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Working the Arc Light

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“I’ve given them food, a French chef, what more could they want from me?” the suddenly finger gnawing dinner theatre, one man act (Mark Twain or Noel Coward) maestro said frantically to his impassive lover standing by.  The maestro was to perform his Coward tonight.  Let me explain what things were wrong.

Mr. Marks, our impresario, was usually a calm fellow who acted in as kingly a fashion that could be mustered for a midwestern audience without risking immediate offense.  If you’re on the con, overextending yourself financially in at least six directions at once, I suppose an air of confidence is absolutely necessary.  Living in a town where the culture is canned, I try to make the time to investigate colorful characters whose cosmic pretensions are massive  there is a math student gone mad who roves the campus telling his former professors that their work is ****, but I’ve yet to summon the personae that could get the lunatic to confess his abreaction to me  and Mr. Marks, once I’d spotted him and he thought he’d spotted me, did not have dangerous eyes.  Look at the eyes.  I urge you.  A look can save you greatly poor quantities of trouble.

Mr. Marks proposed to start a dinner theatre in town.  He had enough front money to rent the upper story of a building that had never, in its eighty year history, had a successful restaurant or business in it.  The rent paid, Mr. Marks began to use his checkbook to finance the remodeling.  Bright colors to complement the spirit of the enterprise, The Cote de Azure.  A stage had to be built, a piano player found, waiters, waitresses, a hostess, and a French chef.  Where to find a French chef in the midwest.  Problem?  There was one in town, former intelligence officer, author of a cookbook, a book of poems, and a beer drunk.  The chef had been brought to town by a lady with plans for opening a classy place of her own.  She wanted to build her place above a local barn style bar and former disco.  A third party with pretensions of opening a fancy restaurant  there were none in town and probably never will be:  a steak and potato community that doesn’t like to overplay itself  had the lady’s building permit revoked.  Work on the development of the project stopped and left a French chef walking around looking for a place to live, besides his dingy motel room, and lots of beer.  The twenty year old Marks let the plump and sweaty cook, Bill Biont, live in the office of the future restaurant under the shelf of Dorothy Parker books and memorabilia and kept Bill there as much of the time as he could.  (It would be horrible if Biont were allowed to escape.) TURN PAGE

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