Monday, March 30, 2009

an actor remembers...a little more

Now where were we before I had to dash off? Ah yes High School! Northfield Vermont an 17 year old P.A. Cooley ( aka Paul Cooley) was about to get the news of the all important SENIOR PLAY from the drama/English teacher Ms Mary Corrigan ! The play that Mary chose was unique to say the least. Apparently someone had taken the Robert Altman film (and later very popular TV series), M*A*S*H and turned it into a stage play. My mind crackled at the announcement! My Mother was a huge fan of the TV Show and loved Alan Alda because his eyes crinkled when he laughed. How awesome it would've been for her to see her baby boy play Hawk eye Pierce! Joe Diebold -a VERY popular guy of the class of "82" who always used to joke about going to Hollywood with me was a natural for my side kick Trapper John! I would secure my place as a "popular kid" AND make my Mommy proud -yay!

Well...things didn't turn out that way. Mary Corrigan needed a good actor to play a specific character. She needed someone who could execute a full melt down on stage and thought that someone should be someone who was serious about doing theater She was sure she came up with the ideal choice. That someone turned out to be me. The role turned out to be Frank Burns. Hot Lips Houlihan's paramour and a distinctly weasel faced, pallid, officious little prick who was anything BUT the funloving Hawkeye Pierce. I wasn't exactly a happy little camper...ok ok that's a bit of an understatement...I was flat out devastated. At 17 -I liked the part about acting where EVERYONE LOVED ME.( So ...maybe perhaps ...that's not so different over 25 years later but we'll discuss THAT in another blog. )

I tried to be a pro but you could see the cracks in the veneer quite easily. Mary Corrigan sold me on why I was chosen to play Frank. When Hawk eye and Trapper put the dead cat in Frank's precious orderly space Frank goes insane enough to actually get reassigned or discharged or something. For fans of the Alman film -it was pretty much what was written in the screenplay without the sex. We were in highschool after all. The other reason I could swallow the bitter pill was that Jeff LeFebvre got the role of Hawk Eye and -for all intense purposes- Jeff WAS Hawk Eye. Mischevious and fun loving. He and Joe did a great job with the roles and it really was well received by students and faculty and townspeople alike. I think we only did 3 performances but back then it felt much longer. We performed in a gym. There was a proscenium stage (spell check?) carved out under the basketball hoops. Nowadays it boasts the Mary Corrigan Auditorium. No kidding! She really got an Auditorium named after her! Not bad huh? Impressed the hell outta me when I heard. Now budding little actresses and actors actually have a great space where the acoustics are terrific!

I used to live on the street that the school was. I think after the last performance of M*A*S*H, I dragged by self home. I think I was a little bitter that I didn't play the shining hero but I had had a good year. Jeff and I had been singers in a High School Rock Band called "Fusion 82" We did a Blue's Brother's Routine." Going back to Miami" Jeff was a heluva sax player. He really rocked out on "The Logical Song" I was alone that night after the play. A fairly large group of 12 and 13 year old boys were in a clump in the parking lot. At first...I thought they were going to congratulate me for a job well done.

"CoooooooLEEEEY" They hollered out my last name and then they hit the punch line. "Ya BIG FAG!" They howled with laughter and for a second it looked as if they were all gonna rush me. Must've been like 12 of them-(or it felt like it?). I tried to look unaffected but my face was hot and I quickened my pace toward my street. They WERE coming for me. Now if was two or three I might've been able to protect myself but twelve??? No Way! Even if they were all a foot shorter than me, I wasn't much of a fighter. The walk quickened to a trot and then I well...just kinda ran! I heard some of them take off after me. No teachers were in sight and I had to really book it. The another one yelled, " What the fuck are you doing?" Apparently -not at me. "Get back here you dumbasses! Leave him alone" I didn't look back but slowed my pace a bit and kept going. I have no idea what I did that night at home but I bet it involved shedding a few tears.

My Guidance Counselor once asked if I wanted to graduate early. I had taken some college courses over the summer and apparently I was able to graduate a semester early. I said no. Apparently -the most famous homosexual of the class of "82" decided to stick it out until the bitter end. How bout them apples?

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