Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Last Saturday evening Joyce and I passed a limo on I-480 near Twinsburg. But I didn't know it was a limo, not until I pulled out to pass and saw that it was as long as the Orange Blossom Special. (For those of you who are chronologically challenged, the OBS was a train--and a song, here performed on YouTube by Johnny Cash. The train ran from New York to Miami.) Anyway, that limo was one long car, and I was glad for one of the few times in my life that I was on a divided highway--would've been impossible to pass back in the old two-lane days of my youth.
Riding in a limo was not a common thing when I was growing up. Funerals. Sometimes weddings. (Joyce and I did not have one.) Wealthy characters on TV shows and in movies. I don't recall that anyone in my high school rode in one to the proms my junior and senior year. It was costly, yes, but I think a lot of us thought it was just plain presumptuous, too. Basically unthinkable. (Hell, I could barely afford a corsage!)
Anyway, that limo the other night reminded me of one of the times I did ride in one--an event so unusual for me that I published an op-ed piece about it for our local newspaper, the Hudson Hub-Times, on July 11, 1984, almost exactly thirty years ago.
The occasion? Aurora High School had recently presented Guys and Dolls, directed by my good friend Andy Kmetz, who also worked with me on many middle school productions (and on the two high school productions I directed, as well--Grease and The Merry Wives of Windsor). Anyway, the appreciative cast gave Andy a limo ride and two tickets to see Little Shop of Horrors at the Palace Theater in downtown Cleveland. This was in the days before the major restorations on Playhouse Square, and I said this in the piece:
The Palace had not changed since the late 1950s and early 1960s when I was last there! I swear, there was a stain in the carpet and a leaf of peeling paint right where I remember them. Even the seat greeted me with a squeal of renewed acquaintanceship.
I remarked in the piece, as well, about the amenities in the limo--a bar, a TV set, a cut-glass dish of mints. And I said this: When you're riding in a limousine, you don't look at other motorists; they look at you. But I couldn't resist the temptation, and I saw expressions ranging from curiosity to envy and awe to something I can only define as rage. And although I know it's impossible, I'll swear there were some who looked at us and knew we didn't belong!
But, hey, we had a great time, though Andy informed me that the only time he'd ever been in a limo was at a funeral.
Here's the final paragraph ...
The students at Aurora High, with their gracious and thoughtful gift, freshened our vision that night. And were Andy and I, in true fairy tale fashion, granted one wish, it would be that everyone, at least once in a lifetime, could ride in a chauffeured coach, right up to a palace door, and step forth in a swirl of light and a flourish of trumpets.
I don't know that I've been in a limo since then--perhaps at a funeral or two--but I know it's a far more common occurrence today.
By the way, when I looked in my files for a copy of that limo piece, I found a business card for Elegant Limousine Service (North Royalton, Ohio); I see via Google that they're still in business--though much expanded.
And on a darker note--Andy now is in an assisted living unit in Kent, moving only with the aid of a walker. He was a fantastic dancer, and the numbers he choreographed for our shows were always the best part of the night. Joyce and I go to see him on most Wednesday evenings, and we laugh about the Old Days--the plays, the rehearsals. Next time I see him--tomorrow night--I'm going to remind him about that fantastic limo ride in 1984. The night that he and I got a glimpse of another world.