The adventures of a New Jersey college professor with very strange friends, colleagues, and family members.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wait A Minute, Mr. Postman

"Deliver the letter, the sooner the better..."
--The Marvelettes

I have never, ever trusted my mailman.

I’m not sure what it is. As a 40 year old adult, I have no problems with mail carriers, or anyone who works for the U.S. Postal Service. But when I was a teenager, our family’s mailman gave me the serious creeps. He was about 50, fat, and had a puffy red face. It got to the point where, when we left our front door open in the summer, I would run screaming for my dad whenever I saw him coming down the street.

In 1983, however, I wasn’t too concerned about the mailman—yet. The biggest drama in my life at that time involved the repertory. I was in my second year, and it happened to be the year that Scott had his Big Gay Crisis and left us. This left Victor (who had been planning on directing a show in which Scott would star) kind of in a quandary. With Scott gone, the only other actor who even approached “good” was Joe.

Now, I liked Joe a lot (see previous entries), but even I, at age 15, didn’t think he could handle a serious leading role. Joe’s main attributes at the tender age of 16 were (1) if given enough time and a hacksaw, he probably could act his way out of a paper bag eventually, and (2) he was really good-looking.

Victor (wise man that he was), however, saw yet a third aspect of Joe—he was so popular, if all his friends came to see the play, we would make a killing. Victor went off in search of a play which could feature Joe without making Joe work too hard at it.

He came up with L’il Abner.

It’s a dreadful play, really. For those of you fortunate enough to have not experienced it, here’s the “plot”: The United States government wants to test a new, powerful superbomb (think the Manhattan Project with one-tenth the I.Q. points), and they search for “the most unnecessary town in America.” They end up picking Dogpatch, which is, of course, where L’il Abner and his worthless, stupid, soulless friends reside.

The characters spend most of their time trying to convince the government that Dogpatch actually is necessary, and they search like hell to find something useful in their town to keep from getting bombed. By the end of the play, most of the audience feels like going out and getting bombed, too.

Hating every minute of it, I went through auditions. I had no idea what part Victor was going to stick me with. It sure wasn’t gong to be Daisy May—we had a very slutty, blonde, talentless twit who was currently sleeping her way through the company that had that part pretty much sewn up. There were no other large female parts at all.

And, finally, the call sheet went up. I was going to play a secretary, in Washington. I had fourteen lines.

This bruised my ego tremendously. The year prior, I had had a second lead, and no one could understand why I had been “demoted” like that. When the night of the first read-through came, I was so disgusted by the inanity of my part that I told Victor I didn’t even want to be recognized and asked if I could wear a disguise.

Weirdly, he called my bluff, and I ended up wearing a blonde Marilyn-Monroe type wig. Because my natural hair is straight, honey-colored, and to my waist, I hoped no one would recognize me. Despite repeated attempts at bribery, I could not get the crafts people doing the program to leave my name out. Even worse, during tech week, the press showed up, and for some unfathomable reason, instead of taking a picture of the leads for the newspaper, they took one of me and the guy playing my boss and ran it.

Opening night came. I tromped onstage. I said my fourteen lines. I tromped off. This went on night after night, until, thank God, the run ended.

Two weeks later, I was sitting in my living room when I heard the familiar, horrifying sound of the mailman coming up the sidewalk. I bolted off the sofa and yelled for my dad, who didn’t really understand why I was so freaked-out by this man. However, he came to the door anyway to deal with him. I cowered behind the door, out of sight.

Dad tried to take the mail, but the mailman just stood there, huffing, and said; “I saw your daughter’s picture in the paper.” (Ewwww!)

“Well, she’s in there a lot,” said Dad, again trying to yank the mail.

“She looked really hot in that blonde wig,” said David Berkowitz. (And in my head I was screaming, “dude, I’m 15!”)

“Um…okay,” said my father, clearly getting uncomfortable.

“I went and saw every performance, too,” hissed the mailman from hell. “And every time she came out in that wig and that slinky dress—I almost lost it.”

Mentally, I sent to my father: “Why the hell aren’t you decking him?”

“Can I just have my mail?” asked my dad, who really isn’t good in a crisis.

“I don’t suppose,” the mailman began, in a lecherous tone, “that you have any color photographs of her dressed like that, do you?” (Ewwww!)

“Nope,” said my father, and shut the door.

“You see?” I said, leaping out at him. “I told you there was something wrong with him! Why didn’t you believe me? Why does no one ever believe me?” And I walked out in a huff.

Two weeks later, my family and I were eating dinner in front of the 6:00 local news. I wasn’t really paying attention (the news depresses me), but suddenly, my mom dropped her fork and said; “Oh, my God!”

I looked up. There, on my television, was our mailman. He was being dragged away—in handcuffs-- from a very seedy apartment building in our town, in which he apparently lived. The reporter was talking, but we were so busy staring that we missed what he said. In the following day’s paper, it all came out.

Due to an anonymous tip by a mother who had become concerned that the mailman had been getting “too friendly” with her son, the police searched his apartment (I have no idea if this is a Fourth Amendment violation or not, but when you get to the end, you won’t care, either). Upon entering, they found the walls of the apartment covered from floor to ceiling with photographs of naked pre-pubescent children (boys and girls) and pictures of teenagers which were either blatantly sexual or very revealing.

And on the rear wall, near a closet, were five color Polaroid pictures of me in the Marilyn Monroe get-up. Apparently, the mailman had showed up during tech week pretending to be a member of the press, and was therefore able to shoot as many pictures of me as he wanted. Also on the wall was the legitimate picture of me which had been in the newspaper.

It took me two weeks to stop shaking.

I am currently very close friends with a very powerful, very brilliant, and very talented criminal lawyer. When I told him this story, he blinked twice and said, “if your dad had shot him, I’d have argued justifiable homicide.”

Stay safe out there, my friends.

Next time: Perhaps something about someone I once knew who was profoundly stupid.