The Amazing Spiderman

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When Sonny and I moved to Los Angeles in September of 1997, I knew I was destined for greatness. I knew I was about to connect with the most innovative, creative and forward-thinking filmmakers out there and that as soon as they saw me, they would intuit my extraordinary acting talents and together we would set about making revolutionary independent films and I would be a star of the best variety– not only famous and beloved by my fans but “in it for the right reason” and beyond stardom, “a master of his craft.” But where to start?

 

I needed to get close to the action so I could be “discovered” so I got a job scrubbing blood out of Betty Boop’s bloomers at Universal Studios Theme Park Hollywood. I told people back in Alabama that I was “working in wardrobe at Universal” thinking they’d be impressed at how quickly I’d worked my way to the inner circle. The most I ever got was, “Have you met anyone famous?”

 

A minimum wage costume washer at a theme park– at least it was a step in the right direction– wasn’t it? Betty Boop and Frank (as in -enstien) and Laurel and Hardy and Marilyn Monroe and all the Marx Brothers– not the real ones of course but other versions of me, actors assured and self-assured of their brilliance who’d had come to Hollywood to find their place among the greats of all time. They were paying their light bills by impersonating well-known icons of yesteryear. Hey, who am I to judge? I was the one fate had relegated to mending and laundering their unmentionables so they were, at least from where I was kneeling, higher on the pecking order than me. But lets face it, we were all so far down that pecking order from the likes of Affleck and DiCaprio, I’m not even sure we were pecking with the same peckers. But it was a start– wasn’t it?

 

I trudged away there in my little costume trailer knowing that, after all, everybody has to “pay their dues” and I figured this was my way of paying mine. It was thankless most of the time but the amusement park entertainers I was hired to serve were generally gracious–except for the Marilyns. The Marilyns were always awful, usually acting with more entitlement than would be due the real McCoy. The highlight of my job in wardrobe had to be blowing the buffer-than-the-real-thing Spiderman in the dressing room, “finishing up” only seconds before the cast of the “Wild, Wild, Wild West Show” tumbled in after a show. How embarrassing it would have been to be arrested by a not-even-real sheriff! I’ve always been more of a Batman guy but this guy’s webslinger was ridiculous!

I did manage to make it out of my cave/trailer from time to time when I was scheduled to work one of the “live shows.” Helping the Waterworld stunt men with their backstage quick-changes was a difficult and challenging job that I would have paid to do. Helping future improve great and Let’s Make A Deal host Wayne Brady into and out of his Wolfman costume at the Beetlejuice Rock-and-Roll Review made for a story I could have told my grandchildren if I were ever going to have them. I also worked at the Nickelodeon show where we had live on-stage shows based on the shows from that network. During the course of the half hour, we’d abduct children from the audience before their parents had a chance to think things through, take them up on stage and basically douse them in “slime” (applesauce dyed green with food coloring) or “gack” (orange colored pudding, flavor unknown). We dumped the stuff on the kids by the gallons and I shudder to think of how many starving kids in other parts of the world we could have saved by refraining to “slime” our own. After each segment, we’d take the freshly coated children behind the curtain and into the back dressing rooms to clean them up. To my surprise, in my year of working there, only one parent darted on stage and through the curtain to see where this stranger was taking his kids. That was Bobby Brown. This was after the breakup so Whitney wasn’t there. I often wonder how she would have reacted.

I’d take the children to the back and take off the protective jumpsuit that I’d put on them before the trauma occurred. I’d put them in a saloon chair and lean their pudding soaked hair back into a shampoo basin. I’d stand there washing the child’s hair and silently praying for the his or her emotional wellbeing after this experience, for the aptitude of their future therapists, and gratitude that God had seen fit to put me in this albeit low-paying high calling of helping the children process what they’d just been through rather than some sicko. Well, I’m a sicko for sure but when it comes to children, I (especially based on my own horrific experiences) fancy myself to be a great protector of children. This would have been a perfect job for a pedophile.

It was moments before one of the Nick shows that my pager went off. Remember pagers? I had a couple of minutes so I went to the phone to answer the page. I dialed the number and listened to the ring with a single index finger stuck in my opposite ear to drown out the Nickelodeon intro music blasting down the hall from the auditorium.

 

A sexy male voice answered “Hello?”

 

“I got a page.”

 

“Sonny?”

 

Let me explain what happened in the next half second. Any of you who have ever been married to an alcoholic or a cheater will understand. In about the same time it would take a normal person to wonder “who’s this,” I deduced that this sultry sounding guy, whoever he was, had called our home answering machine, heard the outgoing message which I had recorded that said, “This is Sonny and Jeff. Thanks for calling. Leave a message or if you need to reach me right away, you can page me at…” and because Sonny and I both have Southern accents, he had automatically assumed that the “me” was Sonny. All this in half a second.

 

I simply said, “Yeah, this is Sonny.”

 

Hell hath no furry like a faggot scorned.

“Hey bro, it’s Dave. I was wondering if you wanted to get together again.”

 

My heart is pounding. I can’t breathe. My body feels like I’m plugged into a light socket. He’s doing it again, the son-of-a-bitch is cheating again. Part of me wants to slam down the phone. That was probably the healthy part. But I have to know more– and when somebody’s fucking me over, I can be devious.

 

“Are we going to fuck around again?” I ask trying to conceal the quiver of mainline anxiety in my voice.

“Fuck yeah, bro! That was hot!”

 

The tears rumbled from my heart, up my throat, and out my eyes as quickly and furiously as the desert flash flood on the Backlot tour. 

One of the orange jumpsuited techs stuck his head around the corner. “Jeff! The show’s starting!”

 

I dropped the phone and ran to the wings.

 

For the next thirty minutes I smiled as best I could and tried to reassure the children (and myself) that everything would be okay. One sweet little brown-eyed girl brushed away one of my tears while I cleaned the green applesauce from her lovely braids.

As she walked away hand-in-and with her mother after the show, I heard her ask with tender concern, “Why was the giant crying?”


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