I Was Not The Life Of 'Any' Party
See this cool guy? I dreamed of being THIS guy from age eight through age eighteen.
More Examples, Some Bad, Of Being 'The Life Of The Party'
WHEN YOU ARE NOT
THE LIFE OF THE PARTY
you do not feel good. You feel miserable, to be honest. You go home and sit in your room--planning your attack for the next day as to how you can make a break-through to the 'cool' people in your life.
Awards should be handed out for people such as myself and many more whom have tried. Tried very hard. But failed to 'make it,' so to speak. I don't know why 'making it' was that important to me. Maybe I was born with an entertainment gene that prompted me to act-up, show-out and do my homemade show business acts for family and what few friends I could threaten to stick around to watch me perform my backyard theater productions.
I will never really know how it feels to be 'it,' popular, cool, and idolized. That's fine too. The older I get the harder it is to live with the 'what if's' which can add up swiftly. And cause me, or anyone sleepless nights mixed with depression.
Life, I wish it were fair.
IT'S NOT A WONDERFUL LIFE, CLARENCE
when you suddenly realize, early-on, that you are not meant for the entertainment business. Or worse, being "the life of the party." I have never been as serious as I am here. It's a sad tale told by an obscure writer, me. A faded tale forgotten by many. But to me, if I had another shot at my life, I would do things differently.
WHERE MY ILL-FATED, UNPOPULAR CAREER BEGAN
was on a shiny linoleum floor in the bedroom of my dad's parents, James and Ida Belle Avery when I was the unlearned age of eight. Man, did I look goofy. Clumsy. Stupid. I am just telling the truth here. I had been fortunate to see an ad for a pesticide on their black and white television and it stuck. I mean it stuck in mind like a bad memory. I went to my grandparents' bedroom where everything was in its place. Orderly. Neat. And began doing, from memory, the pesticide ad. To me, even being alone, it was big fun.
Suddenly, my dad, Austin Avery, Hamilton, and his parents, James and Ida Belle Avery, also of Hamilton, ran into the bedroom screaming, "was that you that hit the floor like a sack of potatoes?" I grinned. That was a yes to them. I stood convicted. But dad, a caring man, asked if I would do the ad again for his benefit. And after the speaking part of the ad, I had to play the part of the dead insect, so I collapsed on the shiny linoleum floor. Dad laughed. My grandparents simply stood, arms crossed, and frowned. Like I would really hurt something as tough as their linoleum floor.
From that embarrassing moment on, I seized every opportunity, both secret and public, to try out my newly-found entertainment abilities. At every Christmas gathering, I would take two plates and put them over my eyes and say, "hey, look. I'm a fly!" A few laughs would surface. Families are rough crowds. The late Rodney Dangerfield knew this. But when the few laughs wouldn't suffice, I would resort to talking-up my next act. "hey, want to see me drink this full glass of milk without breathing?" Sadly, no one wanted to see this amazing feat. And in retrospect, that was a good thing. I got my first taste of disappointment.
ENTER THE PRE-TEEN YEARS
and I was still determined to be "the life of the party." Actually I recall a minister saying those exact words at a funeral that my mom and dad attended with me along so they could make sure I wasn't causing any trouble. The minister, in his finest, humble-toned preacher voice, said, "this dear soul who lays here, was not perfect. No, not in any way. But some say that he was 'the life of the party,'" and that too, like the ad for the pesticide, stuck in my mind. A goal. A dream. 'The life of the party.' Not a bad choice. I could have made worse choices such as being a hoodlum, convict or even a thief. I was happy inside knowing that the stars in the sky were smiling on me. I was go grow up and entertain thousands of smiling, laughing, and happy fans.
IT'S ROUGH, WHEN YOU ARE THE ONLY PERSON
who realizes that 'you' are the 'life of the party.' Not those around you. Here I was in my early teen's. Awkward. Hitting puberty. Voice squeaking. Clumsy. Still stupid. But I thought I could make my awkward, clumsy mannerisms work for me. They did. But not in a good way. I recall an early entertainment event that I did in my seventh grade home room. The teacher, a true southern gentlewoman, Mrs. Lena Rea Shotts, had to leave the room for an errand, but she made the mistake of leaving us on our honor to be good. Oh yeah. That was smart. Smart like a fox. Smart enough to win the Nobel Peace Prize alright. I took the time to introduce my stunt man talents that I had watched on a black and white western at my grandparents' house the previous Sunday evening.
