How to Succeed in Oklahoma

Written by George Tabb on . Posted in Posts.

Bill, the Star of
The Show

I sang, as I watched Susan and her ninth-grade breasts heave with every gasp
of air, "where the wind comes sweeping down the plains…"

"…You know we belong
to the land," Susan and her harem of junior high school harlots sang, "and
that land we belong to is grand!"

"And when we say, Yip-eeyo-ki-ay,"
me and my pal Shawn bellowed as we watched in amazement as Eve Bloomburg, who
had bigger breasts than Susan, did a cartwheel, "we’re saying you’re
doing fine Oklahoma, Oklahoma, OK!"

With that, the crowd of
about 300 students gathered in the auditorium for the afternoon assembly applauded
wildly. Not for us, I’m sure, but for the chicks. Well, and him.

Bill. The star of the show.

The kid who got to sing
opposite Susan. The kid who beat me and about 10 others out for the starring
role. The kid who was captain of the football team. The kid who was the star
of the baseball team. The kid who was captain of the wrestling team. The kid
who played first trumpet.


The kid with one arm.

Fuck, how I thought I hated

"Guess what, Dad,"
I said to my father one Sunday afternoon, while he was busy watching me first
hose out the two-car garage we had in Greenwich, CT, followed by the bicycle

"What?" said my
father, as he sat in the shade under the large rock we had in the side yard,
on a lawn chair, sipping iced tea.

"Our chorus is putting
on a play, and guess what play it is?"

"Well, if it isn’t
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, I’m not interested,"
he quipped.

"But it’s a good
play," I insisted.

"If it isn’t How
to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
and you don’t have the
Robert Morse role, don’t bother telling me about it."

But I did anyway, as I hosed
out the corners of the filthy garage, watching spiderwebs, sparkplugs and dead
mice wash by.

"It’s Oklahoma,"
I explained.

"Uh-huh," he said,
more interested in making sure I hosed down the walls as well as the floor.

"And they haven’t
picked the lead yet, so maybe I’ll get it!" I exclaimed.

"You? Get Gordon MacRae’s
part? Never," he scowled, as he poured himself another iced tea. "Maybe
you could get the Rod Steiger role, Jud, because he was ugly. But I doubt you
could even sing half that well."

"I could sing as good
as Jud!" I yelled at my father, who was, as usual, pissing me off.

My father said nothing as
he watched me continue to hose out his parking space.

"I guess maybe you
should play Jud," he finally said, "because then you would
be killed."

"Fuckwad," I mumbled
under my breath.

"What’d you just
say?" my father yelled.

"Nothing," I said

"You’re damn right
you said nothing. That’s because you are nothing. I have nothing for a
son. A useless nothing," he bitched.

"Sorry I’m nothing,"
I moaned as I began moving out bicycles from the other garage so I could hose
it down.

"That’s okay,"
my father replied, "I have two other sons. Maybe they’ll amount to
something. Maybe even get Robert Morse’s role in How to Succeed in Business
Without Really Trying

But they never did, either.

"George," said
Mr. Cott, our chorus teacher, "you have a really powerful tenor voice.
You could be the lead in this musical."

"Really?" I said
to the old and balding guy with the big black glasses. "I could be a lead?"

"Sure," he answered,
assuredly, "your voice is so pure. How do you sing such high notes?"

I looked at my teacher,
sitting behind his desk after class, with just me in the room. Alone.

"I dunno," I answered,
"but my stepmother says it has something to do with a guy named Hubert."

"Hubert? Is that your

"No," I answered.
"My father is named Lester."

"Then who’s Hubert?"
Mr. Cott asked.

"I dunno," I replied,
"but his last name starts with a T, because she always calls him by his
first name and last initial. She just says something about me not ever going
to reach him."

Mr. Cott laughed and told
me to run off to the auditorium, where rehearsals for Oklahoma were to

Later that afternoon, I
found myself sitting next to my pal, Shawn, who spelled his name like a girl.
I used to ask why he didn’t spell it S-E-A-N, like James Bond did.

"I don’t know,"
he’d tell me, "but I think it’s because my parents really wanted
a girl."

As Shawn and I sat and talked
about how we were both going to try out for Curly, he walked in.

The kid with the one arm.


"Aw, fuck," said
Shawn, with his flaming red Irish afro, pasty white face and red lips making
him look like a clown. "Looks like Bill is going out for Curly as well."

