I feel I know everyone reading my work well enough for me to be just a little bit presumptuous. I mean presumptuous about what I might ask you, as if you and I were sitting here face-to-face.
I never know how people are going to digest what I write, or if they even bother to chew on it at all. It amazes me how subjective writing is. It goes right along rivaling the rest of the arts.
One person loves what you say,
One person hates what you say,
One person couldn’t care less
And some don’t understand
And won’t get it anyway.
Some will read a line or two and comment:
“What the hell is he talking about, and who does he think he is, saying things like that?”
At my stage of the big game, I have no qualms about what I might or might not share with those individuals I care to share with. I used to deliberate about every word and sentence I set in ink. Then, one day I realized the idea of me thinking my deliberations would make it easier on me was sheer folly and totally presumptuous. Some may be capable of reading minds; I am not one of them.
Is what I do merely the result of “having a big mouth?”
I often carry on as if I was back in school, acting up, and out as the class clown.
And it isn’t just me.
Many of my colleagues were similarly labeled early on during their formal education experience.
“Class Clown”; recognize that one?
But, what about the rest of the story;
What did we look like?
What was our background?
Were we really happy kids, or merely troublemakers?
Were we already aware of what our career pursuits would be?
How come most of the kids who worked the room as class clowns were boys?
NOTE: Class clowns come in all colors, sizes, shapes, ages, and ethnic origins. The punishments inflicted on class clowns does vary, dependent on an assortment of factors: Affluence of clown, region, country, neighborhood, type of school, and most importantly, how much of a tight ass their teacher is (was). In many countries, the teacher is armed with sticks or paddles and are permitted to inflict corporal punishment.
The predominance of class clownery takes place during the school years between kindergarten and twelfth grade. Most college class clowns restrict their work to after school hours. Clowning during a college class may become dangerous to the clowns well-being.
I chose not to refer to myself as a class clown. I considered myself, early on, to be a humorist.
Somewhere along the way, at the movies during a double feature, a short (that’s what they were called) between films featured a lecture by Robert Benchley. His sneer and disdain for generalities, or for the general public, caught my fancy. Benchley was known as one of the great humorists of his era.
The term “humorist” captured me. I adopted Benchley’s disdain as I would share my thoughts with my class and teachers. For some reason, my teachers didn’t appreciate me talking down to them. In later years I found out I was guilty of role reversal; teachers are the ones who are supposed to talk down to kids; or so they thought.
One teacher in particular used the term “ridicule” as she described how I spoke to her, while I was once again summoned to our school principal’s office. I stood in disbelief before him.
When he motioned, it was my turn to speak. I felt it to mean it was my turn to defend myself, and so I did. I pointed out, with a display of angelic demeanor, that it wasn’t my intention to show any disrespect. It was just that I determined our teacher had misused a variety of words during one of her many lengthy dissertations. The principle dismissed me from the meeting, along with his allowance of how he would deal with my situation later on. The teacher wasn’t very happy. I, on the other hand, found the whole adventure quite humorous. As I explained to my buddies, who gathered around as I held court, “Hey, I’m in the third grade. What are they going to do to me?” My fellow humorists agreed.
As I get older, I find myself recalling periods of my life as opposed to a single event, although I recall those as well. As an example, the trials and tribulations during grammar school brought back recollections of growth as a humorist during the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. It was during this most elastic of times, what was to be my future began to evolve. If there was a school happening which might require a student being in front of a group, I was their man.
Public School #233 was housed in a four-story building, and like most Brooklyn, New York schools had a large basement boiler room, equipped with a series of small vacuum machines used to clean the chalk build-up on the classroom erasers. Being selected as the boy in charge of cleaning erasers was a position of honor. When I walked down the halls with chalk dust on my face and clothing, I was the envy of every kid in the school. It was during that period when I first made use of a thing I referred to as the “Nicholas Brothers” strut. (They were a well known song and dance team, who usually performed wearing tuxedos.) My strut came long before John Travolta’s.
The eraser position only lasted for a short period of time probably one year. I recall it must have been the third grade. The gig was a good one, but it didn’t have any lines for me to deliver. It was my first real experience with improvisation. I created my own stuff as I went along. Even then, all of us wanted speaking parts. Come to think of it, there weren’t any audiences down there in the school boiler room. It was my introduction to playing to a bad crowd; talk about a lack or responsiveness!
