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CONTENTS
Backstage
 

The Loons of Anatevka
Facts of Life
Flycatcher
Tooth Fairy
The Latin Quarter
The Little Shoemakers
Whatta Waist!
Barre Fly
A Word From Our Leader
One Gypsy's Dream
Burst Your Appendix!
Jail Bait

AquaSpectacle
Chess Problem
Knock on Wood

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The Loons of Anatevka
by Larry Ross

     Whenever someone discovers that I was in the cast of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, invariably the first question is "Did you know Bette Midler?" Yes I did, but more about her at another time.
      What really made that company special? Besides being in a great show what made coming to the theater eight times a week such a joy?
      ° Lou Genevrino who looked like a truck driver but could dance as well as anyone.
      ° Mitch Thomas, who became rich owning several porn shops on Forty Second Street.
      ° Ross Gifford, who would go into the bathroom in his jockey shorts to vocalize and emerge with an erection.
      ° Lorenzo Bianco Schlick, who once told a German shepherd who was humping his leg that he was not homosexual - he only liked girl dogs.
     ° Duane Bodin ( I would need a book to write about him), also Charles (Chuck) Rule, Leonard Frey, Tommy Abbott, John C. Attle, Danny Jasinski, Jimmy Bronson, Bob Curry, Sammy Bayes, Don Atkinson, Bob Berdeen, and all the other crazies who dotted the landscape backstage at the Imperial Theatre.
      That said, one stands out; the unheralded leader of the loons, the unsung chairman of our "intensive care unit," was Sandor Gluck who played The Rabbi. Go know that this little old man who bordered on 150 years old
[Ed's note: Sandor was born in 1899.] would become the one whose memories I cherish most.
      The Rabbi (most people called him Rabbi on & off stage) had been Jerry Robbins' very first dance teacher when Jerry was just a little boy. Consequently when he was casting Fiddler he asked Sandor Gluck to perform the role of The Rabbi. Sandor accepted, but he didn't think that Sandor Gluck was a good name for Broadway. So he changed his name - to Gluck Sandor.
      Gluck had been a dancer all his life and at one time head choreographer for Paramount Pictures. He was creative, loaded with ideas, did beautiful things with his hands which were very similar to classic Indian dance, and would incorporate these hand movements into the character of the Rabbi.   
      Unfortunately, Jerry wasn't impressed and told Gluck at the end of one rehearsal that if he continued to do his "hand things" he could no longer "live in this Village."
      Gluck turned to me and said, "Do you know why he speaks to me that way? Because he loves me. Jerry only picks on people he likes."
      Years later I told that story to Tony Mordente who had done West Side Story for Jerry.
      Tony said, "If that's true he must have really loved me."
      During the run after we had become good friends I casually mentioned to Gluck that I had never been a good turner. All I could depend on was a double pirouette. He promised to teach me to turn, so after the opening number he would be waiting in the wings to take me into a narrow staircase and in a short time had me doing five pirouettes! And forever after he'd be waiting in the wings to continue our lessons. I could never rest.
      The "Rabbi" wore boxer shorts down to his knees which looked funny since he was under five feet tall. One day someone, maybe me, asked him if he wore those long boxer shorts to cover up his dick.
     "Yes, he said, causing everyone in the dressing room to scream, "Show us your dick, Rabbi, show us your dick!"
     Which he did. Gluck had no inhibitions or hesitations. He dropped his draws and out rolled this thing. Where the hell did it come from? He was just a little, old man.
      I asked him if he could go down on himself. He said he used to but discovered it was easier letting someone else to go down on him.

