The View from a Crocodile

Larry the Crocodile and kids

L-R Larry T. Crocodile, Sophie Schwalm, James Burks, Emma Kincaid

 

 guest blogger Larry T. Crocodile

I love kids…

barbequed.

Kidding!  I love kids, they’re my bread and butter… except crocodiles don’t eat bread and butter.  Unless it’s inside a kid… kidding!

This is the view I see every time I’m on stage with my human, Nancy Burks Worcester.  Lots of smiles, a little bit of enchantment and once in awhile sheer befuddlement.

I’ve been at this a long time now – if you’ve seen the new Muppets movie, you know that we fleece folk (or Mannequin-Americans if you prefer) age very well.  Very, very well.  Pictures of my human and me show that while I look exactly the same, she is beginning to look like a walnut with hair.  Kidding!

I have been reading recently that the Muppets have now been accused of communism by Eric Bolling.  I could put a link to him there but I won’t because it’s stupid.  A felt scare?  Come on!  Fleece folk are apolitical.  So in the hope that future misunderstandings can be avoided, I am making available for the first time ever the…

                                     Fleece Folk Code of Honor

  1. No politics.  Jeff Dunham broke the code when he created Achmed, so his fleece friends are now considered human.  This is not an honor people, not an honor
  2. No cursing.  See above
  3. No evil intent.  I guess it depends on what you consider evil, but I personally feel like we Mannequin Americans have a mandate to make the earth a little kinder.  Just in case you are confused, chicken jokes and whoopee cushions are NOT evil.
  4. Do not eat anyone in the audience.  I do not personally agree with this one, and strain at the bit every single day.
  5. No wearing pants.  I know some rules are made to be broken, but Fozzy Bear and I are still holding fast to the true spirit of fleecedom while Kermit has sold out. 

    Miss Piggy and Larry the Crocodile

    Absolutely unretouched photo of Miss Piggy & me

So there you have it.  I know the Muppets are not communists because Miss Piggy and I have been well… friends for years now.   This relationship has flown under the radar from years, but for the first time I am sharing the absolutely unretouched photo of Miss Piggy and me at the opening to “Muppets in Space“.

And don’t we still look good?

I’m late… I’m late…!

“Oh dear, oh dear, I shall be late!”  So said the white rabbit just before he popped down the rabbit hole, startling Alice and beginning her amazing adventures in Wonderland.

Those were NOT the words I said this morning.  Not even close.

Let me begin at the beginning.   I had my 20-month-old grandson for the week last week.  It was  both the longest and the shortest week of my life.  I was totally exhausted by his bedtime each night at 7, but I couldn’t wait to see his beautiful, laughing face each morning.

My daughter-in-law did not get home from her trip until about 10:00 Saturday night, plus I had the lovely Emma (my adopted granddaughter) here as well.  So I didn’t get to bed too early, and I got up at 3:00 to go down to College Station to perform at Christ United Methodist.  Then I got home last night and I could have gone to bed early, but the Rangers played!  What’s a girl to do?

So it was 11:00 or so when I went to bed.  And I thought I set my alarm.  I really did.  I had planned to get up at 6 and have plenty of time to drink coffee, etc. before my 8:30 show at Baccus Elementary (my children’s alma mater and an AWESOME school).

Imagine then, my consternation when I woke up this morning at 8:37.  THAT’S EIGHT THIRTY SEVEN!  Thirty seven minutes later than I actually wanted to be at school.  Twenty three minutes before I was set to perform.  Lucky lucky lucky am I that Baccus is maybe six or seven minutes away.  Still….

I exploded out of bed saying “crap crap crap!” and other assorted things.  I put on the clothes that were ON THE BATHROOM FLOOR.  I brushed my teeth for 14 seconds, rubbed foundation on my face while stepping into my shoes, and left.  I didn’t even let the dogs out.  My poor Roxanna dog is so old and arthritic that she can’t get off the bed by herself anymore, but I couldn’t help that.  She would just have to go back to sleep.

I didn’t even have a brush in my purse.  I combed my hair with a little four-inch Ace comb that was in the glove box and put on lipstick while driving.  The fog this morning was awful.  It was not even pea soup, it was clam chowder.  I drove 6 miles an hour while chanting “crap crap crap…”

I walked in the door at 10 minutes to 9.  Do not ask me how.  Counselor Betty While, looking a little wild-eyed, let me in and said “I was getting a little worried…”  I sprinted to the stage and set up faster than I have ever set up, including the time I took a nap and nearly missed my show at the Hood County Library.  Up went the poles, up went the curtains, up went the stars.  I tossed speaker cords around like I was casting for bass and started up the ipod playing who knows what – Frank Sinatra?  Alanis Morrisette?  Pepe’s Polka Kings?  The kids would just have to deal with it.  I didn’t have time to scroll through for Justin or Selena.

At 9:02 the kindergarteners started filing in and I was smiling like I’d had a mini-stroke.  Not a drop of coffee, but I was running on pure adrenaline.  Some of this year’s show, some of last year’s show, some words I’d never said before… but we got it done!