"How do you know?"
I asked him.

"He’s the captain
of everything, and gets laid more than a carpet. Of course he’s gonna go
for Curly," answered Shawn. "Why else would he be here?"

"Hi guys," Bill

We said nothing.

"How are you guys doing?"
he said, looking in our direction.

"Are you talking to
us?" Shawn finally said.

"No, morons, I’m
talking to the wall," he replied.

"Oh," I said.

"Of course I’m
talking to you, you little pansies," said Bill.

"We’re fine,"
said Shawn, "How are you?"

"Great," said
Bill, "I’m gonna be Curly in Oklahoma! What parts are you guys
going for? The farmers’ wives?"

"We want to be Curly
too!" I blurted out.

Bill just looked at me.
Then laughed.

"What’s so funny?"
I asked the one-armed kid who was much taller than both Shawn and I, and who
was wearing a longsleeved white shirt, with one sleeve pinned back at the elbow.

"What’s so funny?"
asked Bill, "Well, one of you looks like a circus clown, and the other,
well, you’re a little Jew."

"Curly could be a Jew,"
I yelled. "After all, he was named after his curly hair. Like mine!"

"Ha," said Bill.

"And he could look
like a circus clown!" said Shawn.

Poor Shawn.

"You guys are losers,"
said Bill, and with that, left us geeks to go talk to Susan, who was trying
out for the Shirley Jones role, and Eve, who was going after Little Ado Annie.

They got those parts. And
Bill got the role of Curly. I remember the next day Mr. Cott announcing who
got what role. When I asked him why I was cast as just a nameless farmer, and
Shawn as "Man Number Two," Mr. Cott smiled and just said, "Ask
Hubert T."


Rehearsals for Oklahoma
lasted at least three months. During that time, every weekday after school
we rehearsed like crazy. Even though Shawn and I just had a few lines here and
there, we were required to be at every rehearsal because we sang on almost every

Our favorite parts of those
afternoons came when it was time to square-dance with the chicks in the chorus.
I had this thing for a girl named Winnie Wilson, and Shawn liked Stephanie Carr.
When it came time to dance, we’d try to get as close to these females and
their chests as possible. Once I even grabbed Winnie’s tit. I told her
it was an accident, and I was reaching for her hand. I think she knew I was
lying, but smiled anyway.

Shawn had no such luck with
Stephanie. She’d dance as far away from him as she could, and joked under
her breath to Winnie that Shawn was an "Oklahomo."

During this time, I was
also on the wrestling team with Captain Bill, the one-armed "killing machine,"
as our coach used to call him. Bill would wrestle the same way every match.
When the match would start off, wrestlers in the standing position, Bill would
throw his nub into the opponents neck, and trip him with his opposite foot.
Then, when the guy was on the ground, Bill would get him in a headlock with
his half-an-arm, and turn him over. Then he’d pin him. The whole match
usually only lasted 30 or so seconds.

"That guy is a killing
machine," Coach used to tell all of us, "why can’t any of you
little pussies do half as well as that? And Bill only has one arm!"

But we were used to hearing
that. The one-arm bit. Those of us who were on the baseball and football teams
heard the same thing. Actually, I wasn’t on either. Varsity, anyway. I
was JV. That meant I was on the B-grade team. I didn’t want to be there
at all, but it was my father’s brilliant idea that I become an "athlete."
Anyway, I never really got to play, I just sat on the bench most of the time,
if I wasn’t getting other teammates water and towels and stuff.

And every coach would say
the same thing. Why couldn’t any of us be like Bill, the one-armed kid?
And all of them had a point. Bill was amazing. If he was in centerfield and
a ball was hit in his direction, he’d catch it with the mitt, throw the
ball up in the air while tucking the mitt under his chin, then throw the ball
to whatever base it had to go to. And he never fucking missed.

The same with football.
He’d never miss. He was the quarterback, and after he was hiked the ball,
he’d throw that pigskin like it was a homing missile. Incredible.

Bill was also great on trumpet.
And he let everyone know it. During marching band and orchestra rehearsals,
he’d play solos and Chuck Mangione songs during warmup, just to show off.
All the girls would always fawn over him, and it made a lot of us sick. I remember
once bitching about it to my dad, who told me I was sick for being jealous of
a kid with one arm, and that if I didn’t shut up I might only be able to
see out of one eye.

