By Scout Addis
We were bamboozled into taking the job by a smooth talking technical director with a pencil thin mustache and a penchant for weirdness. How else do I explain my summer at the Cape Cod Melody Tent? Julio and I needed some legitimate theater work to put on our resumes, and the $50 a week they paid us was barely enough money to drink. That is once we figured out we could drive my dad’s pint-sized trailer to Hyannis, MA from Chicago … and live in it under the guise of the “security” shack for the theater.
The summer started slowly as we hung the lights and sound and got the ancient turntable stage running again. But come the 4th of July, it was a new act almost every day—and that’s when my brushes with fame came fast and furious.
Charlie Daniels made it impossible to light his face by pulling his hat brim down practically to his ankles.
George Carlin locked himself in the bathroom during the afternoon before the show playing recordings of his monologues over and over.
Gordon Lightfoot seemed sadder than any Canadian I had ever met.
Robert Guillaume sent me out for a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, which we ate, and then he autographed while waiting for his show to be cancelled due to a terrific thunderstorm that caused the tent to bulge and then leak ferociously.
But the highlight of the summer came in the form of a singer that at the time I really knew nothing about: Tom Jones.
I was handling hospitality for that show, which meant I was responsible for making the star trailer look less like a dumpy trailer, and filling it with all the food and drink that Tom requested in the rider of his contract. Tom’s requests were not modest, and I had a hell of a time finding a specific kind of Welsh beer, as well as some Welsh whiskey I’d never heard of. But a contract is a contract, so when Tom arrived he got what he wanted. He was doing two nights, and we had been warned about a few key items.
1) Water. He is very energetic and he needs several pint glasses of water for each act in the show.
2) Electricity. We needed to make sure that we carefully sealed the center electrical outlets because Tom sweats, a lot, and we didn’t want him to get electrocuted.
I took care of the water in the glasses. Julio fixed the stage.
After the first night, as the audience was leaving I wandered onto the stage to clear the glasses, and yes indeed, the center of the stage was a little damp with eau de Jones.
As I was hauling the empty pint glasses off-stage a woman approached me.
“Can I have that?” she asked motioning to one of the glasses in my hand.
“I’ll give you $5.”
I had seen how some of the ladies behaved during the show, so I wasn’t surprised at this level of idolatry.
“$20.” I replied without a blink. Come on, we were poor stage hands and $20 would buy a lot of beer or vodka.
She didn’t even hesitate and she handed me the cash. I considered trying to hawk the rest of the glassware before thinking better of it.
We shut the theater down in record time that night, and I turned the lights off in the star trailer. I heard the air conditioner still on in the back room and headed back to unplug it in the dark. As I rounded the corner in the changing room, my face became enveloped in something icy cold and damp. I aged a year at least as I scrambled to hit the light switch and see what had assaulted me.
There blowing in the breeze of the air conditioner was Tom Jones’ white shirt on a hanger dangling from the ceiling. To this day I can still remember its ghoulish touch.
On the way out the trailer door I was so rattled I nearly forgot to take a big hit off the bottle of whiskey and steal a six of Tom’s beer from the fridge.