|Concert Performances: Fox Theater, Boulder, Colorado
You know, my first job was in a morgue. I worked in a morgue. I was a volunteer. It's the truth. So my father was the entertainment director at the hospital in Muskogee, Oklahoma, the Veterans Administration Hospital. That's how I got into the morgue. I had an "in." It wasn't too hard. I thought I wanted to be a doctor. I discovered once I was in there that my urges were entirely ghoulish and they were already satisfied just by walking in the door.
My father used to take me down -- in one of the previous hospitals where he worked, which happened to be up here in Cheyenne, which ever way that is...is it that way? Is it really, is it really that way? Wow. I should start a 900 number and give advice. -- he would take me down and show me the guy with lock jaw. This was an idea that he had for entertainment, not for the people who were there, but for the visitors. I didn't get it myself. We'd wait in the hall and this guy would come along and [my father would] poke me with his elbow and tell me "Here he comes." And I'd say something like, "Oh dad, I don't know, I'm not having a good time."
My father. He's deaf in one ear but he can always tell if you've put on a few pounds. He can sleep standing up. This is something that is a source of endless pride for me, to even be related to someone who can do that. He was in St. Paul as a 22-year old -- he was riding the bus with his sister. He fell asleep standing up. The bus, of course, turned at some point. My father just kept going [in] the other direction. Being asleep he didn't do it right and he fell down.
He taught ...he began as a golf professional, working in California and Michigan and Wisconsin. He has a picture of himself after he won the Navy championship in '45 doing an exhibition match. He did several of these with Johnny Weismuller, Sam Snead and Mickey Rooney. It's a great photograph. He told me that Sam Snead was the best golfer of the bunch. [laughs and snorts]. I would have guess Mickey Rooney wouldn't you?
[My father] had a degree...I'm going to come to the end of this but I ...he had a degree in physical education. As a result of that, when he was drafted during the war he was booked -- however you want to put it -- to train recruits in hand-to-hand combat. What this means is something that's a little too spooky to contemplate but for me what it meant was when we moved to Cheyenne, where we lived for a couple of years -- and we moved ever couple of years everywhere, I was performing my usual function as the new kid in town which is to be beaten up on a daily basis. And as much as I liked leaving the town I had been in and moving to a new place, I didn't enjoy fulfilling my role as a punching bag, so I asked my father to teach me how to defend myself. That was a mistake. I won't get into that. He sort of demonstrated...uh...well....he -- well, never mind...he...I shouldn't have asked him that.
What I did instead, after licking my wounds, was look up the book that he had on hand-to-hand combat. It was the instruction manual. I had never really spent much time looking at it because he had another one on jungle diseases. It's like pornography. You start looking at a jungle disease book and you get sicker as you go along but you can't stop.
In the combat book, which was made up largely of pictures, with little -- about six pictures to a page -- with little captions. The first thing that I remember seeing was a photo of a guy in an aviator helmet, who was evidently the good guy, poking a stick in the eye of the other guy who had no helmet.
I rejected that possibility because nobody was poking sticks in my eye and it is a little out of line. I kept looking and there's one that I remember fondly, when the guy in the aviator helmet is spitting in the other guys face and the caption to that is something like, "Even in the head of battle your enemy will be offended and shocked when you spit on him." And in the time it takes for him to register all of these reactions, you can poke him in the eye with your stick.
If I was off to war, I'd want more than spit on my side.
This is a tune that....do I want to do...yeah. This is a tune that actually is about something I'm kind of ashamed to admit that, but it refers at least briefly to a parade that happened in Cheyenne when I lived there for about three years as a child. They have a parade there once a week cause it's the capital. And because its Cheyenne, you have to have a cowboy at the front of it. And this one had Roy Rogers or Gene Autry riding at the head of the parade. And I, after writing this tune, tried to figure which one of these two guys it was and that's when I made my discovery: they're the same guy.
Comments or questions about Leo's web site? Send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.