Then came the real start of the big time; I was appointed the “Captain of the “Clean Up Guards,” and it was still only the fourth grade. I was in charge of twenty students. We each had an appropriate school armband. Damn, I looked good! Each and every afternoon, I would move my team of twenty from one end of the school to the other. My job was to instruct them in the correct procedure to follow. In actuality, I would order them around the school; barking out commands similar to what I had heard “Charles Laughton” deliver in the movie “Mutiny On The Bounty” as he ridiculed his seamen, including Mr. Christian, as portrayed by Clark Gable.
I was on a roll. Just one short year and then the biggest part of my young life: “Captain of the Public School 233 Safety Guards.”
Each morning, I was the first to arrive at school. I entered through my personally assigned private entrance, and checked in with the school custodian. I then proceeded to the school entrance and raised our American flag. Each and every day, regardless of the weather, I was there by 6:20 every morning.
And then, the piece d’resistance, I would lead the entire student body in the pledge of allegiance. It was my very first voice over and will remain, to this day, the best one I have ever done. With the flag positioned down stage right, with the students all on their feet and at attention, I stood there center stage facing the flag, and then the students all as one placed their right arm across their hearts as I began to say the words: “I pledge allegiance to the flag.” They all joined me. I mean to tell you, this little guy became a giant.
Sometimes, the best and most creative work is done without a monetary reward. In my case, if it came down to it, I would have paid them for the privilege and fun I was having. Not bad for a twelve year old humorist, wouldn’t you say?
So… which sort of clown were you? If you have a tidbit you might like to pass on to the rest of us, please be my guest.
The carrying on by yours truly began early on and has continued relentlessly. Thank God. It has been my salvation.
The ability to laugh and share my amusement with those around me is a heavenly gift.
Those without the ability to find life’s humor are destined to live with far less zest.
Directors Note: “Zest” is a great word for giving direction to anyone, especially yourself when involved with self-direction.
Zest: An enjoyably exciting quality
PIQUANCY *adds zest to the performance*
Keen enjoyment: RELISH, GUSTO.
Your character: “Has a zest for all they may do or attempt to do.”
It beats the hell out of directing an actress to be “perkier” or for an actor to merely add something to his performance.
Love and laughter is a blazing combo to experience at least once; to live and play your life with total honesty.
A true love, and an honest laugh; as powerful a duo as any scientist has ever discovered.
“To cheat oneself out of love is the most terrible deception; it is an eternal loss for which there is no reparation, either in time or in eternity”
Let the secrets begin.
Not to worry or concern yourselves with what I might say. Nothing I scribe would justify criminal indictment. What I intend revealing will be nothing more than the firsthand experiences and words adapted to my life’s ambitious endeavors. I’ve taken from some of the best minds, as recognized by some of the best minds.
Entitlement, as understood by Harvey Kalmenson, was discouraging at best. That is to say, for the particular time period I existed in. The year was 1972, a little more than thirty-eight years before this current day. Being in charge of things had disappeared from my life. School captaincies were long a thing of the past. I could begin listing everything which had come to an end, but it wouldn’t add to your repertoire of mentally worthwhile storage. It was my turn at getting introduced to what so many before me had weathered: The disillusionment of a marriage and simultaneous career revulsion.
Synopsis: An end to my marriage and an end to my job.
It’s not my intention to offer any stories about what I was going through. I’m going to share what got me out of a desperation mode and into the position of entitlement that I have remained in for the past thirty plus years.
“If you don’t feel entitled to win; you’re correct; you’re not entitled to win!”
My strengths were my sense of humor and the integrity instilled in me by my father. It never deserted me, not even for a minute.
“Without integrity, nothing matters.”
“With integrity, nothing matters.”
An actor with integrity will never be limited to predetermined heights. If the truth were told, it will unearth worldwide ovations.
I was searching for my truth; nothing more or less. The problem for me was I had little or no idea at all about what I was searching for. It was like playing a card game for the first time. Unless you’re unconsciously lucky, you won’t have a prayer of winning.
