Mark Novak

The Golden Era

(For Jim Schlader)

I remember it was around the time the paparazzi
Joyously ran Dianna down that sordid pipe of death.
News breaking on the radio as I rolled my flivver
Into the theater parking lot. Tears of grief for her

In those Ben Nye tins of pancake foundation.
Theorem proof that boys are too soft nowadays.
Often, you'd remind that lard removed greasepaint
In the Golden Era. Hard day.-By no means, a golden era.

What is the theater but an empathetic sojourn
Supplanted in the dark. You must have sensed
The gravity of the moment. It was a smart call,
Rallying the boys before the curtain. Feeble healing.

What was it the Dane said?? -Words, words, words…
What more do we have? And aren't those the tools of trade?
Wasn't that your superpower, you master thespian?
Heavy-hearted, you inspired a necessary catharsis.

"Make 'em smile boys, the people need an escape.
On this day of mourning, try to help them forget."
Lessons you passed down from Radio City,
Times Square and other temples of the Golden Era.

I remember that toad-of-a-character-actor
Hired by you, he seemed incapable of cue
Pick up. Perhaps he suffered brain damage?
Honestly, whoever claimed actors are bright?

To motivate your directions, you had the lightboard
Cut to black before the words could orate.
'The tip o' the tongue, the roof of the mouth,
 The lips and the-' Black Out! Scenery Chewer!

And who knows what impish demons were dancing
In his addled brain when he chose to alter the text
From center stage, as the chorus gathered in tableau
To receive the inspired lines for motivational outburst

Of an uncontainable praise, in song and dance.
But the Character-Actor had devised comic relief
To existent comedic fluff, syrup on a lump of sugar,
He encouraged aside cheers for his favorite team.

An anachronistic surrealism; we did our best
To avoid eye contact with one another, for fear
That the catastrophe would somehow worsen.
We found our notes, found our steps -and took it on the chin.

What a close out it was of the first act!
Keep Your Sunny Side Up… The Character-
Actor must have sensed his miscalculation.
He sought an approval that none were offering.

In the dressing room he was toxic amid
Second act preparations. As if he were a plague.
As if greasepaint. Had any felt that you'd think it clever??...
But we all heard the expletive answers on your approach…

"What The Fuck Was That!!?" You demanded.
Reducing the fool to a pathetic, blubbering puddle.
"I Told You To Be A Goddamn Professional-Didn't I!?!??"
I was reminded of Meredith Burgess from the 'Rocky' film,

You laid into the erroneous liability, plotting understudies,
Pulling your sparse tufts of hair out as you countercrossed
Closer to life's final exit, 
With that ferocious shake of your wrathful fist,
Firmly clutching the lessons it still holds-from the Golden Era.