Friday, November 09, 2007

My Unillustrated Robert Goulet Post

One of these days I will blog about life as an unmedicated ADD. It's not self-deprecating humor, it's a real medical diagnosis. I hated the meds I was on and quit them several years ago. They didn't help much anyway, so life is only a little more chaotic without them, but I lose things. I have piles of unsorted junk mail and paper scattered everywhere. I leave tasks unfinished, and I often take something out of its logical location, walk toward another place where I plan to use it, and somewhere along the way get distracted by the inevitable Something Shiny, drop the item randomly and find it years later. An expired check stuck in a pile of magazines. Old photos among recyclable paper on top of the printer.

Every single object I had planned to photograph, to illustrate this post, is missing in action. Photos of myself and my cousin. The Game. The Autograph. Days go by. The news about which I plan to blog gets old. I search the house but no luck yet.

Meanwhile maybe the Wash Your Car And It Rains Law will work for me here. If I give up and post this without them, then they'll show up and I can update it.

This is my very own Robert Goulet story.

In 1968, when we were 14, my mom took my cousin Emily (the same cousin whose dad took us emerald mining) and me to New York City for a wowzer of a week. To give us the full NY experience, she took us by train and we began the the trip by disembarking in Penn Station.

Charlotte, NC, home, was no backwater, and my mom had seen to it that I experienced live theatre by age 8 (a tour company of The Music Man), and good professional stock companies at that. Betty Grable came to town in Hello Dolly. (Dad was in charge of my music education and took me to concerts by Ella Fitzgerald and Benny Goodman.)

But real New York theater was still pretty impressive. We saw You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, The Fantastiks, Hal Holbrook in Man of La Mancha, and Robert Goulet in a little musical called The Happy Time.

Daytime was a wowzer, too. In the Metropolitan Museum I stood right in front of paintings I'd only seen in books. And we saw Central Park, the Automat, Times Square, Lincoln Center! Familiar to Emily and me from our favorite TV shows (That Girl! He and She!).

When I talk about my cousin Emily, it's closer to the truth if you think "sister." Our dads are brothers. She and I were the first members of our generation, were due together. She was a tad early and I was late so she beat me by a month. A few little brothers came along later, but Emily and I remained the only girls. The extended family, and most others with social ties to our grandmother, treated us like twins.

Our other favorite TV show was The Patty Duke Show. Emily and I look nothing alike. We are nothing alike, but we related, partly to Patty and Cathy's radically different personalities. Only a couple years ago she found The Patty Duke (Board) Game for me in an antique shop.

She's quick thinking, scientific (she's now a chemistry professor) and assertive. She walked into Big Name College and told them: "You need the courses I can teach," and they hired her. I'm timid and reclusive. She led, I followed, even in NYC which should have intimidated even her. But not much did.

We never considered getting autographs from the actors in the other musicals that week, but Goulet was Big Time Celebrity to anyone raised as I was, on Broadway musical cast albums, by a theater-buff mom.

To me, Julie Andrews was a star before she ever made a movie. I ran outside one day circa 1963, after reading the showbiz gossip in the Charlotte News and announced to my friend Sally: "Guess what! Julie Andrews is gonna be Mary Poppins in the movie!" Sally gave me a blank look.

And Goulet had been Julie's Lancelot in Camelot!!

So here we are, filing out of the theater after The Happy Time. Emily's got an idea: "Let's go around to the stage door and get his autograph!"

How she even knew this was possible, I can't imagine. To me, celebrities exited their performances by special Celebrity Portals to their Home Worlds and did not exist in ours. But my cousin, at 14, knew where to go and knew autograph hounds hung out there.

The stage door crowd was small. We waited ages. Then actors started wandering out. Lord help me, I ignored Charles Durning and David Wayne (!) I didn't know who they were (Our Finian's Rainbow recording was from a later revival, not the original that won Wayne a Tony). People lined up for signatures from Goulet. Emily was ahead of me. Then I stepped up to him and handed him my program. Overwhelmed. This was the guy in the Camelot record standing right in front of me.

He asked my name. I answered and stared at the ground. He signed my program, handed it back and said,

"Let me see your eyes." He put his hand under my chin and lifted my face and looked me in the eyes with a big smile. If he said anything else, it was lost in the buzzing in my ears. My memory ends at that point.

Did he know how to charm a shy 14-year-old, or what?

The picture stayed on my bulletin board for years. It's still here somewhere. Really.

So is my brain, but that's another story.


Sherwood Harrington said...

The automat! The automat! I loved that wonder of a place on the few trips to NYC my family made when I was a tyke.

Great story, Ruth. Between this and Mike Peterson's "No Regrets," I've had a very, very nice Sunday afternoon.

By the way, your first paragraph could have been written by my Diane. Combine ADD with a tiny touch of dyslexia, and there's someone who should never be any good at crossword puzzles -- but she is. Go figure. She has said for years that ADD isn't really an attention deficit so much as it's an attention difference. I don't understand it, but I can't disagree with it.

Mike said...

My memories of Robert Goulet are far more prosaic -- when he was a Canadian star, before "Camelot" -- he used to sing the DuMaurier jingle on commercials during "Hockey Night in Canada." And here I am today living just 40 miles north of where he butchered the national anthem before the second Ali/Liston fight. Your story is considerably more charming -- what a great guy!

As for Sherwood's comment, ADD makes it easier to do crossword puzzles -- as well as playing "Trivial Pursuit" and Jeopardy! -- because the brain makes loony, only semi-logical connections in an instant, so that, when Alex Trebek says "Russia," two dozen file drawers fly open in the ADD brain and it quickly becomes a matter of shutting the wrong ones rather than finding the right one. ADD people are great at these games -- but get trounced by Aspergers kids, who are even better at instantaneous irrelevance, which is at the heart of crossword puzzles, SATs and other silly games!