Spend 41 years on stage doing theater, playing with bands, and performing a comedy magic show and you’re bound to have things happen to you that are “interesting” to say the least.
All performers have endured failing sound equipment, costume malfunctions, bad introductions, wobbly stages, 40 mph straight-line winds, and many other unique hazards that come with the job. However, after about 14,000 shows (as best as I can figure) I have had a few things happen to me that seem more like “theater stories” rather than actual truth. But I assure you these are all quite true.
1) I once went onstage without my complete costume (a subconscious reaction to a very itchy, lame' tunic) and with the help of other cast members, and an 8-foot-spray-paint-can prop for cover, I managed to hide it from the audience.
2) I was semi-conscious during my big scene in “The Doctor In Spite Of Himself” due to the fact that as I rushed out for my entrance I hit my head (really hard) on a 10 inch cast iron pipe that was protruding from the ceiling. The cast told me it was one of my better performances!
3) I was totally unconscious during the bows of a rock opera called “The Lieutenant” I performed in in 1975. It was a brilliant musical that eventually moved to Broadway (It ran 2 weeks - that’s showbiz!). Here’s how it happened. The final musical number was a sort of nightmare-while-awake scene and all of the antagonists are singing and circling the protagonist; taunting him with little American flags while they are singing. On the final beat of the song we all quickly laid down on the stage and stood the flags on our chests. The lights shifted and it created the appearance of a military cemetery, with the protagonist standing high on some scaffolding, posed in anguish above the cemetery. Very dramatic! Blackout!!! The cast had two beats to quickly lie down in the correct spots and get their flags in position on their chests before the big ending. It was the night of our first preview and I was determined to hit the lying down position quickly so as not to mess up the last dramatic image. Unfortunately, the back of my head hit a stair unit that had been moved 4 inches downstage in-between the afternoon rehearsal and our first preview, sending me into a real exploration of the unconscious. The final pose was hit, the curtain dropped, and when the cast stood up to take their bows one sole body remained on the ground, still holding the little flag on his chest. No one noticed until after the bows were over.