Biographies & Memoirs

Nobody Gets Out Of Catering Alive

By

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Synopsis

1990. 30 year old Joe Montaperto lies on his bed in his old room at his parent's house in New Jersey, babbling to his ever present Napoleon statue at 2 AM about his derailed career as a rising young comic who had performed with the likes of John Stewart and John Leguiazamo on the bright lights of the 1980s NYC comedy scene. He was headed for stardom. Then his mind snapped. The only laughs he gets now are from watching old reruns of the 1960s TV show - 'Lost in Space'. And he's afraid of napkins. He embarks on a spiritual journey, which includes a long and rigorous stint at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, as well as several silent meditation retreats. Then he gets into a relationship with a spiritual bipolar women, which is exciting but deadly. He now wonders if he will ever get out of the catering industry alive.

THE MADNESS BEGINS



“Yeah, man. Look at Jon Stewart. Perfect example. Perfect. Headlining everywhere. Hitting the TV shows, the talk shows. Radio. Everything. You know he’s making that money, right? Yeah, he’s on his way. John Leguizamo. Another guy. Look at him now. Broadway. Got that - Mambo Mouth - one-man show. I mean he is killing. Killing! Martin Lawrence? This guy’s been in two movies already! Two. I blew it, man - let’s just face it - I fuckin’ blew it! Big time. Why didn’t I just stay in comedy, man!? I mean, what the fuck was I thinking!? I had at least as much talent as those guys. Easy. Easy. Even more talent, actually. No doubt.

The list just goes on, man.”

 The crazy part, though? I’m having this conversation with a statue. Seriously. I’m not kidding. My Napoleon statue. Yeah. And it’s 3 o’clock in the morning. Not only that, but I’m in my old bedroom at my parent’s house in Roselle, New Jersey. Yeah. And I just hit my 30th birthday a few day ago. Very sad. The point is - this Napoleon statue has been mysteriously perched on a shelf, on top of my chest of drawers. For as long as I can remember. Seriously.


Nobody knows how it got there. Nobody. It was just there. Even when we lived in Brooklyn, when I was a kid. This is creeping me out. I’m pouring my heart out to a statue. This is bad man. I mean, really, really, bad. Like mental institution bad. It’s late April 1990, and I’ve been here at my parent’s house for about the last six months. Bad idea. Terrible idea. I reach out for the (lukewarm) cup of chamomile/valerian root tea that’s been sitting on my night stand table for the last hour, and attempt a sip. Fuck! (I spit it out.) Too cold. No use anyway. I can’t sleep, man. I haven’t slept for, like, four nights now. I’m wired. I spring off my bed and start pacing my room. Man, it feels like fuckin’ Meatloaf - or somebody of that type of girth - is doing sit ups on my chest. Tight as hell. 

I run my hand through my hair. Fuck! A whole palm full of hair. My hair. Actually, formerly my hair. My luxurious curls. Gone! My whole identity. Gone. On the pillowcase. In the shower drain. Clumps. Clumps. Keep piling it on, God. Go ahead! Now I’m going bald too, on top of everything else! Great. I’m gonna look like Frankenstein - with this fuckin’ forehead. That’s it. Never going out again. Never.

 I creep down the notoriously creaky stairs to the living room, taking pains not to wake up my parents. At least somebody is sleeping! Trudging into the kitchen, I pop open a cold bottle of my father’s Ballantine Ale and repair back to the living room, slipping a VHS tape into the VCR. I settle down on the couch. 

“Deliverance”. I love this movie, man. Love it. Seen it like 14 or 15 times already. Know every scene, every word, practically by heart. Borrowed it from Blockbuster, like a month ago. You know what scene I really dig? The part where those hillbillies drag Ned Beatty into the backwoods and command him,

 “Squeal like a pig, boy!”

Cracks me up, for some reason. After it’s over I just sit there in the dark, drinking a few more bottles of my father’s Ballantine. And just brood. Jeez.



*************************************************************



The one thing that saves me from complete insanity - believe it or not?

                ‘Lost In Space’.

