JT's Blog

Things that interest me, things that happened to me, things that I like, even some things that I don't like...

Guy Goodman Is Still a Good Man

It was 17 years later in November, 1994, and I had just moved into a condo in the Olde City (or Old City, I’ve seen it both ways) neighborhood of Philadelphia. My life had changed in so many ways; I was now working at what was still called the Defense Personnel Support Center deep in South Philadelphia and had just relinquished a management position in order to take a lower paying position where I thought I’d be happier. As I said before, there was no plan, there never was a plan.

As I was unpacking boxes, I had the radio (remember radios?) tuned to a local classical station, one that is no longer with us. At the top of the hour there was a news break, and when the newsreader’s voice mentioned something about Lebanon County, my ears perked up. Two people, a man and a woman, were being sentenced to the death penalty for the murder of—

No that can’t be right. For a second there I thought he said the murder of florist Guy Goodman.

But I had heard correctly. The news hit me like a punch in the gut.

The web was relatively new then, but it did yield some information, and as the years have gone by, and the case has proceeded through various appeals, it has yielded still more information. If you want a dispassionate synopsis of the crime, FindLaw has the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Decision in a 1998 appeal, though that was not the end of the appeals.

For a fuller treatment, the crime series Wicked Attraction’s Season 3 Episode 5 Beyond the Wire has the case partially re-enacted in HD if you wish to purchase the episode on Amazon or Apple. There’s also a lower quality version available on Youtube, which I’m appending at the end of this post. As you’ll see, Guy Goodman was not the perpetrators only victim, but he was the only Pennsylvania victim.

To very briefly summarize, there was a young man from Amish country in Lebanon who had been molested by an uncle between the ages of 13 and 15; he never spoke of it to anyone and became more angry and irritable until he turned to drugs and crime, getting over two dozen convictions by the time he was 20 in 1993, and while he was incarcerated he was allowed on a work release program where he met a troubled woman who also had a history of abuse.

At some point Guy Goodman befriended the young man and went to visit him often in prison, hoping to help him turn his life around. According to Guy’s friends, this was very typical of Guy.

On September 15, 1993, the young man got a two hour pass to leave the prison, but he never planned to return. Instead, he hooked up with his woman friend, and the two of them went to Guy Goodman’s house to try to get him to give them money.

By this time the 74 year old Goodman had sold his country home and was living in a townhouse lined with a lifetime’s collection of valuable antiques in Palmyra. Apparently Guy tried to talk some sense into the man and pleaded with him to go back to prison before it was too late. But when Guy’s back was turned, the man picked up one of the antique vases and bashed Guy over the back of the head.

Quoting from the dispassionate appeals summary: “the pair then bound Goodman's wrists, ankles and neck in such a manner that he could not extricate himself. They then wrapped a bathrobe around Goodman's head, placed a plastic bag over it, sealed the bag with duct tape, and wrapped a bedspread over the bag. Finally, they carried Goodman into the basement, tying him more securely and leaving him to suffocate.”

They stole some checks, a credit card, and Guy’s car and went on a cross country spending spree through several states until the credit card was flagged, at which point they had to find another victim. They were eventually apprehended in Arizona and returned to Lebanon County for trial, where they were found guilty and, because the murder was committed during the execution of a crime and involved torture, they were sentenced to death.

Eventually the death sentences were overturned on appeal (the appeals continued even after the episode of Wicked Attraction was completed), but I believe the appeals are finally concluded and both defendants are now sentenced to life behind bars. They were also tried and convicted in Nevada for their other victim, a woman who endured many days of torture.

I don’t want to dwell any longer on the thugs who perpetrated these crimes; as you may imagine, I have my own opinions as to what should be done to them, and that’s why relatives and friends of victims shouldn’t be allowed to participate in passing judgment on the perpetrators.

But I hope you’ll understand now why I wanted to write at least one post that said nothing but good things about Guy Goodman. For years now, whenever I typed anything into a search engine about Guy Goodman of Palmyra, I would get the articles about his brutal murder or the sentencing or appeals of his killers.

I just hope that at some point my little blog post might percolate its way into the search results, so that when someone searches on Guy Goodman of Palmyra, they’ll find at least one article describing what a good man he actually was.

Guy Goodman Was a Good Man

I’ve been wanting to write a post with this title for a long time, because Guy Goodman of Palmyra, Pennsylvania, deserves to have an article on the web that says nothing but good things about him.

But I’ve been putting it off because I really don’t have that much to say. By which I mean, I didn’t know Guy very well or for very long.

Guy Goodman in a picture that must have been taken at least ten years after I knew him

It was in early 1977 that I made the move to a house just outside Hershey. I was still working for my parents at their hardware store in Richland, so I had about a 40 minute commute to and from work. Yeah, I didn’t really have a plan in those days. Well, the plan was just to get out of Richland. That I accomplished.

My housemate was Dan Bixler (the house was his), and we hit it off well the first few months, before we inevitably began to get on each other’s nerves. But in the meantime I met some of his friends, such as Guy Goodman.

Guy was in his late 50s and was a prominent florist in the region, having won numerous awards over the years. A veteran of World War II, he had just recently gotten divorced from his wife with whom he had a son and a daughter. He was now either gay or bi, but who bothers with labels?

He had apparently done quite well for himself because he lived in a large beautiful country home with a pool, which is where he staged a lavish party to which Dan and I had been invited. This was in mid-summer so the pool was constantly splashing with revelers until evening came when the entertainment arrived in the form of a Totie Fields impersonator.

A week or so later we stopped in to thank Guy, and we had a nice chat with him. He was basically an easy-going fellow. I think I only saw him a few other times; he probably stopped in at Dan’s house at least once or twice.

Now flash forward to the fall. I had finally gotten a local job at Channel Home Center (based on my experience working at my parents’ hardware store), when after about a week, some fellow plowed into the side of my car, totaling my car and sending me into the hospital for several days. (I really should finish writing about that incident one of these days.)

Anyway, when it came time to release me from the hospital, I needed someone to drive me home. I could have called my parents, but they were 40 minutes away. The logical person to call would have been my housemate, but Dan and I were now seriously getting on each other’s nerves, and I was making plans to move out. For some reason, even though I just barely knew him, I decided to call Guy Goodman.

He seemed to delighted that I did. He rushed right over. And he didn’t mind taking me on a detour to stop off at Channel to see if I still had a job there (I did). In short he just seemed happy to be helpful.

And that was Guy Goodman. He really was a very good man. He was always trying to help people.

And that’s what led to his downfall.

Dr. George Flanagan of Myerstown, PA

In the video that I posted with yesterday’s post, my uncle Allen mentioned a Dr. Flanagan. It was the only time I had ever heard his name, and I never followed up on it.

I don’t have a photo of Dr. Flanagan, but here’s a pic of an old building in Myerstown

But the former Debbie Miller, now Debbie Shriver (no relation to the Sarge), asked if I had any information about him. She recalled hearing his name during her now far distant youth and wondered if I could shed any light on his early retirement or possible demise.

With nothing but a Dr. Flanagan of Myerstown, Pennsylvania, to go by, I went to the newspaper archive site where I still have an open subscription (though not for much longer). After battling its not always terribly accurate scanning software (“Myerstown” might actually show up as “Myer jown” or some such, in which case it will not be a match in a search), I eventually found a bunch of articles and references that paint an incomplete picture of what sounds like a well-liked, small town physician.

Dr. Flanagan celebrated his 30th birthday on May 3, 1928

George E. Flanagan was born in Avonmore, Ontario, Canada, in 1898, and was educated at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, after which he began a medical practice in Richland, PA, in 1926, bringing with him his wife, Mabel and his son George Jr. His office was located at the top of the hill at the juncture of West Main and Chestnut Streets, and according to my uncle Allen, his most memorable sight from his time in Richland was seeing my mother running up that hill. He moved his practice to Myerstown in 1929 when my mother was but five years old.

There followed a long series of articles and brief mentions where he performs doctor-type things such as sewing up cuts, checking on folks in the hospital, declaring people dead, that sort of thing. By the 1950s he has become a trusted doctor in the community and is the designated school doctor in Myerstown. He’s also active in community affairs, as he leads a protest against the installation of parking meters in the borough. Successfully, I might add.

There are also references to vacations he takes with his family (a two week tour of the eastern states and Canada), to vacations his wife takes with friends to visit distant relatives, and to his son George Jr attending Queens University.

Along with Dr. Carl Miller, another physician who would be well known to Myerstownites (Myerstonians?) in the 50s and 60s, he inoculated school children who had been exposed to polio with gamma globulin injections (this was before the vaccine became available).

Sadly, a heart attack felled him in 1959 at the age of 61.

While these articles filled in a somewhat incomplete picture of Dr. George E. Flanagan, they raised a lot of questions in turn. Chiefly, what brought a Canadian doctor to the tiny community of Richland, PA, in 1926?

Dr. George E. Flanagan’s death notice in the Lebanon Daily News on May 25, 1959



The Last of Her Generation

My aunt Jane Zellers died last week at the age of 93.

She had been reasonably healthy and in full possession of her faculties right up until just a few weeks ago, when suddenly she became short of breath, and she was diagnosed with an advanced case of lung cancer. Fortunately, her illness did not drag out, and her children were given a chance to say goodbye. Her obituary was published in the Reading Eagle.

Here’s a photo of Jane and Allen taken in 2011

Her passing marks the end of an era for the Zellers family, as she was practically the last one of her generation still around. (I say practically, because thankfully Fumiko is still with us, but Fumiko was born and raised in Okinawa, so she doesn’t have the knowledge of the old stories of the Zellers clan to relate, although she does have her own stories to tell, some of which are hair-raising indeed.)

Uncle Eddie passed away just a few years ago, then Neal went about two years ago, and last year Allen (Jane’s husband) and my mother both passed away.

Here’s a little video where I sat Allen, Jane, and my mother in front of a camera in 2014 and asked them to reminisce.



A Day Late

Last evening around 8:30 I received a call from the Apple Store in Ardmore. Apparently the driver’s mother returned my iMac Pro to the suburban store, which as I explained to the nice man on the phone (I assume he was the manager) I had no convenient way of reaching, as I do not own a car. I am, however, a mere five blocks or so from the Walnut Street Store. He mentioned something about overnighting it to the Walnut Street Store and promised to keep me informed. It was the end of the day, and I was tired, and probably so was he, and several easier solutions didn’t occur to me until after we hung up.

