Monday, November 30, 2009

Week Twenty-Nine: King Neptune's Carnival

All I can say after reading Cokesbury’s King Neptune’s Carnival is this:

William Wyler would be proud.

Talk about spectacle. Talk about sweeping drama. Talk about a cast of thousands, or at least dozens, in period costumes that look as new as if they’d just come off the loom even though we’re suppose to believe the folks in them have been wearing them for years. And talk about a party for which you’ll have to dragoon at least 50 friends – but who has that many; better dig deeply into your pile of Facebook acquaintances – to produce a poolside spectacle not seen since the likes of the Rowing Scene in Ben-Hur:

This will be no mere vaudevillian telling of the story of Neptune and his nubile mermaids, farting about on the shore or in the water in costumes that look like they were ripped off of curtain rods. Nay, this will be an Esther Williamsesque spectacle complete with snazzy jazz bands, impetuously looming trumpet horns (It’s a damn good thing this movie wasn’t filmed in 3-D as the first few seconds would have killed folks):

Or, since it’s being put on by you and your friends on a shoestring budget and, let’s face it, half-assed and at the last minute, it’ll probably look something like this:

Anyway, have fun.

First, the Cast of Thousands. At minimum, this is what Cokesbury says you need:
  • King Neptune – Long gray beard and hair; greenish draperies; gold crown; trident.
  • Mermaids and Mermen – In bathing suits.
  • Tree Princess – Green costumes.
  • Sea Prince – Sea-green draperies, etc.
  • Mr. World, Mrs. World, Sister World, Brother World – Typical family in street costumes.
  • Davy Jones – Rakish sailor suit; black patch over eye; red nose; cocked hat.
  • Swimming Instructor – A typical pool instructor in bathrobe and wooden clogs.
  • Mr. Stonehatchet, Mrs. Stonehatchet, Sammie Stonehatchet, Susie Stonehatchet – Cave dwellers of the stone age; simulated animal skin costume over bathing suit; man carries stone ax or club.
  • Greek youth and Maiden – Short white slips; girl has ribbon-bound hair; sandals.
  • Cassius and Caesar – Roman soldiers; silver cloth suit over bathing suit; silvered helmet. (May be made of gauze hat fram painted with aluminum paint.)
  • William Trudgeon – Old-fashioned English bathing suit; with sleeves (short) and skirt; has sideburns or long chop whiskers.
  • Richard Cavill and Two Opponents – Dressed in old-fashioned bathing suits.
  • Dignified Swimmer – To swim side overarm stroke.
  • American Crawl Swimmer – To swim crawl.
  • European Backstroke Swimmer.
  • American Backstroke Swimmer.
Warned you you’ll need a lot of friends. A lot of pool-worthy, sea-worthy friends who don’t mind reciting dialogue that likely inspired George Lucas to his Star Wars heights.

But more on that in a moment. First, you need the setting:
An ideal setting for such a pageant or water carnival as the one described in this chapter would be a pool where guests could be seated on the edge to watch the proceedings. It might be presented as a money-making program and admission charged or merely as an entertainment program. Such a program would be ideal for a civic club picnic program or a church Sunday school picnic. If the pool was lighted, it would be better to have it at night.
Yes, best have it at night. The effect of watching Neptune rise out of the water, fighting the drippiness and overall sagginess and sogginess of his grey hair and bears as he has to deliver his lines in the best imitation of Grand Moff Tarkin is probably best done against a dark background with spot illumination. That’s why the Death Star interiors are mostly black, you see.

Cokesbury has thoughtfully provided synopses of the five “episodes” which your friends will have to painstakingly rehearse and memorize:
Episode No. 1 – Mr. and Mrs. World come to the pool to find out about getting swimming lessons for their children. They begin to discuss the origin of swimming and are surprised by Father Neptune, who appears suddenly in the center of the pool. Neptune declares that he has a wonderful manuscript compiled by Davy Jones, which gives the history of swimming. He calls Davy Jones, who brings the manuscript. While Neptune reads aloud the history of swimming, shades of the departed swimmers he mentions appear and go through the actions and events credited to them in the manuscript.
This episode, of course, is accompanied not by a jazz band but by random thumps, yelps and splashes as your guests, seated on tenterhooks around the edge of the pool, nod off and either fall to the ground or into the water because the history is so boring. An excerpt from King/Father Neptune’s soliloquy on the history of swimming: 
Pictures on the walls of ancient tombs and on pottery show that very early in the world’s history swimming was practiced by various peoples. In fact, an alternate overarm stroke was practices by the Assyrians. Records also show that these people crossed streams on inflated goat-skins, which they called “musseks.” It is conceivable that this stroke was developed because they found themselves better able to pull themselves along by alternate strokes than by the rowing motion. It is quite possible, too, that other slipped from their inflated skin bags, which were the early water wings, and in reaching for them alternately developed the ability to do without them. So we will picture for you a group of Assyriansddkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk
Sorry. Drifted off for a moment there. Have a bad case of Keyboard Face. But you get the point. Dull as if the Trade Federation were about to pump the waiting room full of poisoned gas. And, of course, now we know why no sailor ever wants to visit Davy Jones’ locker: He makes them read his manuscripts.

