I am thinking of a creative phenomenon that to me is magical, wonderful – indecipherable to the senses but indisputably extant.
Opaqueness, anyone? You have come to the right place.
The creative phenomenon in question is this:
Without effort or premeditation, your personality miraculously materializes in your work.
In fact, effort and premeditation are this creative phenomenon’s Kryptonite. You mobilize those weapons and it recedes meekly and disappears. Or the creative phenomenon makes no appearance whatsoever. In which case, the Kryptonite analogy falls ignominiously apart. Inadvertently making my original point.
Do you see what happens when you try too hard?
There was one time, I recall today, when I did not try at all.
And it turned out magnificently.
It is a waning winter afternoon in the late 1960’s. I am ensconced in a darkened theater in Toronto called the Crest, watching a rehearsal for a perennial Canadian revue, Spring Thaw.
I no longer recall what I was doing there. It was likely that I was invited – along with other local comedy writers – in hopes that I’d submit material to the show. As it turns out, I didn’t, the revue suffering negligibly from my absent contribution.
There is also the possibility that I was present that day because word had been surreptitiously disseminated that during the rehearsal a voluptuous French-Canadian dancer named Nicole – I will leave you to guess which French-Canadian Nicole that was – would be unveiling an interpretative dance she’d be performing, entirely in the nude.
That’ll make you skip Spin and Marty for a day.
This was the era of Oh! Calcutta!, a hugely successful American – although created by English theater critic Kenneth Tynan – revue, a sex-themed extravaganza in which nudity was on prominent display. The salatial “Exchange Rate” being what it is, a cast of eight naked Americans converted into a lone French-Canadian girl dancing provocatively on a dimly lit stage.
Which turned out to be plenty.
Anyway… as I get that picture out of my mind…
After the males in the audience eventually returned to regular breathing, and the rehearsal eventually came to an end, the gathered assemblage rose from their seats and we headed for the exits.
At that moment – as was the case that entire afternoon – my teeth were clamped tightly on the stub of an unlit Hav-A-Tampa cigar. (With its recognizable wooden stem.)
As we entered the lobby, the producer of that year’s Spring Thaw outing began talking to me. We did not know each other and he had never spoken to me before. This was entirely out of the blue.
It was an unkept secret that that particular producer was universally despised. The man was supercilious, abrasive, dictatorial and crude. (PLACE “IF HE WERE RUNNING FOR THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION HE WOULD PROBABLY WIN” JOKE HERE.)
Everyone hated that guy. But nobody dared take him on. Because he was the producer. And he could give you a job.
So we are coming into the lobby and this monumental chalaria points to my vestigial stub of a cigar and he says,
“Do you have another one of those things?”
To which I immediately reply, in a non-confrontational tone,
“I barely have this one.”
What came next was an ear-shattering thunderclap, the assemblage exploding with extended – and clearly liberating – hilarity. The producer at first appeared bewildered. And then, deflatingly defeated.
My explanation for that glorious happenstance?
I had said the right thing at the right time. But more importantly – for this writing at least – I had said it the right way.
Which, it turns out, is my way.
That’s the magical and wonderful part. There was a definitive “me” in the way I did it.
I had confronted authority with a feather. Emerging heroic and victorious.
I felt on top of the world.
Not because I had eviscerated an idiot.
But because I had done it with style.