One day, after one of those
long afternoon rehearsals, one where I actually got to feel Winnie’s ass,
and a fine Canadian ass it was, I found myself alone in the boys’ room
with Bill.

"How’s it going,
Jew?" said Bill.

"Do you even know my
real name?" I asked him.

"Why should I?"
he replied.

"Because besides being
in chorus with you, I’m also playing football, baseball and wrestling with
you," I explained.

"So?" said Bill.
"So are lots of other guys."

"Well, my name is George,"
I said.

Then I stuck my hand out
to shake his.

Then I realized what’d
I done.

But it was too late.

My right arm was already

And Bill didn’t have

"What are you trying
to do, Jew?" yelled Bill, and with that, jabbed his nub into my throat
real hard.

"Sorry," I managed
to wheeze out, but it was too late. I saw fury in Bill’s eyes.

"I’m gonna kick
your faggot ass," he told me.

Then he did. After alternating
his nub and his fist to my face, he tripped me with his left leg, and then got
on top of me.

"Please stop,"
I literally cried, as tears rolled down the sides of my face.

"Fuck you," was
his reply, as he actually nub-slapped me on each side of my face, over and over.

"I’m really sorry,"
I cried, "really, I am. I didn’t mean to make any comment about your
missing arm!"

"The only thing you’ll
be missing," yelled Bill, as he stood up and started kicking me, "is
your teeth!"

Bill continued to kick my
ass, and finally left me on the floor in a bloody pulp. After I finished crying,
I was too ashamed to take the bus home, so I walked.

Finally the week came where
we were to perform four shows. Three of them were during school hours. Two at
other schools, and one at ours. Then there was the night show.

The one that scared me.
Because my stepmother, brothers and sisters would be there, as well as my dad.
And I didn’t want them to see me onstage. In a bit part. Wearing brown
corduroy pants instead of jeans, because my dad and stepmom were too cheap to
buy them for me. Even though I’d saved up five dollars in allowance money
for them.

So the week rolls around
and we do all the daytime shows. Bill, of course, does a great job as Curly,
and the rest of the cast did just as well. I actually have fun with Winnie,
and at one point Stephanie actually begins to like Shawn, and they do hold hands
during the square dance scenes.

Then the big night comes
along. And we’re all nervous. The whole ninth-grade chorus. Everyone. Our
parents are there to see us.

I even saw Bill twitching
around before the show.

Finally, the overture ended,
the curtains went up and our final and most important show began.

"There’s a bright
golden haze on the meadow," sang Bill, as the audience was exposed to him
in his cowboy hat and one arm all at once, "there’s a bright golden
haze on the meadow."

After a few "ooohs"
and "awwws," Bill


"The corn is as high
as an elephant’s eye, and it looks like it’s climbing clear up to
the sky," he sang.

We all then joined in on
"Oh What A Beautiful Morning," and the crowd went nuts. They clapped,
whistled and sincerely enjoyed it.

The show continued and by
the end of the whole thing, after Jud gets killed and Curly marries Laurie,
the whole place was singing along.

"Oooook-lahoma, where
the wind comes sweeping down the plains," we heard everyone sing along
with us, and we smiled.

After a standing ovation,
lots of our parents came backstage. I watched as Shawn hugged his mom and dad,
who both had curly red Irish hair like him, and I smiled as Winnie introduced
me to her mother and brother. I also watched as Bill’s dad came backstage
to congratulate his son.

"You did okay,"
he said to his one-armed kid, "but next time I think you can do better."

Bill said nothing.

"You have to prove
that having one arm doesn’t make you any worse than anyone else,"
his father went on to explain.

As his father talked to
him, I could see one single tear well up in Bill’s eye.

And I felt terrible.

Then Bill looked over and
saw me looking at him. The look on his face is something I’ll never forget.
Pure grief.

On the way out to our brown
paneled Chrysler station wagon, my father pulled me aside in the junior high
school parking lot and talked to me alone.

"George," he said,
"that kid who played Curly, he had one arm."

"Uh-huh," I said,
thinking about how Bill’s dad must be disappointed in everything his son
does. From football to baseball to band.

"Well I’m glad
your chorus didn’t do How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,"
my father explained. "A one-armed Robert Morse would have been simply terrible."

