As a young comic, I periodically worked as the opening act for a very funny headliner who happened to be out of her mind.
It was 1992, and at the age of twenty-six, I’d been on the road for about four years. Just your typical painfully shy, nice girl from a small town, trying to find her comedy voice while hoping that no one was looking.
Wasn’t much of a drinker, had never done drugs, and really didn’t think other people did either. Because surely everyone had seen Scared Straight, the anti-drug movie, in junior high school like I did, right?
Yeah, I was that guy.
She was a few years older, had a Marlboro Red voice, and a shock of curly blonde hair that she’d cut with nail scissors when it made her mad. And, also, was one of the funniest comics that I’ve ever had the displeasure of working with.
Please don’t get me wrong, when I say displeasure I simply mean that it was not a pleasure.
We were friends but hated each other and she was addicted to pharmaceuticals. Which wasn’t the cause of her crazy, it was merely an added bonus.
Sometimes she would try to get me to pimp drugs for her from stage. Before the show, she’d say, “Ask if anyone has Percodan or Tylenol 3 with Codeine. Just tell them I hurt my back.”
I never would, so at some point during my set, I’d hear her scream from the rear of the showroom, “Ask them!”
Then I would say,” Oh yeah, that’s the headliner. I’m supposed to pretend she hurt her back so that someone will give her drugs.” The audience would laugh and then afterward somebody always would.
So, as it turns out, I pimped drugs for her.
Percodan and having a conversation with me during my show were two of her favorite things. If she didn’t think I was doing well I’d hear a gravelly, “Wrap it up. I’ll take it from here.” Or, if she just wanted me to tell a certain story, “Fuck that. Tell them about us staying in that haunted hotel in Santa Fe.”
A whole lot of time was spent fighting with each other while I was trying to work. But the crowds loved it as if it were some sort of a special Punch and Judy bonus show.
Punch and Judy are puppets that were on Saturday morning television in the 1970s. Mr. Punch would beat the crap out of his wife, Judy, and other random puppets, including a baby puppet.
Somehow that show does not seem nearly as light-hearted now that I’ve described it.
By the way, If you’ve never had the pleasure of spending any quality face time with addiction, let me tell you, it is the opposite of lovely. It’s sort of like hateful, self-loathing, and mean, all rolled up in a big old sweaty ball.
I said sweaty ball. Hehe.
To be fair, she wasn’t the only one dealing with demons back then, I had plenty myself. Most comics do, it’s just that mine were more genteel, preferring the sweet solitude of my cranium so as not to disturb anyone but me. Because that would be rude and my demons are nothing if not ladylike.
So, she was addicted to painkillers while I was addicted to men who didn’t find me funny or talented and just really seemed to enjoy saying so at the drop of a hat. (Who doesn’t love a good daddy issue, right?)
That said, allow me to tell you about the time we stayed at a haunted hotel in Santa Fe.
It was after a gig in Albuquerque and the man I was seeing at the time (we’ll call him, Mr. You’re not funny, Becky) had flown in for the week. The three of us decided that when the shows were finished we’d drive to Santa Fe and spend the night in a haunted hotel.
You know, as you do.
The hotel’s centerpiece was a Victorian mansion called The Staab House. It was built in 1882 by an old Santa Fe Trail merchant named Abraham Staab.
Now, I’m not sure how you amassed your fortune but Abraham amassed his as a major supply contractor for the U.S. Army during the Civil War. He then built the beautiful three-story brick mansion for his wife, Julia.
How do I know all of this? Because I researched it and then copied and pasted.
Mr. and Mrs. Staab were the parents of seven children and incredibly wealthy. The ballroom in their home (because they had a ballroom in their home) was one of the social entertainment centers of Santa Fe society.
You are correct, they do indeed sound like douche bags.
But, never fear, the fairy tale lifestyle eventually came to a screeching halt after their youngest child passed away. Julia then became very depressed, took to her room, eventually went mad, and now haunts the place.
My goodness, I do love the idea of taking to your room and going mad. Although it doesn’t really work in this day and age. Trust me, people just assume you’re hungover.
Imagine how dreadful it must have been for Abraham trying to comfort his wife after the loss of a child. “We shall be fine, my dear. There’s still six left. Six is a lot. Believe me, I pay to feed them, it’s a lot.”
While checking in, we asked the man working at the front desk to tell us some of the ghost stories. They were typical; glasses flying off shelves in the bar, people seeing or hearing Julia in her suite, and sometimes, if guests left clothes lying around their room, they would come back to find them neatly folded, and at the foot of the bed.
The last one really didn’t sound too scary, especially not to my boyfriend, pretty sure he thought that’s how it worked anyway. Yep, every night a spirit would cross over and pick his shit up off the floor, or fold his laundry and put it in a mystical little thing called a dresser drawer.
Oh, and isn’t it interesting that broken glasses always seem to get blamed on ghosts and never the bartender who’s been shooting Jägermeister since noon? (Which, by the way, tastes like an old lady’s house smells.)
Before going to dinner that evening we decided to leave some shirts on the floor, just in case. When we returned, ta-da! They were folded and at the foot of the bed. Well, of course, we all freaked out and ran to ask the guy at the desk if the staff had done it. He assured us they had not.
Then my boyfriend made the two of us swear that we didn’t do it.
Which made him super excited because of his love of ghosts and Bigfoot and all things ridiculous.
We stayed awake through night in hopes of witnessing something supernatural. Which did not happen because the next day my friend admitted that she’d paid to have it done after we’d gone out.
Our little excursion then ended, the way they usually did when the three of us traveled together, with him driving and screaming, her in the back seat crying and chain-smoking, and me on the passenger side, gently cradling my ulcer.