Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Commander Grease!!!!

From one of my Commander Grease shows.  
 I'm talking to Jack Dennis who is now one of the top voice over talents in the country.

Hear Pat read This Entry

 As I mentioned earlier, the in-school History of Rock shows gave me the idea to use high school assemblies as a means to promote my dances.  Ever since my days with The Invictas back in Lapeer, I'd wanted to put together a state of the art P.A. System and throw dances at area schools make huge sums of cash, and buy new cars every year just like Ted Johnson did at WTAC.   I'd promoted a number of these in Saginaw earlier in my career, but the school assembly... now THAT was the ticket.  The fact that American Graffiti had thrust the teen-age world into a 1950's nostalgia frenzy was another obvious opportunity, I remembered nostalgia oriented “Greaser Dances” being held even in the 60s.

I had a custom P.A. System built which incorporated broadcast quality equipment and four huge 4X12 speaker cabs powered by 2 gigantic power amps.  I'd place a speaker cab in each corner of the room, and let it blast.  The sound quality was excellent, which of course was the idea.   I recalled the excellent quality of Ted's system and how he made everybody else look like small-time poseurs.  I went for the big time all the way.

So here was the idea... I'd present a 1950's “fashion show” in the schools, recruiting members of the school student council as models.  They'd not only wear the clothing, but emulate the style and mannerisms of typical 1950s kids.   They modeled everything from poodle skirts to black, leather jackets and roach-killer shoes.  They'd sashay onto the stage to the wild cheers and laughter of their fellow students, for whom a head full of Brylcream was every bit as funny as a pie in the face!

I conducted as much of the preparation as possible with student council members, thereby infusing a sense of ownership on them.  And I always treated the students as equals, as far as I was concerned these kids were 100% partners in the enterprise and I was never disappointed.  Whenever possible I hired kids from the schools to help with set-up, ticket sales, tee-shirt sales etc.  Eventually however, I settled on a group of core people I could depend on week after week from Don Mills Collegiate Institute. Doug Medley and Bob Clemson worked with me as roadies, and techs for the entire time I did the shows.   Louise Sankey was the student council president and she worked with me in numerous capacities afterward.  I hired other students to comb the crowd looking for likely “victims” for my nutty on-stage stunts. Here's a note I received from one of them:

“I guess you could say I'm a blast from the past but here's how I fit into it: You used to do the the Chum Grease Dances and my friend and I were in Jr. high school at the time(Northmount Jr. High in Willowdale) and we all lived close to each other.  Somehow, we got chatting with you and you offered to allow us to come and help you out at your dances.  My friend Kim and I would leave with you and the roadies, go to the schools and she and I dressed up in our best 50's apparel to attend.  We got the crowed involved, did the locomotion with everyone and even helped you find your "Brylcreem" victim.  I guess looking back I never understood why you let us be part of your entourage, but I will never forget how much fun we all had.  One of the schools we visited that I think stands out the best was Vaughn Road Collegiate, do you remember?  That place was packed and hoppin'!  Anyway, thank you for on 1050 CHUM, Toronto

It wasn't unusual for us to cram 1000 or more kids into the gyms.  The assembly, which was always presented the day before the dance, charged them up so much you couldn't have kept them away.  We would routinely drive up to encounter a line of faux greaseballs stretching around the block, waiting for the doors to open.  I made sure MY clothes were up to CURRENT style standards though, I wanted to make sure that I'd be seen as the presenter not one of the attendees.   I had custom stage clothes made up using patterns provided to me by Bill Belew, the guy who did The Osmonds and Elvis' jumpsuits.  I even bought a restored 1957 Cadillac DeVille we named “The Greasemobile” and parked it in front of the venue.   Nobody had ever seen anything like this before.


I'd always bring a huge assortment of record albums to give away.  Record companies were only too happy to get on board, and would provide me with anything I requested.  We started out using Rivers as the Commander Grease character, but eventually he got tired of doing it, so I simply performed the Brylcream anointment on one of the students.  Boy... girl... no matter, over the refrains of 2001 Space Odyssey” (Also Sprach Zarathustra) I'd dump a whole tube of Brylcream on some poor soul's head to the screaming delight of about 1000 of his/her classmates. It was a fantastic time for everybody involved!

