To new arrivals, attracted by the title, this post may turn out to be not what you expected. But thanks for dropping by.
Men’s Room Memory Number One
I am about to enjoy lunch at the Paramount commissary, “enjoy” because the food’s pretty good, and also because if you have a deal at the studio, it’s free. (You pay, but you get reimbursed.) I can’t resist free food. Even if it’s bad, I’ve been known to return for seconds. As I load up my plate, I hear echoes of myself saying, “It’s terrible, but it’s free!”
It was the memorable day of my “Lookalike Spotting”, meaning I had glanced out my office window one morning and had spotted, participating in a studio "photo op" a line of lookalikes of seven of my favorite fictional cowboy heroes - The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Hopalong Cassidy, The Cisco Kid, Pancho, Matt Dillon and Wyatt Earp. (Wyatt Earp was real; the lookalike was not of him but of Hugh O'Brien who fictionally played Wyatt Earp on television. Hugh O'Brien himself was also real. Come to think of it, since he was not working much by that time, the lookalike could have been Hugh O'Brien himself.)
I am in the commissary Men’s Room, standing at the urinal, momentarily alone. Suddenly, the door flies open, and in come…in stride…in burst…
The Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy.
I am telling you, these are not cheesy lookalikes. These are spitting images – lifelike apparitions – of the real thing. And they’ve just entered the Paramount Men’s Room
It was almost like it was deliberately arranged.
“Earl loves you guys. Go pee with him. He’ll get a big kick out of it.”
And there they are!
The Lone Ranger takes the urinal directly beside me. Hoppy’s commandeers one on the other side of the room.
I am hyperventilating.
And trying to maintain my aim.
I don’t know what to say. I know what I’m thinking is inappropriate, which is
“You guys pee too?”
I stand there. Speechless and giddy. I tarry after I am technically done to extend this Moment of Ecstasy as long as possible.
I also wanted to see if they’d wash their hands.
(Although it occurred before Men’s Room Memory Number One.)
It was, maybe, 1972. I was visiting California, perhaps, to acquire an agent, hanging out with my only L.A. show biz connection, Lorne Michaels. Lorne, not at that time a Brahmin of television, was appended to the lowest rung of the writing staff, toiling anonymously on a Perry Como Christmas special.
Perry Como was a famous crooner-type singer, not perhaps on the Frank Sinatra level, but on a par with Tony Bennett, only more famous, because, for years, Perry Como starred in his own variety series on network TV. Now, cutting back on his schedule, Perry Como eschewed the weekly grind, fronting, instead, a number of holiday specials, the one in question, as I recall, “Special Guesting” Sally Struthers.
I was sitting in a glass-fronted booth, observing the onstage rehearsal, in the company of two Perry Como groupies, “groupies” in the sense that they were enraptured by Perry Como, but, rather than being nubile teenage girls, they were elderly men in their seventies.
I had just overheard one of the sycophants relate the story of a practical joke played on their hero during World War II – “when you couldn’t get golf balls.” Somebody had presented Perry Como with a box of a dozen spanking new Spaldings. Perry excitedly opened the box, examined the golf balls…
“And they were made out of soap.”
I found the anecdote hysterical. But I couldn’t explode with laughter, because it was supposed to be a terrible story. With the options of laughing or tears rolling down hour face unavailable to me, my brain rerouted my energies in another direction.
Suddenly, I really needed to pee.
I exited the "Observing Room", and proceeded out of the soundstage, looking for the nearest Men’s Room on the lot. I eventually found one. I pushed open the door . There, standing at a urinal, was Perry Como.
I considered whether show biz protocol required me to wait outside till he was done. Although he was, in fact, using a public facility, which seemed strange to me, as the man had been outfitted with cruise ship-sized personal trailer.
The thing is, I really had to go. I took a deep breath, and I boldly stepped inside.
Selecting a urinal as far away from Perry Como as possible.
I tried to ignore the incongruity of a big star sharing the facilities with a Canadian wannabe. It was just two men people, urinating in a room.
The trouble began when we were finished. Zipping up first, Mr. Como preceded me to the sink, rinsed his hands, and then reached for the paper towel dispenser. I was now done and heading the same way. I rinsed off my hands as well.
The problem, as I was soon to discover, was that
There were no paper towels.
Say hello to an “Uncomfortable Moment.” Two men, albeit one, a musical icon who’d be rendering Ave Maria on his Christmas special, the other, a north of the border nonentity who would be watching it on television at home, standing there with dripping hands,
And there was nothing to dry them with.
That’s when Perry Como uttered these memorable words. To me. A major “somebody” was speaking directly to me. And what he was saying to me what this:
“Why don’t you go next door, and get us some towels.”
By “next door”, Perry Como meant the Ladies Room.
The truth is, I didn’t want go into the Ladies Room and get us some towels. It’s the Ladies Room. There could be ladies in there. Followed very quickly by police officers. Arresting me for illegally trespassing in a Ladies Room. What could I say to them?
“Perry Como told me to”?
Is that a exculpatory excuse? Would it hold up in a court of law? “The Perry Como Defense?”
“Perry Como made me do it”?
That’s “I was only following orders.”
That one was shot down at Nuremburg.
And this wasn’t even Hitler. This was Perry Como.
I wanted to emigrate to America. That’s where my future was. And now there was this potential impediment. I imagined myself applying for a work permit, only to have an Immigration Officer, perusing my file, declaim,
“It says here you were caught inside a Ladies Room. We don’t want pervert scum like you in our country. Go home and play hockey, or whatever you depraved Canadians do!”
I was in serious trouble. I felt uncomfortable invading the Ladies Room for paper towels. But our hands were wet. And Perry Como told me I had to.
So I did.
Fortunately, there was nobody in there. Apparently, Sally Struthers sensibly did her business in her trailer. And there were no surveillance cameras in there to record my transgression.
I got off scot free, perhaps appropriately, with Scott paper towels.
Comedy protocol decrees that there be three stories. To date, however, I only have two. Which is comforting. This means my life is not yet over. And there’s a third Men’s Room story, awaiting me in my future.
I can’t wait. And as I get older, the peeing opportunities inevitably increase.
So I won’t likely have to wait quite as long.