! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Tattooed Jew

Coming of age in the 70’s, the mere idea of getting a tattoo was (according to my parents) strictly for bikers and convicts, which were basically one and the same. In spite of society’s contempt, I was secretly drawn to the notion, and harbored an unspoken desire to join the pirates, outlaws and miscreant’s who brazenly displayed their tatts. Aside from the mortification my tattoo would rain upon the family, the fear of pain and regret prevented me from acting upon my hidden yearnings. And then, there’s the Jewish thing. According to ancient Judaic law, “defacement of the human body” is strictly forbidden, and with 15 years of Hebrew school drilled into me, that tape played in an endless loop every time inky images danced in my yarmulke’d head. Ever the good Jewish boy, I towed the line. Approaching 40, the proverbial “bucket list” crept into my psyche, and I called Sunset Tattoo on that famous strip in Los Angeles, and asked the junkie on the other end if it hurt. “Um, yeah, she replied between gum chews- it hurts like a motherfucker!” Slamming the phone down, flushed with Jewish guilt, I dropped it. A week or two later, I called another shop. Same answer. The third time, I called Sunset back and disguised my voice, lest the junkie remember my girlish whimpering from the prior call. “ Have you ever slammed your finger in a car door?” the new receptionist-slash-ex-con asked. “Well, it doesn’t hurt as much as that”. Less than thrilled, but still coveting, I persevered. I drove by the place but didn’t get out of the truck. I walked by and looked in the window. I went in , heard some screaming - and fled. And then... I told someone my secret wish. It was my husband, JP...and he. freaked. out. He ranted, he railed and ultimately FORBADE me from doing so. “Over my dead body” he howled, and stormed out of the room. “You are sooo not the boss of me”, I whispered under my breath, as I screwed up my courage and waltzed out the door. Before approaching the counter - where a scary looking dude with a mohawk and hundreds of piercings, was scowling, I looked around. The ubiquitous skulls, pinup girls and tributes to MOM adorned the walls, and I realized that I had no idea what I wanted permanently emblazoned on my arm. Price-to-pain quotient ever on my mind, the Jewish neurons looked for a bargain, while the gay DNA looked for “pretty”. I selected the smallest red star available and settled into the chair, which resembled Frankenstein’s, replete with hoses, gadgets and yes...needles. My Tattoo artist, named “Stripe”, had waist length black hair tied in the back, and Zebra stripes covering his entire body, stem to stern. Nervously lighting a cigarette and swearing that I was not drunk, I gave Stripe the nod and he began. It did hurt, but not as much as I had feared...and since my star was miniscule, it was all over in fifteen minutes. Plotzing, I skipped all the way to the truck, went home, and showed the old man a thing or two. I didn’t tell my family, of course- but when I had surgery a few years later, my Jewish mother flew out to add salt to the wound...I mean “help out”. My illness was serious, and it was touch and go for a brief, shining moment. As they wheeled me into recovery, My mother flew to my side, weeping and gnashing her teeth. “Oh my God!” she wailed, as I squeezed her hand. “Yeah... I made it, Mom” I rasped through the breathing tube. “Not that, you schmuck!” she shrieked, “You have a tattoo!”. Screaming like a Banshee, she gesticulated wildly while screeching the endless list of humiliation, disappointment and horror I had invoked. The cemetery issue came up and when I informed her that I had planned on cremation, she lost it. After what seemed like hours, Mom finally acknowledged that she was glad I hadn’t actually died, and made me swear that I would never let her second husband, a deeply religious man, ever find about about the you-know-what. When she asked me to swear again, that I would never get another tattoo, I quietly told her that I couldn’t make that promise. I had been thinking nothing else for a while, and realized that another birthday was just around the corner. This time, an artist friend had offered to do a custom design. “You know, Mom” I said “You can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery either- you have pierced ears”. “Oh, that’s different” she sniffed. “Of course I can”. “Not according to the rabbi”, I replied, quoting the torah “You shall not make gashes in your flesh, I am the Lord”. “Well, your father wouldn’t give me diamond earrings, unless I could literally screw them to my lobes” she moaned. “There’s got to be a loophole”. “Only in your ears, Mom, but even if God doesn’t forgive you” I winked, “I’s only a religious concept... we’ll both recover.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

There's No Business Like Show Business!