This morning I received another call from the Armore Store, this was a woman, presumably the Sunday manager, and she proposed a simpler solution. She would refund my entire purchase price in the form of three gift certificates, which I could use to purchase a new iMac Pro at the Walnut Store. She was as good as her word, and in a few minutes she sent me the certificates, which I took to the Apple Store on Walnut Street, and in minutes I was walking out the door with a new iMac Pro.

I can’t say I’m a happy camper exactly, but I’m much more satisfied with how Darnèe Shepheard handled the problem. When I got home and finished lugging the iMac Pro up to my fourth floor apartment, I called her back, as I promised I would, to let her know she could shred the original gift certificates.

A big thank you to Darnèe Shepheard!

My new iMac Pro still in the box. I’ll start setting it up after lunch.

I Don't Forking Believe This

I like Apple products. In fact some Apple products I really love. Not that they’re all perfect, but I’m generally more than satisfied with their products and their service. Which is why I wasn’t prepared for this…

I have an iMac that I bought a couple years ago, and I made a big mistake when I bought it. I should have gotten an SSD drive. Instead I ordered a so-called Fusion drive. Without going into the technical details, the difference between the two is an SSD is much, much faster. I thought I’d be okay with a Fusion drive, but as it turned out, I what I saved in dollars, I’ve more than paid for in lost patience with some slow operations.

So I decided to go all out and get an iMac Pro, which is probably a bit more computer than I really need, but it should also last longer than my normal three year upgrade cycles. I also decided to wait until the start of the credit card’s new billing cycle, Saturday April 6, in order to give me the maximum amount of time before having to pay it off.

The last few times I’ve upgraded my system, I used Apple’s Migration Utility to pull all my apps and data from the old system onto the new one, but that also meant I was pulling a lot of cruft from long since discontinued apps, so this time I decided to install all the apps from scratch. While waiting for Saturday to arrive, I collected all the installation files, gathered all the preference files, and made plans for setting up the new system.

And today was the big day.

Right after breakfast I went to the Apple website, and since I already had the iMac Pro in my shopping cart, which Apple calls a Bag, I proceeded to checkout. I had been planning to opt to pick it up myself from the Apple Store on Walnut Street, but I saw that one of the delivery options was for a courier delivery between 10am and noon for $9. I reasoned that if I picked it up I would probably take a Lyft ride back from the store and that would cost about $9, so I chose the delivery option as the more convenient.

Then I typed in the 16 character codes for the four $25 gift certificates that I had accumulated, and I was just about to hit Buy—

When I realized that I had forgotten to make arrangements for Apple to buy back my current iMac. That had to be done at the start of the process, so I removed the iMac Pro from my shopping cart, sorry Bag, and started the process all over. [sigh]

When the web page asked me for the particulars on my current iMac, it didn’t recognize the serial number, so I had to type in the details. Just to make sure I got them correct, I opened the “About This Mac” app, and when I selected the Storage tab, the system froze. Grrr! That’s why I want to upgrade the damn thing to begin with! The freeze out lasted a minute or so, and then all was well, and I resumed the ordering process. Apple offered me $900 to buy back my current iMac.

Once again I opted for the courier delivery, and I had to retype the 16 character codes for the four gift certificates. Note to self: next time you get gift certificates, store the codes in your notepad so you can copy and paste them!

This time I finished the process and the order went through!

When I checked on the progress of the order, it gave me an estimated delivery time of 10:46am. That was in a little over a half hour. I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

I was about to toss the gift certificates, when a little voice whispered, “Not until you have the iMac Pro in your grubby little hands.” Sage advice.

I saw that the courier driver now had a name and a phone number. The estimated delivery time fluctuated a bit, but finally seemed to settle down to 10:56.

Then at 10:44 I received a text from the courier driver’s phone:

“I have a family emergency I will take your stuff back to the store sorry for the inconvenience“

Without really thinking, I texted back: “You’re closer to me than to the store“

To which he replied: “I know but my son is in the hospital sir“

And I countered with: “I mean it would be faster to drop it off with me than to go back to the store“

His final text to me was: “I'm not going to the store now I'm rushing to my son sir“

And that was followed almost immediately by a text from Apple congratulating me that my iMac Pro had just been delivered!

Can I just say that I’m not unsympathetic to the driver’s genuine distress at whatever it was that had happened to his son? And yes, I do comprehend that he is having a far worse day than I am having.

Joey Tribbiani

But, and here you might want to imagine the voice of Joey Tribbiani when I say: “What about my iMac Pro!”

I learned a long time ago that there’s nobody in this miserable world that I can rely on for anything. If I want something done, I have to forking do it myself.

So I got on the phone with Apple support and explained the situation. Long story short: the best they could offer me is UPS delivery sometime next week, maybe by Tuesday, after they verify the facts. I was not a happy camper.

So I went to the Apple Store and showed them the texts. A fellow there, who was not unsympathetic, said the only time something like this had ever happened before was when the driver was involved in a crash. There were two Apple support people working on it for about half an hour, and the upshot is that it won’t be resolved until sometime next week.

Maybe by Tuesday.


