Saturday, April 23, 2016

Ivey Towers

 In between the Theatre and my others classes, I was heavily involved in social change.  It stemmed from my work in the anti-war movement and human rights.  At PC, it was a little easier to do these things, because much of the student body was more liberal than those at Anderson. 
 Our school newspaper was "The Blue Stocking".  It was a play on our school team, which was the "Blue Hose".  It wasn't until much later that I knew what that meant.  The editor of the paper was a friend named Eddie.  He and I shared positions on what needed to be changed at PC.  The list was somewhat long and changed from time to time, but it all centered around the administration and their seemingly lack of caring for the students.  Their philosophy more had to do with money and pleasing the Trustees.  I didn't have a regular column in the paper, but Eddie did give me space for an almost weekly Letter to the Editor spot.  My letters were sometimes angry and sometimes thoughtful.  It got to the point that several students told me that I was the voice that they didn't have before.  Others got tired of my rants.  The administration saw it as a thorn in their side.  Some of my letters dealt with trying to get co-ed visitation in the dorms.  Others were more political in nature about current events.  I know that some students read my letter first before reading anything else in the paper.  I became a fixture for the good (and bad).
 In the Spring of 1974, it became time for those interested in running for president of the student body to sign up.  I was urged to run.  There were five candidates.  Two dropped out early on in the campaign.  The ones left were Millie, Howard and me.  Millie had the backing of the administration.  Howard was much more liberal than me and had the hippie backing.  I had the backing of the jocks, fraternities, and pretty much everyone else.  We all had to make a speech in convocation to introduce ourselves and tell what our platforms were going to be.  Millie spoke on staying the course.  Howard basically promised everything short of having co-ed dorms.  I gave a rousing speech about the evils of the administration.  The Dean of Students was a ex-Army man named Dean Ivey.  He and I were at each others' throats all the time.  I really think he hated me, and I didn't like him.  During my speech, I saw him sitting in the balcony of the auditorium by himself.  I had a line in the speech that the administration sat in "their Ivey..I mean Ivory Towers".  I looked directly at him, and he looked very sternly back at me.  The audience erupted in laughter.  If Dean Ivey had a gun on him, I don't think I would be here today.  His face turned purple.
 So, between our speeches and the election, there was a week to campaign.  It was generally thought that I had the election won.  The night before the voting, Millie called me in my dorm and told me that she was going to drop out.  I deserved to win, she said.  She told me that she was scared, and felt she wasn't qualified, but that I was the most qualified.  I tried to calm her down, but also I thanked her.  She said that if there was a run-off between me and her, she would endorse me.  Neither one of us thought Howard had much of a chance.  The next day, the voting began.  At the end of the day, it was announced that Howard and Millie had the most votes, and there would be a run-off.  I couldn't believe the outcome.  Neither could the other two.  The run-off happened the next day, and Millie won.  Upon further investigation, we heard that I got the most votes the first time, but the administration decided I was not to win.  In the run-off, Howard got the most votes, but he didn't win.  Millie won.  I was given a pretty good position though of being on the Student Affairs Committee, which was comprised of students and faculty as a liaison between the students and the administration.  We discussed the needs of the school and how we could get the Trustees on board with us.  I also had a seat on the Student Assembly representing the independent students (those not in any other groups on campus).  I am actually glad I didn't get the presidency of the student body, as it gave me more time to party, but I continued my letters.  One got me in serious trouble.  More on that later.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Birthday Party

 In the Spring of 1974, I was given an acting role with the Black Magic Players at PC.  I had done a couple of behind the scenes jobs on previous plays, but it was now time to shine.  The play was "The Birthday Party" by Harold Pinter.  I played a Jewish man named Goldberg, who was not a good guy.  I had to learn to do a Jewish accent, which I think I pulled off. 
 The play was in the round, which meant that one couldn't stand in one spot for very long.  I had to be careful, because I could easily hit someone's foot in the audience sitting on the front row.  I did that a couple of times, but you just had to stay in character and ignore the audience.  The play was very serious and dark.  It required me to drink and smoke on stage.  My Mother remarked afterwards that it was strange seeing me smoke a cigarette.  She didn't know that I had been smoking for years, so I tried to lie to her and tell her that I didn't inhale.  I blew into the cigarette to make the tip glow.  I don't think she bought my story.  There are a few tricks that I learned while working at PC.  One was that if you have a mirror on stage, spray it with hair spray and the lights won't reflect into the audience, but the reflection of the person will show.  Another was to put a small film of water in an ashtray, so one could put out a cigarette without the lingering smoke distracting the scene.
 In one scene, we had to drink Scotch.  Of course, it would not be the real thing.  During rehearsals, we had just used water to pretend before opening night.  The director sent someone to the liquor store to get a real bottle of Scotch for opening night.  The prop person was to empty the Scotch bottle and replace it with tea.  He did that, but he didn't wash out the bottle before putting in the tea.  No one was told what had been done.  When we went to drink the Scotch, it was tea-flavored Scotch.  It was quite a surprise.  The subsequent performances just had tea.  The cast "explained" (yelled) at the prop guy afterwards about his mistake.
 Another scene, toward the end of the play, required a boy to blow into Goldberg's mouth to restore him from his exhaustion.  The boy was played by a high school senior and brother of one of our actors.  He and I were both uncomfortable about this scene and the homosexual undertones.  In rehearsals, we couldn't stop laughing.  We were both embarrassed, but when I would laugh, he would laugh.  When he laughed, I laughed.  We just couldn't get through the scene without laughing, and it was a very serious scene.  It got to the point that we had to do something to get through it without laughing.  So, the director suggested for each of us not to look into the eyes of the other, but rather pick a point on the forehead of the other and stare at that during the scene.  The suggestion worked, because we knew we had to get through it.  I also asked the boy to use mouthwash before blowing into my mouth.  That helped.  A couple of times, our eyes started to tear up, because we were holding in the laughter.  It made for a more convincing scene.
 My acting was well received, and I finally showed the others that I had talent.  The next two roles that I had required me to play old men in those.  More on that later.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


