In last week’s issue, this writer (“me”) composed an article on the “magic time” of August. I went on to note the reasons why this month has all the magic. Among those reasons came from the fact that I would take on many road trips to various places that month. These road trips first began as family based vacations and the first “real” road trip that went beyond the weekend’s time, took place not-so-many years ago when my family embarked on a road trip from Chicago (where I was living at the time) to Niagara Falls, New York, then to Washington DC. The previous issue gave some insights to how we planed for the trip, how we planed to get there, as well as an almost forgotten side story on an encounter with a bus charter company ready to sham our bunch in paying for a bus ride to the falls where we could have taken our car there with minimal problems. (We wound up going there on our own!!)
This week’s chapter begins after we completed our excursion to Niagara Falls, now ready to head on over to the Nation’s Capital where there was much more to see and do. After all, outside of the falls, there isn’t anything unique to do or see in Buffalo–or at least at that period of time!
After the falls, we were making the trek through Pennsylvania to the D.C. area, passing by (but not stopping in) Pittsburgh and various other communities throughout the state. Some of these places I barely recall, while others became long forgotten. I don’t necessarily remember the exact route we took since I wasn’t driving, and the AAA through their “Triptic” map that resembled a reporter’s notebook, made the route easy to follow through its pages. The pages consisted of a section of map with the road taken as centered. A special marking pen that was colored blue/green highlighted the road(s) to take. It was a map that was easy to follow. In fact, it was so easy, even my mom could make out the routes and places to enter/exit to dictate to my dad. He was the captain of the goodship Ford Country Squire wagon, and my mom was second in command. We kids were just the raw recruits on this journey, so we didn’t have much to do except to enjoy the ride for what it was worth.
Although it seemed that we were in the Keystone state for a good part of the trip (that wasn’t too difficult to understand as it extends some 400+ miles going east-west), there were a few memorable episodes to recall that made the trip amusing for what it was.
First, many of the interstates taken were turnpikes, meaning that they were toll roads. I knew of taking toll roads where if a driver was coming toward a toll booth, one would have to throw some coins down a hopper device. Then a light would change from red to green, a gate would open where one could pass through. On the turnpikes, a driver would arrive at the toll booth only to take a IBM punch card that would spit out from a slot on the left hand side with the details printed on where one got the ticket. When the driver was to make an exit or if it was the end of the line, one would drive up to the booth, place the card into a slot, and then one paid the amount of the toll based on where one received the ticket. It seems that the farther one traveled, the more one would pay. Every one of these booths was “manned” by a Pennsylvania Turnpike person, complete with uniform with a patch stating that the person wearing the shirt (it was mostly a “men-only” operation from what I recall) was an official toll taker–just in case somebody came to a fake toll booth that was plopped along the road by some evil doer that wanted to gyp drivers out of their toll money!
Another notion that I recall was there were a lot of Howard Johnson restaurants and/or motor lodges along the Turnpike. HJ was still using that bright orange color scheme that made this roadside attraction famous. Some of their restaurants and motor lodges still used their 1950’s-era neon signs that were not as orange, but mostly blue-ish in color. I recall that for the motor lodges, there was an image on the top of the sign that consisted of a lamplighter (of “long-long-ago” variety) lighting an old streetlight with an elongated lamplighter thing, where a young boy was looking up at him. It could have been taken from a scene from an Charles Dickens story with the boy saying to the lamplighter “Please, Sir. I haven’t a place to stay.” I really liked the orange-colored scheme that was part of HJ. However, I knew that by 2001, there would be no more orange colored Howard Johnson’s since the one located at the space station in the movie of the same name didn’t feature a speck of orange anywhere to see! That’s progress I guess!
We stayed in a motel somewhere outside of Pittsburgh as we checked in closer to 6:00 PM. The first thing we did once we settled in our room was the turn on the TV set–a color RCA “motel room” model, complete with the ability to hear music without a picture on channel 13. (Actually, hearing a local FM radio station that programmed “beautiful music”!) The local TV network affiliates were airing their early evening newscasts.
