Memories of A Stagehand #1

I worked for several years as a Stagehand, Sound Engineer, and Follow-Spot Operator at the Chatham Cultural Centre. More than a few celebrities came through and performed there; between them, and the multitude of inept amateurs, I’ve collected some amusing stories. Full credit is due to Mike LeBrain for his most excellent suggestion I tell them here, after a discussion on his amazin’ blog about concert contract riders.
#1“Only The Pure Of Heart”

Voulez-Vous Avec Moi Ce Soir

ERNIE “MR DRESSUP” COOMBS toured quite often in our area, and he was a joy to work for. Some children’s performers copped an attitude because they considered what they did a public service or “higher calling” (e.g. Sharon, Louis, & Bram) as if the table upon table of merch in the lobby didn’t show their real motives.  But not Ernie, he was down-to-earth and humble about his luck in being able to earn a good living doing what he enjoyed so much.

The first time he was scheduled when I was there, we were sternly lectured by the administrator about being polite, and neatly dressed in our new, official polo shirts. We practically stood at attention as an old station wagon, pulling a small trailer, rolled up to the door. Ernie and his son, who acted as road manager, climbed out and approached us. “You boys the crew? Pleasure to meet you!” Completely un-assuming in a plaid shirt and jeans, and puffing on a cigar. We started  emptying the trailer, only took a few minutes before we saw it; The Tickle Trunk! there it was, wrapped in an old blanket. Carried it in and placed it on the stage. Now, in his contract rider, he had specified that only “Clean-Shaven, Morally Upright Young Men” could directly handle his props. As the new guy, I had been the subject of much ribbing, that some type of “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” situation would occur. As if the trunk would pop open, sensing my impure thoughts, and I would melt into a waxy puddle.

“We just did a few shows in Quebec, so you could say it’s now the French Tickler Trunk !” Ernie said with a twinkle in his eye. We all laughed, and his son quipped  “We might have to get Casey to sing Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir  to convince it to open!”  While we continued setting up, it was explained to me that the reason for the oddly strict rider was to make sure, through the office grapevine, we were on our best behavior.  From years of touring, Mr Coombs knew what stagehands and roadies were like, and wanted his reputation protected.  He didn’t want the kids exposed to any swearing, or lewd t-shirts, or alcohol-and-other-substances on the breath of anyone perceived as working for him.  Thoroughly professional ethos;  NOTHING interfered with the show.  We booked Mr Dressup a few more times, and the ribald humor during set-up, over headsets during the show, and tear-down afterwards, got dirtier and dirtier. But no Mommies ever had a reason to complain.



25 Responses to “Memories of A Stagehand #1”

  1. Wonderful – in the wrong hands stipulating that you only wanted clean-shaven morally upright young boys could play as being a bit on the sinister side.


    • OOoooh! “Mr Dressup” meets “Dexter”, eh? I should pitch that to Showcase or FXTV (Always thought Casey was creepy like a serial killer!!) :O

      But….I paraphrased for the sake of a better story, never saw the actual wording.


  2. The animated gif has me slightly disturbed at 7:30 am!

    The french tickler trunk…OMG!


    • Only slightly? 😦 And only at 7:30?
      I was going for morally-bankrupt-but-not-enough-to-frighten-the-children


      • Only slightly. I’ve come to expect the “unique” from you! And I mean that in only the best way Earl.

        I’m sorry if that is a disappointment to you 😦


        • And I accept that in the best way too, consider it a great compliment Mike 🙂
          NEVER take anything I say as serious or an intended insult, I have a demented sense of humor. It doesn’t translate well on these internet tubes 😛


          • This is true. Those of us with a demented sense of humour are not always understand by everyone in the most ideal of circumstances! I think I get this quality from my dad. He exposed me early on to the delights of Monty Python, Benny Hill, and especially SCTV who were my favourites.


            • How great for you ! My Dad and I only had Victor Borge, Bill Cosby, & Dean Martin in common. Python I had to discover for myself, working backwards through Derek&Clive, The Goon Show & Spike Milligan. Forward in time was Not The Nine O’Clock News, Alexei Sayles & The Young Ones.
              Love SCTV & Kids In The Hall. Still have my Second City/T.O. Firehall stub circa ’77- Martin Short had just joined and blew me away that night.


            • Wow, that’s damn cool.

              I do consider myself very lucky growing up. My parents encouraged me to watch Star Trek! When Star Wars came out they were eager to tell me about and take me to see it. My dad played Johnny Cash in the car so that we knew every song. It was pretty awesome.


            • I remember you mentioning Johnny Cash Live on the way to your cottage before. Small world #2 – Me too!


            • Wicked!

              Yeah two different circumstances. My dad had a tape, be it “Best of” or “Greatest Hits” and it was our favourite. Boy Named Sue especially. My dad took me to see Johnny live when I was in grade 4.

              But I had the Folsom and San Quentin box sets, the full concerts, and today, Mrs. LeBrain and I love to do the whole concert for the trip. Depends on our moods. San Quentin is a really good one for that.


            • For us it was the Folsom 8-track over and over and over and…
              Boy named Sue was a sing-a-long in our car too. Awesome that you got to see him!


            • Yeah, with June too. She kicked off her shoes!

              I don’t know if you have seen the box set versions of those live albums. The full concerts are quite the experience. He played the song San Quentin twice in a freakin’ row, such as the response to it!

              After that he says, “If any of the guards are still talking to me, can I get a glass of water?”


            • I haven’t seen them, would love to. I’ll watch for them, but since I’ve started following your blog, and the others on WordPress, my shopping list has tripled in size. I had been spending time on the Free Music Archive site, and stopped because of how much cool new stuff I wanted. sigh And I have yet to get into DVDs!!!! Have only TWO


            • As soon there was some Stanley Kubrick stuff available on DVD, I immediately made the switch.

              I have since bought Stanley’s entire collection minimum three times each.


            • “My God……It’s full of Stars”


            • It’s full of DVDs!

              That line isn’t even in the first film. The last quarter of the movie is virtually without dialogue. After Hal is shut down, the only dialogue is that of the recording of Dr. Floyd.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s great to hear Mr. Dressup was a class act off stage as well – it could have been childhood destroying to hear he was a high maintenance diva behind the scenes!


  4. Now that is a good story. My Gal took Princess Falda ( daughter) to see Ernie and it according to Falda and the Gal was fantastic. A more appreciate and loving audience could not be found. To hear the Earle of Swirl tell this story qualifies Mr D as a treasure. Great tale.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: