Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Seminary Plays

 When I arrived at seminary in 1976, my goal was to teach Theatre in a Christian college.  The school didn't have a major for that, so we invented one.  I had a teacher who was also very interested in producing that program.  Her name was Paula Brooks.  She was great. 
 We did a few plays and other Drama pieces during my time there.  The first was in the Spring of 1977, and it was called "How in the World".  It was done for Mission Week.  The play centered around an amusement park and doing things that one would not normally do.  I was cast in a supporting role as the Little Strong Man.  I wanted the male lead, because he and the female lead got to go to Six Flags to shoot some film of them riding on the rides.  The footage was used in the play.  I got to use one of those contraptions where you use a hammer to ring the bell.  It had to be rigged so that I could do it.  I wore a flimsy tank top.  It turned out to be the pivotal role in the play, because I had to ring the bell, and I didn't look like I could.  But, a lot about the Theatre is illusion.  It worked.  I also designed the lighting for that play.  It was very well received.
 In April of 1977, I was taking a course in Youth Work, and the school was having a special day for the workers in the area, as well as some young people.  They wanted a theme presentation for the day.  Our class came up with a play called "Our Way".  I actually co-wrote it and was the assistant director, as well as an actor.  The original title was "Have It His Way", but we changed it to be clearer.  The scene was a fast food restaurant.  There were several people dressed in black and white and wearing "Our Way" t-shirts.  I had each actor mime eating a hamburger, selecting a French Fry and eating, and then drinking a Coke.  Because we had very little money, we mimed it rather than having real food.  Everything was done in unison.  I set it up like a clock.  The burger was at 6.  The fries were at 10.  The drink was at 2.  I had the actors count out 6-10-2 in their heads, so that all would be doing it at the same time.  They all watched me to stay in step.  One actor came into the scene dressed in colors.  He was his own person, and didn't conform to the crowd.  The point of the play was about conformity and individualism.  About six months later, Wendy's came out with a commercial using exactly what we had written.  It turned out that their advertising firm was in Dallas, and someone saw the play and thought it would make a good commercial.  I wish we had copyrighted it.
 I also started to do Bible monologues.  I wrote one on the personification of the cross.  It was physically demanding, and I don't think I could do it now.  It started out with a seed growing into a tree, and then the tree is chopped down and fashioned in a cross.  The tree doesn't know why this is happening or who the man is that is nailed to him.  It was good, but I got better later on.
 For Christmas of 1977, I was asked by my teacher to come up with a Reader's Theatre program for the season, and I put together something called "Advent/Coming".  I used scripture with dialogue for the program.  There were four of us in the presentation, and we did it for a woman's club in Euless and a church in Ft. Worth.  It involved using candles, and we had to watch that the hot wax didn't get on our hands. 
 Because I was majoring in Communications, and we kind of made of the major as we went along, it was determined that I had to do a thesis for my degree.  The seminary decided that instead of writing something that I would direct a play.  One of the professors, Dr. Bill Hendricks, had written a play called "The Harrowing of Hell", and he wanted to see it produced.  I was assigned to direct it.  Dr. Hendricks had to approve my direction in order to pass me, and he was a very hard teacher.  The play had to do with Jesus coming down to Hell after being crucified and taking on the 7 deadly sins. The cast was very big.  Because of the size of the cast, and that most of the participants had church jobs on weekends, we never had a full cast rehearsal until the dress rehearsal.  This drove me crazy.  I was eating Rolaids like candy.  I was having severe headaches.  My body was a mess.  Besides not being able to get the cast together, I also was using dry ice to create smoke on stage.  I couldn't rehearse with that, because we had a very small budget, and we could only afford enough for the dress rehearsal and the two shows we did.  The first show was for chapel one morning.  I had the 7 deadly sins sit in a semi-circle on stage.  I told the guy doing Gluttony just to eat all through the play.  I had not slept the night before and was a mess.  He brought a can of Pringles and stuffed in in one of his pockets.  During the course of the play, the can accidentally popped open, and the chips fell out one by one onto the floor.  The audience thought that was supposed to happen and roared with laughter.  It just goes to show that sometimes the accidents work better than what was planned.  Dr. Hendricks thought my direction was great.  I passed.  Rolaids spells Relief.
 Apparently, my work was well received, because the seminary started a Communications major and later hired a full-time Communications professor.  One side note on all of this is that I felt that none of these things were "productions".  They were "presentations".  And, I was uncomfortable in getting applause.  I did these things to present the Gospel message, not to show off my talents.  If I got applause, it was because the audience thought I did a good job.  Applause is a drug, and I crave it, but sometimes it takes away from the message.  That's the difference between a "production" and a "presentation".  Praise is good for the individual, but don't just praise without taking in what you have witnessed and receive a blessing from it.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Julie Newmar

