There are two ways: the nice way, or my way

A long time ago, I worked in a place far, far way: Montana. While I was there, working at the front desk of a hotel, checking surly tourists in and out, I was also the company manager of a musical production in the renovated basement of the hotel. Although I’d been involved in theater since 7th grade, I had no idea what I was doing, and no idea how to get it done. Until these guys showed up, that is.

Mo Boys 2

Before I arrived, these guys had written letters from SEMO, where they were all in school, to the hotel saying that they were taking their summer jobs there with hopes of working on the theater production. But by the time I arrived, they weren’t too enthusiastic about helping out.

That probably had to do with the days and nights they had spent cleaning the hotel for opening, including several days when the electricity was out and they had to pick lint out of the carpets by hand. Oh, and there was the flooding. Did I mention the flooding? And the total lack of alcohol?

Yeah, so they weren’t exactly feeling the team spirit when I crashed into their room, clue-free and desperate for help. When I left their room, I figured that I’d need to find a crew by some other means. This left me feeling stranded, since I’d just found out that the producer, who had brought the production into the hotel, was departing in two weeks, leaving the production in my hands for the remaining three months of the run.

Mo Boys 3

Fortunately, later that night, all of them showed up and went straight to work. After about twenty minutes of bitching about how crappy the gear was that they had to work with. Actually, the bitching started pretty much when they hit the door and never really ended, but the would whisper it during the shows, so as not to bother the audience.

When the producer had to leave two days later due to an emergency back home, my real fear wasn’t that he wouldn’t ever come back, but it was that the Mo Boys–technically, they’re not all from Missouri, but why let that get in the way of a good nickname?–might not stick out the summer. Lucky for me, they’re all men of their word, and they stayed until the last possible day before they had to pack up and head back to SEMO.

Mo Boys 4

These are my pictures from that day, on which I apparently gave them all t-shirts from my short-lived ‘zine, CHA! (don’t ask, I won’t tell). They’re the only pictures I have of them from that summer–well, the only ones that I didn’t burn, along with the negatives, later to scatter the ashes in a fast flowing river–and they don’t really tell the story of the summer well, since, in these shots, they’re all ecstatic to be leaving a place that they learned to love and hate with equal amounts of passion. They learned other things too, as you can tell from the claw on Ake-man’s hand–don’t trust your buddies when they say it’s safe to jump down the laundry chute from the fifth floor.

Mo Boys 5

Oh wait, was that his injury from that fight that he barely escaped from in the Babb Bar? Or the bear attack that he thwarted with his infamous use of bear-fu? Memories lost on the tides of time . . . We did all eventually get to know each other better over the course of the summer.

We learned who could suck it up when he took a 110-volt jolt while hanging four stories above the lobby floor–the King, but just barely . . . I think Kemper had to loan him a hanky so he could wipe his eyes. We learned who panicked when the theater started to fill with smoke in the middle of a show–nobody, actually . . . we just opened a few doors and hoped the smoke would clear, the audience wouldn’t asphyxiate, and that “Basement Inferno Kills Hundreds” wasn’t going to be tomorrow’s headline. We learned that the four of them could drink me under the pier on the lake in about five minutes–hey, let’s be fair, I was adjusting to the altitude and they were playing as a team. And the Mo Boys learned that the theater I worked at in Palm Springs had replaced my heart with a tiny lump of coal, which explains the King’s expression here.

Mo Boys 6

Perhaps my heartlessness was exacerbated by dealing with a hotel company run by a CEO who actually said to me, “I believe that duress makes people perform better. That’s why I’m giving the theater no money. I expect that this will make you work smarter and build an excellent production.” Or perhaps it was the hotel manager, fresh from some East European secret police force, pockets glowing with Polonium–“Makes great nightlights!” he insisted–who tried to force me to cast his favorite employees who couldn’t sing in the most difficult vocal roles. Or perhaps it was having to wear faux lederhosen (fauxderhosen?) while working at the front desk on my nightly ration of four hours of sleep following the show and one too many beers with the Mo Boys.

Whatever it was, something caused my coal-lump heart to shrink another three sizes that summer. And so it was, at one post-show meeting, when I was explaining to the company members some task we had to perform for the hotel, and the company members were protesting, I heard myself saying to them: We have to do it, and there are two ways to do it–the nice way, or my way.

Yeah, I was a charmer to work for.

Fortunately, the Mo Boys were all-forgiving, to the point that the King and Kemper here came out to Palm Springs a few months later to work with me at the theater there.

Mo Boys 7

The rest, as they say, is history. Eventually, another of the Mo Boys came out, then they started bringing out all the good people from the SEMO theater program–which must have been excellent, judging from the guys we hired out of it, bu which I figured must have crashed to a halt as a result.

I eventually left the P.S. theater and drifted around, but they all took the opportunity and ran with it. The King is now a sound wizard for casinos in Vegas and in demand on the road on several tours. Kemper also worked hard for his dream and is now paid to blow shit up for a living–he works pyro, lighting up whole cities with fireworks, which is a responsibility that I could never handle, but he’s just the guy for the job: smart, calm, serious, focused, and tough enough to tell cops to get the hell off his turf, lest their radios blow everyone sky high. And what happened to Ake-man? I heard a rumor that he was working Vegas too, but that turned out to be a lesser talent, who ripped off his act. He was last seen in L.A., taking any acting gig that calls for a guy with a lobster claw in place of his left hand . . . but seriously, he’s out there, working the acting scene, and I’m sure that he’s coming soon to a theater near you.

As you six regular readers know, the King still checks in to see if anything ever grew back in the place where my heart was and even drops off comments when his schedule allows–between peanut butter and ‘nana sandwiches, after giving ‘Cilla some lovin’, or typing with one hand while he’s reloading to shoot the hell outta that damn TV with the other hand–and I had promised to share these pictures with him a long, long time ago. I finally got around to it, and I figured, what better time to unveil them than on his birthday.

Happy Birthday, King.

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  • Good story! I was wondering who those guys were on your Flickr stream.

  • Anonymous

    Thats right baby I dont work on Janny 8th.

    Thanks Pal, your a better body guard than Red ever was, and your heart may have grown back in the last 5 years!!!
    Well off for some fried chicken,nanners and love.

    TCB on Cha!!!

  • I’ve spent a long time doing theatre…and it’s always, ALWAYS like that.

  • fantastic reading.

    FANtastic.

    Thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the mo boys.