Friday, February 5, 2010


I've played Mark Twain several times in the mid-1990's, culminating in a one-man piece I cobbled together called "Mark Twain: How To Tell A Story". The show was centered around an essay he'd written (of the same title) and incorporated a few other writings. One of the performances was recorded (audio only) and I'm seriously thinking of releasing on CD later in the year, along with other audio books I'm preparing.

The idea of playing Mark Twain came about in an unexpected way. Through the 1990's I was doing a lot of producing for a couple of events companies. Many times a client would want some sort of character to appear as a "greeter" to greet guests as they arrived at a themed event, and often interact with them. I had done a handful of characters over the years, but I had more fun taking a clients (often bizarre) requests, and finding and hiring the right actors to play the parts. In the events business, there are a great roster of actors who play historic or famous people. In the mid-Atlantic area, there were plenty of people to play Bill Clintons, George Bushes, Charlie Chaplins, Ben Franklins and the like.

One day a fellow called Jay Wachter, who runs and operates an events company called Entertainment Consultants, called in a slight panic. He had sold "Mark Twain" to The American Trucking Association as a key-note speaker at one of their annual meetings. Twain was to speak at the opening dinner for 45 minutes on the subject of trucking.

45 minutes. On trucking. The problem?

Wachter didn't have a Mark Twain.

So he called and asked if I would do it.

I had NEVER done Twain before. I didn't have anything handy to do a make-up; didn't own a white cotton summer suit; didn't have a clue what I would say for 45 minutes and if Twain even said anything himself about trucking. Frightening.

I told Jay I'd do it.

After we negotiated my fee (knowing immediately the amount of work that was going to be involved) I went to work on researching what Twain had to say about trucking. He had nothing to say. But, as Twain had a lot to say about a lot of things, I discovered that he had written an very good piece about transportation in general, particularly railroads and steamboats . This could be used with little adaptation. When the speech was finished, it timed perfectly for the needs of the event.

So then, on to the make-up. The wig and the lace mustache were store bought, and not made-to-order, but they worked very well. I used a subtle latex stipple technique to age and roughen the texture of the skin, and to bring the wrinkles out. I knew he'd be seen close-up, and wanted him to be as realistic a s possible. The suit I found in a vintage clothing store; an honest-to-goodness linen summer suit from the 1920's that I own to this day.

After working on the speech and the make-up for a week I was ready to go, and the appearance at the American Trucker's Association was a big hit. After it was over, and because I had put the time into it, "Twain" kept nagging at me and would let me go. What else could I do with him? The result was the longer piece, "Mark Twain: How To Tell A Story".

Wachter has tried to get me to play Twain again at conventions and events over the years, but those days are behind me. I've done my share of "grand-opening Groucho's" and "food fair Franklins".

But I wouldn't mind playing Twain in a film some day...

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I've rolled the film of the month over to February because a number of stories I wrote about it got pushed out of January. (I probably should just schedule a post per day as there are so many stories backing up here on the old blog).

So, the February film again is DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, released on DVD in 2002.

I don't know how long this sale is on, but the cheapest is this offer HERE. The DVD is only $3.99 (for $13.97 you can get the DVD and an 11x14 poster HERE). But maybe the best deal is this boxed set (pictured, left above), where you can get the film and nine other films on DVD for about $9.98 plus shipping. Check it out HERE.

But please don't download the movie for free on-line (it's not legally available as a download anywhere). That would be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


The popular and ubiquitous Victor Buono, born February 3, 1938 in San Diego, was everywhere (and everyone!) on TV and in films in the 1960's.

Beginning in theater in California, his first break came when director Robert Aldrich cast him as Edwin Flagg in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, opposite Bette Davis.

Playing countless heavies and villains on television, Buono is remembered chiefly for two recurring villians; King Tut (on Batman) and Count Manzepi (on The Wild, Wild, West).

In the 1970's, Victor Buono released a few comedy albums, and would recite his poetry on talk shows. One of his fans favorites was

The Fat Man's Prayer
by Victor Buono

Lord, my soul is ripped with riot,
Incited by my wicked diet.
We are what we eat, said a wise old man,
And Lord, if that's true, I'm a garbage can!
I want to rise on Judgment Day, that's plain,
But at my present weight, I'll need a crane!

So grant me strength that I may not fall
Into the clutches of cholesterol.
May my flesh with carrot curls be sated
That my soul may be polyunsaturated.
And show me the light that I may bear witness
To the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

At oleomargarine I'll never mutter,
For the road to hell is spread with butter.
And cake is cursed, and cream is awful,
And Satan is hiding in every waffle.
Mephistopheles lurks in provolone,
The devil is in each slice of bologna,
Beelzebub is a chocolate drop,
And Lucifer is a lollipop!

Give me this day my daily slice -
But cut it thin and toast it twice.
I beg upon my dimpled knees,
Deliver me from Jujubees.
And my when days of trial are done
And my war with malted milks is won,
Let me stand with the saints in heaven
In a shining robe - Size 37!

I can do it, Lord, if you'll show to me
The virtues of lettuce and celery.
If you'll teach me the evils of mayonnaise,
The sinfulness of hollandaise
And pasta a la milanese
And potatoes a la lyonaise
And crisp fried chicken from the south!
Lord, if you love me, SHUT MY MOUTH!