aging, friendship, holidays, music, parties

Confessions of a Bearded Lady

I love pulling pranks, but it’s so much more fun when you have a playmate. And I have one — my fabulous friend and neighbor, Roxana Gillette.

Bearded Ladies, Norine Dresser and Roxana Gillett at the Las Cruces Ukes. Photo by Bob Hull. © Norine Dresser Photo Collection, 2016.
Bearded Ladies, Norine Dresser and Roxana Gillett at the Las Cruces Ukes. Photo by Bob Hull. © Norine Dresser Photo Collection, 2016.

After discovering the above pictured wonderful bearded masks on an obscure website, Roxanna ordered two.Then while waiting for delivery, and as a surprise for us to perform for the Las Cruces Ukes, she wrote a parody, set to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Based on the assumption that the beards and wool head coverings were filled with cooties, she changed the chorus from “Hallelujah” to “We’ll Shampoo Ya,” creating an absurd juxtaposition.

We rehearsed numerous times and arranged that both ukulele classes would be present when we emerged in our hirsute conditions. I assured Roxana that even if the audience didn’t laugh at the song, they’d laugh at our appearances. And so they did. We were a hit. Mission accomplished.

Pulling pranks has no statute of limitations.The only requirement is being willing to take a risk that might make one’s self look foolish (over and over again).

Sisters Saggitarius, Norine Dresser and Janice Garey, 1950s. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2016
Sisters Sagittarius, Norine Dresser and Janice Garey, 1950s. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2016.

During the 1960s, I had a different playmate, Janice Garey. My niece, Madge Dresser had consulted with me in planning her November Sweet Sixteen birthday party. She selected an astrology theme concentrating on her unique choices of food, activities, flower arrangements.

Janice collaborated with me in making a surprise entrance at Madge’s party as the Sisters Sagittarius.We dyed sheets black for our cover-ups, wore very tall black cardboard hats, slathered our faces with zinc oxide and exaggerated our features with black eye liner. For an added touch, Janice dried out a cooked chicken leg to use as a witch’s wand.

We stashed our four daughters into my car and parked it half a block away from the party. After pounding on the door, my startled sister-in-law answered as the two of us burst in and in witch-like voices and with Janice wielding the chicken leg, we menaced the teenagers, threatening acne or cramps if they didn’t obey us. I don’t remember much else except we ad-libbed drawing upon our inner witchiness. After about five minutes, we tore out of there, ran down the street and got back into the car laughing all the way.

Why do I and others commit such silly acts? Because making others laugh is a great motivator. Even at 84, I get a kick out of the scheming and wondering if the prank will work and will I get some laughs? But sometimes the prank falls flat.

 

Black wreath, example of style of wreath I hung on Lillian's front door. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2016.
Black wreath, example of style of wreath I hung on Lillian’s front door. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2016.

In the 1950s, I met Lillian, a lovely woman whose children attended the same nursery school as my children. She invited my husband and me to a Halloween party. I volunteered to help with the decorating and while at her home asked, “How about a black wreath to hang on your front door?”

She thought that was a wonderful touch, so I offered to make it for her. I bent a wire clothes hanger into a circle and threaded a ribbon of twisted black crepe paper on it. Hanging in my car, the wreath actually cast a pall over me as I drove to Lillian’s house to deliver it before the festivities began.

Several hours later, when my husband and I arrived at the party, the black wreath was missing from the front door. Surprised, I asked, “Lillian, where’s the wreath?”

Before she could answer, a distraught relative of hers pulled me aside and demanded. “How could you do such a thing?”

I was dumbfounded as she explained, “When we pulled up to the door and saw the wreath, we thought the worst. So we drove to a public phone booth and began calling relatives to ask who had died.”

I couldn’t believe what she was saying. It was Halloween. It was a Halloween party. If she did take it seriously, why not enter the house and find out?

I did not act defensively. I couldn’t. She was so genuinely upset, and I found it so irrational that I just stood there mute.

And that was the last time I ever made a Halloween funeral wreath.

But it was not the last time I have played a prank, and I hope there will be more opportunities to do so in the future.

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who believes that we need to create fun and to keep on laughing as long as we can.

aging, celebrations

The Flamingos Have Landed!

I have a dear neighbor and friend, Roxana Gillett, who has been very kind to me. Accordingly, I phoned and asked her what she was going to do for her 70th birthday. “We don’t do birthdays,” she stated flatly.

Surprised, I responded, “Well, I do. And I’m going to take you to Le Rendezvous French restaurant for lunch.” Seemingly pleased, she accepted the invitation. However, inviting her to lunch was merely a ruse. I wanted to take her away from her house so that my cronies could plant 12 plastic pink flamingos in her front yard.

The flamingos have landed. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015
The flamingos have landed!
© Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.

I had seen pink flamingos landing elsewhere in the neighborhood and thought it was so delightfully incongruous to see them planted next to cacti and other desert landscape.

Usually flamingo garden infestations occur as the result of a fund raising scheme by a church or a high school sports team. Unfortunately when I called around, I discovered that currently no one was doing this.

However, while purchasing some garden supplies at a big box store, I noticed a container of plastic pink flamingos on sale, so months ago I bought a dozen and stashed them in my closet. Since then, I have had so much fun figuring out how to pull off the prank.

At the appointed hour on Roxana’s birthday, I drove her to the restaurant while at the same time, friends and neighbors took over the task of planting the flamingos. Even before I arrived at our destination, I received a text: Mission Accomplished!

Our lunch was delightful, especially the Cream of Mushroom soup, and later, when we pulled up in front of Roxana’s house, she seemed disoriented – and who wouldn’t be, seeing a dozen pink flamingos standing in her front yard?

Additionally, my friend, Mariah, made this sign that hung from the neck of a flamingo:

Sign by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.
Sign by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.
Roxana with sign. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.
Roxana with sign. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.

Complicit neighbors, Don and Ila McCoy, welcomed Roxana with pink bubbly served in purple glasses along with strawberry pink cupcakes that created an instant birthday party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pink Bubbly with purple glasses. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.
Pink Bubbly in purple glasses. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.

 

 

Strawberry-flavored cupcakes. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.
Strawberry cupcakes. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.
Cheers! © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.
Cheers! © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015. (left to right) Darwin Gillett, Ila McCoy, Don McCoy, Roxana Gillett, Norine Dresser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now, when the party is over, what does one do with a dozen pink flamingos?

Roxana transplanted them to my back yard, and every morning when I glance out in the backyard, their new presence gives me a good laugh. By the way, if anyone would like to borrow them for a special occasion, let me know.

Roxana transplanting the birds to my backyard. © Norine Dresser photo collectio, 2015
Roxana transplanting the birds to my backyard. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.
The flamingos have migrated to my backyard. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.
The flamingos have migrated to my backyard. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Norine Dresser is a folklorist who loves planning birthday surprises for friends and relatives.