 I have been introduced to a lot of famous people, but this story is not about any of those.  I have also tried to be as honest as possible with my stories, and this one will be no different.  I only ask that you don't think any less of me after reading it.  And, if you put it into the context of my life during college and beyond, then it might make more sense.  So, here goes.
 My Mother once told me that I have an addictive personality.  Little did she know how much of that was true.  When I was around 14, I discovered cigarettes.  I would ride my bike over to Flora and find half-smoked cigarettes in the parking lot.  Students would go out to their cars between classes to smoke, but they couldn't finish them, so they threw them on the ground.  I would find those and smoke the rest.  I know that wasn't too sanitary, but it was still a kick.  I also would look for cars in neighborhoods with cigarette packs on the dashboards.  If the cars were unlocked, I stole the packs.  My favorites were Salems and Winstons.  I smoked off and on until 1984.  For a time in college, I smoked those small cigars.  I could buy those legally.  They made me look cool. 
 When I got to college, I discovered a few more things.  First was cocaine laced snuff.  They would put cocaine in snuff flavored with strawberry or cherry.  I didn't do that much, but it did give me a rush.  The downside was that I got nosebleeds.  One was so severe in my Sophomore year that it looked like the horse head scene from "The Godfather".  After that incident, I didn't do it any more.  The other things I discovered in my Sophomore year was speed and downers.  When I would do plays, the play would usually go until around 11pm.  I would take legal speed called "No-Doz".  This stuff was pure caffeine, and it was designed to keep you awake.  The normal dose was one pill.  Usually, I would take two.  Yes, it kept me awake, but then I needed something to sleep, so I took sleeping pills.  This was a regular habit.  Often, I would wake up the next morning and have a headache, so I would have to take aspirin--a lot of aspirin.  That did a number on my stomach.  I had this routine for several years, when doing plays.  I had to stop it, when I started drinking.
 The only alcohol I had was the wine in Rome, which was covered earlier.  When I got to PC, alcohol was more prevalent.  One night, I went with some friends to a forest outside of Clinton, and I had my first taste of beer.  I didn't like the taste, so someone told me to think of it as "banana juice".  I know that sounds gross, but it worked.  During my Senior year, I drank a lot of beer.  One night, I drank 22 beers over a three-hour period.  I passed out for two days.  I went to a fraternity party and got very drunk.  I pinched a girl's butt with ice tongs, and she told me that she had problems sitting down for a week.  I also discovered daiquiris in Atlanta during this time.  I liked those and Tom Collins mostly.  Anything with Vodka was the best, since it didn't smell on my breath.  I will address the Atlanta trip later, at least what I can remember of it.  Alcohol was a part of my life until around 2000.  I can't have any alcohol now without getting sick. 
 During that trip to the forest, I was also introduced to Marijuana.  I didn't feel anything at first.  No buzz.  I tried it again in Atlanta and really got stoned.  So much so that I went for a walk one night and found myself floating down the sidewalk. The last time I did grass was 1981.  Another drug during this time was LSD.  I think I only did two hits of that, but it caused me to have flashbacks for many years afterwards.  Thankfully, the flashbacks never happened while I was driving.  They would come every three months.  Then every six months.  Then every nine months.  I haven't had any for about five years.  I hope I have outgrown them.  I never did Heroin.  I had two friends die from overdoses during high school, so I had no desire to do that. 
 So, I had several introductions to things over a period of about 7 years.  Some remained longer than others.  If you look at the time frame, most of the stuff I did was during my hippie years.  Most were more acceptable back then, even if much was illegal.  When I reached 21, I could legally go into a liquor store, but by then it was anti-climatic, because I had already been drinking by then.  I also just want to say that I do not want to suggest that it is cool to drink or take drugs.  I am suffering now, in many ways, because of what I did many years before.  As you read subsequent stories, you will see some things I did, which I am not proud of.  They seemed fun at the time.  I wouldn't even think about doing them now.  I guess we all have things in our past that we are not proud of.  I just wish that I had the power of being able to see the future, and then maybe I would not have done so much in the past.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Elton John

 Elton John did a concert in 1973 at the University of Georgia.  He was promoting his LP "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road".  My friend Jimmy offered to take me to UGa on his way to Atlanta, so I could go to the show.
 When I got there, the only tickets left were General Admission seats for $2 each.  My seat was behind a column in the balcony.  I had to peer around the column to see anything, but just being there was great.  Elton had his piano draped in a cloth surrounded by lights, which made it look like the piano glowed.  He wore big glasses and had a flashy costume.  His band of Nigel, Davey and Dee were great.  At the end of the night, he got Gregg Allman to do the encore with him, and they did "Midnight Rider" together.  It was a magical night.
 I saw Elton again in Columbia in 1980 at the Carolina Coliseum.  A lot had happened to be since that show 7 years earlier.  I was drinking more and doing drugs.  I am guessing that the show in 1980 was good.  I remember little bits of it, but a lot of marijuana was being passed around, as well as beer.  Some guy brought some binoculars, and I got to see Elton and Nigel making faces at one another while they were playing.  He was there to promote "Little Jeannie".  I really don't think a concert is any better when one is stoned or drunk or both.  Unless maybe the Grateful Dead, but I never saw them in concert, at least not all of them.  I have been to a lot of concerts over my life, and I will discuss them later.  I have been drunk, stoned and sober at various shows.  I prefer to be sober, because then I can remember the shows better and enjoy the music more.  To each his own.