Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lemon-Haired Lady Lorane

      (Although premature, possibly inappropriate even, I felt it only fair - to me - to provide just a glimpse of autobiography today, my birthday.  It is also something of a canard, really, to include myself among the lemon-haired as for at least sixty years, that I recall, I've decidedly been a brunette. But, as I'm sure you'll agree, my friends, stuff indeed happens - like gray hair brazenly sprouting from an erstwhile pristinely uniform sable pelt.  Further punctuating the need to put a halt to this pernicious progression was the fact that I was - and continued to be - an olive-skinned brunette. 
      There are those (all of the women in my husband's family come to mind) who are simply beautiful 'white blondes'.  Just recently, while talking to Jennifer, daughter of stunning Jackie whose carefully disheveled, high/low-lighted tresses augmented many a closing of million dollar business deals, Jennifer - last seen by ME sporting just-short-of-raven locks that graced her hips, allowed as how after each wrenching hospital visit with her mother, now in extremis, she'd rush home to try even harder to achieve the whitest blond possible for her now smartly-bobbed, vixen-do.
      So VERY soon after the intrusion, nay, invasion of this most unattractive, persistent and rapidly metastasising attribute, it was shorn to the max and transformed into a streaked, low/high-lighted coif requiring studious maintenance performed by the studied, dexterous, internationally influenced hands of Belgium-born, world-traveled Roswitha.
      The results not only changed my classification but 'felt' right, a way of being in the world for which I have always sought steadfastly before launching ANY activity, like living.  Now the cast of characters which will live in my diary, similarly populated/comprised this 'living' to which I've alluded.  In deference, then, to the comity/respect I have come to enjoy and treasure among established authors - quite by chance, I assure you - I daren't transgress the 'code', blemish the bard-influenced art of the literati, by committing the sin of redundancy.
      On the other hand, after a cursory mental preview of the events to which you will share through the 'genuine' lemon-haired set, it occurred to me that there is one ubiquitous aspect/involvement that truly followed me like a well-operated spotlight (like sand through an hourglass) all 'the days of my life'.  Coincident with that massacred introductory metaphor, I speak now of performing.  The set: mostly 'on stage' but, to be sure there were scenes off-stage that were indeed theatrically entertaining - in retrospect.
      My love of the performing arts was described far better than I might by Nora Ephron (except she was referring to her imagined love affair with Bill
Clinton when she wrote) "The vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory".  That truly sums up my personal 'acting' career.  I was the drama queen in my own soap opera.)
      For the above reasons 'snippets' will have to suffice - and be disjointed the while.  To wit, in parochial high school, I suffered my family through a period of preparation for my 'vocation' by attending six AM mass before getting on with my school day. 
      To accomplish this, I would rise in owl-time, shower,wash and 'roller' my hair (you may have to google this last, but it involved rolling one's hair around 1.5 -2 inch wire mesh rollers in multiple precision rows which were then covered for security) and, in my case, deference to the then Roman Catholic 'rule' of women always covering their heads when inside a church.  Ours was particularly ornate - huge, artisan-quality/vintage stained-glass windows, every square inch of wall a fresco ed mural, a ceiling surely modeled after Cellini's, statuary both inspirational and copious, mounted as centerpieces of mini side alters which surrounded the periphery inviting the faithful to pause, light a vigil candle and kneel in meditation.
      On one such morning ritual outing, being a 'daily communicant as well, I reverently processed to the five marble steps one climbed to kneel at the velvet-padded top step, hands folded in prayer (and thus not clutching the sturdy, polished ornate brass railing) heavy-lidded eyes at half mast in both reverence and - in hindsight - rapid onset hypoglycemia.  I vaguely recalled the lateral approach of the priest-with-server-holding-paten-at-the-ready-lest-Christ-hit-the-deck.  And then. cherubim and seraphim, harps and halos - as promised.  I made it! Heaven!
      Were it not for the rollers, it would have been a massive concussion capping off the five-marble step backward free fall.  But as convention would have it, as I plaintively called out, "Saint Peter?  It's me, Lorane.  I made it and. . .", the priest was shaking my cold shoulder - and serving some of his own - trying to rouse this disruptive, shoddily attired teenager and send her to her earthly residence.  Needless to say, Mom put an end to this routine, henceforth, heading me toward the first of the two subways I was to ride - without preamble - to school.  Now.
      I muddled through the educational process by taking advantage of every scholastically-approved dalliance in stagecraft I found.  Post marriage, having graduated with my MRS intact and bags packed, bound for Norfolk, Virginia, I kept the home fires and my duodenum burning, enduring Southern 'hospitality' and hospitals having developed six bleeding gastric ulcers for my trouble. Soon after we arrived and hubby deployed, it began.  First, a phone call from a woman identifying herself as "Mrs. Commodore."
