guess he wrote a bad paper because I later found out that he got a "C."

I was clueless on how to attack this assignment until some guy at Brooklyn College tried to bum money off me, to buy a knish from the food vending truck parked between Ingersoll Hall and Boylan Hall.

My plan was simple and partially inspired by Professor Tunnicliffe.

My preparation included; not shaving or showering, wearing my shit-kickers, (beat-up sneakers for lawn mowing), torn jeans and an unwanted tee-shirt that I purposely stained for the occasion.

The big day was a sunny, seventy-two degree day in late May.  I draped an old, army winter coat over my arm, got on the Canarsie Line subway and headed for the Port Authority Building in Manhattan, on West 42nd Street and Eighth Avenue. 
THE PORT AUTHORITY BUILDING WAS BUILT IN 1950.  TODAY, THIS GATEWAY FOR LONG-DISTANCE, INTERCITY BUS TRAFFIC OPERATES ON NINE LEVELS AND USES 223 GATES. IT IS THE LARGEST FACILITY OF ITS KIND IN THE WORLD.  IN 2011, 2.263 MILLION BUSES DEPARTED FROM THE DEPOT.  COMBINED WITH ITS NYC SUBWAY STATIONS, ON AN AVERAGE WEEKDAY, 200,000 PEOPLE PUT IT TO USE.

During my ninety minute sojourn into the city, I knew my "uniform" was effective because many commuters on the train were giving harsh stares...and that was before I crushed-up an extra sock and put it my left shoe, (to insure a consistent limp), put on the coat and the coup-de-grace, I smooshed a big dust-bunny into my hair.
TOO BAD I WASN'T CLEVER ENOUGH TO HAVE A PICTURE TAKEN OF ME AS "AQUALUNG."  FYI...THE DUST-BUNNY WAS CAKED-IN ABOVE MY LEFT EAR.

I definitely looked like a Ratzo Rizzo when I limped out of the Port Authority's men's room and made my way to the main concourse.  The final piece of my vagrant's ensemble remained hidden in my pocket.  It was a dented, army surplus cup that I only used when I went camping.  I grasped the tin handle and knew as soon as I took it out of my pocket for all the world to see...that I was officially, a beggar!

I positioned myself at the bottom of an escalator as a never ending stream of potential donors hurried by.  I knew all I had to do to get started was flash my cup but my hands remained rigidly in my coat's deep pockets.  The sneers I got from the passersby did not help...within fifteen minutes of pretending to be a statue, I gladly gave up.

Instead of getting back on the subway and going home, I decided to go outside, in the hope that the fresh air would boost my morale into taking a second shot at panhandling. The new found bravery I expected never came as my dignity didn't allowed itself to be soiled.  That's when I came up with another stupid idea.

My friend RBOY was a hot dog vendor on 50th Street.  After I took the extra sock out of my shoe, I held the coat and walked uptown, in the hope that RBOY'd talk me into giving my mission another try.

The first thing RBOY said to me was, "I hope you didn't come all this way for a freebie."  Before I could counter he added, "Hey, you know you got some shit in your hair?"  I explained my story.  I showed him my extra sock, put on the coat and held out the tin cup.  He said, "You're nuts! Go home and forget this Skid Row insanity  I bet you'll come up with something better than this." 

He was right, I felt ashamed to have even considered begging and went home.  But along the way, I came up with the ultimate solution.

The train wasn't even back in Brooklyn by the time I mapped out the whole final paper in my mind.  I was going to write...on, begging for money at the Port Authority.  The key was, once I realized that I felt the same idiotic emotions whether I begged or not, the rest would be an easy bullshit story to write.

A wise man once said, "If you're gonna lie, you may as well tell a whopper."  My deviant behavior paper was exaggerated as if I begged on two separate days.  On day-one, I said I dressed like a stinking bum.  On day-two, I said I was clean and dressed neat.  I even went as far to create a chart that broke down my two, hour-long begging sessions not only by total money collected but I also included an itemized breakdown of each piece of money I was given.  Then I made broad assumptions of why a tramp would make more money and a neater beggar would get more pennies, a slug, a subway token, a Canadian quarter and no paper money.

My ploy worked, I got an "A" on that paper.  But that wasn't the true prize.  The true prize was Professor Tunnicliffe's added statement next to my grade, "You write well.  Come see me!"

