My dad was a stockbroker, an investment advisor, and a vice president at Prudential Bache. But he never let it go to his head. He wasn’t always prudent, though.
They called him the Margin King. When mom and dad got married dad was a gambling man, but mom didn’t want him doing that after the wedding. She said it was time he became a family man.
“The gambling stops now.”
So, he became a stockbroker. That way he could still gamble, except now it would be with other people’s money. He made tons and tons of money. He didn’t just make a boatload of money, though. He told jokes all the time. He was a jokester.
He was a prankster and a jokester. He used to appear on the “Hoolihan and Big Chuck” TV show now and then, doing skits with them.
Hoolihan was really Bob Wells, but he was Hoolihan the Weatherman on the air. After Ghoulardi left Cleveland for Hollywood, Hoolihan still did the weather, but became the other half of the “Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show”. It was what replaced Ghoulardi. They showed low-grade science fiction and horror movies late at night on weekends and did comedy skits in between the commercials.
That’s where my dad came in.
The shows always started with the Ray Charles song “Here We Go Again” and ended with the Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is.”
Big Stash and Lil’John were on the show, too, more than my dad was, and they were all friends. My parents used to go to Hoolihan and Big Chuck’s house parties and we used to have Lil ‘John over for spaghetti dinners. Lil ‘John was actually a very small man who could eat a lot of spaghetti.
They did skits on the show like Ben Crazy, from the “Ben Casey” TV series, Parma Place, which was like “Peyton Place,” and the Kielbasa Kid, which was like a Polish cowboy misadventure. The skit my dad was most famous for was the “When You’re Hot You’re Hot” skit, which was from the Jerry Reed song.
“Well now me and Homer Jones and Big John Taley, had a big crap game goin’ back in the alley, and I kept rollin’ them sevens, winnin’ all them pots,” was how the song went.
“My luck was so good, I could do no wrong, I just kept on rollin’ and controllin’ them bones, and finally they just threw up their hands and said, when you hot, you hot, and I said, yeah. When you’re hot, you’re hot, and when you’re not you’re not, put all that money in an’ let’s roll ‘em again, when you’re hot you’re hot, La, la, la, La, la, la, when you’re hot, you’re hot.”
They acted out the words to the song. Big Chuck would roll the dice. My father was the sheriff. They would be shooting craps on the street and my dad busts them. Later when they are all in court the judge tells them he is going to throw the book at them, except when he throws the book, he actually hits my dad, who is the sheriff, in the arm by mistake.
“That hurt!” he always said.
My mom was in a skit with Big Chuck. They are sitting on a park bench on a first date under a full moon and he turns into a werewolf. He reaches for her. She starts screaming and runs away.
My dad did a lot of skits wearing a gorilla suit. But not all of them were on the “Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show.”
He would get into his gorilla suit and he and Big Chuck would drive around the west side of Cleveland and Lakewood in a big car looking for hitchhikers. Big Chuck drove while my dad hid in the back seat. They would pick someone up and after a few minutes my dad would suddenly pop up out of the back seat in his gorilla suit.
They would scare the hell out of the hitchhiker. That’s what they did for fun. I remember being a little girl and listening to their stories and thinking, you guys are really weird.
Sometimes they would go out and roof jump. The houses in Lakewood are close together and they would run across the roofs, jumping from one to the other. They whooped it up.
When they got older Big Chuck, Hoolihan, and my dad got a little more sophisticated. They had mystery parties, which were parties on a bus on which you’d have dinner and drinks, not knowing where you were going, and at the end of the night you’d have to guess where you were.
It was the 60s at that point in time.
My dad was a prankster even where we lived, which was quiet conservative Bay Village. He played jokes on the neighbors on our street all the time. One time he hired the Bay Village High School Marching Band to wake up one of our neighbors at five in the morning. They did it by marching up and down their backyard and playing a fight song.
Another of our neighbors had dogs and I used to watch them when they were out for dinner or at a show.
“Julie, can you watch our dogs?” Mrs. Butler would ask me.
One day my dad took advantage of me having their house keys. He snuck into their house and filled up every glass, cup, vase, china, and toilet, whatever, with water and a single goldfish. When they got back there were goldfish everywhere in their house.
Another time he and his friends got into their garage, picked up their car, and turned it sideways. They left it sideways so tight in the garage you had to squeeze around it. Mr. Butler couldn’t get to work the next day. There wasn’t anything he could do. SWe thought he might have to tear the garage down.
He crept into their house late on a summer night wearing his gorilla suit and scared their kids so much they peed on the floor. He thought it was great fun, giving them nightmares. That was fun to him.
It didn’t matter to him. Whatever he thought of doing he did. He was constantly, constantly, constantly pranking the poor Butlers.
My sisters and Brad and I weren’t out of his prank zone, either. He would crawl underneath our beds at night and wait quietly until we dozed off and then reach around and grab us. Oh, yeah, while we were sleeping! I still can’t hang my foot out over the edge of my bed at night.
He was a great dad, but he was a prankster, that’s for sure.