Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Lobby

Lots of cool stuff happened in the lobby of Dirty Jack’s theater when I worked there as an actor/musician in 1976 and 1979. By day it was the ticket office, and a place where the crowds of tourists walking by could get an old west sassparilla at the snack bar. [Note: That shit is nasty – Rick]

Jon Stainbrook, the head honcho of Dirty Jack's, encouraged the cast to sometimes hang out in the lobby during the day to liven up the place, talk to the tourists, and generate interest in the show. I would take a harmonica and play either in the lobby or out on the benches that lined the covered wooden sidewalk out front. It always caused a small crowd to gather.

Sometimes I would play a Jaw Harp, an acoustic wind instrument that makes that buzzing “boing boing” sound you hear in cartoons and old traditional music. Kids loved it, but that sometimes led to problems. More than once a perturbed dad would later walk up to me frowning and thumbing his money roll, asking how much for the toy. As politely as I could, I’d tell the tightwad son of a bitch that I was NOT a peddler, I was an entertainer, and he could buy the instrument at any music store. Way to kill your kids’ early enthusiasm for music, Bozo: Be as openly sarcastic and miserly as you can about buying them their first instrument, even if it is a “toy.”

The lobby was the scene of a nightly pre-show ritual that seemed ultra-corny at first, but I grew to enjoy: The Sing Along. Doc Holt, the bandleader, would play an old upright piano in the lobby and the actors in full costume and makeup would sing old standards along with the audience milling around waiting for the show to start. It was actually kind of fun. I still find myself humming “On Wisconsin” for no apparent reason.

At the end of the show each night the cast would take their big all-at-once bow and then dash up the aisles to the lobby, where they would greet and shake hands with the audience as they left the theater. We in the band would stay and jam on the outro music as the seats emptied, so that was a lobby ritual I never got to join.

I spent so much time at Dirty Jack’s Theater in the summers of 1976 and ’79 that the lobby felt like my living room. If you remember that lobby I invite you to leave a comment. My website traffic statistics tell me more and more folks visit this site every day, and you did not get here by accident. You searched for Dirty Jack’s Theater or followed a link you got in an email. I think that lobby meant something to you too.