Sunday, January 30, 2011
THE K-K-KING'S SPEECH
I stuttered as a kid.
I was teased daily, tormented regularly and would freeze-up at the thought of having to speak in class. I'd sit there, sweating until my turn came and then, more often than not, I'd come-up with an excuse to avoid the t-t-t-terrible scene.
When I was five or so, my older sister worked with me in a brilliant way: she had me jump rope with her, skipping or just twirling as I said each word. The rhythm allowed my words to flow. Later, I found that I could sing without stuttering.
The kids in my school would roar with laughter whenever I tried to speak in class, making me feel stupid. Looking back at those little bastards I realize it wasn't their fault. I was different and different is funny... I guess.
After my sister died, I turned to writing. It wasn't easy, just easier.
When I was 10, I entered my school's talent show. The Glendale California school gym was packed and, to me, it was as if all the kids and parents turned out to laugh at me. I performed a song with a special lyric I'd written.
Comic-singer Allan Sherman had the hit 'Camp Granada' (Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah) and for some weird reason, I thought I had the lyric chops to re-write the novelty tune and then stand before a thousand people and sing it. It wasn't exactly Wembley Stadium, but to a young boy, it felt as if the entire world was sitting out there in the dark.
My mom had done a nice job ironing blue 'Camp Granada' letters onto my yellow sweatshirt. I even had a whistle around my neck and, I think, a cap.
I'll always remember my opening line: "Hello Faddah...Hello Muddah. I'm just hoping...I don't studda."
It got a huge laugh. I'll never forget the laughter punctuating the whole song. I'm still not sure if my lyrics were all that funny. Maybe they were just brave. I do know that I felt really good, even better after I threw-up backstage.
I grew- up and almost outgrew the impediment, going on to write and host a radio show heard in 55 cities for several seasons. I appeared on national television, twice a successful contestant on 'Name That Tune.' ($100,000 cash is nothing to stutter at, man). Today, I am often interviewed on radio; I rely on my wits-and smooth voice-to fool the listeners. It isn't easy, just easier.
I'm cheering for 'The King's Speech' to win the Academy Award. I really, really, really am.
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