The Prankster and the Jester

I suggested that perhaps he put his head on a diet.

I was working as Court Jester at FAO Schwarz in San Francisco. The Toy Soldier was on lunch break, so I spelled him at the door.

Working the door as Toy Soldier was pure hell, as you had to stand erect under a 12-pound hat with nothing to do for eight hours except opening the door, saluting the customers, and staring at the huge clock across the street, wondering what the hell you were doing with your theater degree. As Court Jester, on the other hand, I had free reign to fuck with every person who passed by, either in order to bring them into the store or merely for my own amusement.

I spied a round man from down the street, ambling toward the store. Even at a distance, I could tell from the graying curls, knowing grin, and well-developed sternomastoid muscle that it was none other than Ken Kesey—a huge hero of mine not only for his writing but also for his legendary exploits as "bull goose loony": of the "Merry Pranksters":

I didn't let on that I knew who he was, let alone that I was a fan, but I zeroed in on him. I cajoled, seduced, and berated him into coming into the store; I even beat on his chest. He said he really didn’t need any toys, but he went in anyway. I willed him into the store, I crowed to myself. One of the most willful personalities in literary history, and I willed him into the store!

I don't know why I didn't accompany him inside; I suppose it was my Court Jester's sense of duty to watch the door in the Toy Soldier’s absence. God knows people needed to be saluted and have that door opened for them.

When Ken came out, I asked him to show me what he had bought: a dancing dinosaur and an alligator head whose mouth opened when you put it on. He tried it on, but it was too small. I suggested that perhaps he should put his head on a diet. He looked me square in the eye and said, "I hear ya, pal," then slapped me on the back, told me to keep up the good work, and went on his way.

It was the way I'd always wanted to meet him—on a level playing field, Jester to Prankster.


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