      You see, Doc began his 'payback' Navy career a First Lieutenant.  He deployed as THE medical officer on the flagship destroyer which also berthed the Commodore, hallowed commander of the entire fleet.  (You will appreciate JUST how poorly they did not get along through a successive lemon-haired lady.)  Knowing how/what the Commodore represented to Doc via daily missives, a 'chatty', welcoming call from the Mrs. was unlikely. And darn, I truly believed the last commodore was Perry!
      Her mission was to telephonically elaborate the 'rules' of this charade.  First, the "Luncheon Friday will commence yada yada yada." To which Mrs. "First Lt." replied, interrupting, "My name, the one to which I REPLY, is Lorane Leavy."  More 'psycho-military' babble.  Sooo, and I DO apologize for what will likely be perceived as a 'shocking breach of taste', I'll not be attending the "LUNCHEON".  There was a modicum of satisfaction - think sub-atomic - in hanging up before Mrs. Commodore could master ANY composure.
      In time, eons metaphorically, I had big time ulcer surgery, did some couch time and, at the shrink's suggestion, listening to enough of my, "Y'all come back", "Have a nice day!", "Darlin' this 'n that" - THEY could care LESS what kind of day I have and as for me, I hope they NEVER come back or at all!", I got involved in community theater, tried out/read for my first role and got it.  That started my twenty year love affair with the most important 'escape mechanism'/safe-port-in-any-storm - acting and theater people.
      Now lest you think this relationship in any way TRUMPED what was really primo in my life - my family, having/watching them grow, working at aiding in developing these little copers, LOVING them and Doc more than life - pu-leez, know that, like writing, the acting was/is an invaluable adjunctive tool, permitting, forgiving, blessing, recording, providing the means/fortitude to survive some of the curve balls at which we would 'swing and miss'.  Thank God, as I do daily, for such gifts.
      Ironically, my involvement was sometimes misinterpreted/miss-judged.  To wit, when we purchased our first 'starter mansion', it was located near the hospital at which civilian Doc now practiced AND in the 'right' neighborhood.  Trust me.  Serendipity.  The price was right.  Populated as it was by the 'right stuff' - lawyers, docs, Indian-chief types - we were feted with a 'welcome to (US)' party.  Host, attorney, for local (wonderful) children's hospital, married to Heidi, pres of Junior League-money-raising-arm of same, extended a warm welcome.  We all had "Hello-my-name-is" name tags (yet another warm accommodating gesture) and the fun, like the booze, ran free.
      At a point perhaps ten to fifteen minutes from 'curtain', I was raiding the magically always replenished yum 'snack' table when 'host' approached from behind with, "Just want you to know, Lorane, we all know the type of woman you are."  Assuming this was a jocular, throw-away remark, I answered, "And what would that be Bill?"
"We've all seen you leaving the house in the early evening, little Philip in tow, going 'who knows where for 'we know what'."
"Pardon?", as I noticed Heidi, mixing, stroll by in black, skin-tight slacks, now festooned with male "Hello, my name is"- tags affixed to her derriere.
"I just want you to know, that when I get home at six, every night, my front door is opened, and waiting to greet Dad are my two kids and Heidi, who is prepared to give me anything - and I mean ANYTHING - I want or need."
Wow.  Exit-stage-handy-staving-puke-along-the-way.  Doc got home VERY shortly, inquiring,
"What the Hell was Bill talking about?"
      The 'situation', shall we say, ultimately met with closure.  Lesson learned: Ya just never know what these 'right people' are thinkin'.  AND, it doesn't matter.  Doc was doing his thing - noticeably well - and we were trying to grow our fam but met with losses in that column.  So, my circle of friends - never HAD to do the Junior League - took care of me when doc was away. One memorable example of the reciprocity or symbiosis within this relationship will have to do as time's a 'tickin and us sixty-seven year-olds need our 1) beauty/survival rest and 2) 'lemon-haired' touch-ups regularly and I've an appointment tomorrow for the latter which I will miss without the former.
      One fine mid-day, when I was not involved in his currently, widely-publicized production, a dear and talented and Polish director friend, Stan Fedyszyn, called in an obvious state of panic. He had, for good and sufficient reasons which I do not recall, invited a famous Polish theatrical company, launching an American tour, to begin same at his theater (The original, architecturally/beautifully historic Norfolk Public Library which Stan had transformed into a working theater).
