Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lights! Camera! Brain Damaged!

If I were to go back in time and take all of the other forks in the road I think acting would have been a successful venture. Not that I really had aspirations of singing & dancing my way onto broadway, that's not my thing. But I think I would have been a helluva character actor or a standout as the oddball in those sidekick-ish parts of films & such. I don't have any real evidence to back that statement, but I have more room to talk than you may think.

I believe my penchant for being a doofus evolved in college. Some people experimented with drugs & alcohol or an alternative lifestyle - I experimented with how many ways I could freak people out or get them to believe whatever ruse I came up with. I can't say everything came from me and me alone; I had some help from various roommates, teammates and others who had nothing better to do.

Some of our projects included:

1. Conjuring up a fake "press release" inviting students to practice with the Morehead State basketball team and then-Coach Dick Fick (God rest his soul) complete with a free t-shirt for all those taking part. My roommate Kevin was a computer drafting major who aided in the press release construction. Apparently the fiery Coach Fick was none to happy when about fifty students showed up wanting to test their skills against the MSU Eagles.

Coack Dick Fick: http://nabc.cstv.com/sports/m-baskbl/spec-rel/043003aac.html

2. Figuring a quick way to short out electricity in dorm rooms especially those belonging to neighbors who didn't appreciate our craziness & zany antics. This was done late at night after they had gone to bed to make sure alarm clocks did not go off when expected.

3. Spending the better part of a summer session in an upscale apartment-style dorm by going along with the university's assumption that I was someone else. I never lied, per say; I just did not correct a mistake. Morehead eventually figured it out - but not until after I had spend 2 1/2 months of a three month summer session in student luxury. Getting things lost in the shuffle was something the university did often....usually with my paperwork, tuition and fees.

The one I'm most proud of put my amateur acting skills at the forefront. Starting in high school I used to, during cross country practice, pretended to run into road signs we passed everyday. It didn't take much to slap the sign, throw my head back & fake severe pain. This led to embarrassing friends in public with swinging doors, light poles along sidewalks and steel beams that crossed my path.

I was surprised to discover that when my college cross country career began that my new teammates had already been doing the sign trick, but with one exception. They only slapped the sign and acted out a half-assed scene as if they were hurt. That, in my book, was a disgrace to the goof ball code! My three-year-old niece did a better job of trying to hunt zombies from Scooby-Doo behind the living room sofa than they did faking an injury caused by a stationary road sign. This needed to be improved and I was all too happy to oblige.

Scooby-Doo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scooby-Doo

We needed to garner attention & act as a team. With what had to be done already in my head my teammates from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky were only asked to play the straight men and display concern when the episode took place. The guys were impressed with the first few practice attempts. I developed this technique of slapping the sign, throwing my head back and tossing myself to the ground. I gave myself countless bruises, scrapes and scratches but those were the casualties of attaining the glory of shocking students, professors and the administration. The guys did a great job of "coming to my aid" almost as if they, too, had a desire to make a name for themselves.

The real test came my sophomore year in October of 1995 around Halloween. During a trip to Wal-Mart a few days earlier (entertainment was hard to come by in a small town) I came across fake blood capsules just before being asked to leave the facility by a store clerk. We had spent about two hours in the costume section trying on everything, chasing each other around and upsetting a few customers. I was able to purchase the fake blood as we were escorted out by the friendly security guard. The capsules, once broken, gave off a wonderful strawberry smell - but tasted like sweaty feet. Although a coroner could have easily mistaken the liquid for blood after a quick look, these were ideal...if you could keep yourself from gagging.

Classes changed right around 4pm which was about the same time practice started. We usually followed University Boulevard and crossed the center of campus at the main intersection which included the student center, the president's house, the library and several other buildings. This meant at 4pm we would have a huge unsuspecting audience. I made it a point to wear an old white shirt to make sure the fake blood would be highlighted for all to see.

Once we arrived at the locker room we spent ten to fifteen minutes stretching then headed out to begin our eight mile run. Before I joined them I stopped by my locker and popped a couple of capsules in my mouth. They could easily be broken by biting down on them and could be held in the corners of your cheeks until ready for deployment.