It wasn’t that I was sitting back. I continued to make the rounds; not just show biz venues, but rather anyplace that looked like it could provide a few bucks for my survival. I was beginning to feel like the consummate outsider. Time was passing with dizzying speed. The financial pressure was building as the search entered its third year.
… And then; Give me an AMEN my BROTHER!
The laureates reentered my life. The men of letters who always manage to break through even the greatest of human stupors, with the survival abstractions only they could supply.
Each of us has our own individual buttons. For me it was rediscovering some verse which years before had little or no meaning in my life.
Late one evening as I began packing my belongings in order to move to an even smaller apartment, I came across a package of books. One of them I had previously discarded as not being for me. I was to quickly change my mind as the reading of it changed my life. The book was simply titled “Love,” written by Leo Buscaglia. Leo became my companion and my spiritual enabler.
That evening when I opened the book, it was with no intent of reading it. A biz friend who thought it would help me to get a handle on what was going on had given “Love” to me. It was three years since the book came into my possession. I randomly opened the book to page one hundred and forty eight, and read:
“… And we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
For whatever the reason, Thornton Wilder got to me in that moment. Exactly what I understood his words to mean was of no consequence.
But before I go on, permit me to tell you about my friend and mentor, “Leo Buscaglia.” Nowadays all you have to do is Google him. You’ll find many essential facts describing this world-renowned philosopher. He has written more than a dozen best sellers. His book “LOVE” was the first. The back cover best sums up this wonderful human being’s handle on life. I feel it will be a creative lift for anyone searching life’s subjective form. It reads:
“If you feel something, let people know that you feel.
Love is like a mirror. When you love others you become their mirror and they become yours.
Real love always creates, it never destroys.”
“Live now. When you are eating, eat. When you love, love.
When you are talking with someone, talk.
When you are looking at a flower, look. Catch the beauty of the moment!
One does not fall “in” or “out” of love. One grows in love.”
“Love is open arms. If you close your arms about love, you will find that you are left holding only yourself.”
While my friend, Leo Buscaglia, is no longer with us, his words remain forever. Of the many who have accepted my recommendation, none have come back with anything less than accolades over the simplicity and value of Leo’s message.
Without feeling entitled, one can never be so blessed.
I doubt if any profession more exemplifies human need than ours. I was at the top of my professional skill level while simultaneously being at the lowest financial corridor a man could possibly fit his body through.
Each evening I read and reread what Leo Buscaglia had to say. And each night I wrote about what I had read, and attempted to tie it into what I presumed had placed me so low on life’s Totem Pole. The process of self-analysis went painfully on for six months. And then I found myself continuing to read everything Leo had written.
I guess, as they say, “Timing is everything.” What I ultimately found myself doing was merely going with the flow. I stopped objecting and began earnestly allowing the words to sink in, delivering a form of true meaning.
And as I said earlier on, I was going to give up some secrets. In essence, all I thought a long time ago, as my secret to be stored away, for no one else’s eyes to see, was nothing more than a visit to another of life’s subterfuges.
As I continued to look around me, I felt new beginnings as many of my former foibles were being cast away.
I recommend Leo Buscaglia’s book to all who may search, and continue to search, as I did.
If you’ve forgotten, the name of the book is, “LOVE.”
“And by the way, say hello to anyone who knows me.”
Annie Wood says
LOVE this post! I relate to being "the humorist" and I am of the female gender. 🙂
My humor came in the form of questions. I, would simply ask, in all of my wide-eyed fictitious innocence, questions of all my teachers. One day, in Health class, I began to ask Mrs. Nelson questions continuously. Mrs. Nelson had a disconnected, falseness about her that annoyed me to no end. I felt it was my duty to interrupt her long speeches with questions. So, one day when she was telling us about the horrors of cancer I raised my hand and said, "Mrs. Nelson, cancer is a serious subject, isn't it?" "Yes," she agreed, grinning ear to ear. "People die," I went on. "Yes," she agreed once again. "Then why are you smiling.?" I asked. To which she replied through her permanent smile, "I'm not smiling." The crowd went wild! Of course, I realize she had the punch-line. Still, she couldn't have done it without me.
I have loved Leo Buscaglia since I was a teenager. Love, Love, Love. That's where it's at.
Love and Peace,