Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tripping' From the World to The Globe

Sometimes I marvel at our behavior in those early years. Here we were hurting for money to the point of constantly begging my parents for some moolah and sometime in this period Mr. Heaney started giving us $20 (equal to around $155 today) a month to pay our electric bill, but we still took some trips throughout the year.
We went to the New York World’s Fair on September 19, going on a Werner’s Bus Excursion up to Flushing Meadows We had reserved the bus back in May.  The theme was “Peace through Understanding”. Yeah, we all see how well that idea succeeded. There were a number of exhibit supposedly showing the world of tomorrow. Today the fair site is a big park with walking paths. Probably the most lasting pieces to drain out of Flushing were Disney’s audio-animatronics displays called “It’s a Small world” and “Great Moments with Mister Lincoln”. Both of these ended up as permanent attractions at Disneyland. Disney's influence was so great the fair was sort of a trial run for Disney World and Epcot.
The centerpiece of the Fair was called the Unisphere, a giant Erector Set globe of the world that dominated the entryway. A big failure of the Fair was the lack of amusements and the failure of the highly publicized shows, such as “Wonder World”, “Dick Button’s Ice-Travaganza” and “To Broadway with Love”, all these closed early with heavy losses.
As a matter of historic note, Wonder World (or Wonderworld) was an overwrought musical involving high divers, motorcycles, clowns, a sports car ballet, and a man propelled by a rocket plus elaborate water scenes staged in the pool with a "giant waterfall".
Dick Button was an Olympic Figure Skater, who followed his medals up by going the Ice Follies and Ice Capades He was used as an analyst for several Olympia telecasts to come. His attempt to stage a spectacular ice show for the World's Fair fizzled out due to salary costs and mishaps. 
I don't know what to say about the musical, "To Broadway With Love," other than it too was a flop.

As for us, I barely remember the affair of the Fair. We told my mom it was “so crowded we didn’t do much”.

What little I retain of the wonders of the Fair probably came during our second jaunt to it on September 2, 1965. I do know we managed to go through Disney’s “It’s a Small World After All”, but what really stood out for me was in the Vatican Pavilion, Michelangelo’s “Pieta”.
You didn’t get to spent much time with it. You filed into the display behind a long line of viewers and only got to stand before it for a brief matter of seconds before they brought the cattle prods out, but I thought it was beautiful. It shone in the lights and it was this smooth milk white that made you want to touch and run your hand around its curves, but of course you weren’t allowed to do that. That Michelangelo, he was something with a chisel! I wondered if Rudolph Condon could do a statue so perfect.
Made we realize I hadn’t had any contact with my old friend and composer Robert Condon in a long time; I wondered what ever happened to the score for our “Ya-Ha-Whoey!”? (The picture on the right is Rudolph Condon with the artist Jamie Wyeth. I am not positive, but I think the young fellow on the left is my old friend Robert Condon. It certainly looks like him.)

If I am struggling to recall much about the New York World Fair, I don’t haven memory lapse with another place we visited that summer and the next and the next and.... We went to Atlantic City the first time on June 28, the day after my birthday, but this was the first of several trips to that shore community. We began spending a few days there spread out across each summer in the years to come. This was before the casinos came to town and destroyed the place for people.  
The Democratic National Convention was held in Atlantic City that same summer and the Convention coverage shown a spotlight upon Atlantic City’s deterioration from its hay day. By the 1960s it was showing its age and getting ragged about the edges as poverty and crime were growing there. Of course, a decade later the politicians decided gambling was the panacea for all the economic woes and legalized the casinos that began flocking onto the Boardwalk by 1976 like gulls upon a French Fry. Well, that bounty didn’t last, but it did ruin the quality of Atlantic City as a family resort. Politicians now think marijuana and legalized drugs are the economic panacea. Anyway, you do know, don’t you, that “politican” is an old Latin word meaning, “corrupt fool”?
Anyway, this was the first of what would become regular trips down to Atlantic City for us. We did go on the beach and in the sea, but we spent a lot of time just taking in the attractions along the Boardwalk. The central point of it all was the Steel Pier, or as they always billed it, “The World Famous Steel Pier.”

There were attractions and displays down the length of the pier and a large auditorium where headliners once came to perform. On one of our trips the headliner was George Gobel. A lot of people probably have forgotten Gobel, but at one time he was a top comedian and star. He had his own TV show and was very popular.  Lonesome George, as he was known, even added some catch phrases to the language. Some of these popped up in movies over the years, such as, “Well, than there now”, quoted by James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” and his oft used, “I’ll be a dirty bird,” uttered by Kathy Bates in the film, “Misery”.
I felt embarrassed for George Gobel that day. There were several acts because it was something like a Vaudeville presentation or the old Ed Sullivan variety show. Gobel, of course, was the featured act and the biggest name, so he appeared last on the bill. An act or two before his appearance was another comedian, a much older man with an unknown name. He obviously had been in the business a long time and probably had appeared in both Vaudeville and Burlesque along the way. He was hilarious. He just rattled off jokes like a machine gun. He was of the Henny Youngman or Rodney Dangerfield school of comics. You weren’t done laughing at one when another was sailing by you. He had the audience in hysterics, rolling on the floor.
Whoever booked the program did Gobel (on right) a disservice. George Gobel was a soft-spoken, gentle comedian. His delivery was slow and more humorous than funny, he was sort of a down home philosopher. Putting him on so close after this other comedian was disastrous. Gobel paled in comparison. He just didn’t have the right style to follow Mr. Machinegun Jokester.

