Abbotts 33rd Get Together 1970
by Senator Clarke Crandall
Neil, before I forget I want to thank you and Recil for the booth space and congratulate you again on your Zombie presentation on the Friday nite show. Why you keep showing up the other Zombie-ites I'll never know. How do you expect to sell any when you are the only one who does it well.
I don't know the exact Get-Together registration but it seemed larger this year. There was more repetition on the shows, at least it looked that way to me. Perhaps it was because I was confined to my seat during the four public performances. I wanted to do a good reporting job for the senior Larsen. Tom and Sherrie, Celeste Evans, Jimmy Reneaux and flashes of Spurlock made it worthwhile. Celeste, with her unique black lighted streamer production, the integrated doves and the little poodle from the big duck pan won the Jack Gwynne Trophy. did you get a chance to visit with Ann Gwynne? She tells me the job of trying to catalog all of Jack's stuff has her almost stopped. I'm glad she decided to attend the Get-Together. Tom & Sherrie practically stole the entire four shows. These two fast moving, talented, mod kids and Mike Caldwell, the greatest pratt faller of them all, will be here in November to appear on Milt Larsen's annual It's Magic show at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. You may know about it, Neil, but just thought I'd remind you.
I was real proud of Monk Watson this year. His shortened version of the 'Symphony Orchestra Leader' bit clicked with its smooth segue into the old soft shoe prance. I lost a buck, tho, when he mentioned Elsie Janis. I got good odds on the bet, I figured he'd be so busy with the MC chores he'd forget to mention her. I've been upstaged many times but only one man can 'backstage' me anytime and that's Dorny. My wife remembers him from 1939 when he and Marie stopped by late one night on the way home from a show. It was chilly in the house and I called Ruth to come from work and shake up the furnace. It was downstairs and it would be impolite to leave the guests, besides furnace shaking is a woman's work. The way Marie Dornfield carried on you'd have thought it was a crime. We had a coal burning furnace and always put the ashes in a bushel basket. Although my wife was a big healthy woman I still didn't want her to lift that heavy basket and carry it out, so I got four little ones to make it easier for her. I don't know what the worlds coming to with all this women's liberation stuff...what do they want anyway, Neil?
We didn't get to the Church Ladies chicken supper, even missed the Legion fish fry this year. Ruth bought some groceries and we ate at the cottage. I hadn't seen much of her in the last eight months so we sat around listening to me talk and things like that. She liked the shows, Neil, but thought too many tricks were repeated. She thought De yip Louie and his chickens were good. She's a Nebraska girl and likes chickens, they remind her of home. I asked her to take notes on the first half of Thursday nite's show. I was back stage adjusting the big concealed sword for my card stab trick. I must remember not to sit down when it's in place. She said Mike Caveney's thimbles were nice but the ventriloquist was very bad. Beside my name she had written "Lawsey." I questioned her on the use of the old plantation expression of surprise. "That's Lousy'," she explained. She kids around a lot, Neil.
I tried to cover everything, all the acts and events, but just couldn't do it. Occasionally I'd check and compare notes with John Braun who is very meticulous and misses little. We had a pancake breakfast at the Braun's. That is the real good part of the Get-To-Gether...visiting with old friends. Bob and Ginny Lewis, Clare and Peg Cummings and all the regulars. the little freckled faced Cummings kid, Peggy Jr. and her Clark will soon make grandparents out of Clare and Peg...and it's about time. Two good friends from Florida, Cliff and Avis Lesta, were there this year. You may have noticed Cliff had trouble tying the 'Birds' legs together on the Birds of Burma. A backstage breeze blew the cover off too soon and also blew the Birds of Burma. Cliff brought an old banjo along. He would take it out and plunk on it now and then...just long enough for either Lewis or myself to take it away from him and play it.
I was just thinking, Neil, how patient the Colon townspeople are with the annual horde of strange folk who swoop down on them each year. At least it gives them a chance to clean out their basements and attics. main street always seems well supplied with tables of odds and ends for sale. I bought a couple of nice things real cheap to give you and Jeanne next Christmas. One thing about Colon...it's just as busy at noon as it is at midnight. I didn't attend all the lectures. I looked in on a few. I listened for a while to Monk but he was talking about me, but being very modest...I left. Bud Dietrich is a professional entertainer and his lecture was the most practical of them all according to the general consensus. The Moorehouse lecture might have had more impact had he taken his own advice. My wife thought he was cute but anyone without a mustache is cute to her.
I wasn't really disappointed in Spurlock and his big show. It was a mammoth undertaking and with the tons of stuff and an apparent lack of rehearsal it's a wonder it went as well as it did. the theme was original anyway. I never see you at the shows, Neil, I think its cowardly to purposely avoid them. who knows, you might even pick up something useful to use in your act. My wife fell apart at the Fox-Stern Follies. I'm tempted to say she fell apart years ago but it would be partially untrue. We get along well, she and I, after all these years...because we stay apart a lot. Karrell Fox thrilled her when he told her he'd met our son in Germany after a 'troop entertainer' show. He asked Karrell if he knew a "Senator" Crandall. Naturally one hesitates before admitting anything like that. Joel and his family are stationed in Germany while Joel takes over where I left off in 1945. He came home from Vietnam to help arrange my funeral three years ago when I nearly lost my head. He's been in the army 11 years but doesn't write his mother like he should. Anyway, we were happy to hear they were all well.
Several things grated in Colon this year. No programs seemed to irk most. The television crew shining bright lights in the faces of the audience drew gripes from those who weren't in the picture. A faulty mike was hardly excusable. The two little claques who jumped up after every act and briskly applauded, looked around and kept clapping until most of the audience lazily got up and simulated a standing ovation should have been tossed out. You've had them, Neil, and you know when you get a real spontaneous standing ovation. It's frightening, a few years ago in Colon, after a Stroll-In, I received one and it scared me...I thought they were coming after me...all those people suddenly get up and applaud...It's really something. The following year it was milked a little by an exuberant MC and it was not the same. I think a performer is embarrassed when the folks are coaxed into a stand up demonstration.
You probably didn't see Jack Bauer's Blooming Petrie Rose bush, Neil, but it was real pretty. When his wife flings a bud it stays flung. Do you remember when they first appeared on an Abbott Get-Together? Maybe you were still in Chicago working for what's her name...you know, the wife of that left handed white glove talker-into...anyway Jack hadn't married his assistant then...at least they appeared too friendly to be married. The stage was set like a real woods and this beautiful damsel was lying on a rustic bench, her fluffy gown flowing. jack Bauer, a wood cutter at the time, was on his way thru the forest with his ax looking for a 'Little Red Riding Hood' molesting wolf to give him a few lumps. Suddenly he saw this recumbent beauty, relaxed and resigned. Everyone in the theatre knew he was faced with one of three choices, hit her with the ax, make love or run off. Certainly no one expected him to levitate her but he did and she floated while he stood there, ax against a tree, and just stared...it was beautiful, Neil, I hope you saw it.
I could have written a more orderly account of the affair I suppose, I took notes, but you know how it is...I only saw you around a few times but you were busy. We didn't get a chance to visit. I wish you and Jeanne could come out here and see us at the Castle. When the first snow falls in Colon take a dog sled to the nearest airport and come out and rest awhile watching magic in its natural habitat. Just had a nice write-up in today's Los Angeles Times. Dick Buffum, a Castle member, ran out of subjects and I made his column. I'll send you a copy. Take care, you and Jeanne, and tell Recil and all it was nice to see them again.
All the best,
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