The vignettes, acted out by your pressganged friends, may allow for a little more entertainment value but still border on the farcical. For Cassius and Caesar, for example, Neptune recites a bit of Cassius’ tale from the second scene of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which your friends are encouraged to act out:

I was born free as Caesar; so were you:
We both have fed as well, and we can both
Endure the winter's cold as well as he:
For once, upon a raw and gusty day,
The troubled Tiber chafing with her shores,
Caesar said to me 'Darest thou, Cassius, now
Leap in with me into this angry flood,
And swim to yonder point?' Upon the word,
Accoutred as I was, I plunged in
And bade him follow; so indeed he did.
The torrent roar'd, and we did buffet it
With lusty sinews, throwing it aside
And stemming it with hearts of controversy;
But ere we could arrive the point proposed,
Caesar cried 'Help me, Cassius, or I sink!'
I, as Aeneas, our great ancestor,
Did from the flames of Troy upon his shoulder
The old Anchises bear, so from the waves of Tiber
Did I the tired Caesar.

As Neptune “declaims” these lines, or so Cokesbury says, “Cassius and Caesar enter through the portal in light armor and swords and enact the scene in the water, Cassius rescuing Caesar, towing him to shallow water and bringing him out with the saddleback carry.”

And it goes on like this. Episode Two consists of mermaids and mermen paying tribute to King Neptune as he ascends to his throne. Episode Three has the mermaids and mermen compete in races, “demonstrating graceful aquatic accomplishments,” and an umbrella and nightshirt race (of which, I might add, no explanation is given).

Episode No. 4 starts out promising, but degrades into a Red Cross swimming rescue lesson:
The Tree Princess and the Sea Prince. Mermen and mermaids resting on an enchanted island. The Tree Princess descends from her tree castle and is discovered by the surprised sea nymphs. Sea nymphs welcome her and invite her to her castle beneath the sea.

Prince Neptune, heir to the sea throne, falls in love with the Tree Princess, who scorns his advances. Frightened by his pursuit, the Tree Princess flees in anger. In her haste she falls into the water of the lake. Having lived her life in the trees, she is unfamiliar with the art of swimming and sinks beneath the waves. Prince Neptune immediately dives and in making the rescue demonstrates the holds, breaks, and carries used in saving drowning persons. After bringing the apparently drowned Princess to the shore, the Prince restores her to consciousness, using the prone pressure method of resuscitation.

Grateful for her rescue, she accepts the proposal of the Prince, and accompanied by the sea nymphs, the Prince takes the Tree Princess to his father, King Neptune, who bestows his paternal blessing. They then go to his castle beneath the sea and live happily forever after.
I dunno. Needs more Hasselhoff.

All that’s left now are the refreshments, and what says King Neptune’s Carnival better than a box lunch consisting of a ham sandwich, a pimento cheese sandwich, a cup of potato salad, a deviled egg, and a cup cake? Well, maybe watermelon instead of the cup cake.

What would be better? Well, practically everything.

Anyway, be sure to tune in next week when Cokesbury presents another costume spectacular, the Old-Fashioned Party. Dust off your hoop skirts and get rats in your pompadore, buddy.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

King Neptune's Preview

As a preview for this week's King Neptune's Carnival party, a quite lovely Sherman Brothers song from Bedknobs and Broomsticks:

Listening to this takes me back. The one and only movie review I wrote as a professional journalist was of the remastered Bedknobs and Broomsticks, a movie I loved as a child and still love -- probably because I've retained many childlike qualities. My review was so poorly received I never wrote another. But that's okay. I have this to remember:

And I love how David Tomlinson sings. He's kind of a Rex Harrison, in that neither of them really sing; they both kind of shout. But David Tomlinson shouts a bit more melodically.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Week Twenty-Eight: Celebrities Party

We all love a celebrity. Even Homer Simpson, in creating his Hollywood Musem of Jerks, admitted to loving celebrities to the point he put their underpants on display. So why not, the folks at the Cokesbury Party Book thought, put on a Celebrities Party so all of our chums can dress up as their favorite celebrities and pretend to be glamorous and famous and important for an evening?

Even the invitation is inspiring. Hope you know someone named Smith:

If your name is not in Who’s Who,
You can be great just the same.
Come dressed like a celebrity, any will do
If he’s in America’s Hall of Fame.
Come out to Smith’s on Friday night,
And act the part you dress.
We’ll live in the past and present both,
And have a good time? Well, I guess!

So, the long march equating celebrity status with greatness began long before anyone in the modern age realizes. But of course I’m sure there were cavemen who followed the likes of Oog, Inventor of Fire, and Mog, Inventor of the Wheel, if not for their intellectual prowess but because they were famous.

A cultural note: Cokesbury isn’t dissing their party when they suggest they “guess” they’ll have a good time at this party. The English language is ever-evolving. Back then, “I guess” was the equivalent of today’s “Of course,” or to put it more colloquially, “Duh.”

But then there’s celebrity trouble. Back then, there were no Charles Nelson Reilleys, no Paul Lyndes, or whomever is the hot, edgy character popular today among those who are not hopelessly stuck in the 1970s as I am. Cokesbury has a few celebrities to suggest.

First, Celebrities of the Past:

Alexander Hamilton (Ed: or, alternately, Aaron Burr)
Andrew Jackson
Woodrow Wilson
Knute Rockne
Gen. Robert E. Lee
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
Betsy Ross
Thomas Alva Edison
Abraham Lincoln

(Note: It seems the name "Gertrude Ederle" flummoxed either the writer or proofreader of this text. The only reason I found out the correct spelling were the clues scattered throughout the book. I felt like a treasure hunter.)

Now, Celebrities of the Present:

Herbert Hoover
Calvin Coolidge
Charles Lindbergh
Will Rogers
Admiral Richard E. Byrd
Buddy Rogers
Charlie Chaplain
Babe Ruth

Just to illustrate how far American culture has evolved – if evolved is the proper term for it – in the ensuing 70-some-odd years, here’s a list of celebrities one might pick today:

Perez Hilton
Al Gore
Steve Jobs
Bernie Madoff
Ronald Reagan
Bill Clinton
Larry King
Michael Jackson
Johnny Depp
Tiger Woods

So you’ve still got your jocks, your politicians, your actors, your wonks, your captains of industry, your brainless twits (that might be redundant with politicians), and your reformers and rabble-rousers. But with a lot less clothing, particularly in the case of Madonna. And Larry King.