     This was when when organ transplants were just beginning. I know it was me who asked him if I could have his dick transplanted to me when he was gone. He agreed, but it never happened. I remain a creature of intense deprivation.
     I asked if he still had sex at his age. He said yes, every Friday. With who? I asked. It didn't matter. Anything; male, female, dog, cat, snake, himself, etc. I believe him.
     Eventually I got the role of Mendel, the Rabbi's son which kept Gluck and I together all through the show. Sometimes we would be standing in the wings preparing to go on and to get into character I would ask The Rabbi a Talmudic question, waiting for a wise and holy answer.
     Once, trying to be cute, I said "Rabbi, what's more important, fucking or sucking?"
     Without hesitation or batting an eyelash and in character he turned to me with that wise old face and said,

     "Fucking is more important, my son. Sucking is just a, ‘How do you do?'" And terribly pious, we walked on stage.
      Everyone loved the "Rabbi." Including Jerry. I still think of him, and picture his teeny face with teeth worn down to nubs. One Saturday night he left the theater, went to Eighth Avenue for a cab to go home, was hit by a car, and I never saw him again.—


Facts of Life

July 30, ‘07. Paint Your Wagon, 1952. My first steady job as a dancer and with time between dance numbers, I began to fill gaps in my education.
      Whether a person was straight or gay meant nothing to me one way or the other, and for a female virgin (not rare in the 1950s), I understood that a date with a gay man was "safe." But that women might actually prefer gay men was puzzling.
      At ballet class I was rebuffed by one of the female dancers whom I'd asked to go to a dance concert. Another man explained. "She's a faggot's moll." Thus I learned about attractive women who never went out with straight men.
      I brought this up backstage, asking several of Paint You Wagon's women dancers if they went out with gay men.
     "Of course we do. They're gentlemen and wonderful dates. They know how to dress, how to order food and wine, they treat you like a lady, hold doors and chairs, and can talk about any subject!"
     "You mean girl talk."
     "No! They're much more cultivated than you. And they have more than one thing on their mind."
     "You mean, there's one thing they don't have on their mind."
     "Right!"
     "Is that what you really want?"
     "Why not? It's a relief to be with somebody who's not undressing you with his eyes or cruising every other woman in the room."
     "They're cruising the men!"
     "Not on a date. They know how to behave in public."
     "What about in private?"
     "If you must know, they're better in the sack too!"
      I was dumbfounded. "They don't do it with women!"
      Hoots of laughter. "How do you know?"
     "How do you know?" All stared at me pityingly.
     "When a gal wants a simple roll in the hay, a gay man is better every time!"
      I was shocked, and it showed.
     "Poor baby. He doesn't know the facts of life!"
     "It's time he learned."
     "Did we upset him?"
     "Is 'ums jealous?"
Stuart Hodes


Flycatcher
(Penis Papers #4)

Do Re Mi St. James Theater (1961). (Photo: Lehman Engle) Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, had the intriguing premise that everyone goes "on stage" and "off stage" in the course of a day. This was not really news to show folk although seeing it confirmed by an esteemed sociological scholar was heartening.
Lehman Engle       Lehman Engle, an esteemed musical theater scholar. was seriously "on stage" at the podium, also when rehearsing and giving lectures. This story concerns the backstage and very off stage Lehman Engle.
      Our dance captain, Chad Block, a country boy from Twin Falls, Idaho, may have been an exception to Goffman's premise because as far as I could tell, Chad was Chad at all times. He and his gorgeous wife, Carmen Alvarez, went to church on Sundays when they were in the same town. They'd met in Li'l Abner, but after that were never in the same show. So when Chad was on the road, many a show gypsy was eager to comfort him. Chad always declined, equally polite to both females and males, although males were rare since Chad's preference was well established. Not that Chad was a prude or shy about his endowment which was, in fact, a Broadway legend.
      In Do Re Mi, after Act I, Engle would climb the stairs to his dressing room just when Chad was descending. When they passed, Engle would usually make a playful grab at Chad's fly. One day Chad gathered a few of us and said to hide on the stairwell to watch him play a trick on Engle.
      They approached, Chad with a mischievous smile that likely encouraged Engle. As his hand snaked toward Chad's fly, Chad grabbed his wrist with one hand, whipped his penis out of his open pants with his other and slapped it into Engle's palm.
      Engle jerked back as if burned. "You bitch!" and raced up the stairs.
      Laughing heads popped out above and below. "I thought you liked cocks!" yelled Chad after him.
     "I'll get you tomorrow!" said Engle.
     "Promises, promises," called Chad. as Engle's dressingroom door slammed shut.
Stuart Hodes


