L'imitation of Life
Commented on and reviewed by Melba Carondelet with audible
comments and stream of consciousness commentary from New Orleans
"Hit, after hit, after hit, after hit, after hit!" Melba
Carondelet bellowed, pounding her table at Le Chat Noir after
every word "hit." (Miraculously the cabaret table withstood the
hammering of La Melba's bejeweled fist admirably, much to the
relief of Barbara Motley owner of Le Chat Noirhttp://www.cabaretlechatnoir.com/
.) "And the man is doing forty
shows all at the same time!" she stertorously croaked, knocking
over her mayonnaise jar full of crushed ice and Pernod.
(Magically the expert staff of Le Chat noir mopped up the deluge,
and refilled La Melba's "glass." Ms. Motley breathed a sigh of
relief because she would not have to hear La Melba's rants on
"proper service;" and how things were so much better in Ante
Bellum times.) "How does he do it?" she asked of the greenly
envious actors, actresses, directors, playwrights, and theater
sycophants worshiping La Melba adoringly at her table as she did
a post mortem on the latest "pack-em-in production" L'imitation
of Life starring the incomparable New Orleans actor, Ricky Grahamhttp://www.rickygrahamonline.com/
. "How, how, how?" she gasped,
grabbing at her imaginary rope-necklace of fresh water pearls in
"Velllll, he's been doing eet dat vay, vay before I vas borrrn,"
purred Mr. Mann Tony Spam-Doval in his exotic Romance language
accent, while peeking at himself in a little hand mirror
encrusted with sapphires he had snuck out of La Melba's clutch
purse. He was checking to see if his latest Japanese Noh theatre
makeup with Modern Primitive facial tattoos was too garish/gayish
looking. "After all, it wouldn't do for an up for almost tenured
professor from the Tulane University Department of Theatre and
to look too
outrageous. Such a venerable, noble, and worthy institution would
not be happy if it was made to look ridiculous by one it its
aspiring tenurites," he thought to himself, peeking again at his
makeup and striking an odd theatrical Asian/Maori pose.
"Aaaaannnndddd he does have a lot of talent," said Ms. Prancine
Bagel, using her nasal Brooklyn accent. Ms. Bagel is a local
actress known for buying out her own shows and starring herself
in the lead roles. Tonight, the doubt about her own talents was
thick in the somewhat strangled tone of her voice as she adjusted
her bustier and tossed her curly locks. "I need to get that
mirror from Spam-Doval to examine my implants," Prancine thought
"Yeah," snapped Harry Tucker succinctly with undisguised envy.
"And Gawd knows, his comedic timing is perfect. Perfect,
perfect, perfect!" he moaned, no doubt remembering the dozens of
shows he had done with no small degree of success last season in
Kenner and New Orleans; but maybe not as snappily as Ricky
Graham. Mr. Tucker glanced at the sapphire encrusted mirror, but
his eyes locked onto Ms. Bagel's decolletage, and he thought, "I
could work those $25,000.00 knockers into a show somehow...
Maybe Little Me?"
"Well, dawlins, I think he's at da top uh his local actin'
career," famous New Orleans actress and well loved comedienne,
the wacky and equally talented Weckey Mallen said sweetly. "'N,
nobody desoives his success more dan he does!, she said taking a
big gulp of her Scotch and Coke. "Don't y'all agree? Mah
hawts...?" asked Ms. Mallen. Ms. Mallen nostalgically thought of
past times, "We were so dawlin' in dah costumes our dear Maw-Maws
made for us for Maw-dee Graw day... I was so cute as dah Indian
maid Pochahontas... Ricky was so Pilgrim-like as John Smith...
Dose were dah days..."
"Agreed! So, he's got a lot of talent, perfect timing, and he's
been on the boards for decades and eons and centuries," quacked
Mr. Malt Fonk, playwright and local theatre critic for Slambit
Magazine, a weekly trend-rag known for it's pages and pages of
glossy ads for quaint shoppes; but with little copy worth
reading. Except for the tiny column it allows Mr. Fonk for
pontificating about local theater, and an occasional political
commentary by it's Boy Toy writer, Mr. Fancy Dew Flo. "Thank God
the play is based on the 1950s film Imitation of Life. I can use
up a few hundred words covering Fanny Hurst's old chestnut of a
plot," thought Mr. Fonk, gratefully.
"Well, I'm just going to have to give him a ravishing, raving,
rave review for his role in L'imitation d'Vie," sighed Melba
trying to show off her bad French by pronouncing the show's title
entirely in French. "And, after seeing the full house tonight
and hearing all that constant applause and laughter, I think the
show deserves the highest of praise."
