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Nomaville: Mime in Time

Mime time.When last we spoke, I was being schlepped onto the Cork Theater’s stage to do a star turn in “Rapture in Suede,” a production with which I’d only become familiar moments earlier when I read my name on the playbill. Permit me to recall the last time something like this happened to me, when I was about to be lynched by a few hundred angry Bulgarians.

Now, I’m the kind of self-styled chap who is necessarily inured to the spotlight – as an accredited member of the media I’ve often moonlighted as the toastmaster type, gladly cutting ribbons, judging martinis, giving talks, leading presentations and generally being a self-inflated fish to any small pond in need. A panicked event coordinator will call, desperate for a last-minute replacement, and I’ll be there, especially if there’s booze, a buffet and an envelope with my name on it – though I’ve been known to waive my customary fee and just take the booze.

Such was the case when I was asked to introduce Krassimir the mime, beloved in his native Bulgaria, where, ironically, the young gallant was equally known as a “popera” singer who crooned operatic pop numbers to throngs enthralled. In an attempt to knit this schism in his career, he moved to Hollywood, where poly-hyphenate performers take to the fishbowl like mimes to glass boxes. I met him between pitch meetings while stringing for the L.A. Downtown News and wrote a feature about the “language of mime,” which inspired his then-handlers to ask me to introduce him at a live gig at the El Dorado in North Hollywood. I happily accepted (no envelope this time) and eventually found myself onstage in the midst of a glowing, spoken rehash of my article.

When I was about to bring out Krassimir, I caught his publicist’s eye in the wings. “Do more,” she yelped sotto voce. Seeing as I done my prepared bit, I obliged and riffed a little on Krassimir’s contribution to the craft of not only pantomime, but also “popera, a burgeoning new musical genre sweeping Eastern Europe.” The audience, it slowly dawned on me, was comprised of mostly Bulgarian nationals, who had about 60 words of English among them. I turned again to the publicist, who hissed, “He can’t find parking. Do five more minutes.”

Now, I can riff and by the loosest of definitions, it can be said that I can even improvise. But five minutes is an eon in stage-time. Moreover, my professional patter and persona is almost entirely dependent on my facility with the language, which was useless to the Bulgarians. Then, in a flash, it occurred to me – the people of Bulgaria and I did share a vocabulary – the universal language of mime. I had done the research, I knew Krassimir’s schtick – I’d just vamp until he relieved me. This glorious misstep would have been forgivable had I not positioned it as a parody of Krassimir himself by pointing at myself and uttering “Me, Krassimir” after pretending to be walking against a stiff wind and playing with an imaginary dog. Once the chorus of shouts and boos snapped me out of my stupor, I realized that I was not only offending a living Bulgarian national treasure, but that a mob of guys in back row had decided to kill me. I froze – just long enough for Krassimir himself, clad in a striped shirt and beret, to appear like an angel of mercy. He made like he had just pulled up in a fancy car, opened my hand and drop his actual keys in my palm as if I were the valet. I drove his pantomime car offstage and out the door.


Daedalus Howell

Daedalus Howell is the author, most recently, of the novel "Quantum Deadline" and the writer-director of the recently released feature film "Pill Head." He is the editor of The North Bay Bohemian and The Pacific Sun.

By Daedalus Howell

Daedalus Howell is the author, most recently, of the novel "Quantum Deadline" and the writer-director of the recently released feature film "Pill Head." He is the editor of The North Bay Bohemian and The Pacific Sun.

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