Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wardrobe Mistress of the Shakesberg Festival

You know the expression, You've got a face for radio.

Well, I got a haircut and a wardrobe for radio.

Before last week's live taping of LiveWire, I really did spend an hour trying on about 15 different dresses, for an audience of 3 to review, before deciding on what I would wear. I swear, Burt Parks could choose Miss America in less time.

I went for a classic black cocktail dress from the 1960s with rhinestone accents.
The other guests on the show may have spent slightly less time picking out their outfits. Novelist Christopher Moore wore a hideous Hawaiian shirt.
Not actually this hideous Hawaiian shirt. I was too distracted on Saturday to get pictures of the other guests, so I've just downloaded whatever the internet has to offer. But apparently Moore has left a trail of low-on-couture, loose-at-the-gut outfits across America, and thanks to Google image search, you can see the horror for yourself.

Next runner up in the thank-heavens-it's-not-a-swimsuit competition was musical guest John Roderick of The Long Winters.

This picture, alas, does not do his current look justice. Imagine his hair longer and stringier, and his front tooth missing. Welcome to the hot Northwest aesthetic, hickster - where hick meets hipster.

Don't get me wrong. Roderick rocks. He just looks as though he also crawled out from under one.

And then finally there was documentary filmmaker Dan Merchant.
The last time I saw an outfit like that, it was blasting Amy Grant on full-volume, missing a muffler, and badly in need of a smog check.

Merchant's film Lord Save Us From Your Followers is to religious zealots what Supersize Me is to a side of fries. But while the Lord is at it, maybe he could save us from bumpersticker fashion, too.

I was on the show to read an essay about my crazy family. They gave me a limit of 1200 words. Even with egregious cheating, I could only sneak in 1376 or so.

When your family is as crazy as mine, it's hard to choose just 8 minutes of material. I decided to focus on our amazing ability to bring about the premature demise of various relatives. Unlike Colonel Mustard and the Candlestick or Mrs. Peacock with the Wrench, in my family we can off each other with just four little words.

You're dead to me.

Actually, it is not just my family. Like Tay-Sachs, breast cancer, and a hankering for Chinese take-out, this condition seems endemic to many American Jews. Sure, Dan Merchant's crazy Christians can go on about family values, but we Hebes value our family so much, we are willing to commit wholesale (pardon the cheap pun) linguistic homicide to win an argument with them.

This phenomenon stretches back a century at least, as I recalled when Christopher Moore was discussing the book he is currently writing, which retells the story of King Lear from the point of view of the fool.

King Lear, Shming Lear, I say. When they adapted Shakespeare for the Yiddish stage, the far-fetched story of a king cutting off his own daughter was made more relevant and realistic. By turning it into the story of Queen Lear, the overbearing Jewish mother who runs — and ruins — her children's lives.

I learned about this theatrical adaptation when I was in grad school, getting my Ph.D. in American literature. The sort of intensive six-year study that, if you're Jewish, culminates in your mother reporting to all her friends, she's not a real doctor.

With Shakesberg, I mean Shakespeare, plots of mistaken identity, star-crossed lovers, and feuding families get so repetitious you can pretty much only tell tragedy from comedy by whether all the characters are dead at the end of the play. Since in my family we are only dead to each other, I suppose we qualify as comedy.

But don't trust me. You can listen for yourself, if they ever get around to posting the podcast this week.

And remember, a face for radio can still have a family resemblance to a podcast.


Rachel said...

The whole family looks forward to hearing the podcast when it's up.

And I can't believe you didn't post photos of your clean shaven legs.

smartwick said...

Your essay was the high point of the show. And you looked fantabulous!

Edward said...

Just heard the family is dead to me story on 4 July. When was it live? There seems to be a podcast on the Live Wire site for 24 June but I wasn't able to find you in it.

Macaroni said...

Hi Edward-The show was originally broadcast on June 28, 2008, and I guess it was aired again last week. Thanks for the loving. Now please go call Ira Glass and tell him to put me on his show.