At the end of the class, I sheepishly approached him.  The non-homosexual, male-to-male sex article and Tunicliffe's supposed open invitation was still in my mind as I arrived at his desk, (I remained awkwardly a few feet away).  Luckily he only complimented my paper and said, "That was the most enthusiastic 'A' I have given in a long time.  But let me ask you...in two hours, did you really take-in $16.90?  And did anything else strange happen?"  Out of paranoia I said, "Yeah, exactly $16.90."  Then my bullshit gland excreted, "Well, actually, I under-exaggerated because just before I was going to leave on the second day (when I was dressed neat) a fourteen-year old Spanish street urchin threatened me with a tiny pen-knife and told me to get away from 'his spot.'  I didn't include being scared off by a two-inch blade in my paper because I was afraid you wouldn't believe me." 
I'M THE BIGGEST WIMP IN THE WORLD BUT I DOUBT I WOULD HAVE EVER LET A KID SCARE ME OFF WITH ONE OF THESE.

Tunnicliffe mused, "Territoriality, I hadn't considered that...fascinating..."  Before he could continue I interrupted, "Gotta run, my ride is waiting."

I came away from our little chat with two impressions.  The first was, I might have given Tunnicliffe the inspiration on how to supplement his professor's income.  And secondly, his praise marked the first time I ever thought I had the potential to write.  Later in life when I finally took the plunge and started writing, I added the embellishment factor which has taken me to the lofty literary heights that you enjoy today.

Monday, December 3, 2012

PEE-WEE'S GUILTY PLEASURE

Whether you like Larry Flynt or not... or agree with his views, it's hard to argue with his logic on this, "What is more obscene: Sex or war?"
PORNOGRAPHER LARRY FLYNT (1942-PRESENT) HAS TESTED THE FIRST AMENDMENT MANY TIMES AND WON.  WHAT HAD BEEN LABELED AS OUTLANDISH PERVERSIONS OF FREE SPEECH, EARNED HIM AN ASSASSIN'S BULLET THAT HAS LEFT HIM PARALYZED FROM THE WAIST DOWN SINCE 1978.

With that in mind, I've done some things that I'm not proud of.  So when I share one of those taboos with you, it shouldn't be viewed as bragging...I'm just reporting the news.

In 1977, my friend Harry became a projectionist at the Regis Cinema.  This "adult" theater was located near Downtown Brooklyn, in a tough neighborhood, slightly off the beaten track of the bustling business district.

The titillating subject matter got old quickly to Harry.  What was important was, he had a full-time gig, made great money, had a short commute from Canarsie and no pressure.  He set-up his "office" with a chaise lounge, an eight-inch black and white TV, a stocked mini-refrigerator and a library of reading material.  He was also clever enough to park in the same spot by a vacant lot each day, so he could utilize the one small projection booth window, to check on his pride and joy; an all black, 1976 Chevy Blazer.
THE BLAZER WAS ONE OF THE EARLIEST  SUV's.  HARRY WASHED AND WAXED THIS GUILTY PLEASURE AS IF IT WAS A STATUS SYMBOL, LIKE A  LUXURY SPORTS CAR  IN THE 70's, BLAZERS WERE RARE IN NEW YORK CITY BECAUSE THEIR FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE WAS ADVERTISED FOR OUTDOORSMEN TRAVERSING BLIZZARD CONDITIONS IN THE ROCKIES, GOING OFF-ROAD IN THE BAJA PENINSULA OR TREKKING THROUGH MUD IN THE EVERGLADES. 
Harry gave an open invitation to his inner circle of friends to come by the theater, to keep him company.  My first visit happened when I accompanied another friend to the DMV on Schermerhorn Street.  The ordeal of waiting in line took two and a half hours.  After, we were mentally and physically exhausted so we sought our own guilty pleasure, the first Hagen Daz in the city, (on Montague Street).

On our way home, we passed the Regis Cinema and decided to see if Harry was there.  Under the huge, old fashioned marquee, we approached the ticket booth.  Inside, we found a sixty-year old, gum cracking, peroxide blond lighting up a Chesterfield.  She put on the Cat Woman glasses that were dangling around her neck by a string of fake pearls to leer at us and croak, "How many?"  My friend stammered, "I-i-is Harry working today?"  She pressed down on the intercom and barked, "Harry, come down."

Harry arrived wearing a white dress shirt, black slacks, Oxford shoes, a raspberry bow-tie and a matching sports jacket. He thanked Madge and complimented her puffy fright-wig hairdo before escorting us in.  I noticed a black sheet covered the candy counter before we were taken up to his roost.  The two-minute guided tour of his claustrophobic work space included an explanation of the equipment.  Then my other friend and I watched the "film" through the little boxy cut-outs in the wall as Harry tore off his shoes, jacket and tie and returned to watching a "PERRY MASON" rerun.

