There weren’t any kids in my neighborhood except at night. They came in cars, with their parents, to see the movies. In the summer, when it took longer to get dark at Westlane Auto Movie, the cars arrived early to set up camp. The patrons who hadn’t brought their own food and drinks would load up at the snack bar and the kids would make a beeline towards the playground. There I’d be, swinging on the swings or spinning the merry-go-round, anticipating the arrival of someone who might become my life-long friend.
There was one kid that almost fit the bill. His name, like mine, was Mike and he and his mom drove up from Dixon on a regular basis. Sometimes, Mike and I would hang out in the trailer while his mom watched the movie alone. We would listen to my comedy records or just talk about stuff.
I once tried to sell Mike one of my Bill Cosby albums. I didn’t think it was very funny. My plan was to pretend that it was funny and see if Mike would buy it. I played Mike the best track on the album and laughed more than I should. It was a real betrayal and probably killed any hope of a life-long friendship.
For the record, the album was called 8:15/12:15. It was recorded at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe on Bill Cosby’s own record label. You got his early show and his late show. The album does offer some insights into Cosby’s relationship with an audience, but it didn’t have the polish of Cosby’s Warner/Reprise albums. He even did a few bits twice.
One time, right before Halloween, Mike and I were trying to come up with costume ideas. I decided that we should try on some of my mother’s clothes. My father and mother knew better than to punish a kid for cross dressing and only expressed concern that I shouldn’t be going through my mother’s things without asking, especially when my friends were visiting. Since that time, I have done drag a few times for Halloween. Gender bending can be fun.
Another time, Mike and I dressed up as hobos and came up with a pantomime that we wanted to perform for our parents. Mike’s mom didn’t want to stick around after the movies, so I had to perform our hobo strip tease solo for my parents. As hobo acts go, it was more Jackie Gleason pathos than Red Skelton slapstick. The music that I chose to set the mood was a track from David Rose’s popular album, The Stripper. David Rose was well known at the time as the orchestra leader for The Red Skelton Show. The skit required me to drop my pants at the end revealing boxer shorts covered with a heart. I had drawn the heart with my big red Sharpie pen. Unfortunately, it looked more like a blood stain than a heart. My parents were a tough audience. From the concerned looks on their faces, it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t ready for burlesque.
Once, and only once, was my father willing to drive me all the way to Dixon to spend an afternoon with Mike and that was only because Mike’s mother would drive us back to Davis when she came to see the movies that night. I don’t think my parents really liked Mike’s mother. They thought she was using her son as a bargaining chip to get into the drive-in for free. Eventually, Mike and his mom, stopped coming to the drive-in. I went back to haunting the playground hoping to find a friend.