My wife was in the entertainment field when I met her. She worked in the 90% of show-business, not the “show” that represents the other 10%. She was a booking agent for big bands, jazz performers, and the occasional stand-up comedian.
Standup Comic. That’s what I wanted to be back then.
Somehow I’d gotten it into my head that I could be funny, so I wrote up a short act, just about 10 minutes worth of jokes and stories, which brought gales of laughter from my friends, especially when we sat around drinking expensive Scotch.
The first time I visited my future wife’s office, I expected to find her behind a cluttered desk, a stump of a cigar dangling from her lips, frizzy hair all over the place, and enmeshed in the sound of a half-dozen telephones ringing all at once. Isn’t that how it is in the movies? With posters on the wall and framed autographed black-and-white headshots of famous celebrities?
She had a desk. Her office was tiny. No posters. No photos. No cigar. But there was a telephone that rang — perhaps once. She did have frizzy hair that was out of place.
I did my act for her, but she didn’t respond as my friends did. She didn’t even smile. She stared. I tried out new material on her. I left and came back days later with even more jokes and funny stories. She advised me to seek out open-mike sessions at local comedy clubs so I’d get a feel for an audience and what passed as funny.
I asked her to put me in. I was ready. I could be someone’s opening act. Didn’t she discover that guy who played jazz saxophone standing on a bridge over the Chicago River? She invited him to her office, listened to him play and got him “gigs.” That’s what I wanted. I wanted gigs.
And then she called me.
I often visited her at her office, often just dropped in late on Thursday afternoons because that was the day I saw my psychiatrist, whose office was in the same building as my future wife’s.
Her phone call was eye-opening. And devastating. She told me not to come to her office anymore, that she was tired of being bothered, that I wasn’t as funny as I thought, and if I wanted to be a comic I should take her professional advice and go to an open-mike and find out how good or how awful I was.
Since she didn’t want me coming to her office, would she want to go to a movie Saturday night? I had to ask. I didn’t want to stop seeing her.