Saturday night, I attended the 72nd birthday party of the Dr. Reverend Duran Palmertree, pastor of Bethany Church of God, hosted by Mildred Fondren. The sit-down dinner for nearly 30 guests seemed an easy accomplishment for Miss Mildred – of course, anything in the kitchen seems easy to Miss Mildred.
The menu consisted of pork tenderloin with an apricot chutney, au gratin potatoes, green beans, layered salad, and homemade rolls. No birthday party would be complete without a cake, but Miss Mildred had to go the extra mile and make three different kinds – her famous chocolate, sour cream coconut, and orange slice.
With the help of her niece, Bonnie, and childhood friend, Elsie, who both drove down from Germantown, Tenn., to help, the party was a tremendous success. The entertainment, however, might be questionable.
Miss Mildred asked Nell Middleton, Patti Corley and me to provide entertainment for the evening. Of course, we asked Miss Nell to sing a hymn which is her specialty. Her rendition of “I Bowed on my Knees and Cried Holy” would bring tears to your eyes, and it even turned out to be one of the guest of honor’s favorite hymns.
After dinner, the three of us (donning feather boas) broke into the 1930’s hit “Baby Face.” We were Winona’s version of the Supremes, and Miss Nell was Diana Ross. I, trying to remember the chorography (I look like I am having a seizure when I dance, remember), forgot the words, and Patti got off track watching and laughing at me. Miss Nell took the lead for a rousing performance (thankfully, to cover for us). I would not say we received applause – I think there were more laughs than applause (I am choosing to think they were laughing with us not at us).
Now, what I would like everyone to know is that there are very few people on earth I would agree to make a big fool of myself for, and I would have to say Miss Mildred and a man of God would be two of them. Trust me, I tend to make a fool of myself most of the time without practicing and choreographing it.
My sophomore year in high school, I got a part in the spring production of “Lil’ Abner.” I was so excited until I discovered I was cast as a man, Jack S. Fogbound. Tell me if that isn’t a slap in the face.
Here I was padded from head to toe and wearing a white polyester suit with a cowboy hat. (I mimicked Granddaddy for the voice – poorly.) I looked and sounded like Boss Hog going through adolescence with a squeak here and a cough there.
During the last of three shows, I was delivering a particularly long monologue when both my feet flew out from under me, and I landed flat on my back. The problem was I was wearing so much padding, I couldn’t get up. I kind of rocked back and forth like a beetle belly up.
The other cast members in my scene were laughing so hard, no one would help me up. They had to close the curtain on us so my co-stars would not have to grab my arms and drag me back stage.
You see, show business has never been good to me. In sixth grade, while acting in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” I tripped over a part of the set, flew across the stage, and knocked down two other members of the cast. I literally tackled them.
This curse even followed me to college. When my sorority performed its annual dance number at the Sigma Chi Derby Day my freshman year, I forgot all the steps, broke into a jig so no one would notice, and threw off the three back rows of the formation. Of course, any idiot who would take my lead deserved to make a fool of herself. I think we came in last – big surprise, huh?
You see, I do not have a false sense of reality to think I have any possible talent – well, maybe as the fourth stooge.