Guys: For a real challenge, I suggest going as Carrie Nation, pictured here. Bonus points if you can find and bring a little hatchet, and then know the story of why Miss Nation was so hatchetlery famous.

"Who is it, Norman?"

For Cokesbury Party Blog readers already a-prickle with the nationalistic bias of the lists proffered by Cokesbury, don't worry. Cokesbury admits its bias. And encourages it further (in other words, 'Heads, get ready to explode.').

The list of famous persons suggested here is confined to American names, so it would be well to use the national colors in the decorations. Streamers of red, white, and blue, with bunting and flags, would be a very effective setting for such a group of people.
You might have to go to Wal-Mart to buy more bunting. Put a plastic bag over your head so your Whole Foods friends don't see you.

Now we all know dressing up as celebrities is only hafl the fun. We also need to act like celebrities in order to make the evening a success. This is probably a good reason not to dress like modern celebrities, whose behavior as of late has boiled down to defrauding via Ponzi schemes, organizing dog fights, getting pancreatic cancer and inventing even more useless, expensive gadgetry, and bloviating. Instead, Cokesbury suggests the following: 
Have the impersonations which are given below written on slips of paper and put in a box. The lader draws them out one by one; and if she draws number seven, she starts counting at the head of the line of guests and counts to seven. The person who is number seven must do the impersonation indicated. In every case she starts from the same person, counting frmo that person to the number whis is on the slip of paper. The following are suggested impersonations:
 Betsy Ross making the flag
Babe Ruth knocking a home run
Charlie Chaplin making a movie
Gertrude Elder swimming in the English Channel (Ed: Ah! One of the clues to Gertrude Edler's real identity!)
John Philip Sousa directing a symphony orchestra (Ed: Didn't he direct marching bands?)
Mayor James J. Walker making an after-dinner speech. (Ed: I have NO idea who this guy is. Maybe he's the guy who said "Dy-no-MITE!")
Herbert Hoover fishing
Admiral Byrd flying over the North Pole
Tom Mix on horseback
Charles Lindbergh making love to Anne Lindbergh (Ed: Honest, this is exactly how this suggestion is written. Please keep it G-rated, for the children.)
Aimee Semple McPherson delivering a sermon. (Ed: Make one of your liberal friends do this, but a la "Beavis and Butthead" in No Laughing)

Martha and George Washington doing the minuet
Clara Bow flirting
Calvin Coolidge riding his mechanical horse
Buddy Rogers directing a jazz orchestra
You know, I kinda like the image of one of our less-colorful presidents using a mechanical horse as an exercise device, and "whooping it up" like a cowboy as he rode it. All we seem to get nowadays are Vietnam vets and community organizers with good pectoral muscles. Can't have everything, I guess.

But let's move on to celebrating another of the 1930's presidents, one Herbert Hoover, in a game that I'm sure would make Archie Bunker go postal:

The Stock Market Has Crashed. The guest impersonating Herbert Hoover should start this game off. Have him to rise as the guests are seated in a circle with all the chairs filled, and as he calls guests by their famous names they rise and folow him around. When he says, "The stock market has crashed," all try to get charis. The one left out has to continue the game, calling the names as before.
One final game, then we're on to refreshments.
The Head of George Washington. Give guests a half cake of Ivory soap and a paring knife. The boys, of course, may use their pocket knives. Any kind of sharp instrument could be substituted for a paring knife. Give a prize to the one who can sculpture the best head of George Washington. Newspaper whould be provided so that the scraps of paper will not get on the floor.
This game, in its four simple sentences, is a minefiled of anachronisms for modern man. Soap, fortunately, is universal, though with the advent of liquid soap, such carving activity might be harder to accomplish. And, of course, no one dares nowaways to carry their own personal pocket knives or any other sharp instruments for fear of being expelled from school for having it on school property, kicked off an airplane, tasered if one brings said sharp instrument out in public or frowned upon by the same people who want to put padding around poles in London to prevent texticated individuals from injuring themselves in a collision. Pad the world, Mitch Benn said. Save it from a soap-carving activity. Then there's the newspaper thing. You might get away from this by lining the floor with iPod instructions, but they're so damn small you'd need a thousand of them to do any good. And you can't have it outside, what with all those phosphates from the soap leaching into the soil. Maybe you'd better collect the shavings in a bowl, invest in a soap-making kit, or just bag the whole thing and use the suggested alternate refreshment as carving material, as there's no way anyone is going to eat it.

Refreshments, as suggested by Cokesbury, include the mundane (cake and ice cream with Boston tea) to the absolutely frightening. And I quote:
Another suggestion would be a salad of cottage cheese, covering the cheese with crushed pineapple, and topping with mayonnaise. Serve with crackers and coffee.
And barf bags.

That's it, thankfully, until next week and the gala Fish Under the Sea Dance. No, wait. The gala King Neptune's Carnival, which Cokesbury describes as a "water carnival or pageant). Bring your swim fins and snorkel. Leave the cottage cheese at home.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Barf-O-Rama Warning

One of the refreshment suggestions offered by the Cokesbury party Book for its Celebrities Party got five out of five Mr. Yuk Faces from testers polled at the Cokesbury Party Blog International Headquarters, and that was just from reading the list of ingredients. There is no way in heaven we were actually going to make this refreshment item because we’re fairly sure this unholy combination of ingredients is really a method Wiccans use to summon demons. We cannot be held responsible for queasiness or any outright barfing that occurs if anyone gets sick reading the refreshment description. And if anyone actually makes this concoction and then eats it, please send us a culinary review, including a photo that clearly shows the Death X’s over your eyes. Thank you.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Costume Head Start

Just in case you want to get a head start on costumes for next week's Celebrities Party, here are a few pictorials.

