Yes, disasters are funny, at least most of them, and often only in hindsight. Here are several disasters, beginning with a really big one. Our wedding!
Yakima, WA – 12/19/1964 – Temperature: 14 degrees F. Snowfall that day was about 10 inches, but I could have sworn it was two feet! The event was to begin at 8:00 pm, and we expected between 100 and 200 people, but it was still snowing. At the scheduled time, there were only two people in the pews, and they had come because they heard the bride had designed and made her own dress, and thought it would be a lovely wedding.
We postponed for an hour while a string trio played some Mozart. My Best Man was a buddy from high school, but had to stay on the farm to help keep his cows from freezing, so my roommate, an Air Force ROTC officer, was pressed into service. A few more people arrived late, mostly those who were to be in the wedding party. My family still hadn’t arrived, so we postponed another hour while another friend improvised some Christmas carols on violin.
My family had taken the train from Seattle because of the weather, but the train was trapped in the snow on the pass for five hours. We postponed for another hour, and the string trio may have started over, I don’t remember. I do remember the bride’s mother was pretty much horrified, “You’re postponing again?” By the way, she wore a very nice pink dress with silver flakes in the fabric. Later, you’ll understand why I mention this.
Finally, the service got under way. Bride’s sister, stood at her side as the Matron of Honor, and tried to keep a close eye on her 4-year-old daughter, who was the flower girl. My Best Man was at my side. We all bowed our heads, and I noticed the Best Man was standing awfully close. He was leaning into me; in fact, he was tipping over toward me. He had fainted, and was on his way to the floor.
One of the groomsmen helped me lay him on the floor just inside the altar rail, with his feet off to my right. The priest kept going with his prayer. One of the groomsmen went out the side door and crawled back in on the inside of the altar rail and pulled the unconscious body of the Air Force guy, who had locked his knees, out through the side door behind the rail.
The wedding party, standing with us were all very aware of the disaster taking place, but were trying to be cool about it. The flower girl, however, started to cry and ran screaming down the main aisle, followed by her mother.
It was very quiet up front, with no Best Man and no Matron of Honor. The priest did his pronouncement thing, and we were off to the reception, during which my family arrived from the train station. There was no time for them to change into dress clothes. After greeting the bride’s family, my mother told me she was so relieved that there was no time to change, because she had brought a very nice pink dress with silver flakes in the fabric. The exact same fabric as the mother of the bride.
Wife says that the flower shop delivered the wrong flowers, but the right cake was delivered on time. Since there were more people in the wedding party than in the pews, there was lots of cake left over.
For our honeymoon, we took a bus from Yakima to Port Angeles where a restaurant had offered a free dinner and a motel had offered a free night. The next morning, we got back on the bus to go home, then all the men had to get off and give the bus a push to get it started, because it had frozen.
There are weddings, and there are marriages. Some would call our wedding a disaster, but in reality, like most all disasters, it wasn’t a zero percent disaster. And the marriage turned out great! Today marks year 51, and I think there’s a good chance that we’re gonna make it work.
Yes, in hindsight, disasters are fun to talk about. Get any group of performers together and tell about some disaster, and they could laugh and tell stories for hours.
More Fun Disasters: First Student Recital
As an undergrad for my very first solo at a student recital, right after the words, “What are we waiting for, oh my heart?” My mind went blank. All I could do was stop and sweat. My pianist started to giggle, and finally said to me and the audience, “I don’t know, what ARE we waiting for?” I think I laughed; we started back a couple of phrases and finished the song.
Cue the Applause
A Facebook friend wrote, “I finished the first half of the performance before the intermission, and there was no applause. There was no distinct cue for me to exit or for the intermission. After waiting what seemed like an eternity, I started to exit. The audience slowly started to applaud, but I was already almost to the wings and by then it was too late to stop or go back. In retrospect, it’s hilarious, but weird at the time.”
A Traviata Dress
A Seattle Opera chorister was just offstage, ready to waltz into the light with his dance partner when she caught her dress on a nail and ripped the whole side off of her dress. There was their cue, so he reached down, grabbed the loose cloth, trapped it under his hand at her waist, and away they went. Neither cast, crew, nor audience ever noticed.
It Happens to the Best
In a stage play with James Stewart many years ago, a guy was supposed to come in the door on a certain cue. Stewart gave the cue. Nothing. Then he saw the doorknob twisting, but the door wouldn’t open. “I think someone’s trying to open the door,” he said as he crossed to the door and gave it a tug. The one-piece set, had been dropped in from above the stage and was balanced by sandbags so it was almost weightless. When he tugged on the doorknob, the whole set suddenly came up off the floor about 3 feet. The man outside the door crawled under the set into the room, and continued the play as Stewart put the set back on the floor. I’m pretty sure there was applause.
The Guns of Tosca
This story has been around a long time: A touring production of “Tosca” had recruited some college students who didn’t know the opera to play the firing squad for the final scene. They only attended one blocking rehearsal and didn’t even get to finish the scene. They asked when do they exit, and the director was busy and gave the standard, “Exit with the principals” instruction.
The tenor was at center stage with his hands tied, and the soprano was behind him and to his right, wringing her hands. The squad marched on stage, and realized that they hadn’t been told who they were supposed to shoot. They had a 50% chance of getting it right, so they aimed at the soprano and the shot rang out. The tenor fell to the floor. The soprano finished the scene and ran to the back and leaped off the parapet out of sight. Then the firing squad followed her, jumping off the back of the set.
One more: The Conductor’s Stripe
My wife was away on a business trip, and I was dressing to conduct a concert in a silk tux that I had inherited from my dad, who didn’t know it was a tux. I had just put on the trousers, and sat down to put on my shoes. Rip! My pants had ripped from the crotch up the back, almost all the way to the belt line. I remembered that my wife had some ribbon-type stuff that could be ironed onto a seam to hold it together. It was hard to find, but I found it and mended the tear. When I held the pants up to admire my repair, there was a white stripe down the back of my black pants. I hadn’t ironed it on exactly right, and the ribbon stuff was white, and since conductors always raise their arms while conducting, I had to act fast. Solution: cover the white gap with a black felt tip marker. I was only slightly distracted during the performance.
Now it is your turn.
Please add your disaster story in the comments. I can’t wait to read them.