Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Importance of Being Earnest

Here's a neat little blast from the past: It turns out that M used to be a Thespian. In January of 1962, while attending the University of South Florida, he acted in a college play. It was The Importance of Being Earnest, a three-act farce by Oscar Wilde. According to Wikipedia, "(T)he play's major themes are the triviality with which it treats institutions as serious as marriage, and the resulting satire of Victorian ways." M says it was a real hoot--both the play and his getting to be a cast member. (He actually had two roles: In Act I he played a young valet in an upscale London flat. In the second and third acts he was a decrepit old butler at a country estate. He says that these two servile parts ended up being a pretty good metaphor for his life.)

The one thing M always regretted about the play was not buying cast pictures when they were available. This bothered him more as the years passed, not just because it got harder to remember the whole experience, but also because one of the players went on to become a person of some notoriety, and it would have been great fun to look at a picture and say, "Wow--I knew old so-and-so way back when!"

Well, M had an epiphany a couple of weeks ago, which set in motion a series of quite fortunate events. He reasoned that if any photos from the production still existed, they were probably buried somewhere in the University's archives. So he e-mailed the current director of USF's School of Theatre & Dance and asked him to please take a look. The director said he'd check around and forwarded M's query to the School's marketing and communications director, who in turn passed it along to a wonderful lady who is the archivist for the College of The Arts. Within a few days this miracle worker had found, scanned, and e-mailed two pictures, one from Act I and the other from Act II, that show all but three members of the cast! She also sent a scan of the play's program (click on pictures to enlarge):

In the Act I picture, as Lane, the young manservant, M is the front-facing dude at house right, being scolded (mildly) by his employer, Algernon Moncrieff (played by James Judy), for not providing any cucumber sandwiches for his guests:


Other characters in this picture (cast member names in parentheses) are, left to right: Lady Bracknell (La Rue Hutter), John Worthing (Jack Belt), and Gwendolyn Fairfax (Mary Hall).

In the Act II photo, as Merriman, the old butler, M serves Gwendolyn (Mary Hall) a cup of tea while the latter engages in heated conversation with her rival, Cecily Cardew (Cathy Edwards):


So . . . have you managed to spot the future celebrity? If you said Mary Hall, give yourself an A+. The girl playing Gwendolyn is now better-known under her modeling and acting name, Lauren Hutton! Shortly after the play's run ended, M dropped out of USF to join the Marines, and soon after that, Mary took off to New York City to reinvent herself for the fashion and entertainment industries. She began by playing the role of a make-believe rabbit in a place called the Manhattan Playboy Club:


(Hmm . . . Truth be told, I think I've chased her a couple of times in my sleep!) Then it was on to big, lucrative  modeling gigs:


And a string of Vogue magazine covers:


And even Newsweek:


Et cetera:


Along the way, of course, she made a slew of movies with actors like James Caan, Richard Gere, Burt Reynolds, and George Hamilton. It's hard not to be impressed.

"Do you ever wish you had become somebody?" I asked M.

"I did become somebody," he snapped. "Somebody else."

For the sake of amicable relations I quickly shifted gears. "Do you have any special memories of being in the play?"

He smiled, which made me relax a little. "Oh, yes. One in particular. Lauren--Mary--asked me for a ride home from rehearsal one night. Like most of us back then, she was a commuter student. Her house was just about a ten-minute drive from campus, but I remember wishing that it was a lot longer."

"Cool!" I said. "So in addition to being two house servants, you got to be a chauffeur to one of the stars. Of course she's probably had a ton of those since then, don't you think?"

I sensed right away that this was the wrong response, because he turned snappish again: "Dog, do you have to be such a freakin' buzz-kill?"

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

What kind of dog am I?

When I posed this question to M on our walk a few days ago, he pretended not to understand what I was getting at. "A high-maintenance one," he replied.

"Work with me," I said. "You know how different people's ancestors might be Chinese or African or French or something neat like that? Well, that's what I want to know about myself. What's my ethnicity?" I raised my leg and whizzed on a fire hydrant.

"That's easy," he said. "European!"

Some days you can't pay him to be serious.