President and Mrs. Herbert Hoover, who -- and I don't know the woman, she may be very nice and such -- looks like her husband in drag. So if your husband has a black dress, he can go either way to this one.

Clara Bow looks kinda James Deanish in this photo. Of course, chronologically, it should be that James Dean is looking kinda Clara Bowish. But that's all semantics.

What I like about this era (remember, the 1930s) is that there were parts of the world still being explored by white guys in goofy-looking headgear.

Monday, November 16, 2009


As part of the Gipsy Party, Cokesbury suggests that, either during the festivities or during dinner, that gipsy stories (or at least stories; they don't necessarily have to be gipsy) be told, and thoughtfully offer a few, one of which is reproduced here:

Why the Chinese Have Short Names

Long, long ago, in far-away China, there lived two little boys. One was named Choy, and the other Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo. He was named this because it was a custom in those days for the mother to name her child a long name just according to how much she loved him.

One day, little Choy and Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo were playing beside the well, when all of a sudden little Choy fell in the well. Little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo was so very frightened and ran. “Mother, Mother, Choy has fallen into the well. Come quickly and get him out.” She said: “Little Choy fell in the well? Oh, little Choy fell in the well. Well, darling, run tell the gardener to get little Choy out of the well.”

So little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo ran to the gardener and cried, “Oh, Gardener, Gardener, poor Choy has fallen into the well. Come quickly and get him out.”

“Huh, what’s that you say?” he asked.

“Oh, come quickly. Choy has fallen into the well.”

“Oh, Choy has fallen into the well. Well, we well get Choy out right away.”

So the gardener ran and put a ladder in the well and climbed down and got little Choy and brought him out of the well.

Many weeks after that when Choy got well enough to play, the two boys were playing beside the well again, when all of a sudden poor little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo fell into the well.

Little Choy ran to his mother and cried: “Oh, Mother, Mother, little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo has fallen into the well. Come quickly and get him out.”

She said: “Little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo fell in the well, Oh little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo fell in the well. Run, darling, and tell the gardener to get little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo out of the well.”

Little Choy ran to the gardener and cried: “Oh Gardener, Gardener, poor little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo has fallen into the well. Come quickly and get him out.”

“Huh, what’s that you say?”

“Poor little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo has fallen into the well. Come quickly and get him out.”

“Oh,” he said. “Little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo has fallen into the well. We will get little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo out right away.”

So the gardener got a ladder and climbed down and down and down and got little Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo, but poor little e Tinky-tuky-timbo-no-si-nembo-hooy-booy-bousky-peooy-pen-do-hickey-pon-pon-nickey-no-me-on-don-peooy-eo was almost drowned. He didn’t grow up to be a strong man like Choy, so that taught the Chinese mothers a lesson, and ever since that time they have been naming their children real short names like Choy, Tu, Chong, Wu, and Fu.

(Written by Mrs. J.G. Deriso, Jacksonillve, Fla., or so Cokesbury says, apparently so you know who to blame.)

Remember, I'm just the cultural anthropologist here. I make no excuses for this story whatsoever. Pity me that I had to type it in.

Week Twenty-Seven: Gipsy Party

Okay, so this is a Victorian-era photo.
Still gets the stereotypical gypsy idea across.

Interesting concept here. In reading Cokesbury's Gipsy Party, the suggestions are that Gypsies steal, stargaze, tell stories, steal, tell and keep secrets, steal, kidnap, steal, sing, and, what else? Oh yeah. Steal. So buckle in.

Maybe this music will keep the sting off:

Anonyme - Bubak and Hungaricus Early 18th Century Gypsy Music .mp3

Found at bee mp3 search engine

Since this is a costume party, on with the costumes:
Costumes may be made from red or yellow cheesecloth. Or at least headbands, sashes, and scarfs can be made from these materials. Further suggestions for the girls would be beach pajamas, Spanish costumes, with hair loose or braided down the back. A timbrel would add to the effect. Use plenty of beads, earrings, bracelets, or other jewelry. Boys could wear loud colored shirts, bandana handkerchiefs, slouch hats, large earrings, such as brass curtain rings tied on to the ears, mustached paste on, or masks. Plenty of color should be put on the cheeks with rouge or cocoa.
Rouge or cocoa. Really? Let's move on to the kidnapping.
Guests should be met at the door or entrance to the place where the party is held by rough-looking gipsies with knives or revolvers. Each guest is kidnapped and taken before the gipsy king and initiated. To do this he is made to get on his knees, put his head to the ground, and say:

I know my mind,
And I know my heart.
I know I have a foolish part.

This should be repeated three times as the guest bows before the king. He is then initiated into the order of gipsies.
I suggest trying this first with your uberconservative friends just too see how many heads you can make explode. For added interest, have them utter some simple fealty oaths. Make sure to bring plenty of dropcloths.

And what's up with that initiation oath? Are they saying whomever chooses to be sworn in as a gipsy is foolish? Or that the act of being sworn in is foolish? Or that you're a moron for making your friends do this in the first place? Jury's still out on that one, if you ask me.

And, yes, I know they make a big deal about becoming a gipsy, meeting the gipsy king, et cetera, in Hunchback of Notre Dame. Just because it's in literatchoooor doesn't mean it makes sense.

This king appears confused. It's a sceptre, buddy. What do you do with it? Well, now I'm all confused.

Now, on to the bartering. Gipsies barter, right?
Each guest has been notified in advance that he is to bring some article wrapped in a package. A price limit should be set on this of ten cents or twenty-five cents. After all have been initiated, the elader then tells the guests that, as they are now gipsies, they must trade, for gipsies trade. Each person it to talk up the article in his package wthout revealing its identity. When the trading has been going on for about ten minutes, the leader blows the whistle, and all open their packages to discover the misfits. Usually, there will be noise maker, mechanical toys, teething rings, candy with salt and pepper in it, et cetera.
And then with the bartering over, the stealing begins, right?
The leader should announce that another characteristic of gipsies is that they steal, and that, as they have been initiated into the order of gipsies, they will have the privilege during the evening of stealing. Also a prize will be given to the one who can display, at the close of the evening, the largest number of articles stolen. The leader should explain that stealing does not mean taking by force, but that the gipsies have light fingers. This stealing should continue while the games are being played, and later in the evening after the games are over there should be a time to return stolen property.
So, in addition to your uberconservative friends, invite those who naturally have sticky fingers. Remind your technologically-advanced guests that this is not a party to which they should bring cell phones, iPods, fancy watches, or anything they don't want to get back in a hurry. I'm not saying your friends are thieves, but with some people, it only takes a little party suggestion like, well, that stealing is okay, to send some of your more questionable friends over the edge. Or if you have technologically advanced but rather forgetful friends, encourage them to bring all their toys plus any extra stuff you've seen lying around their house. If you're going to steal, steal big, I say. And if they complain, say, "Well, gipsies steal, no?" Have fun with it.

And with the singing. This is the song Cokesbury suggests you sing:

Be sure to book a good blues combo for accompaniment. Or invite an adequate accordionist. It's touches like this that make for a good gipsy party, and might possibly convince some of your more impressionable guests that you really are gipsies so all the stealing is okay and they won't ask for their stuff back.

On to the games. Cokesbury suggests a lot of games. I'll give you two:

Handkerchief Laughs. The leader throws the handkerchief into the air and calls the name or number of a person in the circle, and that person must laugh while the handkerchief is in the air and cease immediately when it falls to the ground. If that person fails to laugh while the handkerchief is in the air, or laughs when the handkerchief is not in the air, he must be It. In order to accomplish this end It may make a motion as though he were going to throw the handkerchief and then fail to throw it. The game may be varied by designating certain kinds of laughs, such as nervous laugh, coquettish laugh, boisterous laugh, horse laugh, silly laugh, stage laugh, giggle, et cetera.
Kinda sounds like the "I Love to Laugh" scene from Mary Poppins.

If my father were participating in this game, you'd have to add another laugh category, that being "laughing silently while tears roll down your cheeks." Try imitating that, Karl Marx.

Next we go on to gipsy fortunes whihc, according to Cokesbury, have little to do with love, warts, the removal of either love or warts, or anything generally involving curses, frogs,a nd other cliches. Nor do they include "Your cockney accent will be hackneyed, but the film you're in will be beloved by all."

Fortunes. The easiest way to accomplish this is to have the fortunes prepared in advance and placed in capsules. These capsules should be about one inch in length and the fortune typewritten and rolled up and placed inside. Players draw for their fortunes, and at the signal open the capsule and read aloud. These fortunes may be written with a pen, using lemon juice for ink. This makes an excellent invisible ink, and this may be passed to the Gipsy Queen, who holds it over the candle, and the words of the fortune will appear on what seemed a blank piece of paper. The following are suggestions for written fortunes:

For the Boys

You'll go to college and get a degree,
and a brilliant man you'll surely be.

You'll be a preacher, a man good and true;
You'll fall in love with a girl named Sue.

You'll be a pilot and fly a ship like Lindy;
You'll have the reputation of being rather windy.

You're going to be a railroad man,
and be the superintendent if you can.

You're going to be a farmer and raise corn and wheat,
and when you are old you'll live on Easy Street.

For the Girls

You are going far away to a university;
when you return a teacher you will be.

You are going to keep house in a bungalow,
with a cat -- and a husband too, you know.

In far-off China you'll spend your life
As a much-loved missionary's wife.

You're going to live alone, just as happy as can be,
with your cat and your parrot and your little cup of tea.

You'll be a lady lawyer and read law books,
and attract a lot of clients with your good looks.
Ah, the aspirations of the 1930s. Adventure, money, and preaching for the men, housekeeping, spinsterism and attracting clients as a lawyer not because you're smart but because you're a looker for the ladies. So who says the world has turned upside down in the past thirty years?

On to the final game, which combines two well-known gipsy traits -- secrets and, you guessed it, stealing.