"Fuckwad," I mumbled
to him once again.

"What’d you say?"
he asked.

"Fuckwad," I said

"That’s what I
thought," he said, and with that he hit me in the mouth so hard my gums
started bleeding.

The next day at school I
saw Bill in the cafeteria, seated at a table full of cheerleaders. And I smiled.

He saw me smiling at him,
and just in the very corners of his mouth, smiled back.

"What are you smiling
about?" asked Shawn.

"In a land of men with
two arms, the one-armed man is still king," I said.

"What are you talking
about?" asked Shawn.

"Nothing," I told
him, and with that, motioned for him to follow me to a table where Winnie and
Stephanie were sitting, waiting for us to join them.

Punk Rock Evolution is the name of a new K-Tel compilation. K-Tel! As in all
those disco compilations, and other really awful poop I used to see commercials
for in the 1970s. Jeezus. Now they’re doing "punk." But it gets
better. Their idea of punk is so far off it’s like thinking a bicycle is
a bus. The bands on this absolute piece of dogshit are not that bad, but just
the fact that they call it punk really rubs me the wrong way. Included here
are emo (read pussy) bands that include the Promise Ring, Drive Like Jehu, Knapsack,
Jawbox, Seaweed, etc. While the tunes are okay, the quote on the back of this
baby is great. "It isn’t the way it sounds. It’s the way it feels."
–Josh Hooten of Punk Planet. Number one, it’s exactly how it sounds,
and number two, isn’t Punk Planet a fanzine that has even more problems
with major labels than Maximumrocknroll? I can’t wait for the Crusty Punk
compilation. Yikes.

Matraca Berg has a new CD
on RCA called Lying to the Moon & Other Stories. The cute woman with
a rack not only has bare feet on the cover of this thing, there is a closeup
of her fingers and toes on the back. And I’m supposed to listen
to this thing? Ha!

Useless I.D. is a real man’s
band, all the way from Haifa, Israel. Their new CD entitled Get In the Pita
Bread Pit
on Falafel Records absolutely kicks fried vegetable ball butt.
Sounding like NOFX with talent, Bad Religion without the drugs and Green Day
on a mean day, these guys are the best thing to come out of Israel since a missile
aimed at Palestine. Songs include "Lost In Space," "Have A Nice
Life," "Run" and many, many more. I recently caught their act
at CBGB, where I was not only blown away by their music, but their bad accents
as well. Punk rock! Oi! Vey!

Down By Law have a new CD
on Go-Kart called Fly The Flag. These guys have been around so long that
it’s hard to say anything new about them. Yes, they rock. Yes, they’re
smart. Yes, the new stuff is very good. Yes, I’ll go see them when they’re
in town next. No, Hunter is no longer the drummer. Yes, they are touring with
the Buzzcocks who also signed to Go-Kart. No, I don’t know why the Buzzcocks
did that.

Living Legacy is
the name of the new CD from Steel Pulse, on Tuff Gong. I figure they’ve
been around for like 20 years. They do reggae, and when I played this thing,
my dog P.J. rolled up a huge spliff and smoked the ganja while dancing around
on the carpet. Now I got a pothead for a dog. Help.

Starr has a new self-released
CD called New Improved Bootleg. This EP with five songs kicks so much
ass, when I heard it I almost cried. "New Improved God" and "Passion
Play Lady" remind me so much of the early Crüe, as well as Ratt, Poison
and even Hendrix and Blue Oyster Cult, I feel 17 again. Which, of course, for
me, was last year. Their live version of "Homework" at CBGB on this
thing is the bomb. When lead singer Zane Fix starts singing "Swanee River,"
I about spit beer out of my nose. Get this. It’s metal. It’s punk.
It’s I dunno. Just great.

Finally, Furious George,
a lame-ass pussy band if there ever was one, has a live CD out on V.M.L. Records.
It was recorded at the Fireside Bowl in Chicago, 5/30/98. Recorded with just
one mic, connected to a DAT machine, it doesn’t sound that bad. But hearing
the singer curse and sing out of key is so painful it’s funny. They do
lots of their songs here, like "Orbit," "Betty Crocker, Punk
Rocker" and "Gilligan," plus a cover of "Old McDonald Had
a Farm." If I wasn’t in the band, I’d really tell you how much
they suck. Plus, their singer is short.