Janus—The Resolution

Pavilion Theatre at Penn State

I had resolved to stick with it (acting, theatre, whatever you want to call it), and that fall I started my freshman year at Penn State. The first few weeks were a whirlwind of meeting new people, getting oriented to the campus, attending classes, and being waylaid by Philip Klopp, Randy’s cousin, for whatever his latest cause was, and Philip always seemed to have a cause.

Then at some point I attended the first theatrical production, which I believe was Stop the World – I Want to Get Off at the Pavilion Theatre.

And it was superb. The only thing not fully professional about it was that it was being performed on a university campus.

And I realized that I was not in the same league as these Theatre Arts students, so I decided not to embarrass myself by auditioning for any of their productions.

(By the way, the actor who played Littlechap in that production, whose name I can’t recall right now, did go on to have a professional career. I saw that he appeared in New York City Off-Broadway productions in the 1970s before I lost track of him.)

I took a play writing course during the spring term of my first year, thinking that might be a way to ease myself into the Theatre Arts community as well as get myself started on a possible career in writing, which was one of the things I thought I might want to do. But I discovered that although the theatre people were friendly enough, they were also pretty much a closed group, and I was most definitely not one of them. I also discovered that although I did have a little bit of a talent for writing dialog, I had absolutely no gift for developing a plot or fleshing out characters. Good to know. That being said, I did better in that course than most of the actual Theatre Arts students did, as practically none of them seemed to have any aptitude for writing at all.

Now State College had a thriving community theatre, but I wasn’t aware of it until several years later. And when I attended one of their productions, Hello, Dolly!, performed in the round, I decided they didn’t need whatever talents I might have to offer.

Flash forward a few years to the mid 1970s, and I was living in Richland again. In the fall of 1975 I went to auditions for the LCTI’s production of Night Must Fall, Emlyn Williams’s thriller about a psychotic killer. In the intervening years, LCTI had finished refurbishing their barn, and after a few years that barn had burned to the ground. Then they managed to get financing for a theater at Stoever’s (pronounced “stay-vers”) Dam, where they remain to this day.

Despite not having Arlene and Maryann to push me up to the stage, I summoned up the courage to read for a couple of the parts, and I must not have done too badly, as the director had me read with a few of the other people trying out.

But in the end the part of the killer went to George Smith, a psychiatrist from Harrisburg, and one of the other male parts also went to someone from Harrisburg. The director was from Harrisburg. Hmmm.

But I had mixed feelings about the auditions. On the one hand, Betts was there, and she remembered me as the fellow who had been in Janus. On the other hand, a couple other people that I had known were there but they didn’t seem to remember me. And the auditioning process was truly anxiety ridden. I had butterflies in my stomach the whole time I was on the stage.

I went to see the production and it was terrific. George Smith was great as the psychotic killer. And really the whole cast was fine. It seemed as if with the new performance space, LCTI had leaped to a new level of quality.

Allie was in the lobby, and we greeted each other warmly. It was great to see her again.

But for some reason, I never went back. Never rejoined LCTI. Never went to the meetings. Never went to another production. It just wasn’t the same. Not without Maryann and Gary and Arlene and the rest of the gang from high school.

Someone asked me once why I found auditioning so anxiety ridden, and I had a few ideas, but as I was getting ready to write this post a thought occurred to me.

I’ve mentioned that I have no problem getting up in front of a large group of people to perform or give a speech or whatever, but it’s just the auditioning process that makes me nervous. On the other hand, I’ve often interviewed for jobs, and I don’t recall ever being particularly nervous during those interviews, and aren’t job interviews like auditions?

The set design for Janus from the script

Yes, they are, but there’s one big difference. I’ve never interviewed for a job that I didn’t think I was fully qualified for, so I was always confident during the interviews. But I didn’t have that same confidence when I auditioned for a role in a play. Plus it had been years since the Janus production, so whatever momentum I might have felt from that had long since dissipated. And even though people had been telling me for years that I have a great speaking voice, I didn’t hear it myself, so I never fully believed it.

As technology has evolved, in recent years I’ve discovered something that I enjoy far more than performing, and that is editing. As in editing videos. I don’t think I could have ever made a career as a film editor when that meant working with actual film, because I recall the days of working with audio tape and I always hated having to splice the physical tape. But now that video or movie editing involves working with digital media—if I had been born a mere 50 years later I could well imagine pursuing such a career.


Postscript

I dwelled on my Janus memories much longer than I had anticipated (though I have some memories that I wasn’t able to work into any of the posts), mainly because I’ve enjoyed reliving that period in my life, and I hope I communicated some of the joy of the experience. If I could literally relive just one period in my life, that’s probably the one I would choose. It’s a shame that I don’t have any photos of the production or of my fellow cast members or crew. It’s sobering to reflect on the fact that I never saw any of my fellow cast mates after our final performance (save briefly John Roberts the following week in the library), and that barring something unexpected, I’m unlikely to ever see any of them again. Assuming they are still with us, and I fervently hope they are, Molly would be about 80 years old, John about 90, and Chet somewhat older. Mary Ann would be in her early 70s, and our director, John, would be, I think, close to 90.

As I don’t believe in an afterlife (actually, I’m as certain as it’s possible to be that this is the only life we get), I’m not expecting any kind of reunion in the great hereafter. But if I turn out to be wrong, and we all find ourselves together again in some version of the Good or the Bad Place, I can visualize John gathering us together for an encore performance as he whips us back into shape.

