Sunday, June 04, 2017

Cringe-worthy Confessions of A Class Clown, Part 36

June 4, 2017
   Last night I attended a surprise birthday party for the first girl I ever kissed. 

That would be Jan Prefontaine, center, flanked by her daughter, Xandi, at left, who engineered the event, and, my first girlfriend, Karen Johnson Collins, at right. The boy, at bottom, is not the end result of my association with either woman. For one thing, he's too good looking.

   Whenever I attend these events, I run into old school mates, like Rusty Petry, who invariably remind me, first by their memories ("Remember that time you took off all your clothes. . ."), or, just by their very existence, of all the crazy, cringe-worthy things I have said and done in my long and tenuous reign as a Kingman Class Clown.

Confessions of A Class Clown, Part 36
   I don't remember anyone ever crowning me class clown, nor do I remember it being said with much respect ("Boze you are such a Bozo."), but I always knew if there was an opening for a laugh, I was going to take it.

   In eighth grade I had a history teacher who despised Billy the Kid. One fine spring day at Kingman Junior High School, Mr. Lomasney, said, with much contempt in his voice: "Billy the Kid shot everyone in the back." Sitting in the first row, stage right, I reposted—without raising my hand, by the way—"He didn't shoot 'em in the back, they just didn't turn around fast enough." It got a big laugh, and I got two swats for it. That was my first lesson in being a Class Clown: you will receive laughs, but it will always come at a cost.

   The cost I regret the most is hurting people's feelings for the sake of a laugh. Back in my wilder days, I was in a band called The Razz and we prided ourselves on being the musical equivalent of Saturday Night Live. In that vein I once sang these lyrics at an outdoor event in Tempe: "If everybody had a negro, across the U.S.A. . ." with the chorus, " Everybody'd be surfin', surfin' KKK." It was written by a friend of mine and the intention was not to be racist (we told ourselves) but rather it was an outrageous mocking of racism itself. But it doesn't matter what our intent was, because when I sang it at the event, we were on a riser , above the crowd, and I saw a black couple coming into the event, they heard the lyrics, and turned right around and went to their car to leave.

   I wish I had that one back.

   Other times I have upset people and it made me happy. I once gave a speech at a history conference in Tucson where I mocked the hero-worshipping of Wyatt Earp and after I finished my remarks and was leaving the stage I was accosted by an attorney (or, so he told me) who was literally foaming at the mouth. He got in my face and informed me I was a disgrace to the history profession and a liar and a scumbag, to boot. I just smiled and said, "You sure know a lot for being so damn dumb."

   The one area of Class Clownism I enjoy the most is the humor-fests involving my family. When Tommy and Deena bring their families to our house for the holidays, we always trade funny stories (and FYI: both my kids have taken the whole class clown thing to another level) and we have signature lines we use on each other. When, for example, Kathy regales us about some ridiculous, self-effacing episode in her professional life, she will often end with the line, "So I've got that going for me."

   It always gets a laugh, from me.

   Another of our family lines, comes from Wonderful Russ. One time we were driving to dinner in his car and as we rounded the curve on Tatum, going towards Shea, I looked over at the McDowell mountains and said, "Wow! Look at that!" Russ, who was driving, said, in a deadpan serious voice, "You look, I'm depressed." So now, whenever anyone tells any of us to look at anything, they get this line in return.

"I never wanted to be an editor. I never wanted to be a boss. I just wanted to write, and it didn't make any difference whether it was fiction or nonfiction or short stories or whatever. I just...that's what I was destined to do."
—Frank Deford

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