When I was in 7th grade, I participated in the talent show as the fictional Father Guido Sarducci, the the chain-smoking, comic priest created by comedian Don Novello, who I came to know through Saturday Night Live. He became an obsession for me. Staying up late to watch SNL on the little black and white television in my room led me to his stand-up album.
Obsessed with him, I played the album over and over and over until I knew every line.
“We got-a some Italian-a people, they got-a forty, fifty, sixty miracles to their name. They can't-a get in just cause they say there's already too many Italian saints, and this woman, this a-Saint Ann Seton, comes along with-a three lousy miracles. And I understand that-a two of them was-a card tricks.“
After imitating Father Guido Sarducci to my mother during breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I did it for my friends, and I did it during family gatherings. I would stand up in front of anyone who would listen, and I would recite the jokes of Father Guido Sarducci.
We didn't have a school play and I failed miserably at playing the guitar. My closest friends were in a band and had been rehearsing Blue Suede Shoes for the show. I felt left out and grasped for something for me to do too.
My family cobbled together an outfit. An 80 year old cousin made me a black and red satin cape, my mom gathered the black face make-up for a mustache, sunglasses, and Father Guido Sarducci’s hat--the button on the whole ensemble.
By the spring of 8th grade, which was 1982, the band had broken up but everyone was still friends. The dads of two of our group friends were just as into the idea of everyone doing something as we were. And they reinvented us as the Village People.
One dad, a Philly policeman, and the other, an auto mechanic, choreographed a group of 14 year-old boys to lip sync YMCA. We rehearsed at night and on weekends. The dads rotated a couple of us as the lead since the kid they cast at the policeman was pretty shy and stiff and wanted nothing to do with the front. So I went up front.
I barely remember the performances, but I do remember that I tried something and that we just had fun. In retrospect, those two dads were pretty good guys for spending that kind of time with us.
It makes me wonder--how many kids last night were just giving it a whirl? how many kids were just having fun? how many kids went home relieved and inspired by the experience? how many left, having not performed, swearing to themselves that they will next time?
And how many have stories like mine--where a couple of dads rally around a bunch of boys after working all day, or where extended family (cousin, aunt, mom) pools their resources together so their son and nephew can have a costume so that he can take a shot and have some fun?