Sunday, April 1, 2012

For Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 111 and ABC Wednesday


"L" is for "Lecture"
To be able to catch genius when it's just beginning, just starting out; when it's in its embryonic form, or in its very nest.
It’s an unforgettable experience.
The following all happened a few years ago, when the world was younger.
And so was I.
I had a job in radio at the time, making a poor but meager living. Among the regular listeners to our little station was a man who had an unusual collection. He had amassed a remarkable pile of old 78 rpm records that featured performers of the early days of vaudeville.
You remember vaudeville?
Beginning some time after the Civil War, this strange type of theatre came into being and it was just about the most popular thing going, up until the 1930s.
As I’m sure you know, some of the greatest performers of the era – Al Jolson, W C Fields, Buster Keaton, the Marx Brothers – came from vaudeville and they used it later as a springboard to vault into the new medium of motion pictures.
Anyway, to get back to my story, since our radio station had an enthusiastic listener – (and there weren’t all that many of those) - who had this extraordinary collection of old discs of famous vaudeville performers, I thought I’d borrow them and produce a radio documentary on the history of vaudeville.
The station management liked my idea and they even presented me with a writer for the show, an intern.
My radio station always had some interns around, young folks who were willing to work for nothing just to get broadcasting experience. The director of my station always seemed to like people who wanted to work for nothing.
The intern-writer they provided me with was a young chap named Eddy A. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he might enjoy writing as a career so he looked forward to working on the script for the vaudeville show. We got along fine.
However, it soon became clear that he hadn’t grasped the idea. The first draft of the script he presented me with was – well, odd. It made me reflect. I had thought the subject of vaudeville should be handled in a light, enjoyable way, but his script was a heavy, even somewhat gloomy and depressing history of the era. For some reason, what he wrote emphasized that the entertainment known as vaudeville managed to exist in spite of terrible economic depressions, political struggles and the always appalling threats of war.
I was almost as young as Eddy A but I was convinced that I possessed more expertise than I actually did, and I suggested to him that maybe he should forget about trying to become a writer. I didn’t growl or become difficult; I was polite. I can’t justify it; it’s just what happened. I’m embarrassed now to admit that I even tried to give him a brief lecture on script-writing.
Well, he left the station and I heard nothing of him for a couple of years.
One day, I was surprised to learn that Eddy A had written a play, “The Zoo Story,” which opened at the Provincetown Playhouse in New York in 1960. There was a lot of hype and publicity about it because it was quite a success, ultimately a world-wide success. He then went on to write a number of other plays.

I’ve done some dumb things in my lifetime, but the dumbest was when I told young Edward Albee, who was to become one of the greatest dramatists of the century, that perhaps he should forget about trying to be a writer.
(Also submitted to Sunday Scribblings.)

49 comments:

Rene Foran said...

Love this! And hey, maybe you inspired him to press on despite negative criticism? :)

Little Nell said...

What a wonderful story spawned by the nest image. To be fair, I don't think Albee is known for his lighthearted treatment of the subject matter :)

Tess Kincaid said...

Charming story, Mr. B., I loved this!

Laurel's Quill said...

Just goes to show you, we are not as bright as we think we are. Love your candid admission:)good story.

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

It is a blessing in disguise. Maybe those words challenged him and made him what he is. Awesome! Love it!..

JJRod'z

Tigerbrite said...

I love the story. My grandparents were in the Music Hall in England in the early part of the 20th century. That was until my father came along and my grandfather got himself a 'proper' job.

phil said...

JJ is right. I've conquered a goal in my own past after a 'superior' telling me I would never succeed.
Great story.

Brian Miller said...

and i am glad that perhaps he was a bit hard of hearing or at least had tense skin...ha

Leslie: said...

He may have persevered in SPITE of you so you should take some credit in his success.

izzy said...

Oh my! so glad he persevered-
Thanks for sharing.

christopher said...

Here is a piece I want to believe is fiction only because it is so completely genius if it is. The story falls into the "you can't make this up" category, whether or not you did make it up.

I have one of those crossed paths things in my past too.

Other Mary said...

Hahaha - I'm sure it was your very skilled use of reverse psychology that helped spur him to greatness. ;-)

Berowne said...

christoper: "The story falls into the 'you can't make this up' category, whether or not you did make it up."
No, I didn't make it up. It happened, and pretty much exactly as written.

Berowne said...

Tess K: "Charming story, Mr. B., I loved this!"
Thanks so much, Tess. And thanks for your continuing, always challenging, prompts.

Catfish Tales said...

I look at the date and think about how many students I inspired or 'de-inspired', which is worse than discouraged. It's turning off the light that was once shining, perhaps too brightly or maybe a different colour. I look back and hope that I always appreciated its energy and was warmed by it, allowing it to brighten my day. Perhaps Edward A. thought you too fixed to see his type of genius, and you inspired him that way, which one can do quite famously as well. Cheers

Linda said...