When I got bored of the movie, Harry and I chatted.  He told me that sometimes, he goes downstairs with a flashlight just to piss-off the customers who are pleasuring themselves.  Harry added, "The one's who want a little privacy put a jacket or something on their lap.  Of course, we also have Stella Lugosi down there too...for guys willing to pay..."  I interrupted, "There's a prostitute here and you know her name?"  "Actually I don't," he said, "I made up Stella Lugosi because she's so ugly that it looks like after she kissed the bullet train, she came in second in an acid fight."  When I smirked he continued, "Well guess what...a lot of times, at night there's enough 'business' that a second skeeve, 'Ptomaine Mary,' comes in."

Harry peered out the window to see if his Blazer was still there and added, "Sometimes, when the theater opens (1:00PM), I wait for the first climax and stick my finger over the lens.  When the screen goes black, the businessmen who come in on their lunch hour to get their rocks off and go back to work all moan and groan at the same time."  When I smiled Harry laughed, "Who are they going to complain to?"

Before I moved to Las Vegas in 1979, I visited Harry a couple of more times.  Once, one of my friends brought his kid-brother.  While we spoke to Harry, the sixteen-year old's eyes were glued to the screen.  When we finally pried him away from the boxy cut-out, he had lines denting his face from pressing on the square frame...he never heard the end of that, (I don't know what adverse effect this coming-of-age moment had on the little brother but that 'friend' went on to such a lowlife lifestyle...including drug distribution-related jail time...that even with social networking and hi-tech communications, no one I know has any idea of what ever happened to him).

Harry was way ahead of his time.  His idea of walking through the Regis Cinema's aisles with a flashlight was cutting edge humor.  Unfortunately for someone like Pee-Wee Herman, (Paul Reubens) when he "enjoyed his own company" at a porno theater in Florida, a vice-cop was holding the flashlight.
PAUL REUBENS (1952-PRESENT) DEVELOPED CHILDLIKE PEE-WEE HERMAN INTO A HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL BRAND.  ONCE HE GOT HIS ALTER EGO UP AND RUNNING, HE MADE ALL HIS PUBLIC APPEARANCES IN-CHARACTER.  SOON HE WOULD STAR IN TWO MOVIES AND HAVE A SATURDAY MORNING KIDDIE SHOW THAT WAS ENTERTAINING ENOUGH TO ATTRACT A MAJOR ADULT FOLLOWING.

My first "exposure" to Pee-Wee Herman was an appearance on Johnny Carson's, "THE TONIGHT SHOW."  At Johnny's desk, he was hilarious as he drew-out his own version of the old joke with the punchline, "I don't know this man's name, but his face rings a bell."  (I searched for that clip on youtube and came up empty).
RUEBENS WAS INSPIRED TO NAME HIS CHARACTER AFTER "PEE-WEINY MINIATURE HARMONICAS."  IN 1977,  HE STARTED IN SHOW BIZ WITH "THE GROUNDLINGS," COMEDY TROUPE WHICH INCLUDED PHIL HARTMAN.  IN 1981, HIS STAND-UP NIGHT CLUB ACT, FEATURING HIS NEW PERSONA, SOLD OUT L.A.'s ROXY THEATER, FIVE MONTHS IN A ROW AND LANDED HIM AN HBO SPECIAL.

Pee-Wee became one of my hidden guilty pleasures.  I admitted my appreciation for him only when I found out that many of my friends were "closet fans" too.

In 1985, he parlayed that success by toning down the sexual innuendo of his material and making a mediocre movie called, "PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE."  While this comedy didn't greatly appeal to its targeted pre-teen audience, in a short time, it developed a cult following among young adults.  Pee-Wee's signature laugh and some of his other lines became enduring catchphrases...many of which are in use today.  I know this because I use those lines and people get it and appreciate the reference.

Don't tell Francis but Large Marge sent me, to tell you that this movie clip was found in the basement of the Alamo.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BodXwAYeTfM


Reubens ascent to the top continued with his CBS, Saturday morning kiddie show, "PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE."  From 1986-1991, this Emmy Award winning program delighted youngsters with talking furniture, wild contraptions, puppets, unusual real people, cartoons, other special features and an occasional life lesson.  Also in 1988, he made the far less popular movie, "BIG-TOP PEE-WEE."

