Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Seasoned Seasonal Tale

In my stage struck youth I once appeared as -- literally -- a spear carrier in a semi professional summer repertory company. Amid much hard work there were occasional parties. Usually they followed the strike of one set and preceded the assembly of the next. At times this was from 2 am Sunday morning until the realization that the work call was for ten on Sunday morning drove us to our weary beds.
One of the directors was David Hooks. He told the seasoned seasonable tale more or less as follows:

When I was just starting as an actor I was engaged to play the Doctor in Dracula for a touring company. Dracula was, of course, Bela Lugosi.
In his native Hungary Lugosi had been the leading theatrical light of his generation. A fabulous actor capable of a much broader range than the Count. But he came to Hollywood to do Dracula and never had another role. He ended his career in his eighties taking a vaudeville send up of Dracula to London.
In the tour Lugossi, who had perhaps six sides (pages) of dialog, was the star. And was paid as such.
As the Doctor, I was on stage for all but about three short scenes. I was the 'also appearing'. And I was paid commensurately.
Now Lugosi appeared early in the first act and promptly slurped some young lovely's blood. Then he exited. He was dressed in full evening attire, of course.
He did not enter again until the middle of the second act, some forty minutes later.
Every night he moved from the stage to the stage door at a steady -- even a stately -- pace looking neither right nor left but only straight ahead. Meanwhile his wife danced about him like a butterfly. She removed his opera hat. She received his gloves. She untied his cloak and folded it over her arm. She pulled the end of his tie and undid his collar stud. All the time Lugosi ignored the entire process -- eyes straight ahead. By now he was just about to collide with the door. But just in time the wife placed a cigar in his mouth. opened the door, and brought a lighted match to the cigar. A generous draw and Lugosi took a turn in the alley under a blue gray cloud.
When it was near time for his entrance the wife would beckon him back. As he approached the door she removed the butt and discarded it. She did up the stud and tied his tie. All the while he was oblivious, strolling with intent toward the stage. She settled his cloak about his shoulders and tied it. She handed him his gloves and settled his top hat on his steely locks. He passed from her fluffing just as his cue was uttered and stept on stage to speak his line.
But a page or two later he exited again. This time the interval between appearances was too short for the full treatment. Instead his ministering angel loosed his tie and stud while he removed himself to a comfortable roll of old curtains behind the cyclorama approximately center stage.
On stage during this lull the sweet young thing and the Doctor discover Dracula's coffin. The sweet young thing pipes: "But Doctor, What is in that coffin?"
Every night -- in a beautiful basso profundo loud enough for the actors to hear, but not the audience, Lugosi would deliver on a descending scale: "Bu-u-u-ul-l-l-lshit."

Happy Beltane, all.

UPDATE Woops! That's a treat-a-licious Samhain, all, of course. So much for my Druid status.
-- ml
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