You don't know it, but
I've started doing this thing
where I write poems
on the condoms we use
during sex. I do it just
before the sex, when you
aren't looking, and I use
a blue sharpie. I choose
the blue sharpie because
it's the one that most
the kind of guy I am.
I'm a blue guy - most of
the time, but some of
the time I'm not. Some of
the time I am fiery and hot
and spicy and scorching,
and when I feel all of those ways,
I use the red sharpie, and when I feel
earthy, which isn't very often,
I use the green or the brown one.
The poems are short, they are only
a few lines long, obviously,
because there is only so
much available space, but also
because my handwriting
is damn sloppy. Admittedly, I
should probably consider how
you feel when I write these poems,
since the poem's purpose is to be
inside of you, but normally I don't -
I just get weird with it.
I saw Charlie Durning for the first
time onstage in the Broadway production of That
Championship Season at the Booth Theater on West 45th St. At the age of sixteen I was already certain
I wanted to be an actor and that play, and all the performances, made a very
strong impression on me. So much so that
I stole the poster from the local train station in Larchmont, NY and kept it in
my bedroom through the remainder of my high school years. Years later I did the first revival of That Championship Season in New York in
the role of ‘Tom’ and kept a replica of the original poster in my dressing
1988 I had the pleasure of doing a TV film entitled Unholy Matrimony, in which Charlie and I played con men busted by
Patrick Duffy after murdering a young woman.
Beside the need to pay my mortgage I took the part because Charlie had
already been cast and I jumped at the chance to work with him. One look at his work onstage or in films like
The Sting or Dog Day Afternoon and you got the immediate sense that he had great
instincts, a pugnacious demeanor, and would be a blast to work with, which he
film we did wasn’t so great but one story comes to mind about Charlie that I
don’t think he’d mind me telling. We
were in San Antonio, TX, staying at a posh hotel. The next day we were flying to Phoenix, AZ to
change locations. That evening a young
man who was in town for a Herbalife convention approached me in the lobby.
O’Keefe,” he said earnestly, “I see you’re here with Mr. Durning and I just
want to say I can’t let this opportunity pass by.”
I replied. “How so?”
the man is obese and I think I can help him.
I’m here with Herbalife and if I could just get a chance to speak with
him I believe I could be of service.”
sure you could,” I said, concocting a bit of a plan on the spot. “Here’s the thing, Charlie, um, Mr. Durning
is a very early riser. Your best bet is
to call him around 4:30 or 5 AM and make your pitch.”
all are staying here in the hotel, aren’t you?”
the young man asked.
yeah,” I said. “We’re here. You ring Charlie up. Early.
Real early. It’s going to go over
like a song.”
next morning the entire cast was outside the hotel at 9 AM to catch a van to
the airport. I came outside to a sunny
morning with a bright-eyed feeling, spied Charlie, and said, “Hiya Charlie,
how’s it going?”
you,” Charlie replied. And I burst out
laughing, as did the other actors after both Charlie and I explained what had
gone down. I thought that was the end of
it and we were none the worse for the wear.
the airport all of us checked in together and I took all of the claim checks
for the luggage and put them on my ticket, which I carefully placed in the
inner pocket of my sport coat. We’d need
those in Phoenix.
arriving and walking as a group to baggage claim I was dismayed to find I
didn’t have my ticket or the baggage claim stubs so I ran double time back
through the airport to the plane, which was still at the gate. I went over the plane a number of times and
still couldn’t find them.
at the baggage claim, prepared to grovel for all the luggage belonging to our
cast, I was greeted by the sight of the entire cast in a van, with all the
luggage, including mine, waiting for me.
Charlie had lifted my ticket with all the stubs from my jacket without
me noticing. He had the last laugh and
it was a well-deserved one.
the movie business chances are you will make more clunkers than memorable films
and what you have when you’re done is not necessarily what you meant to do but
what you did. After learning that
lesson I learned that the relationships you have with your co-workers are
imperative, not just because we all depend on each other to get the work done,
but because when it’s done all you do have is the memory of having done
memories of Charles Durning are vivid and enduring. He was funny, dangerous in the right way, and
knew how to hit his marks and speak the truth.
I’ll miss him but, thankfully, I’ll have his many amazing performances
to remind me of how talented he was and how lucky I was to get to know him.
- - -
Michael O'Keefe is the author of Swimming From Under My Father (Noble Swine Press 2009). He has many film, television, and theater credits. His new pilot King and Maxwell will premiere on TNT in early 2013. His films, Neighbors, Junction, and A Thousand
Cuts will be released in 2013. Apt. 143 (Emergo) is available on
demand on most cable networks. Bonnie Raitt recorded Marriage Made in Hollywood, which O'Keefe co-wrote with Paul Brady. It is on Raitt's new record Sliptream, which was just
nominated for a Grammy in the Americana category.
I remember boiling 4 "new Potatoes (those are
the small ones others call salt potatoes) making myself a small sauce
pan of melted butter with pepper, and eating the potatoes whole and
scewered on my swiss army blade as I read Williams' Selected poems. I
was 18 years old, and the only one awake in the house at three in the
morning. It is one of the happiest memories of my life. Maybe it was the
linoleum which was torn just under my seat. I scratched an itch on my
bare foot with it. Maybe it was the flourescent light. It could have
been Williams' poems, too, but I know, know beyond all doubt that,
without those 4 potatoes, no happiness would have been as possible.
This video clip is even better than the one I posted on Dean Martin 's birthday (June 7) of the famous reconciliation scene during the Jerry Lewis Telethon of 1976 twenty years after he and Dean Martin broke up their world-famous comedy act, with "Jer" playing the out of control overgrown teenager. and "Dino," nine years older, the straight man and Lothario. They had enjoyed a ten-year-run of movies and sold out appearances at the Copa and other such hot spots when they decided, like many a couple, that they had irreconcilable differences and couldn't endure another day in each other's company. The Telethon enounter, arranged by the Godfather, was the first time they saw or spoke to each other after twenty years of stony silence. Sinatra: "I think it's time, don't you?" [Imagine if you could reconcile two warring nations this way.]. Notice the cigarettes -- not as props but as part of the routine in several senses. The Dean-Jerry exchange is sweet: "So. . . how ya been? . . . There were all these rumors about our break-up and when I came out to do the show and you weren't here I knew they were true. . .So. . .ya workin'?" Dean, on why they broke up: "Because I was a Jew and you were a Dago." The phone number line is good, the duet with Dean and Sinatra is funny ("I Can't Give You Anything But Love," "Too Marvelous for Words"), and though Dean is not in the best voice, the sequence helps substantiate Jerry's assertion that he was the greatest straight man of all time. -- DL