Now why my parents had four kids in six years is obvious…they’re Catholic. My mom was poppin’ them out like a good, Catholic factory worker. That’s basically the reason that my dad opened his business. He was working for his uncles and doing odd jobs when my parents got married. The next year my oldest sister was born and Dad knew he had to get serious about making money. Seventeen months later my other sister, Kris, shows up and now he had to get really serious. My mom was working part time in the emergency room (she was a nurse), which went on for another ten years or so. The point is, my dad started his business strictly because he knew how to do it and he needed to make money, but it wasn’t his dream. Who dreams to work on dead people? But my brother and I followed a few years later and now Dad had to really work his ass off to build his business.
My first performances took place in the basement of the funeral home. On one side of the basement was the morgue and on the other side there was a big casket shipping case that I used as a stage. There was also a piano next to the shipping case, but no one played piano in my family, so go figure. My brother and I put on a play for my aunts on that shipping case. I don’t remember what it was about, but I’m pretty sure I was brilliant.
Above the morgue, on the first floor, was the “parlor” and showroom. It was the parlor when a funeral was in progress and a showroom for caskets when there wasn’t. Above that, on the second floor, were our living quarters including the kitchen, bedrooms, living room, laundry room, etc. etc. On the third floor was the attic that had two small bedrooms and a bathroom. I moved up there when I was eleven. Remember when Greg Brady moved his bedroom up to the attic and Marcia was jealous? My oldest sister played the part of Marcia in our scenario.
The worst part about living in the funeral home was not the dead bodies. It was how restricted we were and having to be quiet all the time. If a funeral was taking place downstairs, naturally we couldn’t be going hog wild upstairs. During funerals we had to shut the hell up or my dad would come upstairs in the middle of the funeral and tell us to shut the hell up. So there we were; my mom, my 2 older sisters, my younger brother and me, all huddled upstairs like little Anne Franks. When we were little, my mom would give us chewy candy to keep us from talking during funerals. It worked. Dad was happy and so were we.
As we got older, if there was a funeral going on downstairs, we would be upstairs with the TV at a very low volume and would have to tip toe around the upstairs. If we dropped anything heavy or made any loud noise, we’d all stop and look at each other with that “oh shit, Dad might come up” look. But if we started hearing something crazy happening downstairs, all of us would hide at the top of the stairs and listen. People sometimes go a little nuts at funerals because it’s such an emotional experience, or they’re just a dramatic weirdo. But whatever the reason, sometimes you have to stop and listen. The Italians really lose it at funerals, and I have to admit, some funny things happened. One time we were upstairs and all of the sudden we heard someone yelling. All of us ran to the top of the stairs and heard a big Italian man yelling at his dead mother, “Ma, Ma! How can you leave me? Who’s gonna cook me peppers and eggs on Sunday? Maaaaaaaa!” Of course, we were laughing. You know it’s sad but it’s funny too.
My dad would kill me if he knew I told you that sometimes after a dramatic funeral, he would come upstairs and we would laugh about it. I know that probably sounds mean, but you have to understand that you develop a weird sense of humor in a situation where you’re constantly surrounded by death and sadness. It’s actually a coping mechanism; I saw a show about it on National Geographic. I also learned that a kangaroo has three vaginas from the National Geographic channel, but more on that later. Besides, there’s no way you can’t laugh at an Italian funeral, if you’re not Italian. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Fatso” with Dom Deluise, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t seen the movie, then you should go to an Italian funeral, but be sure to wear black and yell at the dead person. No offense Italians. I love you for inventing pizza!
The Oldest sister – she doesn’t want me to use her name because she was recently the victim of fraudulent activity. As much as I don’t think you would use her identity to do anything fraudulent, I have to respect it. But some of you know her name anyway.
The Second oldest sister is Kris. I think we can all agree she looked like my older brother, but really pretty for a boy.
That’s me, the one with the pipe and sunglasses. I still love the peace pipe.
The baby is my brother, John, who will be all over this blog because we lived together in Hollywood for 8 years.
**Tomorrow – my arrival in Hollywood**