I knew I was about to be great.
|Bing and The Ladies|
Why wouldn't they?
I was cute. A veritable little Ronnie Howard, with red hair and an angelic voice.
Of course, there were some other people in the show. It was after all, the annual town Christmas Concert and there were many with talent, some far better then me, who would perform. But everything at that time revolved around me to a ridiculous degree.
Let me explain.
When I was very young, I was told I was getting too big for my britches. By a lot of people. A lot of the time.
My teachers. Some of my friends' parents. My parents. Complete strangers! People on the street would randomly approach me, whack me along-side my head and mutter dark threats. It might have had something to do with my precociousness.
But I never took these comments seriously.
At the age of nine I knew everything there was to know about the world, thank you very much, and I could handle my life quite well with out anyone telling me what to do.
So when I was told I needed to rehearse the song I had learned off a record called, "I'd Like to Hitch a Ride With Santa Clause" with Mrs. Turner, the pianist and school music teacher, I thought, "Get real. I don't rehearse." And then I think I broke into maniacal laughter..
The Andrew Sisters and Bing Crosby had made a small hit out of ILTHARWSC. a few years earlier, although it has gone the way of those Christmas standards that fall, mercifully, through the cracks of established holiday music.
I mean, there were lines in the song about cracking whips and dodging weather-vanes and being humiliated by the entire school you were attending, for heavens sake.
Oh wait, that was my life.
Anyway, I learned the whole thing and I felt, as a seasoned performer who had appeared as the lead in "Tom Sawyer" and had played a pivotal character in "Life With Father" for the local little theater, that I was beyond rehearsing.
Rehearsing? I don't need no stinkin' rehearsin'!
My parents had always guided me with a light reign. I was never forced, except in rare occasions, to do anything my little heart didn't want to do. Frankly, I think this type of parenting might have contributed to some serious lapses of judgment later on in my life.
So the day of the concert instead of singing with Mrs. Turner, I was upstairs in my bedroom rehearsing my bows and expressions of humility to the crowd that appeared on one of my walls.
I actually drew stick figure pictures of people in an auditorium applauding my greatness and strung them together with Scotch tape on the wall next to my bed. My mother often wondered how come we ran out so quickly. Not beds. Tape.
And so it was that I stood upon the stage that night, right after the Clyde sisters rendition of "Silver Bells", and just before Mrs. Ringlemeyer, a German war bride with a very thick accent, and who was, without a doubt, the ugliest woman I had ever seen up to that time in my life, and warbled a rather provocative rendition of Ertha Kitts' classic, "Santa Baby", I was ready to lay-em-in-the-aisles..
I began my song with a little musical prequel about being new at school and not being invited to play and other such child-hoodish nightmare stuff. Mrs. Turner was seated at the piano wearing a brightly colored dress with a huge sprig of holly and red flowers pinned to her left shoulder and a pinched look on her face She normally always smiled at me so. I wasn't quite sure what that look was all about.. I mean, I had spoken with her before the show. I said, "Hi, Mrs. Turner" What more could she want from me?
I went through the whole song once. It had several verses and a refrain that changed from one line the next. But - no problem. I was a trooper.
|The Original Flop Sweat|
Beads of sweat sprung like carbuncles from my face as I realized we had never practiced the ending. The ending? Hell, we hadn't practiced anything. I began to experience tunnel vision and I noticed a somewhat uneasy feeling rippling through the crowd.
We came to the end. She did that little be-boppity thing with the piano and I started singing the song.
This time Mrs. Turner banged rather hard upon the keys, although she did keep playing the song. She glared up at me from a face bathed in sweat. The sprig of holly and the red flowers she wore was wilting before my eyes. The crowd had by now reached it's limit of cute little boy singing a rather banal song and I noticed a few gathering in groups at the back of the hall. Some were clutching pitchforks and lighted torches. I also thought I saw a noose hanging from someones hand. My voice had lost it's precociousness and had dropped to a jagged and faintly shrill groan.. I forgot a plethora of words. I think I even said something about flying saucers from Mars somewhere in the middle.
The song, thankfully, ground to an end and Mrs. Turner slammed the keyboard door upon her hands, hoping, I think, that if she broke a finger or two, she would be excused from playing "I'd Like to Hitch a Ride With Santa Clause" ever in her life again.
I slumped off the stage with muffled grumblings in my ear, and just a smattering of applause from my sister and my parents. God bless 'em. They stuck with me no matter how stupid I became.
Even then I tried to blame someone else. "Mrs. Turner did it. I didn't know she was ending." Yeah, George. Speak to the sock puppet. You didn't rehearse. You just merrily sailed in like Stephen Sondheim on opening night; sure of your lines. No one was there.
It was a bitter lesson. I never again went on stage without at least a modicum of rehearsal time.
So. Merry Christmas to all, and fasten your seat belts. The ride with Santa Clause is going to be bumpy.
© 2010 George Locke