Do you know”KISS? No? Do you know the fellow who runs around the entertainment world with his face painted in weird patterns and nightmarish colours? The chap who has a tongue longer than most people’s arms and keeps flicking it out at people close enough to notice — like anyone within a three-kilometre radius? No?
Do you know the girl whose daddy had a mink farm near Whitbourne and who was a Playmate of the Year and a girlfriend of Hugh Hefner? Of course you do!
The guy with the weird makeup and the freaky tongue is Gene Simmons, who is the heart and soul of the band KISS and the life-partner of Shannon Tweed, the Playmate of the Year, the girlfriend of Hefner, whose daddy had the mink farm near Whitbourne. You might say Shannon was the quintessential farmer’s daughter.
KISS was the featured band at the Grand Falls-Windsor Salmon Festival last weekend. Depending on who you talk to, there was anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 people crammed into one relatively small venue. It didn’t start raining until
9 p.m., and by that time many of the attendees were so soaked from the inside out that they didn’t give a rodent’s posterior.
I didn’t have a single beer myself, largely because I wasn’t there. KISS ain’t my thing. If it had been Peter, Paul and Mary or Simon and Garfunkel or the Kingston Trio or Buddy Holly, I would have been first man in line. Oh well, where have all the flowers gone?
I once attended a live Brothers Four concert in Fredericton, N.B. In fact, one of my few claims to fame is that I shared the stage with them, I and a couple of other idiots from Mount Allison University in Sackville.
The Brothers Four were right up there with the Kingston Trio as one of the most popular groups of the ’60s, especially among the university set. We convinced the organizers of a huge festival at the University of New Brunswick that we were second to none as entertainers go, which was about right.
When my turn came to walk on stage singing a Dean Martin hit of the day, I tripped up in a piece of rope and went sprawling. On the way back to Sackville that night, my friend’s Volkswagen hit a patch of ice and we ended up sliding some distance on the roof. Didn’t know that at the time, because the vehicle landed right side up and the motor kept on going. When we got out of the car at home, we noticed that the roof was all dented in. Thankfully, neither one of us was.
My friend, by the way, was a theology student named Morris Bartlett from King’s Point. He was a United Church minister at one time and later went into teaching social work, I think, at some university in Ontario. I haven’t seen him for a long time.
If the truth were known, as in this column it invariably is, I have appeared in several stage productions, none of which have brought me fame and/or fortune, and some of which have caused me acute embarrassment.
On one celebrated occasion I auditioned for and landed one of the lead roles in the university production of Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” The directors had made it into a musical, and recognizing my unique singing gifts, had actually written a song especially for my voice. It was intended to be one of the hits of the show and, at the time, I was pretty much convinced it was.
As a promotional thing, two of us were chosen to appear on a supper show on Moncton television singing our respective songs. It sounded pretty good to us.
A couple days later, my roommate (who was destined to be my brother-in-law) and I were hitchhiking to Amherst and got picked up by a couple of older ladies. In the ’60s and in the university area, that wasn’t considered to be a risky practice. Anyway, we all got to talking and one of the women expressed some interest.
“You’re Mount Allison students? They’re doing a musical production next week of an Oscar Wilde play. My husband and I couldn’t wait to see it, but then a couple of nights ago we happened to see two of the students who are in that play on television. We decided that if they’re any indication of what that show will be like, we’d be wasting our money. They were not good, to put it kindly.”
Up piped future brother-in-law.
“You saw that? Ed here was one of the singers on that show!”
What followed was an extremely uncomfortable silence that went on and on until they dropped us off in Amherst.
In my first year at Dalhousie in Halifax, I decided to try out for a part in one of the most popular Broadway shows of the day, “Finian’s Rainbow.” They hired a well-known CBC director to do the auditions. Most people with any experience in stage productions had sense enough not to appear in front of this particular fellow. I, with my totally fresh Newfoundland outport accent, didn’t have enough sense.
As I launched into my reading in front of several dozen stage veterans, I realized I didn’t know what to do with my hands. In a temporary fit of insanity I volunteered that information to the director. He replied in a tone intended to put down the Archangel Michael.
“I suggest you put them over your mouth.”
Being endowed with that fine Newfoundland characteristic of assumed superiority over the rest of humankind, I refused to be put down and kept right on going. Perhaps out of reluctant admiration for my attitude, he gave me the part of third deputy sheriff.
The next year, I got the part of the villain in “Paint Your Wagon.”
There’s no business like show business.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is email@example.com.