|Me as Rhett Butler on the Goldenrod Showboat |
in the year 1999 or so, when we were performing
murder mysteries there.
The story is that a time came when even the rubes in the backwaters began to consider the whole thing a bit hoaky. By the time talking pictures hit the scene and the cynicism and flash of the 1920's reshaped the U.S., the audiences began to board the showboats not to be moved and enthralled by the predictable melodramas, but to heckle and jeer at the actors. They would boo the villain and cheer the hero, and make fun of the stupid plots and contrived dialogue, and also yell things at the cast during the show, thus enraging the players on stage who still had pride in what they were doing.
But actors, being actors, decided, "Forget integrity. This is show biz. Maybe there's money to be made here." So the Comedy Melodrama came to be. The actors themselves camped up their roles and encouraged the audience to heckle them, to boo the villain and the cheer the hero. They went with it. And a form of self-parody was born.
By the time I began attending the Goldenrod Showboat, in the 1970's, the Comedy Melodrama was in full swing. Built in 1909 and billed as the last remaining showboat of the showboat era, the Goldenrod eventually stopped touring and became a fixture in St. Louis. Permanently moored on the Mississippi River downtown for over 50 years, by the 70's, the Goldenrod was producing very funny parodies of 19th century melodramas, with lots of audience interaction, music, songs, vaudeville bits, and plenty of comic improv.
|In the audience on board the Goldenrod Showboat with my girlfriend Missy,|
during my disco phase, c. 1978. It is a phase I am still struggling to come out of.
Now, as I said last time, I had stumbled upon the quirky thing that would feed my family and me for decades to come - murder mystery dinner theater, which I first performed in 1989. But I didn't quite see the potential at first.
Indeed, when my agent approached me with the suggestion that I produce a comedy murder mystery for a D.O.D. (Department of Defense) tour to military bases overseas, I suggested that I produce a comedy melodrama instead. I had no faith in murder mysteries as anything other than a cheesy device for entertaining middle aged dinner theater patrons. Soldiers and sailors needed something lively with lots of girls.
|Artwork for the first comedy melodrama I produced, Professor Palladium's Traveling Theatrical Wonderment Show,|
which later became The Wild West Show, which I took on tour to East Asia.
In those days, I really didn't know how to direct shows or how to deal with actors. I had some trouble with the cast and I came down hard on them, in the hope that I would motivate them to give a crap about the quality of the performance (they were much more interested in their hair and costumes than in how well they performed the show). They were also split into two factions, two girls against the other two, and they hated each other.
But after I cracked the whip, things changed.
They began to hate me.
|Me as the Villain|
And once on tour the girls would make fun of the Asians, and force the bus driver to stop every ten minutes so they could pee, and get jealous of one another because of the guys that would pay attention to the other girls and ... well, it was an awful tour.
So by the time I got back to St. Louis, I had had it.
Another agent called to offer me a murder mystery gig at a restaurant in Illinois, and I turned him down. Flat. After all, my wife was pregnant with Colin, our first child, and I was sick of getting kicked in the balls by show business.
And so, at the age of 30, I enrolled in college finally to get my bachelor's degree - and I earned 102 credits in 18 months (but that's another story) and got a B.A. in English. I had put all that show biz foolishness behind me.
Or so I thought.
In the Next Installment: Hope returns. A paying gig! Several shows a day along with an air-conditioned trailer at Six Flags over Mid-America. A great opening show. And then my actors and I are escorted off property by security and told never to come back. But more on that later.
Meanwhile ... pictures from our Far East Tour, 1991.
|On the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea foreground, North Korea background.|
|We saw many beautiful Buddhist temples, but some of the girls were bored because there wasn't enough shopping.|
|My actresses and some Americans, who took us out to dinner in Japan. I am at the far right.|
|Party Time continues.|
|One of my actresses on tour (not the one who kicked me), overlooking the East China Sea.|