Tooth Fairy

Kismet, Ziegfeld Theater. 1955. There were two male dancers, Ronald Field and me. Listed in the program as Akbar and Aziz, they were only in Act I, except for bows taken at the end. During Act II Ronnie and I read, wrote letters, listened to the radio, and talked.
      One day Ronnie told me he'd been to the dentist for the first time in five years. "I have 31 cavities."
      I sat bolt upright. "You only have 32 teeth!"
     "Some teeth have two cavities. One has three."
     "Did you have any filled?"
     "No. I want them all filled at once."
     "I never heard of that."
     "Neither did my dentist."
     "But you have to hold your mouth open."
     "There must one dentist in Manhattan who will put me to sleep, have assistants to hold my head and prop my mouth open, And when I wake up it will be over. Every cavity filled."
      A few days later he said he'd found a dentist who would not only do it his way but start the job at midnight after the Saturday show. He'd go straight from the theater to the dentist's office driven by a friend who would wait and drive him home. Then he'd sleep all day Sunday and most of Monday.
      When the fateful Saturday came, I wished him luck.
      Monday, he signed in as usual.
     "Well?"
     "Well what?"
      I tapped a finger on my teeth. "How was it?"
     "I don't know. I was asleep." He exposed a Cheshire smile. "Not one cavity! I don't understand why everyone doesn't do it my way."—Stuart Hodes


The Latin Quarter

The Latin Quarter (2), 1958 (Photo: with Lisa Rose, backstage)There was (and still is) no "dancer's union" so Stuart and Lisa Rose, Latin Quarterdancers must join different unions depending on where hired. For Martha Graham's troupe, the American Guild of Musical Artists, for Paint Your Wagon, Chorus Equity Association, for the Latin Quarter, a night club, the American Guild of Variety Artists.
    AGVA required a trip to the police station to be photographed, finger printed, and given an ID card. This didn't seem like a big deal then (although after years of legal wrangling it ended) and I was pleased to be listed as an "Entertainer," which seemed rather grand since I did not sing, tell jokes, or otherwise amuse audiences all by myself, which is what I thought entertainers should be able to do.
     The Latin Quarter paid about $50 more than a Broadway chorus but it was two shows a night, three on Saturday, and no day off. Dance Captain, Lisa Rose, said if I needed one to call in sick. My plan was to stay until I could land something in a musical, which took me about three months.
      The house production book-ended the star's act, half-hour opening and twenty minute closing, the star doing an hour between. We had so little to do with the star that the only one I recall is Rosalind Russell, her act staged by Jack Cole with Ronnie Field dancing in it.
     In the house production I played a Genie emerging from a smoke bomb, a song-and-dance-man in a panama hat, and an army sergeant. The numbers were written by and featured Pony Sherrill, fortyish, five-foot-five, metallic blond hair, five pounds lighter than plump, with an "I've seen it all" look. On the final night of the production, I was surprised to see that Pony was trashing the final show.  This is a major no-no on Broadway. On the last night of Bless You All, in Act I two showgirls made unscripted goo-goo eyes at Jules Munshin, to be fired the instant they came off stage, left backstage weeping and wailing until the final curtain.
    But Pony, our writer and star, was doing it so I followed. Her last song was on a cone-shaped platform, after which I, as an army sergeant, climbed up, gave her my arm, and squired her down the steps on my knees. She broke up on stage. Two weeks later I was hired as a replacement in By The Beautiful Sea.— Stuart Hodes