Whew!  Never let it be said that I don’t work well under pressure.  Now excuse me – I need a nap.

HOW TO SAY MY NAME

I’m fascinated with names.  I’ve talked about that before.  My son and daughter-in-law are expecting a new baby in March, and the topic comes up again.  It’s the first thing we give our child – their name.

There’s a group called the “Kabalarians” who believe that you can change your fate through changing your name.  They offer to help you live a more “constructive and healthy life” through the numerological properties of your name. It’s hard to argue with helping people live a more constructive and healthy life – but through mathematics?  Boy, that leaves me out.  The interesting thing about this sect is the emphasis they put on a person’s name.  They will do an entire study for you (for a fee, of course) about your name, what it means, how it affects your fate and what you should CHANGE IT TO.

Now that’s something to think about.  Would you change your name if you could?

The commentators on NPR have the best names in the world, like David Innskeep and Joanne Silberner.  Other people like these names too – check out this blog.   But here are my favorites:  Soraya Sarhaddi-Nelson and Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.  In case you’ve never heard them spoken, the last one is Oh FAY bee-a.  Isn’t that great?  

But I do wonder how it was for her getting started in the business?  Does anyone ever say it correctly?  Spell it right?  Remember it? 

When I married my late husband my name was Nancy Smith.  All that name conjures up is white bread and Spam.  How American can you get?  I couldn’t wait to get rid of the “Smith” part.  Burks was better, and I was Nancy Burks for 30 years.   I started my career as Nancy Burks, I shared that  namewith my children

When Terry and I married, I was torn.  To take his name or not?  It’s hard to change your professional name after 20 years.  I wanted to keep the “Burks” as a memorial to Jim and as a continuing attachment to my career and children.  But I must say that “Worcester” is hard.  For the record it’s pronounced WOOSTER.   There’s a Worcester England (home of the sauce), and a Worcester, Massachusetts, home to three colleges.  In those places they say  WUU ster.  But if you say it like that here people look at you like you’re crazy.  And nobody remembers it, nobody pronounces it right, nobody can spell it.  It’s like the sauce “WOOSTER SHEER” but of course nobody says that right either.In the end of course, I took it and I’m glad.  It connects me to my new life and new family and it’s certainly interesting.  But I’ve had to get used to being called “Wor CHEST er” which drives me nuts.  There’s no “H” in it, people!  Still, it’s who I am now.  I share the name with a lot of people I love.

Still – would I change my name if I could?  Would you change yours?  Would you still hire me if my name was Ofeibea Quist-Arcton-Burks-Worcester?

Better still, would you just hire me?  Times are hard but surely you know someone whose church, school or event could really really use a good ventriloquist whose name is Nancy Burks WOOSTER.

How NOT to Cook: Lesson One

You’re dying to know, aren’t you?  Well here it is, in all its glory – Rotini and Riccota with Zucchini.  Isn’t it beautiful?   It really was – very beautiful and very, very boring.  Not bad, just BORING!

The Mr. was nice about it.  He didn’t say what he usually says when he hates something:  “Interesting”.  That word is the kiss of death with him, because he’s just too nice to say he hates something or that it’s awful.

It wasn’t awful – it was just boring.  I guess those of you who actually do cook had already figured this out, right?  Zucchini, rotini and ricotta are all very subtle flavors and there was nothing in this to wake it up.  When we added seasoned salt with red pepper at the table it was better, but still nothing special.  And there’s a LOT of it left – any ideas?

And here’s the other thing.  It took me an hour and a half to cook it because sometime after I had preheated the oven but before I put the dish in, I had actually turned the oven OFF.  Nothing cooks very well that way.  I can see my daughter shaking her head and thinking “Mother!” 

Yes – that’s how I roll.

Tomorrow I will be at Central United Methodist Church in Waco.  If you’re anywhere near come by and see us during early and late worship – 9:45 and 11:00. 

And bring me a recipe.

 

 

The Glamour of Travel

Travel, especially air travel, is very very glamorous.  Unless you actually do it.  When I first started out as a storyteller (back when the Pony Express still rode and the plains were dark with buffalo), I couldn’t wait until someone hired me further away than I could travel in a day.

Quite early in my career I went to a school in Lewisville and had to leave about 6:00 in the morning.  I couldn’t imagine such a thing!  I remember calling my husband when I got there as if I was travelling to Tasmania or something.  Now quite often I’ll be gone three or four days and my husband will say “Where were you again?”

 Anyone who travels for a living can tell that it’s not fun.  I love to watch movies from the 49s when airline travel was really glamorous.  Everyone was dressed up and wearing hats, the stewardesses (they were all women then) looked like movie stars.  There were no latches on the overhead compartments because there was nothing in there heavier than a hatbox, and every passenger was smoking.  The windows had little curtains on them and the food came on plates with forks and knives and real glasses.  Now THATS glamorous – except for the smoking part of course.

