Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Springfield, Part II

Saturday was, if humanly possible, even hotter than Friday in Ol' Springfield.  Angie and I sat on the bottom patio in Loch House and drank our coffee early in the morning, as is our habit, and by 8:00am were both trickling sweat.  The golfers were still strolling by with groups of gasping and panting and sweating onlookers following them.  I noticed all around the club, in fact, they had these little signs that said "golfer crossing."  At first, quick glance I thought they said "gopher crossing" and was a bit surprised that Springfield should have gotten so benign toward it's gophers.

Fortunately, the Loch House had air conditioning pumping throughout (which must have been like air conditioning an aircraft carrier) so we could always just step in and cool off for a few seconds.

I knew the girls would be coming over soon to commandeer the kitchen.  My best man at the wedding and lifelong friend, Johnny Bader, was driving down from Iowa (he lives in LA, too, but was in Iowa to visit his family and, in particular, his mom, who is in delicate health) so the two of us planned to just scoot around Springfield a bit during the preparations and see what there was to see.  John is about my age and has had the career anyone in the business would kill to have...we got our Equity cards together at The Old Creamery Theatre in 1985 and then both moved to NYC.  He did a lot of stage work in NY with a lot of prestigious theaters and then moved to LA about twelve years ago.  He got a tremendous break early on out here and did a season of The Practice, the David Kelly show that preceded Boston Legal.  He also got a great commercial agent right after moving here and has done about fifty national commercials.  He's made a good living.  John also directed my first play in NY, Changing it to Brando.  Brilliantly, I might add.  John is not, by his own admission, a director, but he's nonetheless very good at it.  In fact, he was my first choice to direct Praying Small here in LA, but he turned me down saying, "I appreciate the offer, but, you know, I just don't ENJOY that sort of thing."  I liked that response very much.

So off we went to see my old alma mater, SMSU (now called Missouri know you're getting old when the name of your college has changed).  The area around the theatre department was exactly the same (with the exception of a god-awful, modern statue that looks like a giant, silver satellite dish parked right outside the theatre itself) as I remembered it.  No one was on campus and the place was locked up so I decided to check the one door that was always unlocked back in my day...lo' and behold, it was still unlocked.  So we walked around Craig Hall and I gave John a running commentary on the place.  Must've bored him to tears but I was neck-deep in nostalgia.

We stopped and had lunch at an old haunt of mine called Ebbets Field, a pub near the campus.  I told the waitress I had been there the night they opened the place in 1981.  She looked at me, quite rightly, as though I were a thousand years old.  She glanced around for the oxygen tank.

The day before Angie and I had driven downtown to take a look at Lander's Theatre where I did a number of plays long ago.  What an extraordinary facility that place has become.  A 570 seat theatre in a building that had been built in 1909...a former Vaudeville House, in fact.  The place has been gutted and is now a state of the art plant.  I commented to Angie and her friend, Beth Domann, who is the Artistic Director there, how amazing the place would be if it could be airlifted, intact, to NY or Chicago or LA.  I hope Springfield realizes what an extraordinary theater they have there.

Anyway, we returned to Loch House to find a gaggle of beautiful women busily creating a whole slew of foodstuffs.  John commented later he had never seen so many "cougars" in one place at one time. They were obviously having a wonderful time and John and I sat and chatted with everyone for awhile.  Tammy Lipps, also a former SMSUer, has since become a highly sought-after catering force here in the LA area, and she was spearheading the arrangements for the party.  She is an incredibly nice and smart woman, not to mention talented, and one of Angie's best friends and also her Bridesmaid.  Tammy and I never met in college because she literally came a week after I left.  All she knew of me were the myriad stories, some not too flattering, I'm sure.  I tended to be a tad controversial back then.  I suppose I still am, in some ways.  A character flaw, to be sure.

Anyway, John eventually left to shower again (we were all showering a couple of times a day because of the heat) and rest up before the 'event.'  Carolea Love (now Clingan), Debbie Doll, Diane Chambers-Stewart, Mary Wilson-Klumpp, Glenna Norris, Sharon Kessler-Chalmers and Rosemary and Tammy were all there helping out.  What a great group of people and all close friends of Angie's.  Unlike myself, Angie has maintained a whole bunch of close friends from those days.  She's that way.  Once Angie befriends someone, that's it.  Friends for life.  Me...not so much.  I tend to lose contact and simply move on to the next thing.  One of the thousands of things I admire about her.

Before John left we set up the karaoke machine and tried it out.  I knew instantly it wouldn't be loud enough.  But it was all we had so we decided to give it a shot that night.  In hindsight, I should have simply turned the damned thing off.

Long around six thirty the Peabody/Lewis/Jarrett clans started showing up.  So many new relatives it will most likely take me about a decade to learn all the names.

Angie's family and her extended family are very close.  It's all completely new to me, this family stuff.  They all seem to actually like each other in addition to being family.  They're all funny and smiling people that adore Angela.  I come from a family of heavy drinkers who barely tolerated each other so this new breed of family sort of befuddles me.  Rosemary and I stood at the front door of Loch House and greeted people as they arrived.  Of the thousand or so Peabody/Lewis/Jarrett folk that came in, I think I actually remember about five of the names.  Fortunately, there wasn't a quiz at the end of the evening.  Angie's Dad, Ken, and his wife, Wanda, two of the nicest people on the planet, came in, along with Angie's brother, Mike and his wife and kids.  Ken and Wanda simply radiate kindness.  In hindsight, it's easy to see how Angie turned out so normal and accepting as a grown-up...if her dad, Ken, and her stepmom, Wanda, and her brother Mike are any indication, I think it would be nigh on impossible NOT to turn out normal, accepting and kind.  As they used to say in my backwards little hometown, they're 'good peoples.'

The ex-SMSUers arrived fashionably late, of course.  Most I hadn't seen in 26 years.  Everyone looked great.  Bob Bradley arrived with his partner, Lou Shaeffer, and astonishingly hadn't seemed to have aged more than a couple of years.  Bob, I'm convinced, has a Dorian Grey deal going on.  Glenn Sneed arrived with Derrick Jarvis, two very funny and talented guys that kept things lively wherever they drifted to throughout the evening.  Chris Coaley showed up with his partner and the ageless Cheryl Miller (Cheryl was the dance guru in our old SMSU days), and also looked great.  Chris was always the best-looking guy in the theatre department, and still is.  Another Dorian Grey thing happening there.

And so the party started to crank up...

More on that tomorrow.