The Little Shoemakers

   Broadway scuttlebutt used to say that no Irish musical had ever made it big while no Jewish musical ever bombed. Milk and Honey, in the second category, had a functional book which slightly tweaked the "formula," three romantic couples instead of two, plus a bevy of widows, led by Molly Picon, hoping to snag a husband in Israel. But the show's real jewel was Jerry Herman and his songs. It was his first musical.
      After the show settled into its run, I came across a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Little Shoemakers, that seemed perfect for a musical, But how does a story become a musical? I decided to get something on paper, so wrote Act I. Scene I, including lyrics of an opening song plus a scenario of the entire show.
      I knew the story would have to be optioned and was idly talking about it with several of the older actresses who played the widows.. When I mentioned Isaac Bashevis Singer, one said,
     "Bashevis? You want to make a musical out of Bashevis? Which Bashevis?'
     "The Little Shoemakers. Have you read it?"
     "I've read everything Bashevis ever wrote."
     "Do you think he'd sell me an option, I mean at a price I could afford?"
     "Stuart, listen to me. When you want this option, tell me. I'll go to Bashevis and say, ‘Bashevis, give Stuart an option!'"
      I was wondering how she could manage that until one of the others said she'd been Singer's mistress for years.
     Next was a composer and who better than Jerry Herman who was frequently backstage? When I mentioned the idea he smiled but said he was already committed to a new project. (It turned out to be Hello, Dolly!)
     In the intermission, musicians rushed into the basement for poker. One wanted to become a producer so I told him about Shoemakers and that I had a treatment. He took it home but returned it a few days later saying it didn't follow the rules.
     "What rules?"
     "All of them. There's no primary love interest, No secondary love interest. There's no dramatic objective."
    I decided he'd been taking Lehman Engle's workshops which spelled out exactly what ingredients a musical had to have. Mine had none that Engle listed, yet the story of a man who escapes mortal danger but loses his family and his mind in Act I, to reach safety, get back family and mind in Act II is exquisitely dramatic.
      All it needed was great songs, an inspired director, and sublime performers. I'd also welcome a co-writer for the book. To get all that together took a producer and finding one was my next job. But as usual, dance tore me away.
   The Little Shoemakers is still a great idea for a musical!  If you don't believe me, read it yourself.
Stuart Hodes


Whatta Waist!

Tony DeVecchiMilk and Honey, NYC, 1961. (Photo: Tony DeVecchi with axe.) 
       Everyone admired Anthony DeVecchi's physique and so did he, although with such innocent delight he never came off as vain. A pocket-sized Mr. Universe, he'd surely done body-building along with his dance classes. That plus a good audition assured his presence in Milk and Honey whose producers liked the idea of his bare-chested splendor among the men making the desert bloom.
      One day, before going on stage, Tony carefully checked his image in the full-length mirror, then commented, "You know I have a very good waist."
      And indeed he did, size 28, if that, with hard chiseled abs flaring into a beautifully muscled chest. He continued to stare at his image.
     "People look at me and say, "Whatta waist!"
     He seemed genuinely puzzled when the entire men's dressing room exploded.
Stuart Hodes


Barre Fly

Annie Get Your Gun, NY City Center 1958. (Photo by Alix Jeffrey: Center: Betty Jane Watson, Right: Stuart Hodes.).Annie Get Your Gun, NYC Shortly after dancing the Wild Horse in the NBC TV production of Annie Get Your Gun, starring Mary Martin, choreographer, Helen Tamiris, called me to dance the same role in a NYC City Center revival starring Martha Raye. (Raye never showed up so Betty Jane Watson took over)
      City Center paid minimal salaries so all I could ask for was billing, which Tamiris promised. My contract was "white," a principal's contract instead of chorus pink but nowhere was billing mentioned. When I pointed this out to the assistant producer, he assured me I'd get billing. Like an idiot, I signed.
      On my way to rehearsal a couple of weeks later, I bought a NY Times, saw the Annie Get Your Gun ad. It was without my name. Furious, I confronted producer, Jean Dalrymple, who said, "It's not in your contract!"
      Back in the studio, Tamiris urged me to lodge a grievance with Actors Equity saying she would back me up. I thought it over while giving myself a fierce fury-fueled barre. An hour later, pouring sweat, all I wanted to do was dance.—Stuart Hodes