“Hold it! Denny, repeat that last line. And this time say it as if you mean it!”

Janus—The Show Goes On

June 22, 1967, the day of our first performance arrived. My photo had been in the local paper the day before along with a nice write-up as publicity for the play, and one of my co-workers had spotted it. His name was Pyles; I don’t recall his first name, but I’m sure it wasn’t Gomer.

Cover of the program

Then late in the afternoon I received a call from Western Union. Debbie Miller, my former classmate who had moved to NYC, had sent me a telegram:

WISH I COULD SEE YOU BREAK A LEG LOVE

DEBBIE

Did I want them to mail me a copy? I did. That lifted my spirits, which needed a lift after the events of the previous evening.

To tell the truth, I really don’t recall much more about that day. I’m sure I was tired, but I’m also sure I was pumped. We were finally going to perform before a paying audience.

I do recall that when I got to the Lebanon Catholic High School auditorium and saw our Jess (Molly), her new hairdo no longer looked weird. It had just been the shock of the newness of it the evening before that made it seem strange.

The other thing I recall about that first performance is that our director, John Osborne, made a last minute decision not to have an intermission after the first act. This was not mentioned in the program, nor was it announced before the performance, and the auditorium was not air conditioned, and it was a warm evening, and the audience expected and really could have used a break after the first act. In fact, a good many of them were out of their seats and halfway toward the exits when the curtain rose for Act II.

But still the audience seemed to be enjoying themselves. They were laughing at a lot of the funny business, and they were applauding warmly at the end of each scene and act. Now they weren’t necessarily laughing at all the places we had expected them to. Some lines where we expected a big laugh received little or no laughter, while other places that we, or at least I, had not thought of as laugh lines drew hearty guffaws. I can’t recall specifically, but I believe Betts was right that the “concubine” line didn’t receive much of a laugh. And each audience over the course of the three performance nights was different; they all laughed at different places and were quite unpredictable.

The telegram from Debbie

Frankly the three performances pretty much blend together in my mind. Except for the final one where I did something stupid. John Roberts, our Gil, had been frequently ad libbing his way through his part all along. This had not been a problem because his ad libs were close enough to the script, often just a word or two here and there, that it never broke the flow. But I resolved to insert my own ad lib in the last performance. Since I planned it, it really wasn’t an ad lib. I thought I could inject a laugh into what was otherwise a dramatic moment of Act III. I didn’t. My “ad lib” totally bombed. Another lesson learned.

As I said, the audiences seemed to be enjoying themselves, although because the tickets had been late in arriving, we had not been able to sell as many as we might otherwise have, so the audiences were a bit on the lean side.

But for me the good news was that Randy had relented and decided to attend the Thursday performance after all. Or perhaps Pam had insisted. And they both enjoyed it, as Randy relayed to me the next morning when we drove to work. And Randy’s verdict on the other actors had improved, particularly Molly as Jess. He now thought she had done a terrific job. Perhaps it makes a difference seeing a performance without a lot of interruptions and with an audience.

The Lebanon Daily News review arrived on Friday. Since we were an amateur group, as well as an advertiser, I think their reviewer tended to go easy on LCTI performances, and his review was quite positive, though I thought he gave rather short shrift to Molly Costello and John Roberts. In any case we all had a good laugh over it before the Friday performance. In particular the reviewer claimed that my part required ”mainly a Wally Cox delivery and the smooth handling of some $10 words.”

But the reviewer made another claim, and I’d just like to set the record straight. I was not then, nor have I ever been “chicken chested”.

The local paper’s review of Janus. Click to enlarge

I think the reviewer was unfair to the character of Jess. Although he admitted that she’s on stage for almost the entire play, he did’t seem to realize that she is the protagonist. And he claimed she is “unlearned, has foolish, even impossible ideas, with no concept of reality.” Perhaps his reality just didn’t admit the possibility of a woman having more than one lover.

And this seems like the place to mention what I had originally thought would be problematic about the play for Lebanon County audiences: that Jess ends up keeping both her husband and her lover. Once we began rehearsing the play I never thought about it again, and there was never any discussion of it. Nor did anyone else on the LCTI crew ever raise the issue. One woman did object to some of the language in the play (there is at least one goddammit and a few other epithets), but she voiced her concern only to me as far as I know. If the Catholic school administrators ever objected, if they even knew about it, I never heard of it. The reviewer raises the issue and concludes the play must be judged on a purely entertainment level. And certainly there was never a problem with the audiences.

I’ll hazard a guess as to why. The issue of adultery was discussed candidly over the course of the play, and several times it was stressed that Jessica believed in the institution of marriage and thought both her marriage and Denny’s were strong ones. And I think all three main characters came across as sympathetic and likable, so in the end the audience was rooting for a resolution that would provide a happy ending for all of them. And the resolution came in the final moments followed immediately by the realization that this was no resolution but only the beginning of more complications as the curtain fell on a new but familiar comic situation.

When my parents and other relatives saw it, I think at the final performance on Saturday, they all seemed to enjoy it as well, and complimented me on my performance. Of course, I’d expect family members to be supportive, though I did like that my mother thought I sounded “natural” on the stage.

