The First Time the Son was Ever on TV by Pierrino Mascarino

On opening night, Papa had trembled miserably in the wings of the hot little college auditorium waiting for his first entrance in a St. Viator’s College French Club play production--Papa’s shoes were slick with terror foot sweat--heart pounding horribly; and worse yet, the words, the cursed words--it began, “je suis" in archaic French but the rest? He was shaking.

But once on stage, even with pounding palpitations, he at first squeaked, but then spoke, and even walked approximately to his stage positions, a tremendous victory over his fear of public humiliation.

The play may have only been seen by the Francophone faculty; but it was reviewed in the Kankakee Daily Journal newspaper. Not only reviewed, but Papa’s full name--there it was right in the newspaper, prominently mentioned but how well he did could not be determined because of the incomprehensible old French the play was written in.

However the review was incontrovertible, everlasting proof that Papa had once risen to the majestic heights of theatrical experience, been photographed in full colorful costume, and, most important, had overcome his stomach churning stage fright in a magnificent display of manly courage rarely seen in the modern world, in the 1 920’s, and he still had the review and those production photos of himself in a plumed tricornered hat and dashing sword in Le Bourgeois Gentlehomme.

This moment for him was so … well nothing could ever compare to it: the crash of the Hindenburg, Social Security, VG day, VJ, nothing came close.

He photostatted the review, and mailed it to everyone in large envelopes, a victorious proclamation of Papa’s luminous moment of theatrical fame with expensive accompanying 8 x 1 0s.

He’d received the Vittoria Veneto medal as a Sergeant-Major in WW1 but that was nothing in comparison, not Rudolph Valentino, nor Clark Gable, actors on Broadway, none of them ever had overcome Papa’s queasy-stomached fear of public humiliation.

There are public and private heroes.

Papa never repeated this triumph, once was plenty.

Later, he was dimly aware that his own son was acting in Community Theater productions--nothing equaling the famous St. Viator’s French Club extravaganza in that tiny college town of Bourbonais IL of course--that fearless thrusting of his trembling self out onto that frightening stage when every part of him wanted to run and hide.

He told his son, “You weel nevair make any money acting. Eeeet es just a hobby. I have told our relateeve een Italy the flattering lie, dat you graduated and are now teaching chemistry een a university."

Papa had to lie for the poor unaccomplished boy.

Of course no mere son of such a fearless father could ever hope to equal Papa’s magnificent victory at St. Viator’s .

But the son slowly worked his way up, hitchhiking to unpaid university and community theatre productions and after many years it paid of --Broadway, highly paid Broadway, movies and then finally television.

Papa often sent this son copies of the famous Kankakee Daily Journal newspaper review to remind him of true theatrical glory and went back to his native Italy.

But when the son was permanently on national television in The Edge of Night Papa had by then returned and on the vigil of an important episode the son called his Papa long distance, “Please watch The Edge of Night on Wednesday. I’m gonna get a lot of close-ups.

This would be it, thought the son; at last Papa would not have to lie for him any longer. He could hardly sleep the night before: Papa would be proud at last, not feel humiliated about his hopeless son. This would be an international glory to the family name and the son could eat no breakfast the day of the TV filming from nerves, and finally at the New York City T.V. studio, working with famous actors in front of the camera, his heart beating, his mouth dry, praying and thinking, this is for my Papa.

And as the three blinking red light cameras dollied in, and in further, thrillingly close, for extreme close-ups: the son was absolutely quivering, this was a live broadcast so no mistakes--can’t forget the words in front of the whole world, and Papa’s seeing me now, at this moment, his own son’s face, broadcast all over the universe. No more lies needed, even over in Italy they will see! Papa never thought I’ d be anything but a starving actor. This is it! How happy he’ ll be when I call him--he’ll be so proud of me after all these years of tedious hard work, hitchhiking my old paper suitcase all over the country between jobs, living in the Detroit slums.

Immediately afterward he rushed to a payphone with a pocket-sagging mound of change--very expensive calling Papa, now, during the daytime, but celebration! Papa’s already celebrating, pouring a glass of wine, oh, how he wished himself there to get a congratulatory hug; but now, dialling, he worried, had Papa really even been able to watch? Had Papa gotten the channel right?

“Haylo," answered his father’s 73 year old, heavily accented Italian voice. “Papa, did you see it?"

“Yes." Papa sounded, well Papa didn’t sound …

“What’d you think?" It must be that Papa was so overwhelmed by seeing …?

An unendurable silence. He thought, Papa’s choked up: his son finally succeeding, seeing his own little passarotu’s name, their family name in national television credits.

The son waited.

Papa finally said, “Eh, try to stand straighter ahnd pool your collar up in back." A huge painful lump of disappointment formed in the son’s throat.

“Well," said Papa, “dees ees too expensive, goodbye," and hung up.

But after a few days the son received yet another copy of the Kankakee Daily Journal review of Papa wearing a dashing sword in the Le Bourgeois Gentlehomme, with yet another 8 x 1 0.

@2009 Mascarino

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