We’re going on a little trip – my husband Terry and I, and of course Larry the Crocodile, Charlotte and Waco the Weasel.  Lili’s not going – she’s grounded AGAIN.

Waco is going to blog and post a video each day.  Please visit us here and send your friends.  Wish us bon voyage!

Bad Ventriloquism

I’ve spent today working on my new school assembly show for the year.  It’s called HANDS which stands for Happiness, Abilities, Needs, Deeds and Share.  As any writer will tell you, writing is hard work and those of us who do it spend an awful lot of time simply trying to avoid it.  I spend a whole lot MORE time avoiding doing my taxes each year but that’s another story.

Sometimes as research I watch other ventriloquists on YouTube.  There are some really bad ones – oh my yes there are.  Some of these folks are truly grim and I wonder how they actually see themselves.  One I really liked was Michael Harrison.  Not the most original material I’ve ever heard, but good ventrilquism and a FABULOUS puppet.

Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahone

A couple of years ago I was asked to audition for America’s Got Talent.  I bypassed a line of hundreds of people and was given a time to audition.  I made it through about six auditions and actually made it before  judges  Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan and David Hasselhoff.  It wasn’t pretty.  I was dismissed handily, as are thousands of others.  Of course, how many people get that far, right?

I gained some  important insight however, into how shows like that work.  Ever wonder how those dismally talented people get so far on American Idol , thinking they can actually sing?  Here’s how – through audition after audition some minor judge tells them that they are GREAT or UNIQUE or FIERCE.  They are photographed and interviewed until they actually begin to believe.  It’s a sad truth, but these reality shows often set people up to fail so that they can capture the moment of humiliation and share it with us all.  The saddest part is that we continue to watch it, feeling superior because each of us know OUR own limits, right?

Every experience is an opportunity for growth, especially for those of us who call ourselves storytellers.   Often at the end of a successful performance, when people are laughing, clapping and enjoying themselves, I tell the story of my experience on AGT.  People are always amazed that Piers Morgan actually said that Waco was “annoying” and that Sharon Osbourne said my talent level was “birthday party”.

But Sharon Osbourne is famous only for being married to a stoner rockstar and David Hasselhoff’s own reality show lasted one episode, and theirs is not the opinion I value.  Whose opinion do I value, you ask?  Yours.

-Nancy Burks Worcester

Sibling Rivalry

No mother has ever raised her children without the spectre of sibling rivalry also raising its head. My own children bypassed some of that because of their age difference. Brody was four years older than Emily, so their ideas of attention were very different. I must say however, that each of them in their own way were a little jealous of their “mannequin American” brothers and sisters.

Emily always said that the only time she was ever popular was the day I came to her school for an assembly. On that day EVERYONE wanted to be her friend so they could ask the questions every child wants to know the answer to: “How do those puppets talk?” The answer of course is a trade secret!

And the answer to sibling rivalry, according to the experts is to treat each child differently according to their age, personality and taste. Easy to say and hard to do.

It’s hard for me to believe, but now my grandchildren are starting to interact with their puppet aunts and uncles — where did the time go? My ten year old granddaughter Veronica recently asked me how did it happen that she and Waco were in kindergarten at the same time and now he’s still in kindergarten while she has moved on to the fifth grade.

Enjoy this picture of my grandson James meeting “Uncle” Larry for the first time. And come back to my blog soon!

Each day a new day …

A new day, a new website.

People under 30 grew up with “computer” as their second language.  It was amazing to me to see my 26-year-old daughter begin the building of this website.  Her fingers fly over the keys and she clicks through screens so fast that I didn’t even know what was there before she was on to the next thing.  My ten-year-old granddaughter can do things on the computer that I can only dream of.  Those of us over 30 (some of us MUCH older) learned computer the same way we learn any foreign language – one excruciating word after another.

Having said that, let me say that I am excited about this new website and pledge to learn as much as I can to keep it up and running, new and exciting.  It’s much like tending a garden in that what grows from it is only as good as the seeds and care that are put into it.  And just let me say now that anything good on this website is probably due to Emily, and anything weird, misplaced, misaligned, misspelled or misshapen probably came from me!  Thank you my sweet baby girl for all your help.

Work has been slow this year, for me and for nearly every other entertainer I know.  Even in the best of times it is a hard way to make a living.  Hotel rooms, long drives, crowded planes, uninterested audiences and bad food are only a few challenges.  Writing new and funny material that remains topical and interesting to children is never easy, and memorizing it gets harder ever year.  (And I must say that watching children’s TV programming so that I remain “in the loop” is getting excruciating!)

And yet… I can’t image doing anything else.  Making children laugh for a living – what could be better? Each and every day I have the opportunity to do or say something that could make an actual impact in someone’s life.  One of the highpoints of my existence was meeting a young woman at a local restaurant who had seen me perform since childhood.  She threw her arms around me and said “You’re the reason I never did drugs!”

An exaggeration surely.  No doubt her parents, her friends, her church and her own sweet self had much to do with that.  And still… what a joy, what a humbling thought that I might have had some small part in that.

Yes, it’s a hard life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.