My six-year-old son hates school. At least, that’s what he screams on a regular basis. “I hate school! I HATE IT! I HATE IT!” He repeats this mantra every night before going to sleep. There’s usually some flailing involved, too. You get the idea.
Now I don’t think he really hates school. He’s all smiles when he comes home, and he looks forward to meeting his friends every day. Besides, hatred is hard work. It takes concerted effort, and, quite frankly, he’s a lazy kid by nature. I don’t think he’s up to it.
I know I’m not.
I’ve hated bosses and I’ve hated obnoxious actors and I’ve hated girls who done me wrong. But it never sticks. The last time I made the effort to really hate somebody over a long period of time was back in college. They were my dance teachers – the Landrums.
Bill and Jacqui Landrum.
They were pure evil, and I hated them with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. Especially Bill.
Not that they cared. They’re big time choreographers in Hollywood – the last time I saw their name in the credits was for the movie “O Brother! Where Art Thou?” They’re both successful and confident, and my hatred didn’t faze them in the least. That’s how it works, you know. The hater damages nobody but himself, while the hated go on blissfully without caring. As my old boss used to say, hatred corrodes the container it’s carried in.
Initially, the Landrums and I got along well, despite the fact that he was this faux-European snooty guy who looked like an emaciated Arnold Schwarzenegger, and she was a forty-something Fran Drescher type who looked she’d had her face shellacked. I was a crappy dancer, and they were freaks, but I could live with that.
The famous – infamous?- Bill Landrum moment was when he was showing us the correct dance move to open and close our arms.
“You cannot just open thim like some veectim,” he would say with his untraceable Germanic/Mexican accent. “You must be a king! You must say ‘hello!’ “ And on ‘hello,’ he would snap his fingers, slap his pelvis with both hands, and then thrust out his arms and his ‘jewels’ with power and authority, all the while saying “Hello! These are my jewels! You don’ like them? I take them back!” And then he would snap his fingers again, withdraw his arms and pelvis quickly, and then bow his head with ludicrous solemnity. (At least, that’s how we all did it when we imitated him ad nauseum.) He was quite a character, that Bill Landrum, and I actually liked him once. (I didn’t like his jewels, though.)
I remember the exact moment when I turned on the Landrums. They had come to see a show in which I sucked out loud. It was Noel Coward’s witty one-act play “We Were Dancing,” and I played a zombie in it. The script didn’t call for a zombie, but I played one anyway. Bill told me my performance was “unacceptable.” And he was right. And I knew he was right. But I didn’t want to hear it.
So I had two choices. I could have sucked it up and gone on with my life, or I could hate him.
Two roads diverged in the wood, and I, I took the one that let me hate Bill Landrum with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. The whole experience gave me an enlarged capacity for petulance that has not served me well in these subsequent years. Were I to meet them today, I’d apologize and try to bury the hatchet. But I’d probably still think they were loons.
Back then, though, I was far less enlightened. I devised a whole host of ways to irritate them, particularly Bill. I remember once he told us to hold out our arms at our sides so we could just barely see our hands in our peripheral vision. Like a jackass, I stretched out my arms out at well over a 180-degree angle, far too widely to be seen in my periphery. Bill came up to me and said something like “Jeem, you can’t see your hands!” And I said “Yes, I can! See?” And then I wiggled my right-hand fingers, as if to cutely wave “hellloooo!” Bill, flummoxed, just said “Fine. You’re special,” and walked away in a self-righteous huff.
The nastiness increased, and so did the audacity of my defiance. I remember when we all had to stage our own dances, and I did mine accompanied by PDQ Bach’s classic “Little Bunny Hop Hop Hop.” I hopped like a bunny and hit myself over the head with a cardboard tube. I’m not sure I kept a straight face, but they sure did. They were less than pleased.
And then, of course, there was the infamous moment that I will never forget, even though I wasn’t there to witness it. I had stopped going to their class by this point, but my crank-calling Esteemed Colleague I mentioned two days ago showed up at my invitation and, after dropping my name and asking if I was there, proceeded to dance to the carnival music coming out of his own boom box. When confronted, he introduced Bill to a little stuffed raccoon and said “Say hello to my little raccoon.” Bill wasn’t interested. After being forcibly and profanely ejected, My Esteemed Colleague opened the door again, and his little raccoon, a wind-up toy, came scurrying across the floor.
The next hour, I arrived at Landru’s class a minute or two late, and everything came to a screeching halt as my friends turned and stared at me to say, almost in unison, “Uhhh, Jim – what the HELL was THAT?!!” One classmate said, “At first, it was just kind of surreal, but when he came back the second time, we thought he might have a bomb.”
I’ve enlisted My Esteemed Colleague’s peculiar talents for equally baffling stunts in later years. When Tuacahn came to LA for auditions for our 2001 season, I asked him to come and audition. The season was as boring and white bread as humanly possible – “Oklahoma!” and “The Sound of Music” – and he came in and did this wild improvised monologue about ball bearings that were running through his veins. He then burst into song, singing something of his own composition with the lyrics “You don’t believe in the Prime Directive? How did you ever get into Starfleet?” There was some pseudo-dancing and writhing involved, too. I had to leave the room because I was laughing so hard, mainly at the stony faces of the other producers and directors who had no idea what to make of this guy. When I came back in, I instantly offered him the role of Captain Von Trapp, which nearly gave the director of “The Sound of Music” a heart attack.
I’m sorry, what were we talking about again?