The telling of this story was inspired by the prospect of an upcoming local storytelling event put on by The Moth. If you aren’t familiar with The Moth, you’re in for a real treat. They put on local Story Slams at various locations throughout the country. Ten people with a story to tell get their names picked out of a hat, go up on stage, and present a true five minute story according to the theme of the night. Judges picked from the audience select a winner, who can then go on to larger storytelling events. The stories are usually funny, heartwarming, often heart wrenching, and truly a lot of fun. Stories from around the country are later broadcast on Public Radio stations, and available to listen to online at www.themoth.org. I thank them for their overall inspiration, lots of enjoyable stories, and encourage you to check it out.
So the theme of the night was Karma. You know what they say, sometimes karma can be… .
I used to be the Social Director at a large resort hotel in the Catskill mountains in upstate New York. This area was known as The Borscht Belt, or the Jewish Alps. In its’ heyday, it was home to over 500 hotels and bungalow colonies. Think Dirty Dancing and Mrs. Mazel. The guests were predominantly Jewish, the hotels kept kosher, and the food was legendary. It was all you can eat, and boy could they eat! Every night there was a show in the nightclub, and this was where many stars of yesteryear got their start. Jerry Lewis, Buddy Hackett, Danny Kaye…the list is endless. My job was to keep people entertained with all kinds of activities, so they’d have something do between meals.
One of the staples of keeping the guests occupied was leading audience participation shows. Simon Says (made famous by Lou Goldstein from Grossingers) was a regular part of the lineup along with talent shows, trivia shows, and beauty contests at the outdoor pool. On Singles Weekends it was The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game in the summertime, and when busloads of seniors filled the hotel we would do The Not So Newlywed Game.
Hosting these shows was definitely a lot of fun, which brings me to the subject of my story. As host you depend on the participants being playful, having a good sense of humor, and let’s face it being a little quirky or dopey couldn’t hurt. The Newlywed Game format provided an opportunity for a fair amount of gentle ribbing and goofing on the contestants as part of the fun. It was good natured to be sure, but I must plead guilty and fess up to getting laughs many many times at other people’s expense.
For those of you not familiar with The Newlywed Game, three or four couples are chosen to answer questions to see how well they know each other. While one spouse is asked questions onstage, the other is sequestered away (in a soundproof booth) so they don’t hear the answers. Then they are called back, and try to match their partner’s answers to the same questions. The questions are designed to produce funny and often provocative answers. The contestants are usually nervous, trying to be on their best behavior, and of course win the game.
Fast forward twenty plus years later, and I am on a Caribbean cruise with my wife’s extended family. Everyone was there: my in-laws, wife’s sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces & nephews. They’re all terrific, and we had a great time together all week. Of course the cruise was reminiscent of my time at the hotel, except now I was a guest. I had my fill of delicious dinners, buffet breakfasts (with bacon!), and nightclub shows. They even had The Newlywed Game scheduled for the second to last day of the cruise.
So the week was nearly through, and now it’s time for The Newlywed Game. Unbeknownst (how often do you get to say that?) to me, my Mother-In-Law and Father-In-Law wanted to be contestants, and my wife wanted nothing to do with it. If you did want to be in the show you filled out a slip, and they would randomly pick out the couples. I was busy doing another activity, and ran into the showroom a little late. One of the cruise staff asked if I wanted to be in the show as I rushed in, and I quickly filled out a slip.
So I took my seat where the family was waiting, and whose slip did they randomly pick? You guessed it. My wife wasn’t all that happy, and I felt bad that my in-laws didn’t get to go up.
Anyway, so now we are contestants in The Newlywed Game. The tables have turned! Surprisingly, I was a little nervous being up on stage. The host seemed pretty cool, and soon it was my turn to answer questions. It started out pretty well. The first one was “If you were boarding a lifeboat and you could save all but one member of your family who would you leave behind?” My entire family was out in the audience, so I had to be very very careful here. So I came up with the just about to be divorced husband of my niece. “Jay!” I shouted. That was a very good answer, if I say so myself.
The second question was pretty innocuous, so no problem there. The next question was “What is your wife’s bra size?” I can’t explain it to this day, but I just froze. I guess it was nerves, but I was stumped. I vaguely remembered hearing somewhere one time that my wife had a C cup, but for the life of me I just couldn’t come up with a number. The host pressed me for an answer, and the only number I could think of was my lucky number. So I blurted out my answer, “8C!”
The audience roared. The host asked, “8C, are you sure that’s right?” “Yes,” I said sheepishly to the delight of the laughing crowd. “8C” he repeated, “are you sure?” Of course, we had to hear it all again when my wife came out to guess my answer. Not a particularly proud moment for me. Spoiler alert, we did not win the game.
With my newfound “notoriety,” I then walked around the ship and was instantly recognized. I was given every possible kind of look you can imagine. I went to the casino, and three different people just looked at me and said “8C” under their breath. My very favorite was when I was walking down the hall to my cabin, a guy just looked down and shook his head from side to side. It was very funny. Thank God the cruise was almost over!
Lucky me, they also sold VHS tapes of the show as a keepsake souvenir of your trip. The only saving grace was that they made a mistake, and sold copies of last week’s Newlywed Game instead of mine. Otherwise I’d be re-living this for all eternity.
So Your Honor, I guess my past caught up with me a little bit. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologize to anyone I’ve ever embarrassed. What goes around really does come around. Apparently, there’s no escaping karma.