The comment that I appreciated most of all, however, came when I went to the Lebanon Community Library the following Friday. At the checkout desk was a young woman whose name I’ve long since forgotten, but she was about my age, a recent graduate of one of the local high schools, and someone that I usually chatted with whenever I checked out books.

“I want to talk to you!” she cried as I approached the desk. ”You were great in that play!”

I hadn’t even realized she had been in the audience, and she hadn’t realized in advance that I would be in it. She had thoroughly enjoyed the performance. This was a real ego boost. We chatted about the play and my experience with it for a few minutes, and we were still chatting when who should appear, but John Roberts, our Gil.

And it was clear that she didn’t recognize him.

When I introduced him and explained that he had played Gil, she blurted out without thinking: “But you were so good-looking on the stage!”

John turned and gave me one of his patented deadpan looks.

At the final performance of Janus, we brought our director John Osborne out for a well deserved bow. He had been tough on us, but it had all paid off in the end. John was a genuinely multi-talented fellow, and LCTI was lucky to have him. Alas, this was to be his last production with LCTI as he had just gotten a job at, of all places, Andover, Massachusetts—the city where Denny, my character in the play, taught French.

One of the souvenirs I kept from the show. Jess and Denny signed a receipt for cash from Miss Addy as “Jessica Rousseau” and “Dennis Rousseau” because Miss Addy believes we’re married at this point in the play, but we’re speaking about Ben Franklin while signing, so Jess initially signs it “Ben Franklin"

As it happened we were losing Mary Ann Schlegel (our Miss Addy) as well. She and I had had several long talks during breaks in the rehearsals, and she told me that she was planning to join the Peace Corps.

The final performance was something of a downer for me, and not just because I’d be saying goodbye to a great group of people whom I’d grown to like over the course of the past month. As it turned out the cast party was being held in a bar, and since I was underage, I wouldn’t be allowed to attend—unless accompanied by my parents. I decided that being accompanied by my parents might be even more of a downer than simply not going, so that was that.

(In retrospect, and I might be mis-remembering here, but I think the fact of the cast party and that I would need my parents to attend was sprung on me at the last moment, and my decision was a snap one. Perhaps if I had been given a little more warning I may have decided to attend at least for a short time in order to say a proper goodbye to my cast-mates. Or maybe my 70-year-old self is just wishing my 18-year-old self had handled things differently.)

But all in all this had been the most rewarding experience of my life so far. I had enjoyed practically everything about it, and I resolved to stick with it, as John had advised when I first auditioned for the part.

And I’ll describe the result of that resolution in the thrilling conclusion of this series of posts on Janus.

Janus—A Synopsis

In the February 13, 1956 edition of Life magazine there was a feature on Janus, which was then running on Broadway. Here is the first page. Click to enlarge

Some of the initial reviews of the original production attacked Janus for not being realistic. Well, of course, it isn’t terribly believable, one has to suspend a certain amount of disbelief to enjoy it; after all, it is a takeoff on a French bedroom farce. Is it also, as I have come to suspect, a sort of protofeminist shot across the bow? Hey, world, women can have multiple sex partners, too! I don’t know, and information about Carolyn Green is hard to find.

She was from Waverly Township, near Scranton, PA, and Janus was her only play produced on Broadway. It opened on November 24, 1955, and by the time it closed on June 30, 1956, it had earned back its investment of $60,000 and made a net profit of $70,000. What I found especially intriguing is that Janus had two television adaptations in the 1960s in Europe. I’d love to see those if they still exist somewhere.

A second play, A Sign of Affection, premiered at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia in April, 1965, after which its subsequent engagements were postponed for rewrites.

Green had three children (see the photo at the end of this post) and she died in 1996.

Here’s my synopsis of the play. See what you think of it.

Act I opens as Jess (“warm, vital, thirty-nine and blissfully unaware of it”) enters her Greenwich Village apartment and proceeds to remove dust covers off the furniture and freshen up what looks like a long unused living room. Then she knocks on the ceiling with a broom (our set didn’t have a ceiling, so our Jess knocked on the dumbwaiter) and goes into the bedroom. Presently a knock is heard from inside the dumbwaiter and Jess rushes to lift the dumbwaiter door, revealing Denny (“on the small side of medium height, about thirty-five years old, is wearing glasses and has a scholarly look”).

They share a passionate kiss, and the first few pages of dialog establish that they come to New York City every summer for two months to write novels and have an affair, that they both have spouses and children (Jess has Gil in Seattle, Washington, and Denny has Gertrude in Andover, Massachusetts), and that although their marriages are happy ones, they very much treasure their time together. Denny gives Jess a geranium plant, and Jess, who has taken up knitting, gives Denny a garish pair of argyle socks, which he puts on.

They practice their drill of quickly racing around the apartment to hide all evidence of Denny’s presence or their work together in case they should get an unexpected visitor (they manage to do it in 33 seconds), and then the buzzer to the outside door sounds.

After a brief moment of panic, it turns out to be their agent Miss Addy who has good news and bad news for them. She has brought them the proofs for their latest novel, and the good news is that it has just been accepted by the Book-of-the-Month Club, and she gives them an advance of $10,000 in cash. They do all their business in cash because they never spend it on anything and keep it all in the pot-bellied stove, which they never use because they are never there in the winter. We learn that Denny is a French teacher in Andover who earns $4,900 a year, and if he bought an extra pair of socks the whole faculty would know in half an hour. Miss Addy’s bad news is that a Mr. Harper from the Internal Revenue Service wants to see them, and he’ll be coming tomorrow morning.

