Ruggero Leoncavallo “Vesti La Giubba” from I Pagliacci

Kerry Wade had one of the quickest minds for one-liners of anyone I knew—especially in seventh grade. One day a classmate asked Kerry if he had ever read Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. “No,” “he quipped, but I read page 38”, which of course was the sex scene. He had such a sense of exuberance and playfulness which he employed to help me go steady with my first real girl friend. Here’s how it happened.

One day he told me that a friend of ours, Penny McMurtrie, had a crush on him and that Penny’s best friend, Carol Ledgely, had a crush on me.

“Here’s what we’ll do,” he said handing me a ring. “You go to Carol and tell her that I really like Penny but am too shy to tell her. Then give her the ring and ask her to tell Penny that I want to go steady with her. In the meantime, I’ll go to Penny and tell her that you really like Carol but are too shy to tell her. I’ll give her the ring and ask her to tell Carol that you want to go steady with her.” The plan worked perfectly and I owe my first kiss to Kerry.

Another time, Kerry taught me how to play a tune by pursing my lips and blowing air through the space between my ring and middle fingers. This sounded a bit like a cross between a trumpet, a crumhorn, and a Bronx cheer. One night at a junior high dance hosted by a local DJ, they announced an impromptu talent contest. One of the more popular girls got up and lip-synched something saccharine like the Beatles’ “Nowhere Man.” After that, Kerry coaxed me onto the stage and we performed “When the Saints Go Marching In.” We won, hands down, so to speak.

Kerry also taught me the art of musical parody, which he said had picked up from his brother and of course, Peter Schickele. One song he was fond of butchering was a famous orchestral tango to which he sang these lyrics:

Leprosy–you bother me night and day.
There goes my eye ball, into my highball.
Leprosy–you bother me night and day.
Leprosy–there goes my ear, into my beer.

But my favorite, which still makes me laugh to this day, was a parody he used to sing to the tune of “Vesta La Giubba” from Leoncavallo’s one act opera, I Pagliacci. The opera has as melodramatic plot of any soap-opera, full of betrayals and jealous, vengeful love. He used to sing it in order to embarrass the girls who sat at our study hall tables. It went like this:

 Lady Pagliacci. You make me itchy and scrotchy.

When my kids were little, I used to make up parodies of popular songs with references to my daughters and our dog, Freckles, our cat, Wally, and our cockatiel, Fluffy. I wonder if Kerry did the same with his children out there in Oregon.


About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

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