It feels very good to share that and let go of it after all these years, doesn't it? Albee had an unhappy childhood it seems, and probably wouldn't have had much levity to bring to your project anyway. I hope you found an enthusiastic replacement and that your vaudeville presentation went ahead as planned. Albee! You just never know who will walk into your life. Thanks for sharing this Mr. B. =D

hyperCRYPTICal said...

An excellent tale - maybe he became a dramatist just to spite you!

Anna :o]

Mama Zen said...

Seriously? What an amazing story!

Rinkly Rimes said...

I always look at your offering first, because I always learn something new. So you threw the fledgling chick out of the nest! Shucks!

Wayne Pitchko said...

really like this Mr B..thanks for sharing

ninotaziz said...

Like the Marilyn Monroe story out in the Pacific, this is a gem of a story. And as Rene Foran pointed out, perhaps that boot out of the nest was what Eddy A needed!

Roger Owen Green said...

A GREAT story!
And totally believable. Whatever happen with that young fellow?

Berowne said...

"A GREAT story!"
Thanks, Roger, for a fine comment.

Berowne said...

A very encouraging list of comments from Catfish Tales, Linda, HyperCRYPTICal, Mama Zen, R. Rimes, Wayne Pitchko and ninotaziz. My sincere thanks.

Kay said...

fabulous story..and maybe you were the grit that got under his skin to do better!!....xx

Helen said...

I really enjoy your stories .. I was born in 1941, missed the real vaudeville era, screwball comedies the focus in my childhood!

The Bug said...

I love this story - I wonder if he remembers you?

Berowne said...

The Bug: "I love this story - I wonder if he remembers you?"
Probably not all that favorably. :-)

Lyn said...

I couldn't wait to find out who Eddy would turn out to be..didn't disappoint..wonderful tale, as usual..

kaykuala said...

You've done your good deed. It must have fired Eddy to overcome and he did. You might not have realized the impact from your input was taken positively. Great write, Berowne

Hank

Tumblewords: said...

Sometimes a guy needs a little downput to rise to the top...wonderful tale!!

Wander said...

Berowne, I very much like the fact that you started this story about what you were going to do and and took it in the direction you did. Your ability to take it on the chin in your writing is something I can enjoy and also relate to...thank you.

Wander

Carver said...

What a great story and an amazing person to have met early in his career. So many people that create a great body of work have stories about people who told them they shouldn't do what they were doing. You are certainly not alone in terms of thinking someone should take a different career tack. Carver, ABC Wednesday Team

Gail said...

Great story. I hope you did get a chance to tell Edward you were wrong.

Berowne said...

Gail: "I hope you did get a chance to tell Edward you were wrong."
I think he knew it. :-)

Jinksy said...

All in the eye of the beholder, eh? :)

Dandelion Girl said...

Well maybe we writers should take heart from this. One persons comments, good or bad, should not shape us. We should follow our hearts and believe in ourselves. :) Love the picture. x

Sheilagh Lee said...

LOL but perhaps your words of wisdom steered him towards the type of material he really writes.

Berowne said...

Kay: "Maybe you were the grit that got under his skin to do better!!"
Excellent suggestion. From now on I'll think of myself as True Grit. :-)

Ellecee said...

I love this story. When we are young we are so sure that we KNOW what is good :-) It comes as a shock when we find out later - maybe we don't. Thanks so much.

Berowne said...

Ellecee: "I love this story."
And I love this comment. :-)

oldegg said...

The important thing here is not that you made a mistake but are brave and honest enough to admit it. Thank heavens for our mistakes for how else would we learn anything.

Roger Owen Green said...

I loved this so much that I sent it to the Edward F. Albee Foundation.

This was the reply: "Thank you for the amusing story! I shared it with him."

Best,
Jakob Holder, Secretary

Nara Malone said...

Inspiring :)

Jerla Oh lalala said...

cool illustration :D

mine is up http://jerlalou.blogspot.com/2012/04/l-o-v-e-r-s.html hope to see u there

Berowne said...

Roger Owen Green: "I loved this so much that I sent it to the Edward F. Albee Foundation."
Fantastic. Thanks, Rog.

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Berowne, of all the classic "oops" stories, in which one admits one's own mistakes, this is by far the best I've heard so far. My motto is you shouldn't laugh at anyone else if you can't laugh harder at yourself, and this was too funny!

As for vaudeville, my grandparents were in for a time - Bill played clarinet in the pit band. I have a 33 somewhere with Mae West singing "A Guy What Takes His Time," Eddie Cantor cutting up, and Fields vs. Charlie McCarthy, "The woodpecker's pinup boy..."

Great memories, Berowne, and so glad you revere the vaudeville days as much as I. Grandpa spoke of that scene with the kind of love reserved for the later Village Coffeehouse "beats" of the 50s-60s. Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/04/07/loathsome-lothario-abc-wednesday/

Berowne said...

Wonderful comment, Amy. I always look forward to what you may have to say.

Stafford Ray said...

I think it is called hubris.
We smart arses all have these stories, but only the very old tell them truthfully.
Also enjoyed the next magpie and I agree, William S did have tongue well and truly in cheek as he pretended to tame the shrew!

 
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