What goes on in those VFW posts?Published 10:33am Friday, January 27, 2012
Since making the announcement that I was going to give a free comedy concert for returning troops at the VFW base in Spartanburg, I have received an embarrassing amount of pats on the back and praise.
“Good for you!” they say. “What a wonderful thing to do!”
Look, I’m delighted to be able to do it. What’s the big deal? All I have to do is shower and drive a half hour to the post, stand on a stage and tell jokes for an hour.
And here’s a confession: as much as I’ve wanted to give a night of laughter to those readjusting to the new ‘normal’ in their lives, I had an ulterior motive…
I have been dying to know what goes on in those VFW posts my entire life.
You know what I’m talking about- besides the signs for ‘BINGO! Every Thurs at 7pm!’ that stick into the dirt outside the one I pass on Hwy 9 and ‘Beach Music! Saturday Night!’ on the marquee of the one on the road to Gaffney, I’ve always, like Howard Sprague, on The Andy Griffith Show, despaired that I’d never be allowed entry in this exclusive club. They sit, hunkered darkly on hilltops or down back roads, just oozing with mystery.
While I understand that the majority of these posts are nothing more than a watering hole and a place to hang with buddies and shoot the breeze, oh, mercy, the tales I’ve been told about others!
From my own fella, Paul.
Paul is a former stand-up, himself, and one of his very first gigs as a fresh-scrubbed eager comic, with the obligatory skinny tie and Member’s Only jacket commanded by all the hipsters in the early 80s, was at a series of VFW posts outside Chicago.
(You older vets might want to gingerly take this column out of the hands of your missus right about here)
Booked into these posts by his then agent, Madge, a 60ish woman who stood all of five feet in height with a foot’s worth of beehive on top and a multitude of diamond rings, Paul was driven to his first show in the back seat of Madge’s enormous Caddy while on-comers in traffic saw only lacquered red hair and sparkling knuckles, grasping the wheel.
Sitting prettily beside Paul was a young woman, touching up her make up and fluffing her hair.
“Paul, meet Lenoir.” Madge made the introductions glancing into the rear view mirror in a voice long-caressed by Lucky Strikes and bourbon.
“Are you a comic, too?” inquired Paul, politely.
“Nah,” she replied, blotting her lips with tissue. “I’m the stripper.”
It should be noted there was another half hour’s worth of driving until they reached their destination.
“Oh, that’s nice.” Paul squirmed within the awkward silence that followed. “Um, want some gum?”
“No thanks.” she smiled. “If I chew gum when I dance, it’s hard for me to follow the beat.”
“It was weird!” Paul declared, telling me the story. “I mean, you meet someone for the first time and they’re like, ‘Hi, how are you? Do you think it’s going to rain, yada, yada,’ knowing you’re going to see them nearly naked a half hour later.”
“Was she the opening act?” I wanted to know.
“What are you, crazy?” he replied. “No way. I opened for her. How could I possibly follow a stripper in front of all those liquored up guys?”
“How was the ride back?”
“That’s the really strange part,” Paul remembered. “It’s as if nothing had happened. She dressed, we got back in the car and she started talking about…just stuff. I was too embarrassed to even make eye contact but she chatted away as if she’d just gone to the grocery store to pick up milk.”
So, you see, folks, you never quite know what goes on in a couple of these places. But if I do more of these concerts I can assure all of you that I would never, ever, even dream of removing my top.
No matter how many laughs I would get.