La Melba pulled out her gqMac laptop. (Always on the cutting
edge of computer technology, though not understanding one iota of
it, La Melba had "convinced" Steve Jobs of Apple to create a
Gender Queer Macintosh computer just for her. And besides, she
had caused so many Windows based computers to have nervous
breakdowns, that Bill Gates had a restraining order against La
Melba.) The rhinestone encrusted computer glittered in the dim
light of Le Chat Noir. As La Melba opened the lap top a pink
cloud of face powder and recreational drugs floated from the
keyboard; and a hush filled the room.
Melba Carondelet cracked her bejeweled fingers loudly as she
thought back to her childhood typing class at Gretna #2 School.
"That lesbian child bitch," thought La Melba angrily. "I should
have won that speed typing competition. I should have won that
blue ribbon! But watch me now Miss Gretna Garbo Becnel...,"
gloated La Melba. La Melba began to type at the speed of light.
Her fingers were a blinding blur. As she typed La Melba spoke
out loudly. With out breaking her momentum, La Melba rocked with
laughter at her own witticisms, and frequently gulped from her
"L'imitation of Life adapted by Ricky Graham and Running With
based on an
original script by Bruce McNally was a delightful romp into Mr.
Graham's 'specialee tay du may zone,'" she said through a forced
smile. "As Lana Turner, Mr. Graham was amazing and wonderful in
his own creative world of farce and drag roles. His ability to
connect, really connect, with his audience was on display in this
play, a parody of Lana Turner and the Ross Hunter film version of
Imitation of Life," she mused out loud as she typed.
Still typing and speaking loudly, La Melba began to dig in her
capacious handbag, a cheap copy of a five thousand dollar Fendi,
and finally pulled out her bottle of Pernod. Pouring her mayo
jar half full she took a long gulp and continued. Ms. Motley
glanced at her disapprovingly, while oblivious to this and
playing to her audience of admirers, La Melba kept typing and
"And I haven't even mentioned his brilliant supporting cast," she
said wiping her lips using a piece of lace taken from a Queen of
Comus gown circa 1911. She dabbed her carmine colored lips with
dainty little girly touches. "Donald Lewis was actually
tear-jerking and so much fun to watch in his debut drag role as
Lana Turner's Negro maid, the long suffering Annie Johnson.
"That delightful Dorian Rush was camp incarnate in the role of
Lana Turner's daughter, the knife-wielding Suzie Turner,"
incisively screeched La Melba. "And her lyrical musical talents
displayed in written lyrics are Heaven. And her vocals with
Brian Peterson, backed by that cute pianist Jefferson Turner, are
those of a member of the Choir Celestial. All in all pure camp
opera buffa style," rhapsodized La Melba, incorrect in her opera
"And I thought that divine Brian Peterson was simply divine as
Sara Jane Johnson, the 'pass a blank' daughter of Annie Johnson,"
she said spewing Pernod over the table between laughs, and not
noticing the cleaning crew taking care of her mess. "I thought I
would split my drawers when he did his bit as a sleazy strip
teaser hootchie woman. It was just amazing how he recreated
choreography from the film even though he was not on a chair.
Why, I almost cried when he sang that song over her mama's
coffin, even though the witty Dorain Rush lyrics, already
commented upon, were funny as hell," she said dabbing at her eyes
as two crocodile tears slipped down her jowls.
"Ohhhh," Melba cooed, "what a wonderful show it was! And you must
see that Jack Long, playing Steve Martin," she said, fanning her
face with a fist full of the play's programs, staining them with
cosmetics and Pernod. "I just about peed on myself when he stood
on stage with that huge, long, long prostheses hanging down where
his pee pee would be. Oh, my," she giggled having a hot flash.
"He was a trip in his role and I can't believe those magnificent
gowns designed by Cecile Casey Covert and other costumes by Brian
Peterson and Julie Winn, helped by Sarah Smith," she babbled
wheezing. "I'd kill for all of them, but I don't think Ms. Casey
could get enough fabric to make a collection to cover my full
figure," she whispered loudly, suddenly demure and shy. "Unless
she could buy a few discarded old opera house curtains," she
said, always ready to indulge in self deprecation for a laugh.
Cunningly La Melba thought to herself, all the while talking and
typing, "I have to get my paws on those jewels by Harriet
Winston. And those furs by Stephen Rizzo... They will be worth
getting; and I can deal easily enough with PETAhttp://www.peta.org/
about the furs... I will bide my time like
a black widow spider, and make an acquisition of each and every
one those accessories; and add them to my collections!"
Suddenly there was a loud bang and the door leading to the lounge
flew open. Melba's hands froze like talons over the keyboard.