Yeah. ‘Lost In Space’. The old TV series from the 60’s. It’s in syndication now. I get up every morning at nine, no matter if I slept or not, just to watch it.

Fuckin’ hilarious man! The show is totally absurd. Without a doubt. Cheesy sets. Hysterical costumes, storylines. The whole deal.

What really puts it over the top for me?

Dr. Smith.

The show is totally all about Dr. Smith.

Cracks me up, man.

When ‘Lost In Space’  first starts out, it’s supposed to be this serious sci-fi series, along the lines of Star Trek, y’know?

   Dr. Smith is supposed to be this villainous stowaway on the Robinson family spaceship. He’s not even the main character. Guy Williams, who plays the father, Dr. John Robinson, is the star. But the show soon (devolves), or morphs, into this totally silly presentation centering around Dr. Smith - who develops into this completely flaming nellie.

I mean, an insanely flamboyant queen!

  Ha-ha-ha. How the hell did the writers in the 60’s get away with this stuff? I mean, they had to be on LSD, or something. They had to be laughing their asses off when they wrote this stuff. Gilligan’s Island, Green Acres, I Dream of Jeannie, etc. There is just no other plausible explanation.

They have Dr. Smith prancing around these alien planets, with his hand perpetually limp on his chest. Shrieking in this absolutely hysterical queenie manner whenever he’s confronted by monsters, or aliens, or whatever. And he’s always cowering behind young Will Robinson, whimpering:

“Take the boy, not me!”

He delivers it in this way-over-the-top-absurdly-theatrically-bad-Shakespearean actor tone. I know all the great Dr. Smith scenes by heart. Wouldn’t miss them for the world.

Too funny.

My favorite one though, has to be the time he (Dr. Smith) gets turned into a giant stalk of celery, and while holding tightly to a tree mumbles:

“Please tell this creature to stop nibbling on my leaves.”

Ha-ha-ha-ha.

That, and his constant verbal abuse of Robot just kills me, man. Kills me.

“You computerized clunk!”

“You bubble headed booby!”

“You pot bellied prankster!”

And my all time favorite -“ You overcautious concoction!”

I mean, how can you not laugh at this stuff! Ha-ha-ha.Thank God for ‘Lost In Space’, man, otherwise I’d be a major lunatic. Oh, the pain...the pain...the eternal pain. Indeed.

 


*************************************************************


Just when you think you can’t possibly sink any lower - something even more heinous pops up. In this case, it’s The Great American Health Bar. The site of my brief, but disastrous, flirtation with Natassia Kinski some years back. My father told me I could not remain in a fetal position in my bedroom anymore, and that I had to go to work.

So I go back to The Great American Health Bar, for some reason. Only this time, I’m working as a waiter - upstairs! Upstairs. The only reason for it’s sad existence is to accomodate what overflow lunch crowd, if any, that arrives. This usually includes the most cantankerous and ludicrous customers. I’m up there working the back right, the absolute worst station. I maybe serve three or four customers during the one hour that the place is minorly busy.

    Dig this - I’m commuting every morning for an hour, all the way from my parents house in New Jersey on the #115 NJ Transit bus. Which gets stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel everyday for the required 20 minutes of breathing in toxic fumes. I’m making no money - so I’m just basically paying for my bus fare! Now to add to all this, there’s this ancient immigrant named Joseph, who’s the manager/cashier upstairs. He has decided to make it his life’s work to torment me. This guy is maybe five feet - tops. He has only one suit - this way oversized blue pinstripe monstrosity that he grabbed off the rack somewhere in The Garment District, without even trying it on. And he wears this horror of a suit every fucking day. I mean, this guy was probably herding yaks in some remote mountain in Kazakhstan a few months ago, till he, like, Jed Clampett, somehow struck oil or something. He speaks no English, and just loves counting the money at the register over and over and over again. It delights him. His only delight. You just know that when he gets home, he has this secret dungeon buried deep down in a stonewall basement in, like, some obscure part of Queens. There, he counts his gold coins with an abacus, by the light of an old oil lamp. While he’s wearing a monocle. And a fez hat too. The kind that looks like a little red lampshade. With a tassel. Yeah, this guy really irritates me.