 In 1978, the first "Superman" movie with Christopher Reeve was released.  I went to the first showing one night at a large theatre in Ft. Worth.  I was with three friends from seminary, and we got there just before the movie started, so we had to sit down front and look up at the screen.  The theatre was packed.  The movie was great. 
 At the end of the film, everybody filed out, but I wanted to watch the credits.  It was a habit of mine to wait for the credits, because I wanted to see if there was anyone I knew who worked on the picture, since I had done some film work.  I noticed out of the corner of my eye that there was a woman standing just across the aisle from me also watching the credits.  I recognized her immediately.  It was Julie Newmar.  At that time, she was living in Ft. Worth with her husband who worked there.  I tried not to stare, but she was wearing a very short, crocheted mini-dress.  For those of you who don't know, she played Catwoman in the TV "Batman" show with Adam West.  She had other TV and movie roles including the laundry girl on "The Monkees".  I figured that I had better leave before her from the theatre, since she was a celebrity, and I wasn't.
 I left just as the credits were ending and went outside to find my friends.  They were out there running around.  They had their arms stretched out like Superman and humming the theme song.  I decided to join in, and ran around the corner of the theatre.  I ran smack dab into Julie Newmar's chest.  My fist bounced off.  I was embarrassed and apologized.  She thought it was funny and told me it was okay.  She then asked me if I was the one who had stayed to watch the credits.  I told her I was.  I explained that I always looked for people I might know, and she said she did too.  She asked if I was in the business, which was a euphemism for working in film, and I told her yes.  All the while, I was staring at her dress.  It left very little to the imagination.  Our conversation ended, and I returned to my friends.
 A VERY close encounter with Julie Newmar.  It was good for me.  It seemed it was good for her, too.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


 I worked with a girl named Karen, although she let some close friends call her "Kare".  She was a 19 year old art student.  She also was a gourmet cook and sewed a lot of her own clothes.  She was a pretty girl, and I fell in love with her.
 At the time I met her, she was in another relationship with a guy who abused her.  I wanted to take her away from all of that, but for a time he was a hard habit to break for her.  I have seen that with others along the way in my life with girls who are in love with abusers.  Kare was better than that.  So, we started hanging around together. 
 She looked a bit like Farrah Fawcett, who was big on "Charlie's Angels" at this time.  Since Farrah was from Texas, some people thought that Kare was Farrah.  We would be walking through a mall, and people would stop her wanting her autograph.  Sometimes, Kare would blow them off.  Other times, she would sign Farrah's name to a paper as a laugh.  There are a lot of fake Farrah autographs in Ft. Worth.  Other folks wanted to take her picture, and she got very paranoid about that.  So much so, that she refused to have anyone take any photographs of her.  She said that it would freeze a moment in time, and time was meant to be more fluid.  I do have a picture of her from a candid shot someone took of her that is in her college yearbook.
 When Kare was 16, she was in a bad car crash that put her in the hospital.  She had to have surgery, and she died on the operating table.  The doctors brought her back to life, but she lost some oxygen to the brain.  Consequently, she didn't understand words over two syllables.  It made it a little hard to talk with her, but we made the best of it.  She was also a feminist, and she got me involved in NOW.  It was strange for me, because I was a bit of a chauvinist, but she changed that in me. 
 One thing that Kare and I enjoyed doing was going to clubs and being the last ones there as they closed.  Last call for alcohol.  There were times when we would literally be crawling out of the door of the clubs very drunk.  It scares me now to think of us getting into a car and driving home, but we did.  We were invincible. 
 When I told her in 1979 that I was moving back to SC, I had a hard time with it, and she did too.  She told me that she had an uncle in Atlanta and would come for a visit.  She never did.  I miss her a lot, and I know she is married and happy now.  I'll write more later about how she helped me in 1978 with a crisis in my life.  She was a very special person.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Charlton Heston