"What's the matter, old woman, don't you recognize me?" a deep
voice bellowed from the doorway, as Lon Chewlin, La Melba's dear
friend, and her favorite editor and writer, was pushed through
the door in a wheelchair. Lon was in a near fatal incident many
months ago. Everyone at the table gasped with joy to see him as
he was rolled towards Melba's table, and obviously much recovered
as well as could be wished by all his many admirers. He is
highly respected by those too dumb to know better for his totally
opaque and gongoristic writing style. If one couldn't understand
his esoteric references and dense writings, they must be the work
of a genius this crowd thought. La Melba had not seen him for
many months, and really missed the old crabola. Melba barely
glanced at Lon's attendant in her "honest" joy in seeing such an
old, old, old friend.
Lon Chewlin bumped against the table and parked. "Well, old
woman, I overheard you are doing your autopsy/review on this
splendid production," he growled. "I just hope that old pen of
yours doesn't still use powdered curare mixed with the excretion
of a panicked octopus for ink," he continued in his usual
curmudgeonly manner. "I heard that the Running With Scissors
group has produced another hit. That true?"
Before she could answer, a young girl dressed in a Santino-like
creation from Project Runway rushed up to the table. "Oh, Mr.
Chewlin, Mr. Chewlin," panted the aspiring young actress, Portia
Su Casa Es Mi Casa from the Tulane University Department of
Theater and Dance. "I'm such a big fan of yours," she oozed. "I
saw the play tonight, and it was wonderful! Will you be coming
tomorrow? I have some performing arts friends with me, Payton
Faithful, Marlena Fearless, Shawn Melon Balls, and Janet La Bella
Bella Belladonna I so want to introduce to you," she drooled.
Lon Chewlin gave her his famous black dismissive look. Miss Su
Casa Es Mi Casa looked confused for a moment, she then backed
away, and silently slipped out of his view. La Melba thought to
herself, "Lon still has it. No one approaches the King of the
Dykes without the proper introductions..."
But La Melba began to pout in her seat, as she always became a
little upset when she was not the center of attention. In this
attitude and aspect, she is like most performers, stage crew,
critics, and other people involved - even remotely, such as by
marriage - with the theater. "I'm so glad to see him looking so
well," she thought to herself, "and what an entrance. Maybe I
could get a wheelchair and pretend to..."
Her thoughts were interrupted as sweet Ms. Weckey Mallen rose
from her chair like the queen's float from the Iris carnival
parade. Looming into the light she leaned over to kiss Lon
Chewlin on the cheek, her baubles, bangles, beads, and bracelets
jingling and jangling with her sequins and rhinestones sparkling,
her whole gaudy over decorated immense physical presence creating
a momentary New Orleans Mardi Gras vision in everyone's mind.
"Dawlin's, Ah got ta go," she said. "Y'all know ah'm doin' a
show at Le Petit Theat-tur duh View Carree tah nite." Laughing,
she floated away in a cloud of sparkles and clinking jewelry.
"'N', Melba," she said looking back, "don't you forget to say how
wonderful Rod Lemaire and Brad Caldwell and Liz Ziblich was in
dere camel or cameo roles, or what evah dey're called. 'N' dat
great sound and tech stuff done by Jason Knobloch and da magical
lites by Su Gonczy - don't forget. Dere' all frens uh mine. 'N'
dey do good woik. Ya know dat! Don't forget dose two cuties
Richard Read http://www.sturtle.com/
for dere contributions, too."
And then she was gone, leaving everyone in her wake feeling good
with memories of old Mardi Gras times before Hurricane Katrina
and La Melba felt she was that she was right in her additional
comments about the play.
La Melba looked at her computer's screen and gasped loudly, Ms.
Mallen's parting comments - and only Ms. Mallen's comments - had
been incorporated into her review. La Melba remembered Steve
Jobs telling her something about "voice recognition" in her
gqMac's word processing program; but this was preternatural, like
something out of an Ann Rice novel of horror.
But not any computer, no matter how advanced, would get the last
word when La Melba was in control, so she went on typing and
talking bravely, "Even though our town is suffering, and we're
all going crazy, one good way to forget our troubles for a couple
of hours is to come to Le Chat Noir and enjoy our town's biggest
stars in their production of this spirit lifting show,
L'imitation of Life. It's another hit; and one we don't mind,
even though it's a hurricane of frothy fun that will leave you as
amazed as if it were a force of nature. It is. And so is our
marvelous Native Son, Ricky Graham."
La Melba saved her work. And closed her lap top. "Shannon!
Shannon! Patrick Shannon!" shouted La Melba in her best Grayson
Hall as Miss Judith Fellowes in the film Night of the Iguana
voice. "Publish this on your web sitehttp://www.crescentcitychronicles.net/
on the Internet,
immediately! My world wide fans will just love this! And after
you have accomplished that task, E-mail it to one and all in your
Knowing her commands would be obeyed, La Melba snatched back her
mirror from the clutches of Mr. Spam-Doval. Air kissing the room
in general, she screeched her good nights, and exited stage