Second page of the Life feature

When Miss Addy leaves they start to work on their new historical novel. Denny provides all the research, which his wife Gertrude, a librarian, helps him with over the course of the winter. Jess spices things up for a modern readership. These are “lusty, busty” historical novels, written under the pen name Janus, taken from the two-headed Roman god. As one reviewer of their novels stated, “One head of Janus sees the bare bones of history. The other head sees its far more seductive flesh.”

They decide they are hungry so Denny leaves by the dumbwaiter to go to the deli to restock the refrigerator, while Jess goes to the kitchen to retrieve plates, silverware, and a tablecloth. While her back is turned, the center door opens and a man enters. “He is big, good-looking, and wears forty successful years very well.”

Jess turns and screams.

It turns out to be her husband Gil, whose trip to South America was canceled at the last minute, and who decided to come see what his wife does on her vacations in NYC. How did he get in? Some little guy held the front door open for him. Jess tries to get him out of the apartment. She writes a quick note, wraps it around the geranium, and tosses it out the window. She finally gets Gil to agree to go out to dinner when there is a knock from the inside of the dumbwaiter. Gil thinks it’s a thief, as he flattens himself against the wall while opening the dumbwaiter door to reveal Denny, bringing Act I Scene i to an end.

Scene ii opens 15 minutes later as Jess and Denny are explaining how they write their lusty, busty historical novels, which are best sellers, etc. Gil is shocked, but also amused. He finally sizes Denny up and decides that he’s not a threat to his marriage, so Denny leaves by the dumbwaiter. But Jess has second thoughts and tries to tell Gil the truth. As she does, Gil doesn’t quite get it, but he begins to lose his temper and starts yelling at Jess.

The center door opens, and Denny rushes in, having heard the shouting. He sits down and tries to placate Gil, but when he crosses his legs, Gil sees the argyle sock and goes off like a bomb. He lifts Denny’s leg and roars: “Jess, goddammit, you were making those socks for him!

CURTAIN

Final page of the Life feature

Act II takes place the next morning as Jess and Gil continue the argument they apparently had most of the night. Jess is sorry that Gil found out. Gil is outraged at her attitude, especially when he realizes she wants to continue her marriage and the affair. They are interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Harper, so Gil retreats to the bedroom, and Denny comes down for the meeting.

Mr. Harper explains that the tax returns Denny has filed are all wrong because he hasn’t taken any deductions. Jess says that’s because Denny is so honest, but Mr. Harper says it is simply incorrect. They eventually seem to get things settled, and Mr. Harper fills out a new return for them taking the standard deduction. Then Gil enters and says he wants to talk to his wife. Mr. Harper was under the impression that Jess was Denny’s wife, and when he finds out that Gil, who makes upwards of a hundred thousand a year, has not declared his wife’s earnings, he says he can make things very difficult for him. He gives both Denny and Gil subpoenas, and leaves, seemingly happy to have discovered two big tax cheats.

Meanwhile, Denny asks Jess to leave Gil and marry him. Jess refuses because she says she believes in marriage, both hers and Denny’s, and that Denny really doesn’t want to leave his wife Gertrude. Jess and Gil have another argument, and she runs out of the apartment, slamming the door.

CURTAIN

Act III opens the following morning as Denny and Gil are weary and disheveled, having been up all night worrying about Jess. After they argue a bit, Mr. Harper arrives in a cheerful mood, tears up the subpoenas, and says they will be billed for the additional taxes, but there will be no penalties and no prison time.

When he leaves, Jess arrives looking radiant in a new dress. Gil and Denny finally get her to explain what happened. Jess and Miss Addy paid a call on Mr. Harper the previous evening, and through some clever detective work on Jess’s part, Jess figured out that Mr. Harper was having an affair of his own. One problem solved.

They send Denny upstairs to make breakfast so Jess and Gil can talk. Jess says she has a reservation on the noon plane for Seattle and that she’ll give Gil his divorce. But Gil no longer wants a divorce. She goes to pack as Miss Addy arrives. When she realizes that Jess is leaving Gil, she assumes that Denny has won, so she goes upstairs to tell him the good news.

Denny comes down hoping to hear it from Jess, but he takes one look at her and realizes she’s leaving him as well. She says he can write the novels by himself and sits him down at the typewriter to get him started. And leaves.

Leaving Gil alone with Denny. Denny can’t understand why she’s leaving them both until Gil explains that she’s leaving Gil because she won’t give Denny up. This gets Denny to start thinking out loud that all this time he, Denny, has helped to save their marriage. Gil doesn’t understand, gets angry, and starts to lift Denny by the lapels to punch him out, but Denny makes him realize that Jess needs them both. If Gil leaves now, he can still catch up to her. And Gil rushes out.

DIMOUT

Scene ii takes place a few days later, and although it’s the same set, we are meant to assume that it’s actually Denny’s apartment. Denny is alone when he hears a knock inside the dumbwaiter. It’s Jess, of course. She tells him Gil has gone to South America and “He told me to tell you he was joining the Book-of-the-Month Club.”

