I’m Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. Disney


(Warning…This has nothing to do with the summer place…This is from a Blog I started and never continued…I just can’t remember the password.):

During the 1950s, television was the new technology on the block.  We didn’t have a TV set until I was two.  Even after we had the TV, radio shows dominated our household. Soaps and songs during the day on the radio.  Wrestling, Boxing, and Uncle Miltie on TV when Dad came home. Eventually my parents allowed me to watch Judy Garland movies,World War II newsreels, and cooking shows on TV during the day.  WGN developed the first decent children’s programming. Soon Captain Kangaroo, Ding Dong School with Miss Frances, and Romper Room replaced the newsreels and cooking shows – not the Judy Garland movies.

By 1955, Disney got into the children’s programming act with the Mickey Mouse Club, and I finally knew what I wanted to be when I grew up – a Mouseketeer.  I could sing…Mom taught me every Christmas carol out there.  I picked up lyrics quickly from listening to the radio and TV.  Dad taught me a few songs which included “Pistol, Packin’ Mama,” and “The Rose of Tralee.”  I sang with the radio, with the TV, with the record player, with my parents, in the car, to my dolls, to anyone who would listen.  I was ready…All I needed were tap shoes.  I didn’t know how to dance, but making noise with shoes seemed easy enough…Judy Garland did it all the time.

I bugged my parents so much about dancing, that they finally enrolled me in ballet class.  For fifty cents a week, I learned how to point my toe, tap, tap, tap, arabesque; and sway to the rhythm of “Lovely Hula Hands.”

At the age of four, paying attention to an adult  other than one of my parents proved difficult.  Rather than pointing my toe  and tapping as directed, I honed my comedic skills.  On a particularly hot day, I stopped in the middle of hula hands and announced loudly to everyone within earshot, “You know…it’s hotter than hell in here!”  Another time while pointing my toe,  I asked the entire class loudly, “Have you ever seen a mouse in high heels?”  No one did.  “Minnie Mouse!” Loud laughs from the kids. Frowns from the teacher.   Mom died of embarrassment every week.  One of the other moms confided that she would pay fifty cents a week just to hear what would come out of my mouth next.  Ballet lessons ended soon after that.

Enter first grade.  I attended first grade at Resurrection Elementary School on Chicago’s West Side – the same elementary school my father attended.  All the nuns knew him, and they quickly got to know me.  I spent a lot of time in the office for little things – like locking myself in the lavatory.  Resurrection had a wonderful auditorium complete with stage, professional lighting, sound, curtains…you name it.  The entire school gathered for student performances – especially around the big holidays like Christmas.  First graders are always the stars Christmas performances.  Our first grade was no different.  Mrs. Leslie, our teacher, herded us into someone else’s class and told us to sit.  Before we knew it we were herded out on the stage…with Santa Claus a.k.a. Monsignor Gorman. Surprise! Surprise! – we were the guest stars.  I was thrilled.  A stage, and 1,500 kids in the audience – Wow!  Double Wow! I was ready for my audition. Being short, I was the third kid in line, and Santa Claus decided to interview a few of us.  The usual questions were asked along with a few easy catechism questions – it was a Catholic school.  Then the kids were asked to sing a song.  Overcome with stage fright, the kids in front of me cried over Jingle Bells.  My turn. I might not be able to demonstrate my mastery of the hula,  but I could sing and I knew the answers to the all important catechism questions.  I passed the catechism questions with flying colors,  now it was song request time.  “Can you sing us something,  Marianne?” Even the priest knew me.  “I can sing O Come All Ye Faithful in Latin!”  O..K…Not a problem.  Sister Mary On The Piano accompanied magnificently, and I belted out O Come All Ye Faithful in English and Latin.  Standing ovation.  Took my bow, received a cardboard crèche to take home, and Father Santa Claus, suggested to the nun at the piano – who was also in charge of choir – that I should be recruited.
Upon arriving home, I went to my play area near the kitchen  The cardboard crèche beckoned.

Now, my mother could crochet a replica of anything that stood still long enough to be analyzed, and often gave lessons in the art.  One of the neighborhood kids – Suzie Carroll – came for lessons weekly.  I didn’t like Suzie much.  She was three years older, bossy and a tattle tale.  I avoided her like the plague.  She barged into our kitchen that afternoon and started shouting, “Mrs. O’Keefe!  Mrs. O’Keefe!  Guess what Marianne did today!”  Mom looked at me.  Now what?  More office time?  Locked yourself in the lavatory again?  Fortunately Suzie took a deep breath and concluded her blurt..She sang O Come All Ye Faithful in Latin to the entire school!”  Saved by the Suzie.  Suzie looked less plague-like.

Although Uncle Walt never heard about my audition, I achieved the stardom I craved.  I led our class in song during music. I was in every children’s choir performance (two more before we moved to the burbs). During recess, I gave lessons to O Come All Ye Faithful in Latin.  I never locked myself in the lavatory again, either.


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