By Larry Teren
We were simple six year old boys looking to show off at our school talent show. Perry convinced me he had a great idea, and it did seem so at the time. I got my Andy Warhol abbreviated ten minutes minutes of fame imitating Frazier Thomas, the fat amiable host of a very popular television show in Chicago for kids called Garfield Goose.
The goose was a puppet who could not talk but made a hard clomping noise by dropping his long beak down on the lower jaw. There were also double-take looks and other expressions that were well known to the viewing audience.
Perry got a Garfield Goose puppet and decided I was going to be the fat Frazier even though I wasn’t even two hundred pounds close- thanks a lot! I agreed in order to get a chance to show off and we came up with a familiar skit where I was talking to the puppet and the phone rings. We then were supposed to engage in animated conversation on the phone doing the typical double takes. (Not bad for six year old’s, huh? Moss Hart, move over!)
Our fifteen minutes of fame happened and it turned into a revelation of how applause provided a rush. We started out the skit with the phone on a stand and somehow we had a device that made the sound of an old-fashioned telephone ring. On cue, it rang, and I, good old Mr. Thomas, picked up the receiver to answer and start talking. As I was going through a pretend conversation for what seemed like two minutes, the audience was in convulsive laughter and I look bewildered. Couldn’t understand why. My dialog was really not that funny- it was supposed to be Garfield Goose that we were trying to sell to the crowd.
Both Perry and I simultaneously looked down and saw that the cord had become unattached to the rest of the phone. Here I was having a dramatic conversation on a dead phone with someone allegedly on the other end of line. I guess the audience thought it was part of the act and that I was a marvelous actor who knew how to feign confused drama. We were a smash and now had the audience on our side. I recall doing an ad-lib to explain the problem with the broken wire just as if I was Frazier explaining to the kids in the tv audience why Garfield Goose was throwing a conniption fit. Perry did his jaw chomping exasperated Garfield Goose reaction very realistically. Of course, we accepted the audience approval and let everyone go home thinking they knew exactly how acts like Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner started out.
We did not win, however, the award for the best act. That was because sweet Carmela did a musical number with her own choreography from South Pacific. I don’t recall if it was Bali High or I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair. It didn’t matter- in kindergarten and first grade, everyone in our class knew Carmela had sex appeal. Of course, at the time we didn’t know that’s what it was called. She had on a hula skirt and waved her hands side to side. Years later, I think of Sally Field saying at the Oscars ceremony, “You really like me!” and believe that given the opportunity Carmela would have grabbed the mike, if there had been one, and said the same.
Perry was my best friend at the time. In fact, we maintained a close friendship for more than twenty-five years. We haven’t spoken since the mid-1980’s, but that’s okay.
During our youth we hung out and played together. Perry was two months older than me, but more often acted like a big brother. There was a cost to his benevolence as time went by. He too often set me up for embarrassment under the guise of his helping hand. You know the old saying, “With friends like this, who needs enemies?”
There was the time when we were in our late twenties and we both eyed the same girl at a singles event in a typical dimly lit room. Perry went out with her and told me that she was nice but not for him. He said he thought that she liked me and that I should ask her out. I did but he neglected to tell me that she had an artificial leg which made for an awkward evening. That’s all I’m saying.