Thursday, July 07, 2005

Ralph Edwards says...

When I was a kid there was a TV show called This Is Your Life, hosted by Ralph Edwards, who had a thick toupee the color of maple syrup and a jack-o-lantern grin. Unsuspecting subjects would be led into the studio, where they'd be plopped on a couch and told by Edwards, "This! Is! Your! Life!" Then he'd open this big scrapbook and start the skip down memory lane.

In recent weeks, as I've typed more and more stories about my college teaching experiences, faces and voices from my own college years have been reappearing with alarming frequency. Last week I got a call from Dr. S., one of my most beloved undergrad profs and the one who had the most influence on my own teaching style. She'd seen some of the publicity and wanted to get the lowdown firsthand.

Retired now, Dr. S. sounds like she still has that double-bubble energy that made her such a dynamic instructor. I remember her turning a full cartwheel in class one day (and she had to be in her mid-50s even then). That was an eye-popper but hardly surprising. She was in tiptop shape and made her diction, speech, oral interp and phonetics classes into mini-boot camps. We had to "dress to move" and she moved us around but good. She was always in a good mood, always had something new to talk about and never failed to provide at least half a dozen hearty laughs in every class period. Her aura is white-hot. Love her. Every time I hear myself say to a class, "We have so much to learn and so little time!" -- that's me channeling Dr. S. She has that sense of urgency. She brings such excitement to the subjects. You never wanted to miss one of her classes.

Email arrives from T., a frosh when I was a senior. We fell out of a touch a few years ago and now that he and his partner are moving back to Texas for new jobs, I look forward to seeing them again. When I was a poor, struggling journo-gal in NYC back in the 1980s, interviewing fading soap stars for the tabloids and cadging movie screening tix from my evil boss-editor, T. was my running bud. We ate baked potatoes (all we could afford) and watched every episode of Brideshead Revisited on PBS, cranking up the volume to drown out the clanking of the radiators in T's Riverside Drive apartment.

Today, escaping the dreadful news from London, I clicked to a silly teen comedy on HBO, some Risky Business rip-off about a kid whose new neighbor is a porn star. So in one scene the kid goes to the bank and who's playing the teller? One of my old suitemates, the one who thought she was going to be the next Meryl Streep. She'd be late 40s now and I guess the career didn't play out as she'd hoped. Back in the 1980s she landed a big part on a daytime drama. By the third year, her character was in a coma and her performance was confined to a hospital bed, with the camera shooting right up her nostrils day after day. Eventually, through plot twists only daytime TV producers could think plausible, her comatose character fell out of a plane over Alaska. But she didn't die. After being nursed back to health by friendly grizzlies -- OK, I made that up, but come on -- she returned to Pine Valley or Midvale or wherever it was. They killed her off a second time. She just couldn't stop pissing off the show's writers!


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