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“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G.
Chapter 14 – Backstage Pass.
My parents liked going to the movies, so I was introduced to lots of different kinds of films when I was a kid. (Yes, this is a bit of a flashback — we’ll be doing that from time to time, but don’t worry, I’ll try to warn you.)
Film. Flicks. Cinema. It was a big part of our family outings. I loved going to the movies but some types of stories were better than others. Western movies, for example, were cool with me. On the other hand, Doris Day films were blech. Cops-and-robbers were great, but Jerry Lewis films were a blech-and-a-half. (“Genius” my ass; the French are completely nuts to even mention his name in the same paragraph as Buster Keaton. I’m just saying.)
Science-fiction and creature features were swell with me, too, especially the ones with Ray Harryhausen visual effects. It also seemed appropriate to me that so many of the sci-fi stories dealt with disasters and giant beasties that were brought about by nuclear energy.
One day, my parents took me to see a double feature and I noticed the same actor in both films.
“Hey dad, didn’t that guy get shot and die in the other story?” We were at a drive-in theater, so it was okay to talk.
“His character got killed in the other film,” said my dad. “He’s playing a different character in this film.”
A different character? What the hell is going on here? “You mean those people at the O.K. Corral were not actually shot?! What a gyp! That’s not fair! I want them dead!” Yes, I was a bit blood-thirsty back then.
My dad had to explain the concept of scripts, actors, directors, editors, and so on. I still thought it was a cheat, but I really liked the idea of “pretend,” and so there was a lot of it in my life from that point forward. Especially at school. The made-up excuses for not doing my assignments were a good example . . .
Excuse Number One: “The dog ate my homework.” Always a classic. Fun to try getting away with that one, although it was a bit more difficult for me due to the fact that we did not own a dog. But that did not stop me from using it at least once per semester. And then I could use a variation of it a month or so later, as in: “My dog, Rex, got run over by a car.” I guess that would be Excuse Number One-A. Or perhaps it should be Excuse Number K-9.
Excuse Number Two: “It was a religious holiday in my house yesterday.” Creative, don’t you think? This one wasn’t that difficult because my family attempted to get me interested in a whole bunch of religions, although fortunately only one at a time. We tried Catholicism, Judaism, Quakerism, Baptism. Meth-amphetamineism. I’m sure that several of those were made-up but the point is that it was often hard to keep track of the religiosity holidays.
Excuse Number Three: “I couldn’t do my homework because my mom had to go to the hospital.” This is a winner if there is a family member or neighbor to back up your story.
But no matter what the circumstances, it’s comforting to know that you’re not lying, you’re not cheating, and you’re not prevaricating. No, far from it. You are simply “pretending.”
And, truth be told, there actually were two occasions when Excuse Number Three was true. My mom had two miscarriages. The little sister or little brother I was supposed to have did not make it. Twice. No amount of pretending could ever change that.
Anyway, the whole concept of pretending is the reason that I became a drama queen. Wait, no. I mean that’s how I became a lesbian. No, wait. That’s not right, either. It was how I became a thespian. An actor.
After all, if the people in those silly movies could pretend, I could, too. So I began appearing in amateur theatricals. Skits at the Rotary Club. Summer camp acting sessions. School plays. Even church pageants. Well, that last one happened only when we belonged to a church that allowed such blatant examples of Satan’s frivolities.
In high school, there was even a whole program of acting, directing, and stagecraft to which I happily aligned myself after I noticed the attractiveness of the actresses who were involved in it. All of which meant that I spent a lot of time in and around the school auditorium.
I was in such plays as: “Everyman.” “Our Town.” “She Stoops to Conquer.” “Hamlet.” Don’t get excited by that last one; I didn’t get the lead role. I played Fortinbras, which meant that the audience had pretty much gone home by the time my character stormed onto the stage to restore order after all the carnage of Act V.
William’s Way With Words
Shakespeare began making a big impression on me. The words seemed odd at first but they turned out to be enjoyable. If you speak them out loud, they often have a fluidity that is quite pleasing. The better I got at it, the more often I was cast in Shakespearean plays. As a bonus, it soon became obvious that faking a little Shakespeare was good fun. . .
“Forsooth, canst thou see that I, merely the poorest of players, am but forlorn and indeed swimming lost upon the vastness of this stage, standing by one’s lonesomeness, in dire need of any fine line that could be but spoke aloud from within and behind the settings, a brief and humble speech that might, nay, would straighten the path of this our humble production and in no small measure aid us in the reasonable conclusion of this scene with at least some small semblance of human dignity.”
For anyone who has ever been on stage, you realize that what’s being said in that very long and convoluted sentence is: “What the hell is supposed to happen next?” It’s just a bit disguised so as to fool some of the members of the audience.