A Word From Our Leader

Do Re Mi, Philadelphia, 1960. On the first day of rehearsal we were told it was David Merrick's big show for the year, but in Philadelphia it ran into trouble. Writer/director Garson Kanin was constantly rewriting and every rehearsal brought a new scene order. Sometimes we'd arrive at half hour to see a bulletin board notice that yet another scene had been switched for that night's performance.
      After the final curtain we'd relax at The Variety Club, a cozy actors' hideaway above street level with a bar and comfortable chairs. One night, singer, Dawn Nickerson, arrived and mentioned that she'd asked David Merrick if the show was improving. All eyes turned to Dawn, who hesitated but finally came out with it.
     "David said, ‘It's a pile of shit. The more you stir it, the more it stinks.'"— Stuart Hodes

One Gypsy's Dream
by Elizabeth Hodes

The Ambassador, 1972    I was assisting choreographer, Joyce Trisler, and on the lunch break we'd grab yogurts and keep working while the cast headed out. One dancer, however, would always find a quiet corner where he'd sit munching a sandwich and writing in a note book
     One day I said, "Hey, Nick, Don't you want get out of this sweat shop for an hour?" He told me he was working on a project of his own, finally admitting it was the libretto for a new musical.
      "Oh, good for you," I said, thinking: Everybody needs a dream.
      Two years later I saw Nicholas Dante's dream at the Public Theater: "A Chorus Line."—


Burst Your Appendix!
by Forrest Bonshire

Look Ma, I'm Dancin'! Adelphi Theater, 1948. In the Philadelphia try-outs, Jerome Robbins started complaining about pain in his lower abdomen but it did not stop him from giving us hell in rehearsals. After a particularly foul day, Richard D'Arcy said it was time we did something about it. On the next matinee day we each brought a candle and a spoon to the theater and between shows gathered in the men's dressing room. With a lipstick, D'Arcy drew a stick figure on the mirror with a red stream spewing from a gash in its abdomen, We lit the candles, turned out the lights, and rhythmically beat our spoons on the metal table tops while chanting: "Burst your appendix! Burst your appendix!"
      Suddenly Robbins appeared in the doorway and the bedlam died. We stared at him and he stared back. When he realized just what we were doing, he turned deadly pale, croaked,   "Everyone, bread and water for a week!" turned on his heel and left.
     A few days later the pain in his abdomen worsened, he checked into a hospital and his appendix was removed.
      When Look Ma opened in NYC, Dick D'Arcy arrived at the Adelphi Theater to find a gift-wrapped box on his dressing table. The note read, "I thought you might be needing more of these. Jerry " Inside were a dozen black candles. —


Jail Bait

First Impressions 1959. NYC.    By any physical standard, Olivia (not her real name) was a fully-grown and strikingly beautiful woman. But she was 15 years old so Actors Equity rules demanded a backstage chaperone.  She was left out of backstage gossip and when the show went to Philadelphia for try-outs, an affair was out of the question since not a man in the cast would give her the necessary cooperation.
     On Saturday, the day we were to return to NYC after the evening show, Olivia's chaperone left for NYC.  Between shows I passed her dressing room, glanced through the wide open door to see her posed by the window staring out at the view. She was wearing a large feathered hat, high heeled shoes, and nothing else. In the next half hour most every one in the cast found it necessary to pass by that dressing room.
     "What in hell is Olivia doing?" I asked Wendy Nickerson.
     "Showing you guys what you missed."
Stuart Hodes


