My friend Beth and I were the Lunt-Fontaines of my junior high and high school. Except we never got a theater named after us. Or made it to Broadway. And at our age it would have been kind of gross if we got married. And while I was never the leading-man type, Beth certainly had the looks and the talent to play any role that came her way. In any case, we did a lot of theater together, and we eventually did get married. Kind of.
Our debut in junior high (as I’m sure you all remember from the national coverage) involved the two of us acting out some Shel Silverstein poems in a speech contest. We were apparently entertaining enough that we made it all the way to the state competition, where we were pitted against people doing monologues about death and divorce and abortion while we skipped into the room with ”I cannot go to school today,” said little Peggy Ann McKay…
I don’t recall if we won or not, but since it’s my blog I’ll just say we both got the Tony that year. And it was handed to us by Liza.
Against my better judgment, I’m showing you what we looked like back then, at the dawn of the 1980s. Notice how stylish and put-together Beth looked. Then notice me with my Sears Braggin’ Dragon® shirt, my pencil-thin arms, my shoulder bones that could cut glass, my basketball head, my adult-size nose and my overall homeliness. Then weep for me and for all humanity that had to look at me.
Fast-forward to our junior year in high school, where we were in the chorus of West Side Story together. Once again, Beth looked stylish and sassy in her silver satin (alliteration runs rampant!) and I looked like an anorexic Ralph Macchio with a finger wave and a drop-shoulder jean jacket right out of a Pointer Sisters video. The Jets are looking kinda gaaaaay toniiiiiiight!
The next year, we were the leads in—of all things—Oedipus Rex. Because high-school kids + Greek tragedy = theater magic! I have to say I do look kind of majestic in my glue-on beard and my poly-blend robes, even though I’m a foot taller than my 16-year-old wife and mother. And the crown totally offsets my nose. Fortunately, this scan from a yearbook photo that spans the fold between the pages blurs out a lot of my skinny armness and dubious husband-and-fatherliness and what had to be frighteningly clueless acting. Tragedy indeed!
Now fast-forward 20 more years to our class reunion last month. Even though we hadn’t seen each other since our 10-year reunion, Beth and I made it through the whole weekend without one poem or explosive dance move or destructive marriage. That’s our friend Jen on the right, and if Beth and I wrote and starred in our own sitcom (Oedipus Simplex, Thursdays on NBC), Jen could be Aristophanes, the wacky neighbor who always drops by in a silly hat or something and then says a funny catchphrase like “You guys are for the birds!” and steals our thunder. It’s the least we could do to thank her for having the presence of mind to bring her camera to the reunion so we could have this picture in the first place.