Career extenders

My partners in the Magnificent Glass Pelican audio theater and I once invented a behind-the-scenes entertainment management company called ImmorTech. Their product was a suite of branding tools, tour-management methodologies, and medical technologies (vitamin regimens, oxygen chambers and other, stranger proprietary techniques) used to extend the life and revenue-generating viability of aged celebrities and, on occasion, of world leaders whose (appearance of) health was considered essential to some important global stability or other.

I don’t even really need to ask whether such contractors actually exist. I feel quite certain they do.

ImmorTech appeared in numerous skits and radio plays, as did one of the highest-profile “titles” in their portfolio, an octogenarian Catskills comedian and early television star named Hammy London. ImmorTech secured a lucrative, preferred-vendor federal contract with the newly formed Department of National Treasures. As soon as a president designated someone an N.T., ImmorTech deployed a squadron of single-client directors, doctors, psychologists, and financial advisors to manage the franchise, wishes of the subject notwithstanding. Hammy London, in his ceaseless tour of regional theaters, became known for a late-stage career catchphrase — “Just let me die! No, really!”


Anyway, my brother has a pretty great story. Because he could sight-read like a hawk on several stringed instruments, he used to pick up a lot of good-paying work as a pit musician when national tours would pass through central Illinois. He did a number of touring-cast Broadway shows, but was most fond of the single-entertainer variety tours of the kind Hammy London could not escape for the life of him. He worked with some big names in those years.

None bigger than George Burns. After sussing out that George was not an asshole (most of the stars he met in this setting were not), my brother summoned the courage to visit Burns’ dressing room, where the man who once played God was having his face done.

“Mr. Burns,” he said, “I just have one question. Did you know Gershwin?”

Cigar in mouth (it must’ve been), Burns turned to my brother and said, “Slept with him.”

Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.