A Monologue for Actors
(At curtain, a late middle-aged man is straddling
a chair and facing the audience, drinking
from a bottle of whiskey. He stops drinking
briefly and for several seconds is lost in memory)
Everybody I know my age says the 1960s changed their lives. Maybe so. But, for me, it was the 50s. And my life wasn't just changed; it was ruined. Yeah. I know. You're thinkin', the fifties?! Wasn't that the dumb decade when everybody believed their government, watched 'I Love Lucy', opened doors for women, went to church and respected the FBI? What could have happened in the fifties that could have ruined this asshole's life? Maybe he's just drunk! Maybe he's not an actor at all, but just wandered in off the street! Right?!
God, I wish that was it. You see, It all started when I was a kid. I must'a been about thirteen. I was the best short stop in the school - maybe in the state! I could hit, catch, pitch, run! A batting average you wouldn't believe! Everybody wanted me on their team. Everybody! God, was I popular! I had IT, you know what I mean? I was the king; any girl I wanted!
(snaps his fingers)
Then all of a sudden something called 'rock and roll' music came along. I didn't know what the fuck it WAS. I didn't dance, for Christ's sake! I was king of sports! But baseball didn't matter, anymore. Guys who used to crowd around me in the diner goin' over batting averages and hanging onto every word I said were walking down the street singing! Singing shit like...like 'Tears on My Pillow'!...Tears on my pillow!?...'Lavender Blue'?! What the fuck was that?!...Lavender Green Dilly Dilly? Purple People Eater? And then it got worse: The air was full of shit like ‘Stupid Cupid,’ ‘Tutti Fruitti,’ ‘Tweedle Dee Dee,’ ‘Yakety Yak,’ ‘Splish Spash,’ ‘Hully Gully,’ ‘Peppermint Twist,’ ‘Mashed Potato,’ ‘My Boy Lollipop,’ ‘Baby Love,’ ‘Short, Fat Fanny,’ ‘Long, Tall Sally!’ ‘Knick Knack Paddy Whack’? ‘Bony Maroni’?
The second baseman was a pure jock for as long as I’d known him. A real macho type. Then one day I hear him singing something about ‘How Much is that Doggy in the Window’! The catcher was singing something called ‘A Rose and a Baby Ruth.’ A Rose…and a Baby Ruth? I still don’t get it.
And instead of forming baseball teams like before, guys all across the country started forming into little groups with weird names: Little Anthony & the Imperials, Johnny & the Hurricanes, Danny & the Juniors, Jivin’ Gene & the Jokers, Dion & the Belmonts. Dickie Doo and the Don'ts?! Who the fuck were they?!...And one by one every guy on my team stopped showing up for practice and started hanging around record shops and goin' to block dances. It was like...like some kind of invasion of the body snatchers.
(He flexes his muscles)
You know how many goddamned hours I spent lifting weights? I was already tall but I had to work damn hard at it to get big. And it worked: I had more girls around than...Man!..Then one day everything changed: Being big and strong wasn't in; girls who used to be nuts about my muscles and my height started salivating over guys with names like Little Richard and Little Anthony and Chubby Checker and Pee Wee Hunt and Bobby Short and... and Fats Domino! I mean, what the fuck! All of a sudden, if you were short and fat you were God!..And then, I’ll never forget the week I turned on the radio and I couldn't...understand... anything. I mean, and I swear on my ex-wife’s grave: nobody was singing English anymore: Vaya Con Dios, La Bamba, La Vie en Rose, Oh, Mein Papa!
And this one gorgeous cheer leader with Viagra-blue eyes and Cialis-blond curly hair who used to watch me play ball? She stopped coming. I saw her on the street one day and I called to her. I'll never forget, she turned around, kind of tilted her head and gave me a real weird look. Then she said, 'See you later, alligator,' and walked off...The body snatchers got her too...But the way she said it made me feel like I'd been shot! People say nothin' happened in the fifties?! Bullshit! Everything happened in the fifties!
Anyway - Just like that! (snaps his fingers) Nobody showed up to play. All of a sudden, guys that used to practically give me head just to be seen with me - all of a sudden they were jive-assin' around to something called 'rock around the clock' and acting real cool and hip. ‘Hep cats.’ The same girls who used to fucking adore me - they were off somewhere on a dance floor with some slick, pimply-faced runt with seven layers of clearasil on his nose; some skinny, scrawny, unathletic little prick with double-jointed hips and sideburns down to his ass and his greasy shirt collar up and a gooey duck's ass hairstyle and cleats on his shoes!
And now if a guy wants to be popular with women it ain't rock and roll, anymore. You know what it is? It's baseball. That's right. Only now, it isn't how well he plays, but how much he makes. And I know I could make a fortune if I played like I did in the fifties. But, now I'm too old...God, I hate the fifties.
When I think of the 50s, all I can say is: Fuck…Dick…Clark!
From the book The Go Go Dancer who Stole My Viagra & other Poetic Tragedies of Thailand
Copyright Dean Barrett 2015