My brother-in-law, a “Goodfellas” type from rugged Youngstown in Ohio, met my sister Sarah in 1958 at Indiana University in Bloomington where he played rugged football courtesy of an athletic scholarship just after serving as a rugged MP stationed with the rugged U.S. Army in rugged Alaska! Go Big Red!
One of the foremost reasons his pesky little sister-in-law, who relentlessly pestered him, loved this soul so dearly would be: Charles Eugene McBride, Jr. (a.k.a. “Mac”) adored/adores movies, musicals, and all of “show biz” itself unconditionally in any and all of its manifestations! Thanks to Big Mac, as a 12 year old and onward I got an early education with respect to grown-up cinematic bill of fare cuz I sometimes tagged along on his dates with my sis! THE LIST: “Sweet Bird of Youth”… “Psycho”… “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”… “BUtterfield 8” ….”The Young Philadelphians”…”Somebody Up There Likes Me”…”The Misfits”… “Dr. No” (First James Bond entry! Mac resembled Sean Connery!)…and especially “Ben-Hur” (with intermission and playbill book!) which served double duty as my 8th grade graduation present!
Thanks to my brother-in-law — of presently 53 years, I rode all the way to Warren, Ohio, to witness the Kenley Players’ (“America’s Most Exciting Summer Theatre”) production of “A Thousand Clowns” starring…IN PERSON…50s heart-throb movie star Van Johnson! And after lapsed Catholic Mac and Protestant Sarah married at the Grace Lutheran Church on Main Street in June of 1960, about two years into their union they bought all of us (the McBrides and the Duncans) tickets to the Indianapolis Starlight Players’ (originally “Stars Under the Stars” ) touring production of the musical “Little Me” featuring song and dance man Donald O’Connor who assumed the reins from funnyman Sid Caesar! (I also endured the Verdi opera “Aida” on that same stage as a part of “Girls’ State” in 1963. One of the oodles of Egyptian barefooted spear-and-palm-frond-carriers participated in the show-stopping, eye-popping prolonged “Triumphal March” while wearing tennis shoes and quickly got spotted by us “girls”! We giggled throughout the remainder of the four-hour spectacle/production!) Mac bonded with McLean Stevenson, who achieved international fame eventually as Lt. Colonel Henry Blake in the “Mash” TV series, when that other “Mac” portrayed Professor Harold Hill in the 1962 Wagon Wheel Playhouse’s “The Music Man”. So that I, a teenage chorus apprentice, might sing nightly alongside Mr. Stevenson, Mr. McBride occasionally delivered me to performances via a yellow 1959 Ford Skyliner Convertible!
For Mother’s Day and my birthday, which usually land on the same date, in retrospect I have enjoyed son Roy’s valedictory speech to Wabash College’s administrators, faculty, parents and students at his 1995 commencement as the top student in his graduating class — AND his leading roles in Metro-Detroit’s “Bells are Ringing”… “Rags”…”Company”… “Pajama Game”…”Oklahoma!” … and just last month ” Legally Blonde”, the musicalized version of the Reese Witherspoon tailor-made vehicle which assured her stardom forevermore! The blustery, surreal, Sunday afternoon sky contained every variety of cloud in the science textbooks — cumulus, nimbus, cirrus, cumulonimbus, cirrocumulus, stratus, and flat-bottomed yet towering darker than dark thunder-clouds! Somehow, the glorious sun also peeked through the troposphere simultaneously…GLOBAL WARMING IS ALIVE AND WELL! The show, a tour de force of ten energetic sold-out performances, bounced, glided, convulsed and amazed. Roy played the villainous Harvard law professor “Callahan” to sheer perfection. I, from my front row seat, gleefully clicked with the true “stars” of the show — a diminutive Chihuahua transported downstage and upstage via a tacky pocketbook, a “scene-stealing-scene-chewing” Rat Terrier, and my favorite actor (second only to Roy!) a singing UPS delivery man hysterically authentic in official brown shirt, cap, white socks, hiking boots, and Bermuda shorts!
Wonder of wonders! I frequently hearken back to a road trip Don and four-year-old Roy and my parents and I experienced, the highlight being a tour of Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan — unbeknownst to any of us that this “mitten” state would eventually become “little Roy’s” stomping grounds! Our “Wolverine” son recently returned from a Vegas business trip, reporting on the usual sight-seeing extravaganzas such as Hoover Dam, Caesar’s Palace, endless casinos, the glitz, the lights, the neon signs, the poker chips, one-armed bandits, glamorous show-girls, etc. However, the highlight of his stay emerged as gorgeous Shania Twain serenading her pet horse on stage while transforming romantic songs formerly aimed at a loyal husband (now EX!) who unfortunately strayed, losing his #1 ranking in her affections. Once again, we seem to — throughout life — continually cross virtual paths with Big Mac and sister/Aunt Sarah who lived in Las Vegas for several years!
Never would have dreamed that I would grow up to marry and become “mom” to a kid who would star in eight roles in Patrick Dennis’s (author also of “Auntie Mame”) vaudevillian romp entitled “Little Me” which will run for three weekends from July 11 to July 27 in neighboring Michigan — outdoors in a beautiful Ann Arbor park — with tickets available at www.pennyseats.org! Comedian Tim Allen’s commercials for his “adopted” favorite state entice tourists, and actor Jeff Daniels currently resides in Ann Arbor — I yearn to run into him one of these days! I’ve had experience myself fulfilling multiple roles in the musical “Stop the World…I Want To Get Off!” — British wife “Evie” to the hustler/politician Littlechap, as well as his German, American, Russian and Japanese mistresses! Life truly does follow patterns and themes!
As baseball legend Yogi Berra redundantly describes one’s journey through life, “It’s Déjà Vu all over again!” BTW, Big Mac, did I ever thank you for all of those tickets, specifically those providing for our familial viewing pleasure of that early 60s live summer fun-fest entitled “Little Me”? Well, consider it done, and we shall see if “little” 6′ 2″ Roy Sexton gives Sid Caesar and Donald O’Connor a run for their money! I’m bettin’ on it!