During this time, there was a newspaper strike going on. The two Pittsburgh dailies (The Pittsburgh Press and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) were not being published due to the union workers going through a work stoppage. So one of these channels (KDKA?) featured a segment on their 6:00 PM newscast where a local news reporter read a selection of the daily comics, very much in the same way where in the 1930’s, the Mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia, read the funnies on radio because the New York dailies were going through a strike. This time around, the local station showed a panel of one of the comic strips it was showcasing (Dick Tracy) where the same newscaster read the dialogue that was coming from the characters via the “word balloons” while a camera panned from one panel to the next. At the time, Tracy was battling over a criminal who has an obsession for munching on popcorn with a popcorn popper at his disposal! (I wasn’t following the comic strip at the time, so I can’t give you details on what was going on. I was more into the “funny” funnies such as Blondie, Andy Capp, “B.C.”, and of course, Peanuts.)
After traveling what seemed to be forever on the Turnpike, we entered the state of Maryland where the freeways were free. We were going to stay somewhere on the Maryland side. Once we checked into our motel room (It wasn’t a Howard Johnson’s, but a Holiday Inn where the colors of choice were kelly green and white), we were going to plan on what we were going to do while in DC. So with AAA guide books in hand, we choose some of the places to see while in Washington. Tours through the White House weren’t available at this time for reasons never brought to my attention. So we were going to cram about two, possibly three days, of serious DC sightseeing!
So what did we see? The Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial (in reality, just a big empty building with a statue of a seated Lincoln in its middle), the Capital building where we just looked at what was under the dome–the only interesting thing to see, one of the Smithsonian museums, among other sights. But perhaps the most memorial tour we did was at the old FBI building. We were lead by some young guy that was thin as a rail and donned a smart looking suit and tie combo. (Was this guy an intern or was he a real G-Man in training?). He showed our tour group a lot of interesting things, as well as the ballistics shooting range! (I was not lucky enough to get a paper target with the black silhouette of the figure decked with bullet holes.) However, when it was a Q&A time, I did ask this G-Man if we can visit with J. Edgar Hoover. The G-Man replied “His office is on the 7th floor, and he’s too busy today!” That meant we didn’t see G-Man number one! At least I asked!
Oh yes. When we ate out, we got friend chicken from Gino’s, a local chain of chicken and burger joints that had an affiliation with many of the local Kentucky Fried Chicken places found within the Baltimore/DC area. Gino’s had a premium offered where for one dollar, one can get this toy consisting of a plastic cup with a spring activated plunger in the middle. A plastic ball fit inside of the cup. The object was the pull down on the plunger, where the ball would be shot upward, and one had to catch the ball into the cup. Then one would release the ball by way of the plunger and catch it in the cup, and so on. I had a whale of a time with this toy. On its handle was a small round sticker with the Gino’s logo on it. I played with this toy for many years after, always recalling this trip to DC where I saw what was under the dome of the Capital, and missing a chance to say “hi” to J. Edgar Hoover!
Outside of that toy device from Gino’s, what souvenirs did I get? Since I was into television at the time as my viewing started to increase, I got the local editions of TV Guide magazine. At the time, TV Guide featured on the first dozen or so pages and well as the last few pages articles and other news and were national in scope. In its middle were the local listing of stations available to the area that issue was sold. I was able to get the same national news while in the inside were different schedules for stations covering Buffalo, New York, Pittsburg, PA. and Baltimore, MD/Washington, DC. Each issue cost fifteen cents and were purchased at a local supermarket. (In Buffalo, it was at a Tops market, Kroger in the Pittsburgh region, and Pathmark in Silver Springs, MD.). And what was on the cover for these editions for the week? The entire cast of As The World Turns!
After some two weeks of heading from one place to another while seeing things that were not found in my neighborhood, we finally arrived home, tired and happy. However, my happiness was rather snubbed as I realized that within a week’s time, I would be returning back to school where for the next eight or so months, I would be cooped up in a stuffy classroom full of kids I didn’t know too well with a teacher that could either be cute and perky a la Sandy Duncan’s character in her sitcom Funny Face, or could be old, mean, and grumpy a la Miss Grundy from the Archie comics. That also meant that I could no longer stay up late on a “school night” to watch The Dick Cavett Show, The Tonight Show, or whatever old movie was playing on one of the local TV stations. But little did I know that I would be meeting up with a teacher that would become my first “adult” friend. (It’s not necessarily what you think, folks!) But those tales occurred from September onward. This is an article about August events.
With all of these things being said (or written about), that is why August is a magic time for yours truly. There were other August trips I have been on with the family, and as I got older, as a solo. Those episodes will be written about in future editions of this here newsletter. So as the announcer would say at the end of each episode of As The World Turns, “Tune in tomorrow, same time, same station, for ‘As The World Turns’. This is the CBS television network.”…
NEWS AND REVIEWS
Performing at The Beverly Hills Playhouse is David Henry Hwang’s YELLOW FACE, a semi-autobiographal play that is about race, proper casting, and the conspiracy of a foreign entity that might have had an influence toward political fundraising.