Secrets. Gipsies have secrets. Divide crowd into groups. If the party is large, however, it would be best to divide into four groups. Each group selects a captain. Each group selects some object to be stolen while on some imaginary raid to town. Each group keeps this objet a secret from the other bands. A member of each camp is sent over to the rival camp to be questioned. They try to get out of him the name of the object he is going to steal. The visitor must answer the questions by "Yes" or "No." If the group guesses the object after five questions, they retain the visitor in their camp. If they fail to guess after five questions, the visitor returns and a visitor is sent to his camp from the rival group. In case the ojbect is guessed, another object must be selected for the second visitor.
Yeah, it's not much of a game. But it does involve stealing. And gipsies steal, right. Damn right they do:

Returning Stolen Property. This should be given some time, and all stolen articles should be identified and returned to the woner and a prize given to the one who can show the largest collection.
All right. All that's left are refreshments. Hope you've got a lot of time on your hands:

Refreshments should consist of gipsy goulash and coffee, to which each one serves himself. paper cups and plates may be used. the following is a recipe for the goulash, which, of course, must be cooked before the party and just heated up on the fire at the party:

Cook a large piece of beef or veal [stolen by preference, ed.] in a fireless cooker or over a slow fire until about half done. Season this with salt, pepper, onions, and bay leaf. Remove from the fire and cut meat into pieces suitable for serving and return to the fire. Add about one half can of tomatoes with additional seasoning if necessary, and enough uncooked rice to absorb the stock and the tomato juice. Cook until rice has had time to thoroughly cook. if cooked on top of the stove, care must be taken that it does not stick to the bottom of the kettle. A little red pepper and more onions may be added if desired.
Yes, it's goulash for the WASPs, devoid of spice so as not to offend the palate with flavor.

Okay, you're done for another week. Tune in next time for the Celebrities Party, in which you'll ask your guests to dress up like contemporary (at least for 1932) celebrities, including Herbert Hoover, Mrs. Herbert Hoover, Will Rogers, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Charlie Chaplin, Henry Ford and the ever-popular Billy Sunday. Huzzah!

Friday, November 13, 2009

By the Way . . .

. . .  Just in case you're curious, with Week Twenty-Six behind us now, we are officially halfway through the "52 planned parties and 600 games and stunts" the Cokesbury Party Book promises us on its cover. And, to date, we've had just over three hundred visitors, all of whom have left the site shaking their heads and thinking, "Yeah, you can find all sorts of crap on the Internet."

You're welcome.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gipsy Preview

I confess to being a bit old school -- but since I'm blogging about a book published in 1932, you probably know that already.

So when it comes to gypsies, I tend to be a bit beyond today's politically-correct realm. Gypsy to me means one thing: Danny Kaye.

If you've never seen a Danny Kaye film, I have to ask -- what's wrong with you? Both The Court Jester and The Inspector General are incredibly wonderful movies (the latter being an interesting adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's novella by the same name). They're worth watching. Watch these clips, then get ready for a gypsy party of your own, with ideas from Cokesbury.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Week Twenty-Six: The Stunt Party

The 1930s were crazy for stunts, or so it seems. The automobile and the aeroplane were coming of age, no longer the newfangled, untested technology. But as has been mentioned before, the stunts Cokesbury refers to are the skits, the japes, the songs, the what-nots that entertained regular folks between bouts of derring-do with stuntmen leaping -- OK, falling -- from airplanes to moving vehicles, or leaping their jalopies nonchalantly over sheds only to land in a broken heap on the other side.

First of all, Cokesbury feels you could make money hosting a stunt night:
In a city of about thirty thousand people a woman’s club has started having annual stunt night and giving a cup to the organization putting on the best stunt. On this stunt night the civic organization, such as the Women’s Club, Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, and American Legion, compete. They charge one dollar admission, and it has been the means of raising money for the organization for several years.
Of course, this means getting people to come to your stunt night. Cokesbury suggests newspapers and other public announcements. Given today’s media climate, if I were you, I’d stick with “other public announcements.” I’d be happy, if anyone out there so chose to host a stunt night, to advertise the event here on the Cokesbury Party Blog, but traffic to the site tells me that virtually no one is coming to this site anyway. You might be better off with a dead tree edition somewhere.

So, now that you’ve got your party on Craigslist (and have secured ample liability and comprehensive property damage insurance for the louts who will invariably show up, toss your dime-store decorations in the pool and put your whistle where the sun don’t shine) it’s time to plan the stunts. Here are a few Cokesbury suggests:
Living Pictures. Living pictures make a very beautiful and impressive stunt. We are assuming that these stunts will be on a stage. Have a large frame constructed about eight feet high and about ten feet wide and hidden lights around the border. Raise this frame up a foot or more from the floor on a platform. A hidden chorus or quartet furnishes the music while the pictures are given in tableau. Between each song that is given in the tableau the quartet or chorus sings “Memories.”
  • “School Days.” The tableau would be a small boy and a small girl holding hands, the girl carrying in her hand a slate on which is written “I love you, Joe,” and thus they stand while the chorus or quartet sings.
  • “When You and I Were Young, Maggie.” An old couple are on the stage holding hands.
  • “Mother Machree.” An old lady dressed in black or lavender with white lace and cap is seated in a rocker. A young man stands by her. He looks down at her as the song is sung.
  • “My Wild Irish Rose.” A girl with summer dress, wide-brimmed had, garland with roses, and a boy are on the stage. The boy is dressed in summer sport clothes, white flannels, sweater, white hat in hand. The girl takes a rose and puts it in his buttonhole during the singing of the music. The action should be carefully times to fit the scene.
Obviously, these tableaux will go over well with your Irish-American crowd.

My advice: Think of these as live YouTube videos, but with actual creativity and talent involved, because you can’t just dub over some crappy hip-hop song to the action being shown. If these songs seem too outdated for your hip crowd, then simple re-enact en tableaux some of your favorite YouTube videos. I personally recommend the following, for its simplicity, pathos, and the likelihood of getting a laugh out of your audience.

Then there’s this one, of dubious moral value:
Black-Face Comedy. Have two boys who are clever at impersonating negroes put on a black-face comedy skit. You will find ample material for this in Chapter LII, “The Minstrel Show.” You will also find three or four stunts which could be done by these comedians in the chapter, “The Minstrel Show.”
Remember, if you choose to do this stunt, you are an ass. Even if you’re Australian.