We took in some of the other attractions of the town, such as the high diving horses, but every year we would pass by the diving bell. It may have been the thrill of a lifetie, but not ours. Lois is claustrophobic and something about plunging down under the ocean in that little box held very little appeal for me.
It just looked so fragile.

There was something else that did catch our eye and it too seemed daring at the time. Down along the Boardwalk a bit from The Steel Pier was this little theater called, “The Globe”. It did look like it might put on a Shakespearean play or two, but that was not at all the case. No, this Globe was a Burlyque.

Ah, so did we dare go in? Boy, did we feel evil buying those tickets, kind of slinking into the dark and dingy place. What a surprise when we got seated. We expected a bunch of gungy old men or perhaps a rough bunch of hooting rowdies. Instead we were surrounded by other couple much like ourselves, although most seemed to be a bit older than we. We learned after a time that this was typical. Just like us, these people thought they were being daring. We were all away from our home towns, away from our nosy neighbors, so why not something a bit sinful like a girly show.

The Globe appears quaint compared to what is available almost everywhere today. It followed a set routine. Mostly it was dancers taking it off or a couple of comedians doing fairly classic blue material. Sometimes they would do a couple skits that included one or two of the women.
The comedians at the Globe were guys who had been around for ages. For instance, one of the stars at the time was Billy “Cheese ‘n’ Crackers” Hagen, who was pushing 80 at the time we started going to the Globe. The other comedians were no spring chickens either. The only relatively young man in the whole production was the singer and nobody much cared if he showed up or not. He was mere filler between the other acts. The only time he garnered real applause was during a big production of “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody” that was sung just before or just after intermission. The reason for the applause wasn’t because people liked the song. It was because during the singing the women would parade out on stage to pose in these scanty outfits.

Intermission was filled by a candy butcher. This guy popped up down front and went into a long spiel concerning these boxes of candy he was hawking. He had a box-like tray held by a strap. It looked very much like the photo on the left, except at every performance we ever saw the Candy Butcher was a man. He would hold up one of the boxes and shake it. He gave a talk about how exotic the candy was, although it was usually some pieces of salt water taffy, but the real come ons were the prizes some boxes may or may not contain. Oh, he would go on and on about the valuable prizes hidden in a select few and then he’d wander up the center aisle waving a box.

People would clamber to buy a box, at something like a dollar or two a pop. Probably a pretty good turn over considering a 1964 dollar would be worth $7.78 today. That little box probably sold in the salt water taffy shop for a dime, maybe a quarter. As for the prizes, well, after going a couple rows there was some guy who would suddenly leap to his feet shouting he got a gold watch and wave the new gained ticker in the air. This guy was a shill and he won that gold watch at every show. He just didn’t get to keep it.
People didn’t come to the Globe for the candy or the singer. They may have enjoyed the comedians, even if they had heard the routines many time before, some of that material was funny and these guys certainly had the timing down. But let’s face it, people came to see the girls, at least the husbands did. I can’t speak for the wives.

Were the ecdysiast young and pretty? Hard to say. By 1964 the burlesque theaters were disappearing and the striptease artists were a dying breed. A number of these women, like the comedians, were clinging to the last venues of their art. Many were past the young and pretty years, but it is amazing what some makeup and stage lighting can do to deceive the eyes of the beholders.

Were they sexy?
Yeah, they were sexy to me. I had never been to a burlesque show before the Globe, never seen real live women taking their clothes off in front of strangers. I’m not going to play noble and lie. This visit to the Globe turned me on. I had a favorite stripper, too. I don’t remember her moniker, but she was definitely the star bump-‘n’-grind practitioner there. Something about appealed to more than the others. I wish I knew her name or had her picture, but I don’t. I remember she had a great body, but her face was scarred by either pox holes or acme. She was also more daring than the other dancers. In those days there were strict laws on what a dancer could reveal, although they could show a great deal, they couldn’t go nude. They would do their thing down to pasties and g-string. They all did that, but this particular dancer, just as the lights would go out on the stage, would whip off her g-string. You never really saw anything because she had her timing down perfect, but she really was risking a lot. If the lights had flickers just a few nanoseconds it could have brought on a raid and a closing of the theater. But boy, in a couple short years even that bit of enforced modesty would disappear.

The nights at the Globe may have been the gateway drug for Lois and my sexual future. Right then, however, those trips to the world’s fair and The Globe simply diverted us from the trouble about to fall like a strippers boa upon us.

1 comment:

Ron said...

You've traveled a lot Lar. And not done yet!