We were in a scene from “Othello” and somebody “went up” in their lines (hey, it could have been me) and now everything had come to a screeching halt because nobody knew who was supposed to say what at that moment. If the stage manager hadn’t FINALLY taken the hint I was dropping in that phony soliloquy, we’d still be there, waiting for the swordfight or the betrayal or the strangulation or whatever.
In my high school, the “Play Department” (love that term, BTW) often put on brief dramatic or comedic scenes for the artistic enrichment of other classes. For example, the history and English instructors allowed their students to come see us do a bowdlerized version of a Restoration comedy or a truncated script from an Elizabethan drama or a censored section of a Broadway musical.
But there was a big problem with doing plays in the middle of the school day: that damn public address system was also installed in the school auditorium and announcements would blare out at us, often in the middle of a scene. . .
“What is in thy mind, fairest Livia?”
“Oh, my lord, would my soul give me the strength to confess my heart’s desire to you.”
“You can speak freely. Tell me what is in the most tender part of you. I pray thee, speak now.”
“I will, I will, I must! It is just this — ”
“Attention, please. Third Period Nutrition break will be held thirty minutes early due to the pep rally scheduled for one o’clock. That is all.”
Kind of destroys the mood, wouldn’t you agree? And it kept happening again and again. Later on, a bunch of the actors and stagecraft crew spoke about it in calm and measured tones:
“Slime-ass crap-brain dog-sweat pig-slop announcements!”
Note: some of the words have been changed to preserve your ears and maintain a high moral tone in this project. But you see the point, which is that many of us simply did not appreciate the fucking announcements breaking into our scenes. We resolved to do something about it. Once again, it was electronics to the rescue.
We knew that the wall-mounted P.A. speakers had to get their signal from somewhere. And between that “somewhere” and the speakers themselves there had to be wires. Sure enough, there was a junction box just off-stage left, out-of-sight of the audience. Opening it was as easy as removing four Philips-head screws and letting the metal cover drop onto Billy’s left foot, ruining his new sneakers and opening a gash in two of his toes.
“Damn it, that hurt!”
“Sure, that metal cover is heavy.”
“Well, be careful!”
“I was being careful. It didn’t hit my foot.”
“Okay, sorry. Look, you can do the honors of shorting out the P.A.”
“Really?” Billy sounded almost grateful that he got injured.
“Sure. Get something to cut the wires.”
Proud as a peacock, Billy took a flashlight and a pair of wire cutters from the stagecraft tool cabinet and positioned himself directly in front of the open junction box. We all held our breath as he slowly extended the cutting tool and expertly snipped the blue wire.
After the fire alarm bells finally stopped clanging and the school had returned to normal, we made our way back to the junction box and tried again. This time, he snipped the red wire.
“Do you think that did it?”
“We won’t know until there’s an announcement.”
We stood there, listening for an announcement. All we could hear was our breathing and the echoing hush of the empty theater.
“This isn’t going to work,” I said.
“If that was the right wire to cut, then we won’t hear any announcements. We could stand here listening forever. Don’t know about you, but I can’t hack that. Got a date tonight.”
This produced a certain amount of consternation. “What’ll we do?” “How we gonna know?” “I’m hungry.” “Who’s your date?” etc.
“Guys,” I said. “One of us has to be here for first period tomorrow. If you’re standing here and don’t hear the regular morning announcement, then we did it right.”
“You mean I did it right.”
“Yes, Billy. That’s what I meant.”
“Well, I don’t want to be here tomorrow morning,” Walter said. “I don’t want to miss the announcement. What if it’s one of the outlaw broadcasts?”
Wow, I thought. My little tape edits were now thought of as “outlaw.” Cool.
“Okay,” I told them, “I’ll be here tomorrow morning, on one condition.”
“I want Billy’s sister here with me.”
“Oh yeah,” said the other guys. “She’s hot.”
“Done,” Billy told me. “Wait, big sister or little sister?”
“For Christ sake, Billy, your little sister is seven. I want your big sister.”
“Right,” he said.
“Or your mother,” I said.
“Oh yeah,” said the other guys. “She’s hot.”
“Hey!” said Billy.
“Well, she is,” they said.
“But, but, that’s my mom!”
I can’t prove it, but I’m thinking that the resulting conversation was the first use of the term MILF. Eventually, everything got worked out. What? Oh, no, he got his big sister to show up, not his mom. I wouldn’t meet her until much later, after we nearly cut off some toes on Billy’s other foot. Purely accidental, I assure you.
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“Secret Sex, A Book Alive Online,” written and lived by John Scott G, is Copr. © 2011-2012 by JSG, all rights reserved under U.S. and international copyright conventions. Commercial use in any form is forbidden without express written permission of the author. Originally published on eNewsChannels.com with permission. Credits: Book cover design: Phil Hatten; Author Photo: Brian Forest.