Tuesday, March 23, 2010

99 ~ Where Did We Go Wrong?

Get Smart, the TV show, was huge in the fall of 1965. Written by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry before they created The Producers, The Graduate, Blazing Saddles, etc. Brooks and Henry knew how to manipulate an 11 year old boy's brain with a surgeon's precision. Fast and silly dialogue spoken by ridiculous men with a very pretty woman thrown in for good luck. Barbara Feldon playing Agent 99, was just as silly as the men, plus a boy bonus: if you didn't like brunettes, when you saw "99," you all of a sudden liked brunettes.

Her full length portrait sat beside Emma Peel on my bedtime dream wall.

Everyone had Get Smart-itis, so my St. Stephen of Hungary Boy Scout Troop 654 decided we'd put on a show. I think I played Hymie the Robot. I don't recall who played Maxwell Smart, but I do remember we decided to not put Agent 99 in the sketch because no one in the scout troop had the guts to play a girl.

After practicing for weeks, we set a show date and invited our parents down to watch the sketch. We asked them to come without thinking through the sketch lasted nine minutes. Not much plot, and not much of a show. Bobby Hauser, our Assistant Scout Master, and one of the most enthusiastic contact sport freaks I've ever had the pleasure to be hit by, decided it'd be a great idea if we put on a few one minute long boxing matches right after the sketch. This decision by Bobby, like the length of the sketch, was not well thought through. Bobby kept two pairs of 16 ounce boxing gloves handy. One, because they were useful in quickly settling arguments between the boys at scout meetings, and the second reason: he liked violence.

On the night of the play, our parents were led into the St. Stephen's lunchroom. I was glad we did it there. The school lunches were horrific, the room always smelled like rotten eggs, old meat and spoiled soup. I got a kick out of a couple of fathers holding their noses and whispering to their swooning wives.

The sketch flew by, then one of the older guys made an announcement: "Mothers & Fathers, Sisters and Brothers, we bring you Friday Night at the Fights!"

A few dads perked up, but the mothers all looked like they got hit in the head with a flour sock. The first fight, was Tommy Belleck and me. We were the same size and had on no headgear and the gloves felt like heavy bags of laundry. I didn't feel right lifting them up. While I'm playing with the gloves, I missed Bobby Hauser starting the fight. Belleck landed a series of shots to both sides of my head, he began to punch my head back and forth, back and forth, this all happened before I could get the gloves up. I tried to protect my ears. My head hurt. Belleck was delivering countless "bell ringer" punches that would later be deemed illegal in the NFL. I don't remember the other bouts, but do remember the parents didn't clap. The Pastor, Father Frederick heard about the fights and gave notice that the gloves and the fights were forbidden at St. Stephen's. Bobby Hauser switched the official Troop 654 inside sport to full tackle football in the auditorium.

Years later, the group, Toto, recorded a song called "99." I thought this song was a tribute to Barbara Feldon. I was wrong but that never changed my perception. It's a candy ass song, but I still think of her when I hear it.

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