Monday, May 27, 2013

Now about that Hitler scene...

For me, the strangest scene in this strange story takes place at the High School Variety Show during mysenior year. The show ran for two weekends in the winter of 1978. I was one of the stars of a comedy troupe, a poor man's Not Ready For Primetime Players, that was called the Acme Ash Co. This was, in fact, a real company, a trash company, in fact, that picked up curbside refuse in Bath, Ohio. In a depressing coincidence, I myself became a garbageman shortly after the events of My Friend Dahmer. But that's another tale. A tale called Trashed, as many of you know.

The Acme Ash Co. was, in reality, the Dahmer Fan Club. It was mostly the same guys. All the skits were written by me and another friend, now tragically deceased, and greatly missed. The sketches were scattered between the show's other acts. These were the usual high school fare: overly earnest singer-songwriters, ingénues belting out show tunes, baton twirlers, interpretive dancers, that sort of thing. But there was some real talent in this small suburban school. Several of the performers went on
to become professionals! Especially worth noting is my childhood pal Barbara Rosene, who has been a jazz singer based in New York City for many years. She was also a member of the Acme Ash Co.! 
The highlight of the show was a bit where I played.... Adolf Hitler! Yes, only in the Seventies could this be pulled off in a public school. Grounds for expulsion today!

Hitler 1978
The author plays... gulp... Hitler in 1978
Here are actual photos from the show, taken by friend Neil, also of the Dahmer Fan Club, who was the school's official photog. There I am, in all my emaciated glory, standing 6'3" I barely tipped the scales at an insectisoid 135 lbs. Gawd, no wonder the girls pointed and laughed when I passed! Originally, I was not cast to play Hitler. But my friend Greg, who was, couldn't muster up the requisite mania necessary to nail the role in rehearsals, so I gave it a shot. I made the Swastika armband out of felt in art class, no doubt cementing my rep with my art teachers as a problem student. The boots are real German WWII issue! One of my schoolmates was a Nazi "collector" and had a number of uniform pieces and parts. Turns out, we later discovered, he was an actual Nazi, of the far-right, white-power ilk!
Mein FReund Dahmer HItler page
The page, in German, from Mein Freund Dahmer

Here's the scene from the book (above). This, however, is from Mein Freund Dahmer, which recently hit stores in Germany. I wondered how this particular bit would play over there, but the book had received rave reviews, and the German readers who have written me find this scene extremely funny and bizarre. It cracks me up to see a comedy line I wrote at age 18 translated into German. My grandmother, an immigrant's daughter whose first language was German, would have gotten a chuckle out of this. thought all audio record of this performance was lost. I knew there was once a tape recording of the entire show. I managed to track down some parts of it, saved by various classmates, during my MFD research, but not the pivotal Hitler sketch. Finally, about six months ago, my friend Mike, also of the Dahmer Fan Club, located a box of cassette tapes, one of which contained the skit. I'll spare you the MP3 file, especially since the sound can charitably be called "rough."

For me, as with most things from my high school years, this episode has two entirely distinct definitions. There's the interaction with Dahmer which takes place in following pages of this scene, with me dressed as Hitler, and that is just a mind-blower. But on a personal level it holds an altogether different meaning. This marked the first time that something I created generated a huge laugh. My schoolmates, most of whom didn't even know my name, were stunned. Once you hit a homer like that, you want more. I never forgot that euphoric feeling once I left high school and moved on. This stupid sketch launched me on my career as a humorist!

1 comment:

  1. I love these tidbits. It's like little "bytes" of reality.