Esther Williams AquaSpectacle

Esther Williams AquaSpectacle, NBC TV, 1958.     At the end of first day of wet rehearsal, Williams invited me to swim laps. I stayed a stroke behind as she swam steadily, making a smooth flip turn at each end of the pool – five laps, seven, ten.  After twelve laps I'd had enough. Rationalizing that I'd been dancing and swimming all day, I climbed out and watched her swim another dozen.  It was like watching Maria Tallchief take ballet class.
      Williams wore a flowered bikini that revealed perfection in every square inch of tawny skin. From a charm bracelet dangled gold profiles of her children. Francis Rainer, a chorus dancer and swimmer, asked about them and Williams let us gather about as she named and described each. Afterward, Rainer said wonderingly, "Three kids and not one stretch mark!"
      For the second week of rehearsal, we left Manhattan's Henry Hudson Hotel for NBC's cavernous Brooklyn studio where Williams wore a white bikini, the chorus in black. The pool was circular with a camera island in the middle. For the water ballet, the camera picked her up emerging from a huge clam shell, then dollied back as she tripped lightly through a picturesque grotto lined with women in mermaid costumes.
      On the diving platform Williams studied a TV monitor, stopped the shot and turned to the nearest mermaid. "Step back a little please." When the mermaid was up against the grotto wall, Williams checked the monitor then said politely, "You see, dear, you were on the screen."
      A goddess on the screen has no need for mermaids whether the director wants them there or not.
      I was the water ballet's counter, swimming just behind and to Williams's right yelling, "... five, six, seven, turn!" and she would lead us into a well-rehearsed turn.
      Showtime. On the air! " ... five, six, seven, turn!" Williams swam serenely on followed by everybody but me.  In two strokes they were a dozen feet away. I dove under, frog kicked frantically until I could surface beside Williams, hoping the director had zoomed in on her during my unexpected solo. — Stuart Hodes


Chess Problem

      Do Re Mi, St. James Theater, 1962. (Photo: l to r, Phil Silvers, David Gold with mouth open, David Burns running, Josephine Lang in white topper, Dawn Nickerson Fox in turban, and Stuart Hodes, also mouth open.) George Mathews, a dough-faced actor who played heavies in countless movies, TV, and Broadway shows, played a thug in Do Re Mi. Like Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz, he was as lovable in real life as his stage characters were fearsome. Mathews was an avid chess player and a member of the Manhattan Chess Club.  When he heard I played, he suggested we have a game.
Do Re Mi Crowd Scene       I'd played chess as a kid but my interest skyrocketed when bus touring with Martha Graham. A game could swallow an hour or more, and with a portable set and plug-in pieces I played several games a day. Between legs of the tour I read chess books, subscribed to Chess Review, and played by mail.
      Matthews and I set up boards in our dressingrooms and passed moves back and forth on slips of paper. We had busy roles and could only complete two or three moves a show but in less than a week and still in the middle game, I had him check-mated.
      Mathews congratulated me warmly and gave me a copy of Chess Review with the Manhattan Chess Club on its cover, himself proudly among them. I was ready for another game but Mathews said I was too good for him, that my style was like Blackburne. This was nuts and I told him so. Joseph Henry Blackburne, "the Black Death," was England's greatest player of the 19th Century. But Mathews spread the word that I was some sort of chess whiz and a few days later said he'd found me a worthy opponent, Billy Hammerstein, son of Oscar II, who was stage managing Come Blow Your Horn a few blocks away. Our match was set in six weeks and meanwhile he'd help me sharpen my game. Then I heard that our stage hands were betting on me.
      This was scary.  I protested to Matthew that I'd just gotten lucky. "No such thing as luck in chess," he replied. Yet in a way, there is. My mind on the show, pondering moves between numbers, no pressure – I'd simply outplayed myself.  It would be different head-to-head across the board, watched by half the cast and stage hands who had money riding on me.
      I had to stop it but could think of no way other than weasling out  Then Do Re Mi put up a closing notice – six weeks – after which it would begin a national tour. Anyone who declined the tour was on two week's notice. My match was four weeks away. Chess problem solved!
Stuart Hodes