 I have already written about the upscale nature of the mall that I worked in.  Hulen Mall.  One night, it was announced that Charlton Heston would be doing a book-signing at Walden's in our mall.  He was a big star, and I thought I would go meet him.  You had to buy his book to get him to sign it, which I did.  I also brought one of my acting textbooks for him to sign.  Surprisingly, I was the first person to see him in the store (and the only person).  It was just me, him, his agent, and the book store manager.  So, I bought the book and then headed toward him to sign it.  He signed his book, but when I pulled out my acting book to sign it, his agent stepped in and said he was only signing his book, and not any other.  Heston asked me if I was an actor, and I said yes, so he asked me my name and inscribed my acting book to me from him.  I thought that was nice.
 Since there was no one else waiting to get a book signed, we started talking.  He asked me what I had done, and I told him a lot of plays and a couple of movies.  We had a great laugh about Burt Lancaster teaching me to dance.  I told him about how nice Burt was in sticking up for me and that Burt allowed me to use his name as a reference for other work.  Heston told me to call him "Chuck" and said I could use him as a reference, too.  I told him about my Mother's love for "The Ten Commandments" that he was in, and about the letter that Cecil B. DeMille wrote to her after she wrote to him about the movie.  Chuck and I had a connection.  The crowd started to gather, so I said goodbye.
 Several years later, I was back in South Carolina.  Chuck was producing a TV mini-series called "Chiefs". It was being filmed in Chester, SC.  I got an audition to play the deputy to Brad Davis.  I used Chuck's name to get the audition.  The casting director decided to use a tall, fat actor from New York instead of me.  My Mother thought that Chuck could do more for me, so she wrote him a letter asking him if I could get cast in another part.  Chuck took offense at her letter, and wrote a very scathing letter to her saying how unprofessional it was for me to get her to write the letter to him.  I hadn't.  It was something my Mother did, because of our relationship with him.  At any rate, I didn't get a part in "Chiefs".  Chuck told the casting director not to hire me for anything.  My use of Chuck as a reference ended.  Maybe, the letter caught him on a bad day.  Who knows?  I kept Burt as a reference.  He was nicer.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Wedding Invitations

 One of the problems that I have had over the years is being too successful in something, because a supervisor will ask me to do something else, because they think I can do good at anything.  Case in point was when Sanger Harris got the bright idea to do custom wedding invitations in their Stationery Department.  The machine used individual type characters that I had to place in the machine, which was hot and used color inks and heavy stock paper. 
 We had forms, which the bride would fill out with what she wanted on the invitations, and then I would print them by hand.  It usually took a couple of days to do each order of not more than 100 cards for each wedding.  Sounds simple, huh?
 No!  It wasn't the machine.  It wasn't the ink.  It wasn't the bride.  It was the bride's mother.  When the order was ready, I would call the bride to come to the store to pick them up, and she would bring her mother.  That woman would tell me the invitations were all wrong.  The time was wrong.  The name of the church was wrong.  EVERYTHING was wrong!  I would pull out the form that her daughter filled out, and she would tell me that the form was wrong.  Her daughter would not have written that down.  I must have forged her daughter's wishes.  So, I would have to do the order again.  Another two days.  I would call, and something else was wrong with the order, so I would have to do it again.  The stress was so awful that I asked to be relieved of this job.  The store realized that they were losing money on ink and paper, so the wedding invitation service was halted. 
 Sometimes the good ideas don't take into account that the mother of the bride is the one with the credit card that she will threaten to cut up if it is not done HER way.