And profitable too!  I'd usually take 50% of the gate, at $2 per person with 1000 kids in attendance were talking a grand per show.  I'd often go out 3 or sometimes 4 times a week... you do the math!  At the end of the dances Bob, Doug and I would go collect "The Football," a huge roll of money in $1, $2 and $5 denominations wrapped in several rubber bands.  We'd toss it back and forth while tearing down the P.A. system, literally using as much as $1000 cash as a "football."  This was 1970's money folks, $1000 was worth about four grand in today's money!

And of course our little adventures didn't always go without a hitch or two, especially when my old buddy Farthead came along.  On one occasion, for example, I got a call from Randy's wife Carrie.  It seemed that Randy wasn't booked that week, and he was driving her nuts hanging around the house.  Could I use him for some of the dances to get him out of her hair?  

"Sure Carrie, no sweat.  Have him come by tonight at 7!"

Seven O'clock came and went... no Farthead, then seven fifteen... seven twenty.  By seven thirty time was running out.  I sent the roadies and the crew over to the school with the equipment, I'd wait at the house for Randy.  Sure enough about 7:35 there he was, shuffling down the road from the subway.

"Hurry up dammit we're gonna be late!"  I yelled.

"Do you have beer?"  He hollered back

"Yeah, I got some Carlsburg in 'The Phantom!'"  "The Phantom" was a briefcase which could hold exactly 12 cans of beer, we used it to sneak brewskis into the schools.


"I aint drinkin' that goat piss!"

Uh, oh, I knew that a stop at the Brewer's Retail was now inevitable,   Randy would be completely useless without his '50!  After stocking up at the Beer Store we headed over to the school.  I was late, but relieved to see that Bob, and Doug had everything set up just fine.  The girls had stocked the tee-shirt stand, and now I'd parked the Greasemobile outside.  I only forgot one thing... Randy's '50.

The dance kicked off on time, the place was packed to the ceiling with greasers and greaser chicks, and all was well with the world until I heard Randy's voice whispering as loudly as one can whisper without actually shouting.

"Bergie, hey Berg... where's my '50?!"

Uh oh!  I knew that tone, Randy was going through serious '50 withdrawal.  Unless we could feed his habit all hell would break loose.  I quickly consulted with Doug and Bob.  We could empty The Phantom and fill it back up outside, but then we'd have to go past the front door which, by now, was manned by a couple of Toronto's Finest.  They might search the case.  We settled on plan "B."  We tied a couple of curtains we found back stage together, and fashioned a rope.  Doug went out to the truck while we lowered the "rope" down to the ground.  He couldn't get the beer to stay in the noose he'd fashioned, so... what the hell... he just tucked it under his arm, grabbed hold of the curtains and yelled "OK, haul me up!!"

You can only imagine the sight that ensued, Doug holding onto the beer with one arm, and grabbing the curtain for dear life with the other as 3 of us grunted and groaned and pulled him up the 2 story wall.  With the beer safely backstage, and Randy happy for the moment, we were sure that everything would go smoothly from this point on.

WRONG!!!

I'd brought Randy along to work the lights.  He knew what he was doing but suddenly, for some reason, the lights started flashing on and off and constantly changing colors.  I looked over to the lighting board and there was Farthead, drunker that a skunk and grinning like a loon, wildly throwing the light levers in all directions and laughing like an moron.

We hobbled through the dance with Randy basically incapacitated.  When we were finished, Randy and I went down to the dressing room while the crew packed up.  I was in the process of changing, when I heard a knock on the door.  A young lady to whom I'd given an album was asking for an autograph.  I'd taken off the top of my costume, but I didn't think much of that as I signed the record.  In retrospect,  the sound of Farthead cackling like a deranged chicken should have tipped me off... suddenly the girl's eyes went wide open, she let out a horrifying screech and took off down the hall as if she'd seen a ghost!

What the hell?  I turned around to encounter Randy, with his pants around his ankles, laughing like a loon as he bobbed his skinny, white, bare ass up and down.

The idiot had mooned one of the kids at the dance!!

Luckily the crew had packed everything up, and were ready to go as we high-tailed it out the back door.  We were never invited back to that school... wonder why!


3 comments:

  1. Pat, I think it's time to "take it on the road" again and re-live our youth. LOL

    Nancy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you guys still have your "poodle skirts"?

      Delete
  2. Ummm, nope, but I wish I did. You know, I could easily make some but I think it would be hard to find the saddle shoes. LOL

    ReplyDelete