Paul Reubens' indecent exposure (public masturbation) arrest in Sarasota Florida squashed his career. 
THE FALL OF THE PEE-WEE EMPIRE.  BUT DID THE PUNISHMENT FIT THIS VICTIMLESS CRIME?

Despite great support from his show business brethren, the public responded with scorn and ridicule.   CBS felt compelled to cancel his contract, Pee-Wee merchandising came to an abrupt halt and Reubens sank into a deep depression.  His humiliation was so acute that it resulted in a self-imposed exile from public life.
REUBENS WASN'T SMART ENOUGH TO PROTECT THE GOLDMINE HE WAS SITTING ON .  TODAY, THE OLD PEE-WEE MERCHANDISE IS HIGHLY COLLECTIBLE.  THIS DOLL, IN USED CONDITION WOULD COST AT LEAST $50.00.

I really felt that my son Andrew missed-out on something great.  Then when he was four (1998), the "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" reruns briefly became available.  I liked the show so much that I didn't even feel it was a guilty pleasure to watch because I saw how much Andrew liked it.  Even though the "salesman" character scared my boy enough that he'd run out of the room until the skit was over.

Paul Reubens greatness still gets mixed reviews.  So it was no accident that his star on the "HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME" does not bear the perceived creepiness of his real name, it uses Pee-Wee's. Nevertheless, Reubens' fading star power still lands him plenty of small roles in movies and on TV.  For instance, I thought he was funny as game show host Troy Stevens on, "YOU DON'T KNOW JACK."  Plus there's still talk of him resurrecting his Pee-Wee franchise on TV, Broadway and the movies.
IN 2001, THIS ABC QUIZ SHOW LASTED ONLY SIX EPISODES.  I LIKED IT, ESPECIALLY WHEN THE CONTESTANTS WE DISTRACTED FROM DOING MATH PROBLEMS BY CRYING BABIES, MARIACHI BANDS AND CHILDREN PLAYING (POORLY) "TWINKLE, TWINKLE LITTLE STAR," ON VIOLINS.
I still hadn't heard of Pee-Wee Herman when I left Las Vegas in 1984 and moved back to Brooklyn.  At that point Harry was still at the Regis Cinema.  On one occasion, I dropped in on him.  This ticket lady reminded me of Madge except she had a leathery face and puffy auburn hair with wisps of gray.  When Harry came down, he greeted her as Muriel before hurrying me along...because his favorite TV show "THE PEOPLE'S COURT" was coming on.
"THE PEOPLE'S COURT," STARRED RETIRED JUDGE, JOSEPH WAPNER (1919-PRESENT).  WAPNER'S INTEGRITY AND OBJECTIVITY GAVE THE SHOW ENOUGH LONGEVITY THAT HE LASTED ON IT FROM 1981-1993 (2482 EPISODES).  MANY REALITY COURTROOM PROGRAMS FOLLOWED AND THEY ARE STILL POPULAR TODAY.  THE 1988 MOVIE, "RAIN MAN" FOREVER IMMORTALIZED "THE PEOPLE'S COURT" WITH DUSTIN HOFFMAN'S LINE, "IT'S TEN MINUTES TO WAPNER."

I noticed that Harry's job had evolved into an even more relaxed environment because he was now wearing jeans, sneakers and a beat-up, sleeveless sweatshirt with the number twenty-four hand-sewn onto the back.  When he laid down on the chaise lounge I asked if he parked his new Blazer in the same place.  He said, "Look out the window, it was still there a half hour ago."  I saw his truck all by itself by the vacant lot and said, "It is..."  Then he cut me off, pointed at the TV and excitedly said, "Here comes Wapner's bailiff, Rusty Burrell. He's the best part of the show."

Harry was not the telephone calling type.  So I was surprised a week later when he rang me up.  What was more shocking was when he called...ten after one in the morning!  Even more incredible, his whole message was, "Drop everything you're doing.  Come down to the Regis NOW!  We got a once in a lifetime movie...showtime is at two!"

The last thing I wanted to do in that neighborhood at night...was get out of my car.  I was still 50-50 on scratching the whole mission as I turned onto the theater's street.  The huge old-fashioned marquee was not lit up so I assumed that Harry was mistaken.  But when I looked down the usually empty side street, every parking space along the vacant lot was taken...with Harry's SUV in its usual spot.

