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Robert A. Mills

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Blogs by Robert A. Mills

SOX!
4/21/2012 5:12:40 AM
The Rochester Community Theater, under the exemplary direction of George and Harriet Warren, once mounted a production of Gore Vidal’s VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET. For reasons never made entirely clear, Harriet, in her best Katharine Hepburn incarnation, declared, “We want you, darling! This part was written for you in a goatee, ascot, smoking jacket, inlaid cigarette holder and holding that incredible cat!”

After all was said and done, I was chosen to play the lead, a part magnificently undertaken on Broadway by the renowned Cyril Ritchard for 388 performances and for which he won a Tony as best actor in a featured role. In Harriet’s eyes at least, I was Alfred Drake, Alec Guinness, Noël Coward, and Ralph Richardson combined.

The play began as a TV script via the Goodyear Television Playhouse and was later made into a terrible movie starring Jerry Lewis (bad casting and a horrible re-write for which Vidal never forgave Paramount; “The money was great,” Vidal later told Dick Cavett, “but they ruined my play.”) The New York Times felt moved to review the movie, and I have often wondered why they bothered.

The stage play, however, was the collar of a different horse. It cleverly told the story of a creature named Kreton (me), who is a space-alien from some unnamed planet; he comes to Earth so that he may report back on our Civil War. Unfortunately, he miscalculates the intricacies of his time machine and shows up 100 years too late. Having missed seeing the conflict first hand, he is nonetheless in awe over the new toys modern earth-man has invented for making war—so he decides, what the hell, he’ll create a war of his own. Vidal’s script, which appealed to my warped sense of patriotic liberalism, is full of delicious political innuendo.

The play’s incidental role of C. Mayberry was performed on Broadway by actor Conrad Janis; it was expertly handled at RCT by a local thespian, Edgar Musicus, a young man who during the show’s run became a fast friend of mine—so much so that he eventually was my boss when I briefly left on-air work to become a salesman at WNWZ, an NBC affiliate that was, in reality, a forerunner of news/talk radio. WNWZ was the first full-time news station in America, and we were light years ahead of CNN, WSB and all other broadcast outlets that today offer news/talk exclusively.

Sadly, like most pioneers, we survived but a single year, being as we were so far ahead of the times. But during the station’s short life, both Ed and I made a great deal of money, for ourselves and for the company. Of greater importance, our friendship flourished and grew over the years.

It seems Ed and Jill Musicus were raising two sons back in those salad days. Marc, one of the Musicus’ boys, grew up to become a New York State Emergency medical technician, and he met Vice President Joe Biden one day recently while on duty in Central Park.

In addition to his work as a NYS paramedic, Marc (who at one time thought he might become a doctor) has been an entertainment exec with Sony Pictures, Time Warner Cable, Univision Broadcasting—and he was the co-founder of Airborne Entertainment, a NYC ad agency; he was recently named vice president of Alloy Media & Marketing/Channel One.

“So,” I asked, “since you utilize your free time as an EMT, how did you hook up with Joe Biden?”

Marc told me that while working in Central Park one day, he noticed a group of people heading toward his emergency medical vehicle, and there were several limos following not far behind. Marc remained in his van when one of the men approached. Marc rolled down his window. The man outside was none other than Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States

“I wanted to stop and say hello,” the VP explained. “I really admire you guys, you first responders. No society could operate without people like you. What a great job you do! Lemme shake your hand!”

Forever like his dad the epitome of modesty, Marc quickly changed the subject. “Let me ask you a question,” he said. “Since we’re both Orangemen from Syracuse University—even though you graduated ahead of me—how come you were not wearing SU orange when I saw you on TV at the SU-Georgetown game the other night?”

Biden laughed self-consciously. “You’re right! I wasn’t wearing a smidgen of school colors! I should have had on at least orange socks! The next time, I guarantee you won’t be able to tell me from a can of Orange Crush!”

The most gregarious man Marc had ever met, the vice president went into a long dissertation on the SU/Georgetown basketball season. “It was a great game!” he said. “Boeheim is a genius! They should win March Madness hands down!” (They didn’t.)

Marc, a chip off the old block and forever a gentle reporter himself, again changed the subject. “So, what are you doing in New York, anyway, sir?”

“Well, I’ll tell ya. I’ve always wanted to jog in Central Park, even if the Sec Serve said it was verboten, which they did, and my wife wanted to go shopping— ”

“At Tiffany’s?” Marc interjected, á la Mike Wallace.

“Ha! Who do you think I am? No, she wanted to have dinner at a hoity-toity New York restaurant and see a Broadway show, but so many people always recognize me, the boys in sunglasses want me to keep moving. They really think a moving target is hard to hit—ha! ha!—they shoulda told that to John Lennon! Anyway, let’s get the staff snapper to take a picture of you and me—I gotta get out of here!”

Marc gave the photographer his address, and the picture (of which I too have a treasured copy) arrived the next day.

I later spoke to Marc on the phone and inquired, “What’s the one question you wish you could have asked your old alumni buddy?”

Marc thought about it for 1.7 seconds before saying, “What’re the chances we could run over to the Tavern on the Green and I could buy you a beer?”


Copywrite© 2012 by Robert A. Mills


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