Knock On Wood

Paint Your Wagon, 1952  (Photo: Mother Duncan)Mother Duncan
      I stopped whistling backstage when I heard it was bad luck. I learned another theater superstition when dancer, Jean Houlouse, brought chicken wire and white fabric to the Schubert Theater basement and began to sculpt something. Wardrobe mistress, Mother Duncan, asked what it was.
     "It's going to be a pair of doves."
     "You mean birds?"
     "Yes."
     "Stop! Take ‘em out! Birds is bad luck in theaters! Get ‘em out!"
      Mother Duncan ruled the basement of the Schubert Theater. It was said she'd been a performer back when the only important talent was looks. She was too short to have been a show girl, but with her large blue eyes, heart-shaped face, clear skin, and warm smile, she would have made an adorable "pony." Alert in her seventies, backstage was her element. Dancers hung out in the basement and even did warm-ups there, but not singers because Mother Duncan wouldn't allow them to use their big voices for anything but conversation.
      My own superstitions surfaced after lead dancer, James Mitchell, broke his foot on a Tuesday night. I was his understudy and came in early Wednesday to practice the flying catch with Gemze DeLappe. Mother Duncan offered me Mitchell's costume but it seemed ghoulish, and since we both played gold miners, I said I'd wear my own. I didn't consider that Mitchell, the romantic lead, wore colors that blended and his pants were fitted while I wore mismatched plaids and my pants hung loose.
(Photo: Stuart, Wagon miner's costume.)
Paint Your Wagon       Martha Graham came to that matinee and afterward sent back a note: "You cannot dance the romantic lead in baggy pants. Tonight you will wear pants so tight, everyone in the last row of the balcony will be able to count your buttocks!"
      So back to Mother Duncan for Mitchell's costume and that evening Gemze flew past me and landed on the floor. After the show I returned Mitchell's pants and asked Mother Duncan to refit my own. Next day Gemze and I practiced for two hours. That evening before going on stage I knocked on a wooden stage flat in the wings. The flying catch was perfect.
      After that I was afraid not to knock on wood because you don't kick a winner in the teeth. When I was an army pilot I was afraid not to wear the RayBan sunglasses in which I'd soloed, and after each bombing mission, I waited for our navigator to stick his head into the astrodome, a transparent bubble in the nose where he could see me in the pilot's seat, hold up a finger for each mission we'd flown and make the "OK" sign.
      The Paint Your Wagon duet took place in a frontier bar. Waiting in the wings, I'd rap on the flat, then enter and sit with Gemze at a rickety table. One day, nervous about the catch, I gave the wooden table a surreptitious knock. The lift went well so I kept knocking on the table. A week later it hit me; I am knocking on wood in front of the whole damn audience! Mad at myself, I stopped knocking on wood altogether.
      All Wagon singers and dancers were required to have real beards, but for Mitchell's role, I was told to shave mine. I dressed in the chorus room beside Bob Morrow, whose wispy beard made him look like Fu Manchu. Since taking over the dancing lead, I'd noticed that Morrow had grown surly. Maybe he'd wanted to be Mitchell's understudy or maybe he had a crush on Mitchell. I payed it no mind until a matinee when I came in to see his mirror smeared with thick wavy lipstick lines tipped with arrows pointing in my direction. Morrow arrived, sat without comment and began to apply makeup.
     "Bob?" He eyes flickered toward me. "Is that a hex?"
      He looked at me cooly. "Yes."
      I said nothing. Then, "I have a friend who's a witch, a real witch, not a phony like you. We'll see about hexes." I was bluffing of course, but it made Morrow nervous.
      After the matinee I rushed home and emptied out a metal Russell Stover candy box with a hinged lid and hook fastener. I cut half a dozen furry leaves from a big potted begonia, packed them into the box, hooked the lid, gift wrapped it, and attached a card: "Bobby." Well before half-hour, I set the box in the middle of Morrow's dressing space and began my make-up.
     Morrow arrived, saw the prettily wrapped box, squealed, "Oh! From one of my admirers!" unwrapped it, and raised the lid. The hairy begonia leaves slowly expanded, a nasty half-alive looking blob.
     Morrow gasped, rose, hands on his cheeks, staggered back, knocking over his chair, lurched into the toilet and locked the door. I could hear him gasping inside.
     "Bob, it was just a joke!" The gasps turned to sobs.
     I went back to his dressing space, removed the evil leaves, wiped clean his squiggly hex, then back to the toilet where I pleaded, "Both hexes are gone. Bob, please come out!"
      He quieted down but didn't come out until "Five minutes" was called.
      Somehow, this incident left no bad blood between us, making me glad I hadn't had time to get something really nasty like raw fish guts or whole severed chicken heads
.—Stuart Hodes

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