Approaching our target my giddy teammates move into position: a few behind me, a few in front of me and a few next to me. I could see them holding back laughter, but we were an everyday sight on campus so our audience would not be surprised at our presence. Only a few feet from my stop sign I slide the capsules from my cheeks to in between my teeth with my tongue and just like that, going at full speed, I slap the sign...throw my head back...bite into the capsules...and hit the ground rolling. My mouth is flooding with the disgusting red liquid and as my momentum comes to a stop I spit out a little "blood" onto the ground. I grab my shirt and smear the liquid around it and my face. Getting up in a woozy sort of fashion my teammates come to a dead stop and rush over to me faking Oscar winning concern complete with words of complete astonishment.

The Oscars: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academy_Award

Immediately the crowd of students and faculty are stunned. Some stop and stare in disbelief while others continue walking but have a puzzled look as if what they really saw has yet to register. As rumblings of concern come from those in shock a campus public safety official, who just happened to be in his car at the intersection at just the right time, get outs and asks if assistance is needed. I shrug him of like I'm unaware of my surroundings and tell him I must continue running to keep from upsetting my coach. I, covered in a mysterious fruity-smelling red substance that resembles blood, shake of my "injuries" and continue running with my partners in crime. A look back shows a crowd of confused MSU students and the like. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! My teammates and I laughed & discussed our perfectly executed plan throughout the run. We even talked about what we could do next - the possibilities were endless.

Or so we thought.

Once we finished practice we headed back to our respective dorm rooms. Kevin, my roommate & teammate, notices a message on our voicemail as we get home. He checks it out. As I relax and contemplate dragging my fake blood stained self to the shower to get rid of the fruit salad aroma emanating from my shirt Kevin laughs, turns to me and says, "I think this message is for you." Curious, I play it back...its Coach Lindsey. With amusement in his voice he tells me he has received a call from a university regent. This gentlemen goes on to tell him that MSU President Ron Eaglin's wife saw my stop sign stunt that afternoon from her home (their front steps lead straight to that sign...about 30 feet from the front door). She attempted to rush from the upstairs portion of her home to the street in order to offer her assistance, but I was already gone by the time she arrived. Mrs. Eaglin, thinking I was seriously injured, goes on tell emergency officials its possible I may be brain damaged (Yeah! She said that!!) and is urging university police & public safety to search for me. They did so and had been searching for about two hours!! I'm thinking...I'VE OUTDONE MYSELF! And when will the academy be calling with my invitation to this year's awards ceremony!

Brain Damaged: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_damage

Just before I begin conjuring up my acceptance speech Coach Lindsey congratulates my accomplishment and says I'm leaving it up to you to call Mrs. Eaglin and apologize for scaring her & hitting her stop sign! What? When did she become the Kentucky Department of Transportation Superintendent and purchase a road sign? I was a little peeved, but still basking in the glow of a perfectly executed plan...I really didn't care. I had conquered.

A few hours later, letting the situation stew a little bit longer, I made some calls and retrieved Mrs. Eaglin's unlisted phone number. I gave her a less than enthusiastic apology. She was understanding & even got a chuckle out of my explanation. Actually, I think she could tell I was doing all I could to keep from laughing in her ear. It was obvious I was smiling.

Over the next few weeks I would get looks from fellow students on campus who thought they knew who I was, but couldn't place me. Even a few professors got a kick out of the stunt. Some theater friends vaguely suggested I change my major and study acting. They laughed, but I think they were just jealous that I had just put them in their place with nary an acting class to my name.

Months later at our sports banquet coach told the story to the entire athletic department & all of MSU's student athletes. He had me stand up and President Eaglin jokingly said he was going to keep an eye on me. I think coach thought that would embarrass me, but I was even more proud that I was getting such recognition - though I was still being ignored by Hollywood...damn those elitists!!

Morehead State Athletics: http://www.msueagles.com/

I eventually graduated to being an adult...for the most part. But that Halloween stop sign collision is as fresh in my mind today as it was thirteen years ago. I still think I would have been a heck of an actor if I would have taken that road, but I'm happy with the path I took. And as the story goes: If you can go to a mirror & look at yourself straight in the eye and call that person a success - you've won the battle.

So far I haven't heard any complaints. ;)

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