Back in the 80’s, I started writing for television sitcoms and often found great material on the studio lot itself. Dozens of shows were being taped at any given time-and the incredible variety of actors, producers, directors and crews constantly provided great people-watching, and sometimes...conversations overheard that were far more entertaining than anything I could imagine writing.

One such conversation took place while I sat alone in my usual booth at the commissary, desperately trying to look as though I fit in with the other writers, scribbling away, pretending to work. Peeking over the banquette next to me, I spied a PRODUCER who had rejected one of my scripts script just a week earlier, arm in arm with one of the studio’s huge STARS, who was then riding an enormous wave of popularity based on her leading role in a top ten show. PRODUCER was introducing STAR to a NERDY looking guy who was attempting to carry a telescope, a manuscript and a briefcase, but failing miserably on all counts.

Intrigued, I looked up from my fake work and peered over my glasses, listening to the introductions taking place. From what I gleaned, the STAR was being wooed by the PRODUCER for a new show and the NERD was the science consultant, brought on board to explain the premise to STAR. My interest more than piqued, I picked up my pen...and prepared to take notes.

“Why hello, professor” said STAR in her famous southern drawl. “Goodness, that telescope looks impressive”. She stroked it in a weirdly provocative gesture and batted her eyelashes. NERD fussed at her hands and fumbled with the telescope.

“Really, miss, if you don’t mind- I’d rather you didn’t touch the equipment. It’s on loan from the University and quite valuable”.

“Honestly professor, I’m not a infant !” sniffed STAR, while pouting in the general direction of PRODUCER.

“Of course not, my dear child” PRODUCER soothed, patting her hand and stroking her cheek. “You, my dear- are a STAR!” Momentarily coddled, she went on. “Oh, professor, I simply can’t wait till it’s dark. I’m just dyin’ to see the Crab Nebula!”

NERD looks her up and down and snidely asks if she knows what the Crab Nebula is.

“Well, no” STAR mewed “But it sounds adorable. I’m sure it’s just darlin’ ”.

“Mock if you must” snorts NERD “But one day, mark my words, we’ll all be living up there, in outer space”.

“Oh, please, professor. It’s hard enough livin’ down here.” Throwing a look at PRODUCER, she adds “especially on my piddly salary”. Turning her attention back to NERD, STAR adjusts her lipstick and adds “Must be murder gettin’ good reception up there. Bad for the skin, too”.

Sighing audibly, NERD shuffles through his papers and addresses them both. “There are millions of galaxies containing billions of stars capable of sustaining life. Many believe that beings from other worlds have already visited Earth.

STAR nudges PRODUCER and laughs. “Do you remember that Christmas Special I did with Bob Hope and E.T?. I swear to god, that prune faced little monster gave me the willies! On the other hand, E.T. was adorable!” Not waiting for a response, she continued. “One day I’m in the commissary havin’ breakfast and I saw E.T just sittin’ there, alone. Well, normally, he had a bunch of his handlers literally surrounding him, so I sashayed over and asked if he wanted to share my pop tart. Well, he just sat there, not sayin’ boo. I figured he was shy, so I put a little piece in his mouth- I guess I was flirtin’ a little”.

(By now I was running out of paper and writing furiously on napkins.)

“Well, the next thing you know” STAR continues “smoke started comin’ out of his nostrils”. Smiling slyly at both men, STAR leans in and whispers “I’ve excited a lot of men in my life, but when E.T.s head started to melt, I knew somethin’ was terribly wrong.

She winked at the stunned men in front of her and slyly glanced over the booth at me- “Well, that’s when the sprinkler system went off and all hell broke loose!”

Stammering and fuming, NERD rose and shouted “This meeting is over! ” while gathering his belongings. Looking down his nose at STAR, NERD cleared his throat one last time and said “But before I leave, and I know I’m going to regret this, I have to ask...what happened to E.T?

“Well”... drawled STAR, while admiring her nails “After they hosed him off and the smoke cleared... he still looked better than Hope.”