Thursday, October 1, 2020

Everything Happens to Me

Yesterday the death rattle from Schrödinger’s Fridge woke me up in the middle of the night again. On my way to the bathroom in the dark, I stubbed another toe.


My daughter Rosalind has a gift for putting important truths into words. Here’s what she told me this morning on her way to Zoom school:


“Papa, you have the worst luck.”


That about sums up the universe.

During breaks between being a Father and being a Lawyer, I’m currently working on a book manuscript whose subtitle is “A Memoir of Showtunes, Religion, and Mental Illness.” All the chapter headings come from song titles. They’re mostly Broadway and off-Broadway songs, although I’m also including a couple of pop standards, and one Primary song from my Mormon childhood.  


The chapter that provides a bridge between Part I, “Traumas,” and Part II, “Triggers,” is named “Everything Happens To Me.” Frank Sinatra introduced the pop standard of the same name in 1940. My favorite versions are by Chet Baker and by The Whiffenpoofs of 1990. (Because Woody Allen has been cancelled, except for his early funny work, I haven’t seen Timothée Chalomet’s recent performance of the song in the 2019 film A Rainy Day in New York.)


In my memoir, the purpose of the chapter “Everything Happens To Me” is to quickly describe various momentous life events that occurred between 2000 and 2015. Such as buying a convertible, a sailboat, and a beach house, then losing them all; failing at romance and career; and struggling with as-yet-undiagnosed trauma symptoms. Plus the joy of adopting three kids and becoming a Gay Sitcom Single Dad.


The song “Everything Happens To Me” is a less pithy version of Rosalind’s observation about Papa. The lyrics begin with the line “I make a date for golf, and you can bet your life it rains,” and go downhill from there. The song concludes with the narrator’s sad confession: “I fell in love just once, and it had to be with you / Everything happens to me.”

Here’s a question for other diehard Broadway fans out there:  Who else has a copy of the original cast album of Minnie’s Boys


I didn’t actually see the show. No one did. Minnie’s Boys opened on Broadway in February 1970, and closed after a mere 80 performances. It’s a musical version of the Marx Brothers’ origin story. Groucho’s son Arthur Marx wrote the book, Larry Grossman composed the music, and Hal Hackaday wrote the lyrics.


I was first introduced to Minnie’s Boys as a college theater groupie at BYU. Decades ago I attended an amazing student showcase in the bowels of the Harris Fine Arts Center. Some talented (and no doubt gay) Mormon youth sang Groucho’s charming comic love ballad, “You Remind Me of You. Years later I saw the original cast album in a bin and had to buy it.


As I write, there’s usually a random showtune playlist in the background. This morning the soundtrack of my life zeroed in on a song from Minnie’s Boys that I’d never paid attention to before. When their pushy stage mother ruins their first shot at stardom, the boys sing “Where Was I When They Handed Out Luck?”


  GROUCHO:   Where was I?
When they passed out brains?
Right at the head of the line!
Where was I?
When they passed out talent?
Right up front, getting mine!
But when it came to the line where they handed out luck...
Where was your smart clever friend?
Back showing off my talent and brains...
to the bums lining up at the end!


  ZEPPO:          Where was I?
When they passed out looks?
Needless to say I was there!
Who'd deny...
in the charm department,
Herbie got more than his share!
But when the time rolled around and they handed out luck...
Where was your good lucking clown?
Off trying out my profile and charm...
on a girl in a neighboring town!


  ALL:               We all got a great sense of humor! (Ah haha!)
The day they were passing the pot.
We all got a great sense of humor! (Ah haha!)
...And we need all we got.


  CHICO:          Where was I when they passed out guts?
Mister! I opened the store!
I'm the guy... who invented the chutzpah!
Show me a guy who's got more!
But when they yelled "Get your luck! 'Cause It's running out fast!
Step up and get your supply!"


  ALL:               Me, with my brains
and guts
and looks
Blew the one thing you need to get by!
Where was I? Where was I? Where was I?
Where waasssss IIIIII?


  GROUCHO (spoken): Seriously...Where was I?

© Larry Grossman/Hal Hackaday

Fortunately, I had the brains to use what little luck I had on adopting the best children in the world.

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