Now, I’d grown up on my folk’s West Side Story soundtrack. (We never had the cast album until I bought it with my paper route money in junior high school.) I knew every word, every note, every fake Puerto Rican nuance of the soundtrack, though. Hell, I’d sung along and acted out every role in the show in the privacy of my
Let’s just say my show of enthusiasm probably didn’t win me any macho points.
And the role I wanted more than anything? Action. The wild one. The loose cannon of the Jets. The role that would show the world that I was not, in fact, a sad, terminally bashful little homo who does victory dances in AP History class when he hears the theater department is doing his favorite musical. I didn’t care as much about playing the role, though, as I did about singing “Gee, Officer Krupke!” It’s a totally cool song, and it starts on that hard-to-hear tritone that I was certain I was the only male in the whole theater department who could be relied on to hit it right on the money night after night. I knew the song cold—tritone and all—which meant the role was rightfully mine.
Unfortunately, my audition was too much tritone and not enough loose cannon. And Joel, a hunky little straight guy who had the presence of mind to actually act at the audition, got the part. And I was crushed. Truly, deeply crushed.
But I persevered through rehearsals in my role as Third Jet From The Left, and I got a couple featured dance roles (tritones and battements dégagés—is there no end to my
And on opening night, when Joel (who was quite awesome in the part) went to sing
But that’s not actually the point of this post. The point is that I went through some old photo albums last weekend and I found a mountain of embarrassing pictures. And trust me: When you’re an awkward little homo in Iowa in the ’80s, every picture you take is pretty embarrassing.
But I’m 37 now and I can look back and laugh. On the outside. And I’ve been sneaking over to our scanning station at work whenever I could spare a few minutes the last few days, so my blog is going to be a very painful walk down memory lane over the next few weeks.
Here is the only picture I found from West Side Story. And man, there’s nothing sadder than a middle-class white gay boy pretending to be all butch and shit like he’s down with the PR kids, yo.
That’s my dad’s jean jacket, which was way too big. But I rolled up the sleeves. To the elbow. Just like they do in the gangs. And if you look closely, you can see the moussed-up nightmare of waves and curls I somehow decided gave my hair 1950s New York street cred. And then there’s that smirk. That I-live-a-very-comfortable-life-in-a-town-with-great-schools-so-you-better-run-sucka smirk. The whole effect is pretty scary, but not in the way I intended.
That’s Beth next to me. I was always impressed with her acting, though I think she was little more than Third Jet Girl From The Left in our show. (The next year, she and I played the leads in Oedipus Rex. Which was far more exciting than starring in some stupid old blockbuster dance musical.) Beth told me at our 10-year reunion that she was in med school, so maybe she can surgically remove the last of my embarrassment if I see her at our 20-year this year.
Stay tuned for more of Jake’s A Dork And I Have The Pictures To Prove It!
Next up: my horrifying experiment in gymnastics leotards.