This one is a bit more socially acceptable, and reminds me of this classic Muppet Show bit:

Brain-Testing Machine. Construct brain-testing machine as follows: Make a box with boards about nine inches wide and about one foot square and as high as the width of the boards. Put a board over the top and on the bottom, boring a hole about a half inch in diameter through the top and bottom boards. It is necessary for this box to set about two inches off the table, so around three sides of the it there should be a board one by two nailed up edgewise, so that the bottom of the box will appear to be on the table. Get a piece of small rubber hose at the five-and-ten-cent store about a half inch in diameter. This should be ten or twelve feet long. Put this through the holes in the bottom and top of the box, so that one end of it just projects over the top of the box. It will be necessary to get a small tube, glass or brass, which may be procured either at a hardware store or a plumbing shop. This should be just large enough to slip the end of the rubber hose over and to make it fit tight in the hold and in the box. Then get a toy rubber balloon and slip over the end of the tube. This box is placed on the table with the tube sticking out on the back side, and then the tube is placed behind the curtain, with one person behind the curtain to make the balloon large or small at will by inflating it. It would be well also to have some sort of a dial either drawn on the side of the box or purchased and put on the box. Also have some kind of a crank that will turn other little apparatuses on the box. One the top side there should be driven a nail on each corner and a small wire tired around the entire edge of the box also, tying it to the top of the nails.
Whew. Hope you haven’t let your subscription to Popular Mechanics expire. But on to the payoff:
One person stands on the stage and announces that very recently a wonderful machine has been invented which will test brain capacity and that it operates electrically. He puts one hand on the head of an individual and the other hand on the wire of the brain-testing machine, and the balloon will indicate the capacity of the brain. This is a very humorous stunt if carried out properly. As soon as the hand is placed on the wire, if it is desirous to indicate that the person is a man of brain capacity, the balloon is immediately made large. If not, it might be made to just barely move, and perhaps just to flop over.
Ha ha, what a great gag! And here’s a way to make it an even better gag involving a bald guy!
Another variation of this is to get a bald-headed man and put lamp black on the fingers and make some black spots on his bald head. This will cause much merriment. If it is desirous to especially honor someone, the one who is blowing the balloon might blow it until it bursts, or the one on the stage might puncture the balloon with a pin or touch it off with a cigarette.
Unless, of course, you’re in Kensington, Maryland, where such frivolity with cigarettes if highly frowned upon.

If you want something a little more highbrow, you might consider this stunt instead:
Kitchen Cabinet Orchestra. The kitchen cabinet orchestra is a good stunt, but some care should be exercised in selecting those who have good voices, and there should be some rehearsing. Each player in the orchestra is provided with an instrument, to which has been attached a kazoo. This is a small, inexpensive instrument which can usually be purchase at the five-and-ten-cent store or the music store in any city. Imitations of the sounds of instruments can be made on the kazoo, and a number of good voices, especially mixed voices, give a very pleasing result.

Someone who is very clever at improvising should be asked to make the instruments. A cornet could be made from a rolling pin, with a funnel on one end and the kazoo attached to the handle on the other. A clothes basket with a mop stick and some old wires could be made into a bass viol. A bass horn can be improvised out of an inner tube attached to a funnel and some other kitchen utensil. A long-handled frying pan might be made into a violin. A washing tub would make a good brass drum, and a small dishpan would make a good snare drum. The leader should use a dish mop for a baton.
Or, in other words, just do as Spike Jones and the City Slickers do:

Here’s the best part of Cokesbury’s Stunt Night. A few years ago, for a church function, I actually wrote a series of “stunts” that were performed by other members of the congregation. Fortunately, the video tape we have of the performance has been destroyed. But I may have the script somewhere . . .

Anyway, that’s it until next week, and the much-anticipated Gipsy Party, another Cokesbury costume extravaganza. See you then.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Stunt Party Preview

First of all, you have to know that the Stunt Party isn't what you think:

The "stunts" Cokesbury writes about come from an odd use of the word at the time. To Cokesbury, a stunt is anything from a skit to a song to a story to a living tableau, like what El Guapo does in The Three Amigos. So get ready to chuckle -- or, as usual, roll your eyes -- when the party comes a-calling.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Week Twenty-Five: Fourth of July Party

This day and age, in some circles, patriotism is a bad word. In some ways, I have to agree. You've got to consider what one is being patriotic to. My father saw many patriotic Germans during World War II, for example, as a civilian in The Netherlands. But if we can balance patriotism with everlasting vigilance, then perhaps it's okay.

Then again, it might be more fun if we balanced patriotism with Everlasting Gobstoppers. Sometimes those who fret over what patriotism can mean in the wrong hands just ought to loosen up a bit. So on that vein, on with the John Philip Sousa and "Stars and Stripes Forever.

Let Sousa's song spool while you read, as there is no animation nor photo slide show with this piece. And don't read the comments on YouTube, either. We're strictly in the Patriotism/Everlasting Gobstopper Mode on the Cokesbury Party Blog.

Here's the invitation, which should be written on a cardboard cut in the shape of a flag, or on a bell to represent the Liberty Bell. You know. That thing in Philadelphia that rang when people didn't fret about the United States being the Evil Empire:

On the birthday of our country,
We're having a party to celebrate.
At eight o'clock on the Fourth of July,
Come to Pilcher's, and don't be late.

I have no idea who this mysterious Pilcher is, and the Internet, in its vast Sargasso sea of information, is no help. It can't possibly be Sergeant Pilcher, though the readers, author, and publisher of the Cokesbury Party Book would likely approve of his actions. So I can assume you can just substitute another last name for Pilcher in the invitation and leave it at that. Unless you want to send your guests some anti-invitations. And I love that Sgt. Pilcher's nickname is "Nobby."

