I signed a multi-year deal to emcee at the Oregon State Fair. Small potatoes by show business standards but for a roustabout and lunch bucket card carrying member of the small time entertainment racket my hosting the stage was fat city after a steady diet gigs in places you can’t even find on a map.
Another agent that liked my style booked me to emcee at the Ohio State Fair. My duties included stage management as well as emceeing. I was a man of many hats. Simple enough. Set lights, sound check, here’s where you come on and how you walk off. Any entertainer worth his salt realizes they’ve got a sweet gig when they find an experienced hand taking the lead on a stage they’re going to throw it down on.
Spearing a tossed orange with a barbecue fork clinched in my teeth
…arriving, loading in, setting up, killing time backstage, holed up in the green room, eating with your fingers from the deli tray, special ordered, all Italian sliced salami and sausages, peppers, succulent morsels, olives and onions, crackers and cheeses, a white tablecloth spread not necessarily enabling a long life- but while you were here it was at least a good short life, squeezing in and peeling out of costume, getting on stage, under the hot lights, taking your best shot, holding your own, sticking to the schedule, the final burst of applause, taking a bow, maybe help keeping the stage manager sane, then after going back to the hotel to hanging with the lineup of showmen and showgirls. Drinking whiskey, spinning tales of woe about long hops, pulling up to some hole in the brick wall, hard to find barely advertised one night stand— long lost nights both on and offstage— and long after the last calls been called out by a weary ready for bed host, cashing a thousand hopes and dreams in, waving the white toweled bravado to the last breath, collapsing on your hotel room bed, so near to the crack of dawn you could touch it… Heavy eyed party-monger, falls off to sleep, waking too soon, scaring yourself in the bathroom mirror, using a cool rag to soak your puffy eyes— will the swelling ever go down? Putting on your sunglasses, grabbing your suitcase, closing the door, heading back to the venue, sleep deprived but game faced, ready to play your hand all over again, for one more night, out on the circuit— custom built-perfection sized for the small-time up and comer’s, and then at long last after a too hot weekend of show after show after show, you load out, close the backstage doors and as this one comes to the bittersweet end instead of hanging with your own show biz kind, instead of gathering with your tribe, you’re rolling out all alone on that long white striped highway pointing you to the next destination, the gig slated for tomorrow and your fateful rendezvous with that big fat delicious break— that your fool mind keeps taunting you with— that lucky pot of belly laughs and applause— that your addled dream machine mind keeps teasing you with— that all you ever really wanted out of this show biz thing— was to earn a laugh and be given an honest shot at riding without so much as a care in this roller coaster ride of a world— and there you find yourself listening to to the whispering wind born love song singing in your hair…
Wanderlust Peeking Back from My Lucky Stars