It must have got him to thinking, though, because today a Doggie DNA Kit arrived in the mail, and before you could say double helix, M and J were holding me in a headlock and swirling little bitty brushes on sticks around inside my mouth. My samples will go out tomorrow, and hopefully we'll know in a few weeks just what kind of dog I am. Besides high-maintenance.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Festive Occasion

Today is my sister Jenny's birthday.

(Crowd erupts in wild cheers.)

I was going to declare that if she lived in my world she'd be 5.4285714 years old. But then I started noodling around on Google and found that the old rule about one dog year equaling seven human years is no longer believed to be very accurate. Unfortunately the "new and improved" dog-year calculators you find all over the web don't agree with each other. For instance the one at this site gives an answer of 6.25. And this one provides a table where the age conversion also depends on the dog's weight. (Maybe it should depend on the human's weight, too.)

During my Google-fest I also learned that if Jenny had lived in ancient Roman times, this would be her XXXVIIIth birthday. And if she were a rocket scientist or other mathy person, she'd probably calculate her age as e to the 3.6375862 power.

In honor of her birthday here are some pictures showing Jenny at various points in her life, starting with when she was three months old:

Here she is in 1981 at her first piano recital:

Before we push on, M just interrupted me to point something out: When Jenny's niece Annabelle was about this age, she bore a striking resemblance to Jenny. Here's the recital picture alongside a similar pose of Annabelle (cue the Twilight Zone music):

Next we have Jenny in Driver's Ed:

And learning to wear makeup:

Here she is committing her first crime (that we know of)--feeding an endangered green sea turtle on the North Shore of Oahu:

(As an animal who used to depend on handouts from strangers, I have to say, "Good for you, child!")

At some point in her amazing life, Jenny posed for a statue:

And played banjo in a folk trio:

And won A Major Award:

"You like me! You really like me!"

Yes, Jen, we really do. Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Life's a beach! (part 2)

I must down to the seas again,
               for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call
              that may not be denied . . .

John Masefield was right: It turns out I couldn't stay away from . . . THE BEACH! M and J took me there for several days last week. It was better this time, though now that I've had a few months to think about it, I have to admit the first time was more upside than down.

What was especially cool this trip (aside from the weather!) was that our friends Bonnie and Judy drove over for a visit. It was fun walking along the shore with them, showing them dead crabs and jellyfish and coquina rocks and other neat stuff. I still couldn't manage to get more than a toe or two into the water--and even that was by accident. I'll keep working on it.

Here are some pictures M took of the rest of us:

Since Judy and Bonnie were there on Wednesday, we went to McDonald's for burgers and fries, which we took back to the beach house for some splendid seaside dining. Here's a picture of our "seaside dining room" that M created from three separate photos he took at Christmas of 2009. You might want to click on it to make it bigger. In reality the house's deck, floor, and ceiling are straight and the ocean is curvy, but you get the general idea:

If you're new to the blog and don't know about our Wednesday "hamburger nights," you can go to this post, which will lay it all out for you. (Forget what it says about my not liking French fries, though. I've seen the light and now think they're wonderful!)

To read about my first beach experience and see some more pictures, click here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy birthday, Bonnie and Ally!

Two of this blog's loyal followers share a birthday, and it happens to be today! Special birthday hugs go out to my sister Bonnie and cousin Ally.

Everybody knows what a sister is, but cousins can sometimes take a little explaining. Ask any genealogist--like M, for instance. Ally's mom is M's aunt, but she's also his first cousin once removed. That's not as trailer-trashy as it sounds. All it means is that M's mom and Ally's mom are first cousins who married a pair of brothers. It also means that M and Ally are not only first cousins (because of their brother-uncles), but second cousins as well (because of their first-cousin-mothers). Which I think makes Bonnie and Ally both first and second cousins once removed. And I guess the same relationships apply to me and Ally (by my adoption, of course). And M is his own grandpa. Holy cow, forget what I said about trailer trash. This is pretty funky. It's starting to remind me of Deliverance. And they say Irish setters are overbred!

But anyway, back to my main message, which is a lot simpler: Happy birthday, ladies!