Here's how it went. "Hey, people! Would you believe that I can leap from this desk to that desk without being injured?" I announced to my stunned classmates. I recall a jester, Alan Cantrell, slyly saying, "Yeah, Kenny. That sounds great." I smiled with self-gratification. I took a deep breath. Then with the grace of a limp antelope, I sailed from my desk top to nearly the desk top I was aiming for, but only ended up on the hard cement floor. All wasn't lost. My classmates did clap. Yell. And laugh. Some asked for me to do it again, but I had to get to the boys' restroom to stop the bleeding on my head. What a close call. Mrs. Shotts never noticed the bruise on my chin and the scrape on my forehead. No one ever said being 'the life of the party' would be easy.
I GUESS YOU THINK THAT I MADE IT
to being 'the life of the party.' No. Not by a long shot, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. I had all the gimmicks and stunts down to a science. On cue, I would fall down in the hallway of our school, Hamilton High School, and 'act' hurt to scare the girls. That bit soon wore-thin. Talk about wise girls. I did the falling-down routine so much that the girls only stepped over me and went about their day while Alan Cantrell, Billy Owen, and other jesters, stood by and laughed. Not with, but at me. And these guys were good enough to act as my promoters. They would spread the word about when and where my next event would take place. Nice guys. Did all this work for me for no pay.
EUREKA! I KNEW WHAT WAS MISSING
and it was jokes. One-liners. Funny stories. Yeah. The icing on the cake. The final step in my goal to be 'the life of the party,' to be invited to class picnics, private parties with girls and dancing at the homes of classmates, a name that meant cool. A person, who just be looking at me, people would stop and say, "Look. It's Kenneth Avery, 'the life of the party,'" I would wink. And go on down the hallway to my next class. This, friends, never materialized. I did though hear, "Hey, Kenneth! When are you going to jump off the roof of the high school?" and the good-natured classmates who said things like this would laugh and walk away. Funny. No matter where I was and no matter the classmates who were actually setting me up to laugh at me were, there was my buddy, Alan Cantrell. I guess he wanted to support me all of the time.
THE JOKES I STOLE WERE GREAT
pieces of comedy by the 'greats,' such as Jackie Gleason, Milton Berle, George Jessell, and the all-time 'master of the one-liners,' Henny Youngman. I loved these guys. They knew just how to turn a phrase. Tell the right joke. Look a certain way. Fans loved these guys and my classmates, I thought, would soon love me, for I had a new tool. A new wrinkle in my act. A way to be 'the life of the party,' and spread good cheer at the same time.
I remember walking up to a group of my classmates in our gymnasium one Tuesday afternoon. I was dressed 'fit to kill,' in my black Hagar slacks, black pointed-toe slippers, and red sweater vest. I looked fine. As soon as I neared my friends, they all, for some reason, stopped talking. I did overhear them say something about a party later on at Chip Woods' house. Woods was a friend of ours. But not as cool as I was. I went right 'for the jugular,' and asked, "would you all like to hear a few jokes?" Some nodded. Some looked off. In fewest words, my first attempt at stand-up to be labelled 'the life of the party,' was a train wreck. A disaster. The Hindenburg blimp crash paled in comparison. I guess I got my comedians mixed up. My funny joke went like this: "Hey, take my jackass, please!" "No, I got it wrong. Ohhh, how sweet I am," by then, it was over. Oh, the classmates laughed. And laughed. They thought I did the screw-ups on purpose. And my forehead covered in sweat was only a comedy gag. I walked away defeated. Dejected. Sweaty. And still didn't get an invite to Chip's party.
FROM THE CRUEL YEARS OF 1971 THROUGH 1999
I tried hard. At every job I had. I had not given up on being an adult 'life of the party' since my teenage attempts had failed miserably. Same thing. Different setting. Some coworkers would chuckle. Some would produce a respectful 'fake' laugh at my one-liners, that some thought I was making sound stupid on purpose. I wasn't. The only party I got invited to were those dull company Christmas parties where the boss is always 'the life of the party.' Figures. Why waste talent on the likes of me?
HERE ARE SOME HONEST, PERSONAL REASONS WHY
I WANTED TO BE 'THE LIFE OF THE PARTY':
- honestly, to get dates with pretty girls.
- to be patted on the back by people.
- loved by many.
- remembered for years to come.
- to have my name associated with words like hilarious; amazingly-funny and witty.
- to make a living out of being 'the life of the party,' Jerry Lewis did. Why not me?
- to have a shot on television.
- to be on my local radio station with my own comedy show. And yes, music of course.
DON'T WORRY, FRIENDS. ALL IS NOT LOST
I am not depressed any longer. Fact is, I feel pretty good these days. I may not be 'the life of the party,' but I have the perfect audience who laughs at every joke I tell, and at every one-liner that flies off my lips. I love 'this' new audience who adores me for who I am. Not what I could been.
My bathroom mirror.