Slapstick Comedy

speedy

On Sunday at The San Gabriel Mission Playhouse I saw a silent film that had an organ accompanist. Your probably wondering why I’m writing about it now? Because the humor hasn’t left me. Every time I tell someone about it the words don’t come out because I’m full of snorts, cackles and tears. So I’ll share the story-line and what made it special.

The 1928 film Speedy stars Harold Lloyd who plays Speedy. He can’t seem to hold down a job. Because of his love of baseball, he gets fired from his job as a soda-jerk, then spends the following day and all of his money with his girl at Coney Island. On Monday he becomes a cab driver and delivers Babe Ruth to Yankee Stadium, where he stays to see the game. There he overhears of a plot by a railroad executive who plans to hire thugs from a gang to try to run the last horse-drawn trolley (operated by his girl’s grandfather) out of business. Speedy organizes the neighborhood old-timers who play cards with Grandpa to thwart their scheme. But it’s their shenanigans and how they go about it that’s hysterical and pure slapstick.

There’s a blacksmith who throws horse rings around the thugs necks and stops them in their tracks. The cobbler uses his hammer to bruise fingers. But it was the Chinese launderer that comes out with a steam iron to smooth out a few bottoms that had me in stitches. Now I have to admit I liked the Three Stooges, I know they were a little rough, with their face slapping and eye poking but I enjoyed their antics. But watching Speedy I didn’t identify with the Stooges but my own slapstick tactics growing up.

One summer when I was ten two cousins came to visit. One was male, 4 years older than my brother. The other was female, 6 years older than me. Our days were consumed with fun and trips to the plunge, water balloon fights, bike rides, games of kick the can, a trip to the beach on public transportation that was an adventure and of course, Disneyland. We even set up tents in the backyard, boys against girls.

Every evening we ended our days with a good pillow fight. Knowing they could wipe us out, I had to think quick and was determined, we had to win. I wasn’t going to go down like a good little girl or a scaredy cat. I knew all we needed was one good hit so I suggested that we each stuff one of my father’s wing tips into each pillow. My cousin obliged and seeing stars and a black eye ensued. I was grounded for thinking up the scheme but laughed all the way to my punishment sentence.

What outrageous schemes did you pull as a kid that can still make you laugh now?

Should old acquaintance be forgot

year-in-review

It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and blog traffic is pretty low. Everyone is either getting ready to celebrate, out of town, still shopping, or already with friends and family. For those who don’t celebrate the evening of, it can still be a day to have fun, watch movies, or go out for a hike and a meal! I thought I would take this time to go through my year here on Do Write/ Fulfillment, Fun & Foibles and put up my favorite posts as a review of 2013, according to each month starting with December. In parenthesis I have added what I based my choice on. So if you are new to the blog, be sure to check out these posts and feel free to add your comments. NY Champagne

Dec. Encountering Everyday Epiphanies (photos I took)

Nov. Head over Heels Gaga (relates to one of my short stories)

Oct. A fashion duo (a reminder of another era and my mother’s generation)

Sept. No malarky (I’m not kidding, I had this conversation!)

Aug. Days of Tante, Tout Sweet ( about children)

July The Fall Guy ( Humor!)

June His bambina (tribute to Daddy)

May Everything old is new again (old classic movie themes)

April Stand My Ground (my Doggie)

March Green is for Luck (public speaking and humor)

Feb. Dating in the Dark (a love affair)

Jan. How to Become a Writer (soul-searching for a new outcome)

Have a wonderful new year!newyear

The Fall Guy

I’ll begin by saying, I dislike violence. I don’t watch police shows, can’t tolerate people punching each other and don’t include it in any of my writing.

I should backtrack to say I grew up in the Sixties, in the suburbs of Los Angeles in a neighborhood that was middle class. There were a lot of professionals on my street and one of my favorite memories is of my neighbor, who was a jockey. On weekend afternoons, in off-season, after he had a bit to drink, he liked to hitch up his kids on the rear open door of his station wagon and then he’d take off down the hill. I can still see his son tumbling out, his puny father red-faced and gunning the engine.

However, my parents didn’t engage in or encourage these type of activities.  My mother insisted that my upbringing be sheltered. Why she wasn’t concerned about my brother, I don’t know, but she shielded me from violence; including television shows, movies and people and decided I shouldn’t be near them. Being sensitive as I am, it was a wise decision on her part. However, whenever I saw anything remotely tough, such as kids falling, I’d let out the biggest scream you ever heard, (I often scared others with the shriek of my voice) was petrified, immobilized and later would have a nightmare.childrenvintagecar

I’m medium height now, but when I was young I was always the tallest. I had pale skin and was always bruised or eaten up by mosquitoes. Despite being articulate and gifted at the art of argument, I was not a threat. I’d give pennies to kids not to step on ants. However, I did have a diary that I wrote in faithfully. Every night I wrote down my thoughts and placed the diary under my bed. If I knew the cleaning lady was coming, I’d stash it into a tin, and hide it in a drawer. And every morning before I went off to breakfast, I read it and laughed. Unfortunately, one summer when a couple of kids were playing hide-n-seek at my house (we were always at our house, never at theirs) one of my friends hid under my bed and read my diary. I only found this out later. BrotherSister

There was a girl on our street who was an Amazon. Huge, powerful, strong, and I wrote down in my journal, meaning it as a compliment, she could have been the leader of the Green Berets. She didn’t take that well. I, oblivious, walked into the circle of girls one afternoon and she started spatting out words from my diary. Then she was coming at me, when my brother intervened and she punched him instead. She got into trouble. He spent the rest of the week with a bandage over his nose and my mother made me stay home and told me to watch musicals.

