Monday, February 16, 2015

Dancing To The Rhythm That Is In Our Soul On Saturday Night, Saturday Night

From the day I met him, Wingman was a huge fan of Saturday Night Live. After all, it never competed with a single Yankee game on TV.  And perhaps, Saturday Night Live owes him a big debt of gratitude for helping create one of their more popular skits.

I met Wingman at a party. We tried to find common ground (certainly not our heritage with me being Irish/Italian and him Czech/Polish) but we did like the same movies (Casablanca) and TV shows (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman). He was incredulous that I had never seen Saturday Night Live, which as the second season began, became a weekly ritual for us.

Wingman was working as a bartender at the time I met him, and knew a guy with connections to the show.  He called me one night in June and in a voice three octaves higher than usual, squealed "I got us an invite to the SNL season ending cast party!" For two kids from the burbs, this was beyond cool.

I was working as a manager in a department store where all my male peers wore charcoal gray suits and wingtip shoes.  I assumed all men owned at least one suit of that ilk just like all women owned a little black dress, which is what I planned to wear.

The night of the cast party, he showed up dressed not for Saturday Night Live, but for Saturday Night Fever: a peach polyester bell-bottomed suit with an orange Huckapoo shirt, a turquoise leaf necklace and brown platform shoes. Besides the fact there was no time to even buy a plain white shirt, he saw absolutely nothing wrong with the suit Golden Lady had helped him pick out in high school.  Until we got to the party...

The first star we met was John Belushi. He was wearing a navy blazer and jeans and was nursing a bad cold with vodka and a handkerchief to his nose to keep people away. Laraine Newman was dressed all in black, as was Jane Curtin. As upset as Wingman was that Chevy Chase left the cast, he was thrilled to see Steve Martin, also in a blazer and jeans, who had been a guest host that season. He introduced himself, shaking his hand and gushing about what a big fan of his he was. Dan Aykroyd passed by us in jeans and chucked the front of Wingman's Huckapoo shirt saying "Nice suit". It was definitely a NYC cool event, but his suit stood out like a neon sign under a black light.

The first episode of the third season was September 24, 1977. Steve Martin was again the guest host.  As we watched, Gilda and Jane started a skit as two women (Lynn and BARB) playing ping pong. Enter the Festrunk Brothers-A/K/A Two Wild and Crazy Guys from Czechoslovakia. Two guys with Huckapoo shirts, big necklaces and polyester pants.  It couldn't be...but it was. The Festrunk Brothers became one of the most popular reoccurring skits, and Wingman swears they got their idea from him.

That Christmas, Wingman got a wardrobe makeover from me and the suit was permanently relegated to the back of his closet. It stayed there for years until I surreptitiously removed it to the Goodwill heap.

I watched last night's 40th anniversary of SNL and once again, the Festrunk Brothers were there ar rightfully they should be.  Dan Aykroyd's shirt looked much more like Wingman's shirt from 38+ years ago, and I smiled thinking that the wardrobe guys thought they got quite a find with that one.  From wherever he was, I imagined Wingman insisting to Phil Hartman, Chris Farley and Michael O'Donoghue that he was the inspiration for that skit.  And John Belushi, with a glass of vodka in his hand, toasting Wingman and concurring that he was.

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