Jeffrey Sun is playwright, David Henry Hwang. He had just made a splash on Broadway for writing the play M. Butterfly, making him the first person of Asian decent to win the coveted Tony Award for best play. He came a long way in theater from when he once worked for his banker father Henry Hwong (Alfonso Faustino) a few years before. Now the toast of The Great White Way, Henry hears about a show that’s been a hit in London with the plan to move the production to New York, the musical Miss Saigon. However, one of the leads playing a character of Asian decent was reported to be causation. This leads toward a scandal in the theater world that involved the actor’s union, an Asian-American defiance group, among others that are involved in keeping this heritage true to its origins. Henry writes another play that has Asians characters as its lead. One person cast for this part was Marcus G. Dahlman (Roman Moretti), a young man who is leading man material. His role is Chinese. Marcus is white and of Jewish decent. Although the play becomes a flop, Marcus later becomes cast in a revival of The King and I. This casting (and when Marcus Dahlman changes his identity as Asian Marcus Gee), is just the start of David’s problems. It seems that his father has been involved with receiving and depositing some high amounts of money geared toward supporting a candidate running in the presidential election. And this funding came from the Chinese government. One element leads toward another when the feds become involved. This is not the attention that Henry was looking for, far from the floodlights and floorboards that the theater world can ever muscle up!
This play written by David Henry Hwang, takes some of the facts (adding a bit of creative licence) that did occur through the 1990s leading into the early days of the 21st century, back when such scandals were uncovered through print-based newspaper pages. (That thing called “the internet” was still just a novelty back then!) At first, the play deals with the comical elements that gave to the rise of political correctness in entertainment where Hispanic characters should be played by Hispanics, Black characters should be portrayed by those with the newly minted name “African-Americans”, Indians (now known as “Native Americans”) should be depicted by…you get the idea! Its second act takes upon a sobering nature when David’s father becomes a target with the feds by becoming part of a notion where a foreign nation held influence to a major political run. These changes of mood and tempo makes this play as a comedy-drama, or “dramity” as its known in television speak!
Jeffrey Sun as David Henry Hwang (or “DHH” as his character is officially billed as), is indeed Asian. He takes upon what comes to him in stride, although he, along with his banker father Henry as played by Alfonso Faustino (Asian as well) nearly dodges a bullet! Roman Moretti (non-Asian) as Marcus G. Dahlman a.k.a. Marcus Gee, is the young guy with enough cocky attitude that could get him a meaty part in Beverly Hills 91210, 21 Jump Street, or any other series that was airing on the Fox Network! The rest of the cast appearing in this production consisting of (as listed in their alphabetical order), Dennis Nollette, John Pendergast, Lisagaye Tomlinson, and Jennifer Vo Le, play multiple roles (some Asian, others as “White”) that make up the part of David Henry Hwang’s virtural can of worms.
Rick Allen’s set is rather simple. It just consists of a number of wooden “sweetshop” -type chairs, a pair of scaffolds on center stage left/right as a visual element, along with a few hand props used as telephone devices–land lines mostly! These backdrops only serve as a place mark as most of the location settings are rendered as a virtual reality time and space point of reference. Directed by Robert Zummerman, YELLOW FACE shows off a period that ushered in the political correctness era of the 1990s and later became part of the permanent domestic domain. It also brought to the attention that foreign governing bodies can indeed play a role of how a political campaign for office can be influenced through the acquisition of large amount of funds. These elements still plays a part to the current political landscape of now. This time, the shift moved from Asia to Russia! Those antics would make interesting fodder for perhaps a future stage play (even a musical?) to perform somewhere else! Only time, tide, and the power of social media will bring that idea to stage light! Until then, this play as performing at The Beverly Hills Playhouse will tide one over to a fitting “T”! (Tea?)
YELLOW FACE, presented by the Firescape Theatre in association with The Beverly Hills Playhouse, performs at The Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 South Robinson Blvd. (south of Wilshire Blvd.) Beverly Hills, until September 26th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. Tickets can be ordered online at http://www.FirescapeTheatre.com
Follow the hashtags #YellowFace, #ItsLikeWhiteOnRice
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