I think I discovered that acting was a cool thing to do somewhere around the age of nine or ten. It was at summer school, and I auditioned for the production of “Really Rosie,” in which I played a monkey. I got to wear monkey ears and everything. The highlight was when I got to solo on one verse of the song “Chicken Soup with Rice,” and I even remember the words:
That I’ll become a cooking pot
Cooking soup, of course, why not?
Cooking once, cooking twice
Cooking chicken soup with rice.
I must have done something right, because one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was cast as the lead in the next big kiddie production of Harry Nillson’s The Point, playing “Oblio the Weirdio,” the only person in the whole village who didn’t have a sharp point growing out of the top of his head. Because of my mutant status, I was banished from the town, and, at one point, I had to bid a tearful goodbye to my parents as I left them forever.
That’s where the story gets interesting.
The script called for me to shake my father’s hand, say “Goodbye, father,” and then say “Goodbye, mother,” and take her in a fond embrace. Except the girl who played my mother was just about my age, and she was short and dumpy looking. I can’t remember anything about her as a human being; I only remember she was fat.
And I refused to compromise my star status by hugging a fat person.
Actually, I think it was more complicated than that. I wasn’t all that comfortable hugging anyone – I’m still not a touchy/feely guy by nature – and hugging a girl would have been about five bases farther than I’d ever gone with any other girl before. There was another cutie who I had hoped would get cast as my mother and be my first-time real hug, but I think I would have balked at getting that intimate with her, too, out of sheer embarrassment. But hugging a chubby gal would have somehow given the impression that I liked her, and would probably have been the equivalent of getting married. It was a major commitment I was too young to make. So I opened negotiations on the subject by bursting into tears and stomping off in a huff and swearing that I wanted to quit, that I wanted to go home, that I didn’t want to have anything to do with this stupid old play anyway.
What a weenie.
The director finally called me at home when he thought of a suitable compromise. I was to take the girl by both of her hands, in a very grand and formal gesture, and I could forgo the hugging. I wasn’t crazy about this, but it kept her at arm’s length, and it wouldn’t make its way into the tabloids.
As I recall this unseemly event at the beginning of my career, I can’t help but feel sympathy for tha girl, but even more for the director. I wonder what he told that poor gal. I hope he didn’t say, “Stallion doesn’t want to hug a lardo.” And I hope the lardo in question has gone on to live a happy and healthy life, regardless of her dress size.
I hope my loved ones won’t feel funny about hugging me now that I’m equally tubby.