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Friday, June 17, 2011

The Puppet Party

Art, Barbara, Ann, Jerry, Mary, and Me
In my life I've thrown some strange parties, a few of which have been described previously on this blog, but surely one of the oddest was the April 20, 1985 Puppet Party. Jerry and I had begun our twelve year relationship that previous January, so this was probably our first social event with my closest friends: Art and Lorri Greenbaum-Latek, Mary Bush, Ann Matheson, Barbara Shipek, Lynn Brown, and a few others. The conceit of the party was this: everyone was to furnish his/her own puppet, and only the puppets were invited to the party. The puppet owners had to come, of course, but were not allowed to talk as real people; only the puppets could speak to one another. This was a party for puppets only.

The Art and Lorri Puppets
Amazingly, this nuttiness worked very well, and everyone entered into the spirit of the event with great brio. There was good food, lots of drinking, and (I suspect, but don't specifically remember) probably some marijuana to help a few of the puppets relax. Lorri, ever creative, hand-made puppets for herself and Art that looked just like them (she told me recently she ran across these puppets when cleaning out a little-used closet). My puppet was Sesame Street's Grover (since I could do his voice), Jerry's was a wolf, Mary's a bird, etc.

"Pin the Tail on the Donkey"
The puppets played games too. There was "Pin the Tail on the Donkey," with the puppets being blindfolded (but—note—not the humans). Somehow none of the puppets managed to correctly pin the tail on the appropriate part of the donkey diagram (see photo of Lorri's puppet pinning the tail up near the donkey's ear). There was a ring toss game (see photo of Mary's bird missing its first throw), and a game of hide and seek. In the latter, the puppets hid, while the attached human beings were in full view, but the players understood that the human were to be invisible, so the seeker had to find the hidden puppets without the clue given by the lurking human near the hiding place (see photo below of Mary being discovered atop the refrigerator by Art).


The highlight of the evening was a re-creation of the story of the Wizard of Oz, with the puppets playing the familiar characters. We lacked a Toto, so I appropriated a hand-carved wooden rhinoceros I'd purchased in San Francisco (ten inches long, beautiful carving, very lifelike, carved in Kenya), and he became Toto. In the photo below, Lynn's Emerald City Gatekeeper is denying entrance to the usual Oz travelers (note Toto hanging just above sofa in middle of the picture).


A Very Strange Version of "The Wizard of Oz"
After the party some of the puppets made phone calls or sent thank-you notes to say it was the best puppet party they'd ever attended. Okay, it was crazy, but great fun. In future posts I'll tell you about some of the other festive get-togethers: the potluck where everyone had to bring a dish that needed utensils to eat (like spaghetti), but which had to be consumed with hands alone (quite a mess before that evening was done), the oddest of the playreadings, my 60th birthday party where skits were performed on a make-shift stage in the garage and the first public singing ever of "Big Birthday" occurred (while I wept over my lost youth), etc.

So if you have friends as eager for nonsense as mine are, I recommend you throw a Puppet Party of your own and see what happens.
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Related Posts:
"The Woman Who Runs My Life," May 5, 2010
"Elena Kegan and Me," May 23, 2010
"Far Too High in Las Vegas," September 1, 2010
“Recidivist: A Criminal Who Does It Again,” September 10, 2010
"The Evil Big Birthday Song," November 5, 2010
"A Control Freak Turns 50 and Throws His Own Party," May 11, 2011
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013

5 comments:

  1. Doug - I still have that puppet. I think his name is Knuffy and sadly, he didn't hide very well.

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  2. I've heard numerous stories about this, now legendary, party and am very happy to see these great pictures.

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  3. From the Shark puppet -- I remember this event vividly since it was my coming-out party, sort of like a debutante's ball. Although, being a shark, it was more accurately a surfacing. After the party, I spent a few years in the company of a small boy, playing the role of Puff the Magic Dragon. Those years are gone now, and I don't really know where I am. Most of the time, I feel caught in an endless circle, as I'm sure many of us do. At any rate, thanks for a wonderful description of my earliest memory!

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  4. Many thanks for the inspiration! I'll email a script of Puppet Party (the play) for your reunion reading! Performances coming up in Cleveland Feb. 14-16: http://www.convergence-continuum.org

    Claire Robinson May

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  5. From Douglas Whaley:
    Many thanks. Send it to me at dglswhaley@aol.com. I wish you great success with this and all performances of your play.

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