But I still remember the horror of the moment when I realized she was coming my way. That was the most terrifying moment. It was the feeling of exposure. Like people who don’t know a writer and are reading their words and criticizing them. It’s something I think about at the start of a new semester. I understand when I see how nervous my students are about having strangers read their work and I sympathize. We all just want some mercy.

How about you? Have you ever gotten into trouble with your writing and been able to laugh about it afterwards?

In the Ruff

Last week, I went to visit my mother. I wanted to see her and hadn’t seen her since Christmas but with dreadful stomach flu I had to cut the visit short. When you’re sick, there’s nothing like your own bed and for that matter—your own WC. Recently, being in a somewhat gloomy disposition, or perhaps because were in tax season, or in spring— a time in which my allergies go bezerk, or just because I’m battle-scarred, I was convinced that something disastrous was going to happen. In a Woody Allen sort of neurotic way, I anticipated a litany of things, but what I didn’t expect was that days before the trip, I walked downstairs and found my beloved dog Coco lying motionless at the foot of the steps.

I’ll interrupt myself to say that she is now fine. She had a fever. She’s cured and sitting right next to me. However, I didn’t know that at the time and there are few problems more terrible than seeing your beloved “best-friend” staring at you mournfully and trying to figure out if you should go see a vet.   Coco2

But the point of all this is that as I was sitting at the vet’s office, clutching onto Coco’s paw, I was thinking about how if it hadn’t been for her, I might not write for literary magazines. She’s always been a tad high-strung, but when we first got her she was an absolute lunatic. My husband had to walk backwards into the house because if Coco saw him full on she started to pee. So at one point, when she was at the vet and climbing onto the poor man’s arms, the vet mentioned that there were tranquilizers for dogs that worked in much the same way as they did for people.

That fact stayed with me and a few days later I had visions of a woman who starts to move her head side to side as she is trying to decide whether or not to take her dog’s medication. Something in the humor and tragedy of that moved me, and that was the start of another short story. I went back and read through the opening scene with a roar and thought of how wonderful it is for writers that we get to write about those we love—furry or otherwise.

So, thank heavens Coco is okay. And I had a great time in Los Angeles.
How about you? Do you ever write about pets?

A day without laughter is a day wasted

—Charlie Chaplin

My volunteer work at Vegas PBS http://www.vegaspbs.org has been spent —having fun. Last night I was actively involved in the seasonal pledge drive for a few hours, while Cirque du Soleil performed, Flowers in the Desert, that was televised. As it turned out every phone call that came in was from listeners who wanted to purchase tickets for the troupe’s upcoming Zarkana show that will be performing at the Aria at City Center next month. Three members of the troupe were behind the volunteers contorting every which way demonstrating their acrobatic experience that blends circus arts with the surreal to create a world where physical mime rubs shoulders with the strange.

At one point, my face was turned and unbeknownst to me one of the artists had his face so close to mine, that when I turned back startled…I let out a scream—in studio and on the air!

The general manager then dubbed me, the Screamer.

In Zarkana, the ringmaster of the extraordinary circus guides the audience in an abandoned theatre populated by a collection of off-the-wall characters and incomparable acrobats. Among other attractions, he introduces the Mutants, four sirens as sinister as they are fabulous. It’s a highly visual show with a twisted musical and acrobatic fantasy universe where, little by little, chaos and craziness give way to a true celebration.

As for me, I had hoped to gain quite a bit—as a volunteer, with a hope of donating my time and energy to an organization and a cause that I care about. But I’ve encountered a lot of fun with people who care as I do about what we are doing in a spirit of fellowship and excitement.

A Mensch

He was born Joseph Levitch but the world knows him as actor and comedian Jerry Lewis. He was one of my childhood favorites and I laughed hysterically at his mania.

But the belly laughs didn’t stop then. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I went to see his televised 87th birthday tribute.  His actual birthday takes place on March 16 but airs on PBS early 2013. I should have taken a box of tissues, his comedic intent is pure insanity and I along with the audience was enthralled by his nonsense and idiocy. However don’t be fooled—as a human being he’s as sharp as a needle and his lively mischievous mind never waivers. The man is brilliant and has a flair for improvisation, as well as being multi-faceted, he has achieved international fame. The French love him, so much in fact that they presented him with the Legion of Honor and gave him a medal. I think they appreciate his gift for pantomime. And judging by the large Brazilian contingency in the audience, that flew in to see him live, they too adore him.

A few old-time celebrities were papering the house.  Two rows behind me were Tim Conway, Edie Gorme and Steve Lawrence who called out, “hey Laaa-dy.” Also to my right across the aisle was Cuba Gooding Jr.

That night I found out that Lewis was in New York days before discussing The Nutty Professor that will be coming to Broadway in the future.

Lewis has made Las Vegas his home after marrying a show-girl thirty years ago. And it was in Las Vegas where he hosted the annual Muscular Dystrophy telethon in which he raised nearly 2.5 billion dollars. That’s what I call the world’s greatest fund-raiser and a mensch with a big heart.