The last straw for me at The Great American, though, was last Wednesday. Wednesday is the big day of the week - because that is the day of the Broadway matinees. All the housewives, along with their shut-in sons, take the bus from every direction in Jersey, clogging up the bus lane to Lincoln Tunnel. They then double as our clueless customers. So last Wednesday, Samir, the waiter who usually works the platform, calls in sick, and by some kind of miraculous intervention, I wind up as the waiter on the platform - the busiest station upstairs! A huge day for The Great American Health Bar, indeed. Everybody stampedes in at the exact same time, because they’re all going to see Phantom of the Opera. I’m scrambling around like a rodent, trying to take their orders. The customers are all gratingly noisy, clamoring for their food, lest they be late for the show. I come racing out of the kitchen with fives plates on my arms, in an effort to assuage the savage beasts. Putting down one of the dishes on the platform siding, a steaming plate of hot chilli, I turn around so that I can better position the other plates.

“AAAGH! OHHH!! OH MY GOD!”

Screams of agony suddenly echo throughout the room. It’s like The ‘Poseidon Adventure’. In one nanosecond - a scene unfolds that should qualify as a national disaster. Somehow, the hot chilli plate has fallen off the platform siding, and smashed onto the floor! The totally bizarre thing is - it splatters over every single customer on the platform - projectile chilli!

The whole scene now shifts into slow motion for me, like when you’re in a car accident. Just people shrieking - in slow motion. One unfortunate woman is standing up in the middle of the platform, sobbing uncontrollably. Incredibly, she has been sprayed from head to toe with hot chilli. I mean, it’s actually on her head, in her hair, all over her white pantyhose, and oddly enough, inside her shoes. She is just swinging her hands in disbelief and horror.

Another man stares in stunned silence, the chilli having permeated his very expensive London Fog trench coat. People wailing, groaning, moaning in abject misery. The horror... the horror.

Desperate pleas for help - and shouts for redemption ring out through the restaurant! Others just sit and stare, obviously in shock. Then the howls of the maddening crowd call out for the head of Joseph. Or, at least retribution in the form of payment for their dry cleaning bills - until they transform into a menacing wolf pack! Joseph, completely befuddled and speaking virtually no English, turns to me and shouts:

“Jo-Jo pay!”

I look over at him. Incredulous.

There must be at least $2000 in dry cleaning bills! How in the world could I ever possibly pay that? I mean, I don’t even make any money here. I would be an indentured servant! I would have to work for free for years to pay that debt! How? Why?!

The next morning I call in to tell them that, somehow, I’ve  broken my leg - I am totally incapacitated.

I never work at The Great American again. 



*************************************************************



I’m strolling hurriedly down East 54th Street, on my way to some New Age Bookstore, ensconced in my brooding thoughts, when in one stormy nano-second - I am paralyzed. Anxiety rampaging through my chest. Rendering me practically breathless.

The napkins.

Oh my God…the napkins. I’m passing by this rather elegant restaurant with a large front picture window. The window tastefully displays meticulously set tables, featuring intricately folded  napkins on each setting. This is what has set me off into a state of near hysteria. Frenetic thoughts bolt through my head like blazing comets. I could never fold napkins like that! I could never work in a fancy establishment such as this! I’m doomed!

The only place I can possibly ever work is the fuckin’ Great American Health Bar, where there are very low expectations of me! Truly. And I just quit! I’m finished! I shakily make my way over to a nearby building concrete border. I somehow manage to sit down.

Breathe man…breathe...it’s alright.

God, now I am afraid of napkins.

Another irrational neurosis added to the list. What next?



About the author

Joe Montaperto, a native of Brooklyn and Roselle, NJ, studied acting and improv in New York, graduating to stage and screen work before embarking on the comedy circuit in the edgy, crack-riddled New York City of the 1980’s, with the likes of Jon Stewart, John Leguizamo, and Dave Attell. The End. view profile

Published on October 06, 2020

Published by

50000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Biographies & Memoirs

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