I cruised past the darkened, unoccupied ticket booth.  But beyond it, I saw some people milling around, inside the dimly lit vestibule.  I drove around the corner and parked up the street from Harry.  Inside the Regis' majestic vestibule, next to a hand-made sign that read: $20, a rugged, gangster-type holding a fist full of money, stood at the theater's inner entrance  While I hesitated, two men passed me, handed the hoodlum-dude a twenty each and went in.  When we caught eye-contact, the tough guy's squinting facial gesture suggested to me; you gonna shit or get off the pot.  I advanced towards him and sheepishly said, "Is Harry around?"  The man leaned inside the door and yelled, "Harry!"

Harry hustled me inside.  He introduced me to one of his other friends, (Neil) a timid guy about my age.  I was noticing another mobster doing a brisk business selling cans of beer at the candy counter as Harry whispered, "Check this out."  He took me and Nervous Neil into the audience and it seemed like every seat was taken...even up front  Then he said, "See those guys along the wall, its all standing room from now on." 

I realized that I hadn't seen even one woman since I got there.  No Madge, no Muriel, not even Stella Lugosi or Typhoid Mary was there to service this high volume gathering.  I glanced at milquetoast Neil and started to worry about how well I knew Harry?  So I blurted out, "Harry, what's going on?"  My host looked at his watch and said, "We gotta go upstairs."

In the projection room, Harry was double-checking the reels when I said, "C'mon, what's going on?"  Neil's voice cracked as he whispered, "It's an illegal 'snuff film.'"  I said, "What's that?"  Harry said, "If there's a raid, we'll all go to jail."  I said, "But what is a snuff film?"  Neil said, "Snuff!  They really snuff someone out in the movie..."  Harry shut off the lights and said, "Okie dokie, here we go.  But if you two weasels want to get out now...it's no skin off my teeth."

The three of us advanced to the little square cut-outs in the wall and watched the movie.

Despite this low-low budget, underground "extravaganza" being made in South America and poorly dubbed into English, you couldn't hear a peep out of the audience.  For me, after the expected excitement of the first twenty minutes didn't materialize, this crappy, disorganized movie with zero production value dragged on for the next hour.  The political plot was stupid, the actors looked like cardboard figures, the trace of gun play wasn't very violent, there wasn't any nudity and the typical, big chase scene at the end...NEVER happen!

The crowd was murmuring as the closing credits came up.  There was an unhappy buzz as plenty of people left the theater.  I was saying good-bye as Harry whispered to us, "Wait, there's ten more minutes..."

When the credits were over, the camera panned 180 degrees off the actors and onto the crew.  A woman with a clipboard approached the director and said, "That was great, you're a genius..."  The director forcibly started to passionately kiss the woman and she responded in kind.  Behind them, the production staff busily moved lights and cameras as the director fondled the woman chest.  When his hand wandered under her skirt she cooed, "This is cool, but not here."  He became enraged and tore off her blouse.  She screamed.  Suddenly the crew pushed a four-posted bed behind them and the director threw her down.  The girl was gagged and her hands and feet were bound to the posts by the crew as the director savagely ripped off the rest of her clothes.

The director is handed a pair of wire cutters and snips off one of her fingers.  I really wish these were special-effects but considering the low-budget of this abomination, I unfortunately think it actually happened.  The director turned, to show off his demented grin to the camera before removing the gag from her mouth.  Her screaming worsened with each additional finger he lopped off.  Then the director snapped his fingers and was handed a surgical blade.  He sliced this poor girl straight up from her abdomen to her neck.  Memories of dissecting a frog in tenth grade biology came to my mind when like a capitol "I," he cut her across at the navel and the chest.

Other hands appeared and pulled away her skin to reveal inner organs.  When he grabbed her intestines, I'm guessing the shock forced her to pass out.  Her screams were replaced by music.  It was the opening of the "ROCKY" theme as he lifted her snake-like innards over his head in triumph.  I wished I had turned away faster but that's when I had seen enough.

I'm not proud of myself.  I haven't shared this embarrassment with many people because the snuff film has scarred me for life.

Perhaps if the Regis was raided that night, I would have needed the objectivity of a Judge Wapner or else, an over zealous arbiter seeking to make a name for them self might have ruined my
life.

So if you doubted Larry Flynt's statement about which is more obscene, I hope my experience helps you be a little more sympathetic to the many faces of Paul Reubens...because we are all capable of getting caught indulging our guilty pleasures with our pants down.

*

To brighten your mood, click on the link below and watch the "Pee-Wee's Playhouse" theme song.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKcYGOIJhqo