LEX CONCORD: And what about the time you said we were going to have one of the Marx Brothers on the program?I enjoyed that bit, as well as the third excuse (Charlie McCarthy backed out at the last minute because he had termites) but what most people don't know is that we almost did have Harpo on the show Saturday night, but that opportunity petered out in a fashion appropriate to the program.
FRANK CYRANO: (DEFENSIVELY) But we did! Harpo was a very funny guest.
It's inevitable that people show up to a Halloween night show in costume (I ran the World's Most Ad Hoc Costume Contest during the first Saturday intermission because A. I noticed a whole lot of people out in costume, B. we typically ran costume contests during one Tomes show each run, and C. the show wasn't running long enough anyway.) We had people show up every night in costume, including some wonderful friends of the radio who came in full 30s garb and everything, but Halloween was the biggest night.
At about 10 minutes before we opened the house and began the on-stage atmospherics, someone ran backstage and told me that there was a Harpo Marx in the lobby in full-on trenchcoat and horn getup and everything. I was thrilled, mostly because a Harpo costume is an automatic winner no matter what (even without a mask, it gives you artistic license to do a lot of crazy things you may not do in your civvies) but also because it meant I could pull something really groovy and possibly get back at the unknown prankster who ordered a pizza to be delivered onstage at Friday night's show.
(Yes, the pizza stunt really happened and no, I still have no idea who was fully behind it. The recipient of the pizza was the band's drummer and all he had to say about it was "Well, I was hungry..." Meanwhile, I stood at the mic trying to come up with a useful adlib but was too busy wondering if pizza existed in '38. I'll save the rest of this story for the bit I'm writing about our improvisational goof-offery.)
"Oh my god," I said, hurrying out into the house. "Run out to the lobby. Go get Harpo. Bring him into the house. I want him in the show. We'll have him chase a cigarette girl across the stage and back." I was prepared to comp him -- out of my own pocket, even -- if he was willing to play along. Someone from the staff went out to the lobby to find him while I started thinking: Harpo had a fondness for blondes... which is the blondest cigarette girl we've got? Failing that, who can shriek the best? And where will we cue him? Off the Harpo line in the scene? Before that? After? Should I cop one of Groucho's cracks when it happens ("Looks like the 8:17 is right on time. You can always set your watch by the Lehigh Valley") or ad-lib something different?
Then the staffer came back in and said Harpo was gone. He hadn't come by to see the show; he apparently was on his way to other Halloween shenanigans and had stopped by the Somerville lobby to show off for a bit. Probably stopped at other places around Davis, too, and hopefully got a few free drinks for his troubles. Sounded like he had the best darn Harpo costume around, too.
Ah, well. The Saturday show went wonderfully without a Marx interruption, which is probably for the best. I know at least two people who would have gone apopleptic if I let Byfar run any longer, but I also know one person in the back who would have fallen out of his chair in laughter and that's the reaction I wanted.
But boy, that would've added to the numerous stories and legends that have come out of this production.