A to Z Theme 2016
For my 2016 A to Z theme I used a meme that I ran across on the blog of Bridget Straub who first saw it on the blog of Paula Acton. This meme is a natural for me to use on my memoir blog. It's an A to Z concept and it's about me. No research and nothing complicated. I'm given twenty six questions or topics to discuss that are about me.In April I kept my posts short and uncomplicated. In the midst of it all you might learn a few things about me that you didn't previously know.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
The Kazoo Man
When my family lived in San Diego in the early 1960's, each summer we'd go to the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar. We always got free admission because either our family was performing our juggling act on one of the entertainment stages or my sister was performing with her dance school. Either way it meant at least one full day at the fair.
This was a great fair with plenty of entertainment, a plethora of exhibits, savory food, and a noisy fun carnival midway. It's proximity to the ocean shore made for comforting breezes and the weather in San Diego was usually delightful anyway. Fair time was a great time for all, but an especially exciting time for any kid.
Now over fifty years removed from those days, I don't remember too many specifics about the San Diego Fair, but there is one memory that particularly stands out for me--the kazoo pitchman. I don't remember ever seeing such a pitchman at any other fair before or since, but my search on the internet revealed that the kazoo pitchman was not uncommon to find at fairs and circuses even decades before I saw the one at this fair. I've seen plenty of sales people hawking kitchen knives, home gadgets, and novel toys at fairs but for me the kazoo pitchman was something completely different.
Like any pitchman, the Kazoo Man at the San Diego Fair was a slick talker. But he did more than give a smooth spiel--he was an entertainer. He put on a good show and the crowds loved it. Rather than given a booth in an exhibit hall or some corner on the fairgrounds, the Kazoo Man had his own stage at the heart of the fairgrounds. Everybody had to pass this spot at some point of the day and when one of the Kazoo Man's presentations began to get underway, people stopped and began to crowd around the small stage.
Recorded music began to play to alert the passing throng that something was about to happen. People gathered in anticipation. Then the Kazoo Man stepped on stage to begin his show. He was a slight looking fellow with an expansive presence that drew everyone in. A fast talker, he was funny, he was fascinating. He explained the quirky little device that he never called a "kazoo", but gave a far more interesting name that I don't remember. Whatever he called the thing, the crowd wanted to know more. The Kazoo Man gave them more.
The Kazoo Man made funny noises with the instrument and then he began to play music. Beautiful wonderful music. He imitated all sorts of musical instruments with this tiny thing. One could almost imagine that he was actually playing a violin as he went through the gestures of drawing his invisible bow across unseen strings. I had to look closely to see that what I heard happening was only a ruse of pantomime. The sound was all coming from this silvery little thing in the guy's mouth.
The more the guy spoke his entertaining patter and played his enchanting music, the more the crowd was allured by whatever this guy was pitching. And then the closer came to the sales pitch. We too could have this fabulous little instrument that absolutely anyone could play with no training and no extraordinary skill. For seventy five cents we could have one of these devices or we could have two for a dollar.
The crowd pressed in with dollars in hand. The Kazoo Man grabbed dollar bills and dispensed his wares with skilled efficiency. I convinced my father to let me get a couple of the instruments and I had no problem getting a dollar from him. He had been equally taken in by the pitch and had no qualms about his son being able to have one of these amazing things.
When I had my little devices in hand, I gazed upon them with great curiosity. They were metallic silver round things that looked not unlike the UFO's I'd seen in the science fiction movies I liked to watch. The instruments looked futuristic and mysterious. Almost immediately I recognized that they were merely fancy kazoos that functioned in the same way a piece of wax paper wrapped around a comb did. I had made those comb kazoos myself and understood the principle of how they worked. You'd hum through it and make weird sounding vibrating music. But these were special. The Kazoo Man's kazoos were the equivalent of a professional kazoo if there were such a thing.
I don't know how long I had those kazoos. I never was able to get quite the same sounds that I had heard the Kazoo Man perform during his sales pitch. No doubt that I had fun with my kazoos, but there was also some element of disappointment for me. However, that show put on by the Kazoo Man was the best part. I'm not sure how many years he was at the fair, but whenever I was there and saw him giving his show I would stop to watch, mesmerized by everything he said and did. All of us who bought his products were not buying kazoos as much as we were paying for his entertaining performance. It was something to remember.
Here's a bit of amusing entertainment from a professional kazoo quartet:
Have you watched pitch artists at events or on television? What items have you bought from a pitchman? Were you satisfied with your purchase?