Decorations for the party, or so says Cokesbury, will be "easy":
Use flags and bunting and red, while, and blue streamers for decorations. Pictures of great American characters may be hung on the walls.
It sounds easy until you consider that the likes of Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin and Courtney Love hardly count as great Americans, although Hank Hill might do in a pinch.

On to the first game:
The Names of the States. Give guests blank sheets of paper and pencils. Let couples work together. Ask them to write all the names of the states. This may look easy, but it is doubtful if any will finish the forty-eight in ten minutes. Give a prize to the one finishing first, unless the game is too long, in which case give a prize to the one having the longest list.
You read right: Forty-eight states. This is in 1932, remember. Alaska and Hawaii weren't made states until the 1950s. So fly the flag they used in A Christmas Story and see how many of your guests notice.

The next game is a good one to play with guests who arrive in full What is Patriotism umbrage, ready to do battle with anyone who dares suggest that the Fourth of July have meaning outside of Chinese fireworks and a few hamburgers burned on the grill (it should be noted that the really fierce anti-patriots won't even be thrilled about the fireworks and burgers; these are the ones you want to send to Pilcher.
The National Anthem: Do You Know It? Give to each guest the words of the "Star-Spangled Banner" written with the italicized words blank. Let them see which couple can fill the blanks correctly in the quickest time:

O! say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

(Interesting to note: Cokesbury leaves out the third verse, and ignores completely a fifth verse added to the anthem during the Civil War. Impress your freinds by singing it in its entirety, with lyrics here.)

For amusement, be sure to videotape this game and watch the anti-patriots for signs of stroking out at certain passages, including the "In God is our trust" passage. Extra party points to you if these folks and a Barry Goldwater/Ronald Reagan Republican get in a brawl in the street after this game concludes. And once the radicals and the Commies have left, you and the rest of your guests may alter this game and do kind of a Star-Spangled Banner Mad Libs. (My favorite motto, from Ghostbusters, "We're ready to believe you!"

On to the next game:
Washington Surveying Relay. It is a well-known fact that Washington was once a surveyor. Line up the players for a relay race. They may be divided into three groups, the Reds, Whites, and Blues. This may be done by pinning on red, white, and blue ribbons, having an equal number of each. The three groups face a goal about fifteen or twenty feet away. Give to the player at the head of the line a yardstick. They are to measure the distance to the goal and back with a yardstick, laying it down and picking it up each time. The players, as soon as they have finished, give the yardstick to the next one in line and take their places at the back of the line.
An alternate version of this game is to measure the distance in smoots.

Here's another game:
Spin the Plate. Play the old game Spin the Plate in a little different way. Have one player spin the plate and call the name of a state or capital. The boy who represents the state or the girl who represents the capital must each catch the plate before it falls. If she fails to do this, she must pay a forfeit. However, let us do this in a different way. Let us have a number of forfiets written out, and as soon as she fails to catch the plate she draws out one of the forfeits and must do the stunt indicated. After she had finished her stunt, the spins the plate and calls the name of a state or capital, and the game proceeds as before. The following are some forfeits which would be suitable for this party:
  • Paul Revere mounting his hores
  • Benjamin Franklin flying his kite
  • Washington chopping down his cherry tree
  • Pocahontas saving Captain John Smith
  • Patrick Henry making a speech
  • Andrew Jackson fighting a duel
  • Daniel Boon ekilling a bear
  • Carrie Nation wrecking a saloon
  • Billy Sunday preaching a sermon
  • Abraham Lincoln splitting rails
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Or, possibly, Sgt. Pilcher's song
 And another one, where we get to celebrate a real renegade in American history:
Fireworks: John Brown's Alive. Of course in a Fourth of July party, there must be some fireworks. Matches are used for this stunt. The leader strikes a match and gives it to a player, telling him that he has the privilege of passing it as long as it is alive, that is, as long as it is burning or is a live coal. He merely is to say "John Brown is alive" and pass it on to the next player; but if it is not alive, the next player does not have to take it.Whoever has it when it is dead must have a mustache painted on them with the burned match. Also they must start another match.
I don't get it, either. Maybe they were hard up for entertainment in the 1930s, as this video of a 1930s parade might also convey:

The next game is meant to enrage the BG/RR Republicans in the group, if any are left after the Star-Spangled Banner-inspired street brawl:
Taxation without Representation. The guests are seated in a circle. The leader tells them that she is going to organize a Revolutionary Club. In order to become a member one must be initiated. The leader says "the initiation ceremony consists in saying what I tell you and doing what I do." The leader then says, indicating one of the guests, "Say, 'Taxation without representation.'" [Editor's note: The more clever of you in the Cokesbury Party Blog world already know where this one is going.] In sayin this the leader makes some peculiar gesture with the hands, as to emphasize what she says. Usually the guest will try to imitate the gesture, when the point is to merely say "Taxation," as he has been told to say taxation without (saying) representation.
Plan on this game lasting about thirty seconds.

Now, the party is over. Cokesbury, oddly, says "it is the custom in many sections of the country" to have fireworks on the Fourth of July. Maybe there were sections where the anti-patriots without Everlasting Gobstopper vigilance were already prevalent. And, of course, one must have "eats" during the fireworks. Cokesbury recommends red, white, and blue brick ice cream, or fruit punch and cake. All of which sounds patriotic. Nah. Give me a burned burger any day.

That's it until next week and we turn on the guffaws during Stunt Night. I'm off to watch the fireworks. Oooh! Ahhhh!