      On the much anticipated day, a caravan of silver, sparkling buses-and-cargo-vehicles lumbered over the historic cobble-stoned-street, coming to rest in front of the majestically-gargoyled "Actors' Theatre".  Much to Stan's surprise/dismay, a Mr. Dviewicz, a State Department go-between, had neglected to mention that the lauded director of this production - an original script, named simply, "JA" -  spoke NO English.  Stan, surprisingly, spoke no Polish but is brilliant in the memory/improv department.  He recalled that I was half Polish. Good, Stan.  But he assumed I was fluent in the language.  Bad, Stan.
      His panicked prattle, naturally elicited a huge 'Nightingale-type' response from yours truly (and foolishly) such that I said, "Stash. (Polish for 'Stan' - poor attempt at ambiance-establishment)  Calm down.  Now, slowly repeat what EXACTLY you think I can do to help."  His voice more modulated now, his respiratory rate low enough to allow for elocution, he said, "Get over her, Lorane.  Quickly.  I don't know what the hell this guy is asking of me!"  Never giving a thought to how I might remedy this dilemma - MY aptitude/facility with the Polish language being restricted largely to 'comprehensive', expressive a distant memory - rushed to change - clothes/persona - selecting a 'Mary-Tyler-Moore-white-pant-suit', grabbing Philip - happy to be going on a field trip - and gunning it to my 'friend-in-need', just half a mile away.  (That's when living in the 'right neighborhood' REALLY paid off).
      Pulling up to the 'crime scene', my antennae locked on the vision of two local remote TV station trucks.  'Suds, Stan, the press is here.  Forgot to mention COVERAGE, Stan?  We're cooked, ya dumb Pollack'.  Soldiering on, I 'unobtrusively' exited my vehicle - white-pant-suit-clad-gal-in-heels-with-toddler-in-tow - barely escaping a lunging reporter armed with an open mike.  Once inside, trying to collect my self/thoughts, Stan appeared, an assistant lured Philip out of the picture with treats/games-in-hand and Stan led me to an obviously, newly/quickly constructed, theater-in-the-round FILLED WITH DIRT.  That's right, friends.  I was looking at an area perhaps 25 x 25 feet, obviously sunken, to accommodate ? 3 - 4 feet of black, loam-type soil, transported from Poland (and stored, no doubt, in several of those shining, silver cargo vehicles still parked - and being filmed by the 'live coverage' because 'if it bleeds, it leads' and this stuff was extravasating - in front of the theatre.)
      Still absorbing THIS 'circus' and mindful of the heels-white-suit costume, I was thinking 'protective logistics' when accosted by the renowned, ebullient, non-English-speaking Director.  "Panie!", he shrieked, grabbing my hand, and bowing to kiss same. (I think 'panie' CAN mean 'miss' and know it translates 'Mrs.') I donned that handy, dandy, 'imitation life' face tuned to 'smile'.  Post hand-kiss ordeal, I managed "Dzien Kuye" - totally phonetic spelling of THANK YOU.  He was really ecstatic now because he thinks I can communicate - dare not mention modality.  Let's just say it had been an unnecessarily protracted 'hand-kiss'.
      What followed was an authoritarian issuance of directives to his 'cast', resulting in several of them 'diving' into the dirt ("Places!) and a final directive yielding the now-submerged 'cast' member's fingers-hand-wrist-arm progression 'ceilingward', and, once in position, a loudly uttered, "Ja!".  Looking at me with a child's anticipatory, "Love me/approve my genius"-expression on his face, I returned what I hoped was a meaningful grin, and applauded wildly, eyes darting at Stan, saying, "Clap, Stash! EVERYBODY clap!".
      And we all did.  Director, so moved, he was now crying, impulsively bent down, grabbed a handful of black dirt, and in an obvious gesture of gratitude, took my hand, pressing this symbolic gold from his Polish soil-dripping hand into mine.  (Did I mention that by this time, Stan, ever the accommodating opportunist, had allowed the 'press' to enter and film this happiness/magic-moment?)  I'm thinking, "What would Mary Do" Ms. Moore, kindness itself, would treat this regally special gift accordingly.  Lorane throws dirt on the floor and then sweeps it up to be discarded.  Mary clutches same to her bosom, thence reverently places it in her . . ? purse?.  Right.  "I'll do a 'Mary'.
      After placing this precious booty in my formerly-pristine purse - AND making certain NOT  to have left a spec behind using a tissue, the now-blubbering, leering-eyed director and his entire loam-dipped cast, burst into applause of gratitude - with Stan and company joining in the festive encore - while the cameras rolled.
      Ah, yes.  The world's a stage and all of that.  Lady Lorane - not yet lemon-haired, but a bona fide future contender, had just gleefully strutted another hour upon 'life's' stage and will happily be heard.  Sooner, rather than,
Later, Lorane. . . .