Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Couple Weeks Ago: "Anything Goes" by Richard S. Wheeler

A Couple Weeks Ago: Anything Goes by Richard S. Wheeler, 2015, 9780765375810.

Something reminded me of Wheeler - probably a comment on Abbott's blog - and I saw this in the library catalog. Another western-not-a-Western novel by Wheeler. The guy writes some nice books and this has all kinds of interesting detail about 1890 life, frontier towns, and life in a traveling stage troupe.  I finished this just before going to Boy Scout Camp.

The Beausoleil Brothers Follies is running a tour around the Rockies. The book opens with them railroading among Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Wyoming before they head to WA and then south into California. Tour and stage manager August Beausoleil has been in show business ever since he was on his own as a 9-year-old. August manages the performers during the tour and wears a tuxedo as master of ceremonies. August is older and prone to depression. Life in a traveling troupe is a succession of managed crises and skirted disasters.

Charles Pomerantz is the advance man. He arranges the many railroad trips and transfers, the hotel accommodations, theater bookings, and advertising for every town. The troupe needs to sell every seat to ensure financial success and Charles is responsible for much of that. He's in his thirties, works all the time, and is quick with women.

The rest of the troupe is a collection of experienced performers and new acts. Singers, dancers, a juggler, monologist. and an animal act. Beausoleil has a good group of performers but then the headliner dies. Then one of the monkeys of the two monkeys dies. A few nights with mostly empty seats really hits the management hard in the pocketbook. But, August knows the business and knows how to act on the fly. He creates fill-in acts and recruits others.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old "Ginger" has escaped her caged bird life as the daughter of a wealthy railroad family. She has chosen a new one name moniker and hopes to join the Follies. Raised as a concert pianist, and then as an opera singer, she has a beautiful voice but not stage skills. She and Charles have an immediate liking and a quickie marriage. Ginger is put on stage but has toruble connecting with the audience. Ginger is used to formal recitals where she has has to hit technical marks and not audience heart strings.

Things happen. The troupe's West Coast tour is in danger as a new vaudeville company is buying up all the theaters and cancelling contracts. Inexperienced Ginger advances as a performer but the new tour schedule now goes through her home town in Idaho and she fears confronting her controlling mother and father.

1. I was flipping through the book looking for a character name and only just now realized how well Wheeler writes about the stage performances. Each act is different with sad, silly, exciting, or just dazzling performances. Wheeler does an exceptional job conveying all the feelings of the artists and the audience. How moods and feelings are changed and altered throughout the night.
2. Wheeler also does a great job showing the differences among the mining towns. Some are remote and threadbare and others are more built up. All of them have theaters hosting touring acts and those acts have to promote the Follies and sell tickets. No press is bad press.
3. Re: Boy Scout Camp. My younger son is in Cub Scouts and I help out as a Pack leader. My older son is in Boy Scouts and I usually stand around and watch. Last week I attended the week long summer camp with my older son. The Scout Troop was set to depart on Sunday morning for the 4.5 hour drive north.
Well, the Friday night before was a Cub Scout Leader meeting. One member offered to have the meeting on his pontoon boat as we boated around Rock Lake. We had the meeting on the boat, kept talking, ended up docking and going to a bar, and then heading home I made some real bad decisions that night. About 9 bad decisions, in fact. That means about 5 beers, two Brandy Old Fashioneds, and two Dewar's. I was sick for the next 1.5 days and missed Sunday's early AM departure. I was okay by about 6PM to pack the van and go north on my own.
I felt like a real heel. I was in bed all day Saturday and missed hanging out with my family and visiting sister-in-law. I was also supposed to be driving up several Scouts on Sunday's caravan and instead had to call the organizer Saturday night to arrange a last minute driver to take my place.  Drinking that much was incredibly boneheaded.

1 comment:

Mathew Paust said...

Wheeler's not western westerns bring history really alive for me. This is one I've missed. Have to check it out. BTW, your mixing old fashions and Scotch is making me sick just thinking about it.