They start to embrace when the buzzer rings. Who can it be? It’s not Gil. Miss Addy’s away.

They look at each other, and then simultaneously both are struck by the same thought.

“Gertrude!”

They rush to hide all traces of their work and they are setting a new record as

THE CURTAIN FALLS

Playwright Carolyn Green with her children (from left) Nicholas, Loring, and Lynn.


Janus—A Dress Rehearsal From Hell

The Lebanon Daily News was good about giving LCTI publicity for its productions. This piece ran in the June 19, 1967 edition, three days before the opening night.

I don’t really know what her intentions were, but I have to assume that Carolyn Green meant for her only Broadway play to be a twist on a typical French bedroom farce with a female protagonist juggling two male lovers rather than the traditional male juggling two or more females. In any case Jessica is certainly the protagonist of Janus, and she’s a strong female role for the mid 1950s even though there are some attitudes that we would now find outdated.

This ran on June 21, the night before our opening. Alas, if there was an article featuring Molly Costello I haven’t been able to find it.

Here is where I wanted to include a one or two paragraph synopsis of the play, but I got carried away and it ran a bit longer, so I made it a separate post. You can find it on the Janus—A Synopsis page along with a fascinating feature from Life magazine from February 13, 1956, about the original production of the play, as well as a little bit of information about playwright Carolyn Green along with a photo of her with her children.

I mentioned that I grew to love the play, and I also grew to love my character, Denny. He and I did have a number of things in common. And some of his lines were quite easy for me to utter with conviction.

For example, in the second act when I’m—I mean when Denny is trying to convince Jess to marry him, she insists he could never leave his children, and he decides to tell her what he really thinks of his children:

“I like boys. But when they are your own, you have to live with them.” And then: “I am a civilized man living with a pair of savages. They’re noisy, dirty, and ignorant. They break everything they touch, or lose it,—or eat it.”

I could think of a number of children who fit that description as I said those lines.

Because this was community theatre, I had to provide my own costume and personal props. The costume was no problem as I had an olive green suit that I thought was appropriate for Denny, and I bought a very conservative tie (a black one) at Dinger’s clothing store in Myerstown. Betts had already supplied me with the pipe that my character required (I would be feigning smoking it but Gil would actually be smoking cigars and cigarettes), and Randy Klopp provided me with an old pair of his eye glasses.

Randy rode with me to the dress rehearsal. I’m not sure if he had some task to perform in connection with the play, or if he just wanted to get an advance look. He had tickets for the following night, our opening on Thursday, as he was taking Pam Barry to see it.

For my part I was excited that we’d finally get to perform the play in costume—with props—with all the effects in place—with no interruptions from John, the director.

My first inkling that things might not go too smoothly was when our Jess (Molly) arrived.

With a new hairdo.

She had just come from the hairdresser’s where she had described the play and her character to the hairdresser and asked her to come up with an appropriate style. I don’t know what her stylist was thinking but what she had created was, well, weird. I was not the only one who thought so.

Oh, well. Too late now.

Time to start the dress rehearsal.

Places everyone!

Curtain up!

“Hold it!” cried John.

I’m not going to describe everything that happened that evening, because I can’t. It’s all a blur of John stopping the action every couple minutes. He stopped it because he didn’t like something we, the actors, were doing.

We had to keep repeating lines. Whole bits of scenes. Back up. Do that again. Do it this way. No, do it that way. It was as if the previous month of rehearsals had not happened. It seemed like everything we were doing was now wrong.

He stopped the action because he wasn’t satisfied with something in the lighting or the sound effects or the curtain rising or falling.

I seem to recall that our Stage Manager, Jim Bostic, came in for more than his share of criticism. With us actors John was generally patient and at least civil. Not so with the Stage Manager, with whom he could be very sarcastic and cutting.

And with that British accent of his, he could be very biting indeed.

Suffice it to say it was a very long evening.

And I now had a summer job at the VA Hospital and had to get up at 5:30 the following morning in order to be at work by 6:30 am. Actually both Randy and I had jobs at the VA Hospital and we always drove there together.

The evening dragged on until finally—finally(!) we reached the end of the play. (Whew!)

John discussed a few more things with us, and then asked us to go through the final act one more time. Or maybe it was the first act. I don’t know. It was one of the acts. He promised not to interrupt.

Everyone was tired, but we complied. I have no idea what time it was.

John did eventually release us, and Randy got into the car with me for the drive back to Richland.

He couldn’t or wouldn’t stop talking about what a mess that so-called dress rehearsal had been and that he had never seen anything like it. At first I agreed with him.

But then it got personal.

He didn’t criticize me as I recall, but he was critical of the other actors, especially Molly as Jess. He said she ran around the stage like a chicken with her head chopped off.

Randy was my oldest friend in Richland. When we moved there in 1957, we initially lived in the apartment on the second floor of his parents’ house, and he and I had been good friends, frequently doing things together, ever since. Like now we even had summer jobs at the same place and carpooled together.

But when he criticized the other actors, he might as well have been criticizing me. It stung. I was in shock, but I was too tired to say anything.

And then came the coup de grâce.

Randy said, “I don’t think I’m even gonna go to the play tomorrow night. No sense in taking Pam to see that mess.”

Sure, Randy. Keep twisting that knife.