In the musical “The Producers” Max Bialystock tells Leo Bloom that Rule 1 is “Never put your own money in the show”. Bloom asks him what Rule 2 is. “!!$Never put you own money in the show!#!$” yells Max. Solid advice, advice that will certainly do for my first two rules for living. But what others should we live by? What else should I tell my long suffering children as I hold forth at the supper table? Some are so obvious as to be hardly worth mentioning, “Never trust a Russian” and “Always wear sandals with socks when attending a Wagner opera” for instance. What else can I pass on to them that will stand them in good stead in the future? They are past the age when “Never cross when the Green Man is flashing” is very helpful and they are much better than I am when it comes to returning library books. ”Neither a borrower nor a lender be” will prove counterproductive as I am likely to want to borrow money from them in my old age.
One rule that I learnt very early on in my career was “Never sleep with the Turns”. Younger readers contemplating a career in showbiz would do well to take heed at the following cautionary tale.
Many years ago I was in the chorus of a tiny production of ‘Puss in Boots’ in an obscure corner of the British theatrical empire. I took a shine to the young lady who played the non-speaking Puss (who incidentally wore very little under her all-white cat-suit. The smell of that cat-suit haunts me to this day) and she to me. On our second date we went to the only restaurant, Chinese, that was open after the show. Puss was paying as I had paid on our first outing and I earned even less than she did. This being the only place to eat late in town several of our company were already there when we arrived but we managed to get a table well away from them. All went well until the main course when Puss said to me ”Do you think I’m a good actress?” A lack of sisters and a single sex education had left me knowing little about women and nothing about actresses. If I had known then what I know now I would have replied “Absolutely! You combine a supple intelligence with daring grace in a delicately erotic performance. Listen forget dinner. Let’s go to a hotel and…..” Sadly what I did say was “Erm well….” At this point Puss leaned across the table, flipped a bowl of chop suey over into my lap and stomped out of the door. The waiters were somewhat unsympathetic and became more so when it became obvious that I didn’t have the wherewithal to settle up. So my humiliation became complete as I had to limp over to our Company Manager on the far side of the restaurant, shedding noodles as I went, to borrow enough money to pay the bill.
Research is very important in writing a piece like this, so when I found myself next to the ‘Personal Development’ section while queuing at the till in our local Waterstones I had a quick trawl. First to hand came “How to Win Friends and Influence People” published in 1937 by the grandfather of self-improvers Dale Carnegie. His first chapter is promisingly entitled “If you want to gather honey don’t kick over the beehive”. Richard Templar, a current favourite with the “Low Self Esteem Book Club” has 4 consecutive chapters alarmingly entitled:
Don’t be afraid to dream.
Don’t dwell on the past.
Don’t live in the future.
Get on with life, it’s whooshing past!
I think I am unlikely to get on the LSEBC ‘Book of the Month’ list but, for what it’s worth, here are my top ten rules for living.
1. Never put your own money in the show.
2. !!$Never put you own money in the show!#!$
3. Never sleep with the Turns
4. Never trust a Russian
5. Only go to a Stephen Sondheim musical when there is an ‘R’ in the month
6. Always begin a letter to any Government agency as follows: “Dear Sir, I was shocked and appalled to…”
7. When batting at cricket always get in line, play straight and cut out the ‘fancy stuff’.
8. Never put your head out of the sunroof of your car when attending political rallies.
9. Never order chop suey on a second date.
10. Never read books or articles with titles like ”Rules for Living”