Journal entry: February 18, 1977 (age 7) – Talent Show
Tiddly, winky, winky, winky
Tiddly, winky, woo
I love you.
This kind of groveling before the judges was as effective as it was shameless. This afternoon, the gymnasium at St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School was electrified by this vaudevillian pandering. The song was precious enough on its own. When performed by Missy and Andrea Mathis, two little girls who look like the Campbell’s Soup kids, it was positively “Awwww!”-ful. I was going to have to bring out the big guns.
I closed my eyes and winced at the memory of my talent show performance two years ago, when I was in first grade. Midway through a warbled rendition of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee,” I had broken down in tears and run from the stage. Later, I explained to my friends that I had been overcome with patriotic fervor in light of the approaching U.S. Bicentennial. They didn’t buy it, those Benedict Arnolds!
Stowing that baggage in my head container, I strode onstage to prove that this was going to be my lucky century. The audience started to laugh as soon as I said I was going to do some impressions. I hadn’t said anything funny yet, so I found this odd.
I started off with John Wayne, in a bit I had ripped off from a recent Rich Little appearance on The Merv Griffin Show. The Duke is easy – you just end every sentence with “pilgrim.” Next, I pivoted to my Gomer Pyle, for a bit of the old “Surprise, surprise, surprise!” Then I hit them with a one-two: Howard Cosell (of “A…B…C… Sports”) interviewing Muhammad Ali (“the greatest of all TIME!”). With my talent show audience clearly on the ropes, I finished them off with the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, talking about his daughter, Amy. I would have done my Amy Carter impression, too, but I think she’s mute.
I didn’t win, but that’s OK. For the rest of the day, the memory of the audience’s laughter was at least enough to put me on cloud eight-and-a-half. That is, until now, when I snuck out of bed to eat some Super Sugar Crisp cereal and overheard my mom talking to her sister. Mom and Aunt Millie talk on the phone pretty much every day, so that wasn’t unusual. But tonight’s topic grabbed my attention.
“Oh, Millie, he was adorable! Oh heavens, no, the impressions weren’t very good. But everyone was laughing, just at the idea of a little boy – a 7-year-old! – thinking he could do impressions, and marching up on stage to prove it! It was just darling.”
Now I’m back in bed, staring up at the ceiling and feeling sad. It’s really too bad my mom doesn’t watch enough TV to understand my humor. The poor thing has been too busy raising six boys to keep up with popular culture. Having never watched Welcome Back, Kotter, her life is an unexamined one.
I bet the young Fred Travalena was misunderstood, too.