Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Who Teenage Wasteland - WE MEET DANNY THE NIGHT FIEND ... 10/8/15

Some of us hide. Not that we don't walk about at night but we manage to veil our presence. Do I do anything to accomplish that? No. It just comes natural to me. But I've strolled right by other vampires you might know and they were oblivious. I love that. And I take no vows or have much in the way of spiritual beliefs. I view this as an infection... a possession brought about by an infusion of prions.... Yes, I'm one of those.... a modern day, scientifically oriented blood drinker. Look, Barnabas Collins was too. What do you think he paid Dr. Hoffman all that money for. You know insurance didn't cover that.

Doctor Franklin knows about me. How does he know? Because I told him. He keeps me away from the spiritual, 'noble' vampires and they've yet to sniff me out. Do I follow their comings and goings? No. And that includes the elferinos and elferinas too. I stay away from the mole people, because they scamper through every part of the underground and they whisper. They tell secrets. They share everything. The one you know about... the vampire called Tomas, or Jonathon, or whoever he is mushes up with Aura and Sylvia, The mole-king's daughters and they talk.

It's strange around here. So many of you know about the night world. You know about the life-eaters and cherubs and ghouls and I don't even know what else is out there... OK, the ghosts. We got ghosts and witches and moms that feed their kids shitty pizza and everything. And this is Philadelphia. We've been around since sixteen eighty two...Sixteen thirties if you count the Swedish and Dutch speaking people who were here first. My God, every time they dig a foundation for a new building they find bones in those horrible form fitting coffins. The midnight air swarms with ghosts... The thing is, you KNOW and for a few minutes here and there you know you know. But then BAM the door slams shut and life is all Cherrios and Almond milk all over again. What hypocrites you all are.... At least I am not that.

Let me tell you something about myself. I was that kid from the drama club. I don't mean 'like' the kid from the drama club. I truly was the kid from the drama club. That's why I'm so well spoken. I know Shakespeare and Eugene O'Neil and David Mamet and Steven Sondheim. Not that we played all that in school. Most of the time it was ANNIE, or GREASE or THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Nazis were A-OK, but not the other stuff. Though we read them. Not in school. On our own. Sometimes we'd run scenes in each other's basements. I was going to study at Yale drama school. Don't ask about the cost. Somehow it was going to happen. We dialed the C.A.S.T.I.N.G. number fifty five times a day. That was a line the unions used to maintain. It was like a telephone billboard. They'd list movies shooting in town... TV shows filming here... all that. I'd scribble down all the information on a little pad I kept in my room. Sometimes they wanted kids. Sometimes they didn't. And I couldn't go to every 'look see,' because of school. Like I was gonna be a professional quadratic equation solver, or Ethan Fromme interpreter. But sometimes I did go. Me and a few others from the drama club, I mean.

We'd ditch school early. Spanish was last period and the Spanish teacher was pretty dramatic herself. She wore long, swirly, wool skirts, wide leather belts and light weight boat-necked sweaters with the sleeves pushed up... and she lived in Center City (analogous to Manhattan) somewhere in the Twenties. That in itself was amazing. The fact that she was forty, while her boyfriend (a talented window dresser at John Wanamaker's) was twenty five floored us. This was late sixties, early seventies. But that's another story. At least she understood.

The auditions were in rehearsal halls, or hotels. Crowds would stream in. 'Cattle Calls'... They named them right. And I never appeared in anything. My parents wouldn't let me. But I went. And I looked. Just being close was something. But why wouldn't anyone listen?

One time they were looking for kids for Bye Bye Birdie, a revival set to play The Locust Street Theater. OK, no way I was going to be Homer, or whatever they called him, but I could have been somebody. This was in November. It was cold and dark... twilight by the time we got into 'town.'  Stores lit up for the holidays. Kettle people ringing bells on street corners. I loved all that. Got off the subway at Fifteenth Street and ran all the way to the audition in the old Drake Hotel maybe seven or eight blocks away. Show people lived there... an ever so slightly shabby, but still stylish soaring tower maybe thirty stories high. We worshipped the place.

I didn't even have a head shot. My resume was a joke. I had two or three Polaroid pictures... serious look with a tie... casual sweater with a smile... Homemade Hollywood all the way. But this time the casting director seemed interested. She wrote something at the bottom and put my resume on the top. Then she carefully stapled my photos to it so they wouldn't get lost. Usually they just make us put our names and numbers on the back. Then, God knows what they do with it. People were still pouring in when we left ( me and two kids from school). But it was full ondark and raining outside... a cold rain. The streets were jammed with people heading home... to parking lots, or commuter trains, or the subway. We'd be soaked by the time we got to the Market-Frankford Line, so we ducked into the outside foyer (you know... the place between the windows) of some men's shop. The Carlton Shop, I think it was... and counted our crumpled one dollar bills to see if we had enough for a cab. Not that it cost so much back then, but we didn't know that.

So the three of us, me, Jerry and the singer girl named Janis, piled into an old, dirty Checker Cab and headed off... in my mind straight to Broadway.

But we never even got to Broad Street, for the driver took us someplace else...

And since nineteen seventy one, I've played a quite different role... a perennial sixteen year old sneaking in and out of the shadows...

My name is Danny... and I am a night fiend...

<more next time>


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