Friday, February 20, 2004
Years ago one of my old colleagues was in Atlanta for business and decided rather than hole up in her hotel as usual she was going to take in some of the sights. Always a fan of Gone with the Wind, she had heard that one of Margaret Mitchell's old houses had been turned into a museum with guided tours. The house was in a terrible, dangerous part of town, and had become so dilapidated that it was on the verge of demolition before being salvaged to become the museum. The museum had just opened and she and her friend were the only people to make that morning's tour. The docent, oddly enough, was a Japanese woman in ante bellum costume whose accent was so thick she was almost unintelligible.
About halfway through the tour the docent turned to both of them and said,
"Margaret Mitchell's husband. He terrible alcoholic."
She leaned in and looked sharply into their eyes, and then leaned in farther and hissed in a stage whisper.
"He BEAT her."
She then raised her clenched fist with all of the force of Scarlett when she made her "As God is My Witness" speech and swept past them up the hall, her hoopskirt bumping against them, to continue the tour in the kitchen.
"Her husband. He loved to cook for Miss Mitchell while she work."
Recreating a conversation that they might have had, she threw her voice down the hall, like she was Margaret Mitchell calling from her office.
"Hey, what you doing in there?"
Lowering her voice to indicate that she was now playing the part of a man,
"Hey, Miss Mitchell. I'm here cooking up a mess of fried CHICKEN!"
While she was impersonating Mitchell's husband she also began to pantomime frying chicken over the stove. As she was describing how he cooked for her she began violently shaking the imaginary skillet back and forth over the stove. If this skillet had really held a 'mess of fried chicken' she would have splattered grease over her herself and the stove, resulting in third degree burns and probably a large enough grease fire to consume the entire house.
Although my friend was a little disappointed she didn't get a proper tour, (she doubted that the guide had received little formal training or if she had, she had forgotten it completely) I would have preferred this kind of tour to the actual one.
Like when my aunt and cousins went to see Camelot starring the  Richard Burton as King Arthur. The curtain opened and it was obvious that he was loaded because he began to stagger around and couldn't even say his lines. After a moment or so the curtain dropped suddenly. The curtains began to rustle, evidence of the violent struggle taking place behind them. Then Richard Burton began to scream, "Get your goddamned hands off of me!", which was then followed by silence.
A few moments later the music started up again and the curtain rose as if nothing had happened, except King Arthur was now being played by the understudy, which was a lucky break for him, because that's how careers are made. Like Shirley MacClaine's. Or Nomi's from Showgirls.
Many people attending the play wanted their money back, but I would have paid extra to see that performance.
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