In my mild-mannered secret identity, I usher for a great metropolitan theater establishment. Step in a phone booth and emerge as a nondescript, nattily attired entity who, when you’re downtown Minneapolis in the Orpheum, State or Pantages Theatre venues, shows you to your seat, where the restroom is, the bar, generally facilitating your enjoyment of the evening.
It’s a good gig. Don’t take a degree, just people sense. And beats digging a ditch. Not to mention, we’re employed to attend performances patrons pay to see.
Usually, it’s a cakewalk. Well-heeled, well-mannered White folk saunter in and are courteously attended. Y’ get ’em in, sit ’em down with the requisite yes-sir-no-ma’am-thank-you-please, and the world keeps comfortably spinning.
Every so often a Black comic comes in. On which occasions, baby, all bets, quite decidedly, are off. At the end of such shifts, I promise myself, like a New Year’s resolution (well, what I actually do is, I swear to God, cross my heart and hope to eat a dead frog) that the next time one such show’s scheduled, I’m calling in sick.
And, as with most resolutions, I don’t follow through. Truth be told, wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Kevin Hart recently hit town at the State. Two shows in one night. On the face of it, simply a double-shift of putting in a few extra hours and, of course, earning extra jack. In reality, Hart’s humor is, complete with foul language and frequent graphically sexual references, ghetto.
Before you have a cow complaining about that word, fact is, in plain English, that’s what it is. Call it, if you will, a cultural thing. Any way you slice it, Hart, my girl Sommore, and a host of others supply an insatiable demand for crude, rude, real raucous entertainment. Don’t take my word — look it up.
Who comes, paying top dollar for the pleasure? Among other things, an usher’s nightmare, that’s who. No way around it, ghetto-oriented artists get a fair amount of the ghetto in the audience.
Honestly, I was surprised how smoothly the early show went. People came in, had themselves a good time, then nicely and politely went the hell on home.
We catch our collective breath, gear up for the late show.
Patrons enter. Well-heeled, well-mannered Black folk stroll in, are courteously attended. Y’ get ’em in, sit ’em down with the requisite yes-sir-no-ma’am-thank-you-please, and the world keeps comfortably spinning. But, sooner or later, somebody shows they behind. Never fails.
Knuckleheads’ve had time to put a few Hennessey shots under their belts. Not to mention puff on herbal stuff. I get, off the bat, a pure, natural-born pain in the as I live and breathe. It’s not good enough I’m, in the pitch black, trying to get squatters out of his seats. He flexes. “Well, get the [expletive] out our gotdam seats!”
I tell Alley Oop that if he’ll let me do my job, I can get my job done. That pours fuel on the fire. Now, he has to front for his date: “I don’t understand what the problem is. I paid for these tickets. Put me in my seat.”
I’d like to call security over and have them put him somewhere. If he persists, that’s exactly what I’ll do.
Before he says anything else, I’ve evicted the squatters and told his patiently waiting date they can go sit down and enjoy the show. She’s visibly relieved. I make a mental note of the row and seat. If he’s gets out of line again, he’s gone.
Before I get two feet, Diana Ross and the Supremes, it may as well be, converge. Divas, late as hell, demanding to be taken care of five minutes ago. Not a one has her ticket out.
I convince them that even they must meet the hired help halfway. If you don’t show me the ticket, how can I…well, you see the situation. I get them to their seats. Should’ve called in sick.
Out of the fray, in the lobby, I relax, remembering why I didn’t take the night off. Why I never miss one of these shows if I can help it. I love looking at Black women. Adore admiring them. Sue me. Each and every single time I work a show like this, I spend half of it having to close my mouth so my jaw don’t drop on the floor.
Tonight’s no exception: a living, breathing, sensually seething panorama. A veritable Amazon, clad in curve-clinging beige of some kind of material or other, crosses the lobby with more class and style than might be legal. Going to some other usher’s station. That happens a lot.
When one such apparition approaches my aisle, my idiotically hypnotized gaze changes to a merely cheerful face, and I do my job. They should pay me extra for exercising such remarkably professional restraint. No lie.
In all different shapes, sizes and manner of dress, there’s more wide, swivel-hipped, profoundly protruding posteriors than a little bit. Plus a great deal of one spilling out of one’s blouse. More than a few pretty faces, too. I confess to delighting at the sight. Stretch me out on the rack until I repent my wicked ways.
Bottom line, at the end of the night (actually, by the time we clean up beer cans, cocktail cups and who knows what else), it’s close to one in the morning and time to go home. I punch the clock and hit the bricks. Swearing for the umpteenth time to have a good excuse next time a Black comic is in.
Lying to myself, of course. Mixed blessing and all, I’ll be there, suited up.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.