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lambchop2.gifOver the weekend, I had a chance to see my good old college friends Keri and Emil, who are the most straightlaced looking couple you could ever hope to meet, which has always hidden a hilariously morbid streak of humor — for instance, Keri, a devoted Barbie collector, entertained guests on special occasions with a new Barbie diorama of life and death - my three favorites, at least the way I remember them, being the crucifixion of Jesus/Ken (with Barbie/Mary Magdalene grieving), a very special Ken funeral (with custom coffin), and one I can only call “terrible traffic accident with existentially traumatized onlookers.”

Anyway, in honor of Emil and Keri, I thought I’d drag out my very favorite Keri story, which also fits a preferred format: bizarre and wordless exchange with a celebrity (archive coming soon).

The celebrity subject of our story is the great Shari Lewis, TV pioneer and puppeteer who created the immortal Lambchop and both delighted and freaked out generations of kids back in the 20th century, and I warn you in advance that this is kind of an awful story about something we did to a lovely person who is now deceased. But it wasn’t all on purpose. Now that you’re warned, Keri and I saw Ms. Lewis on a Delta Shuttle from D.C. to New York, a trip Keri and I often made together to see our Long Island families, when I had the money (the rest of the time, it was Peter Pan and a trip to the early 90’s Port Authority for me). She was sitting in an aisle seat in front of and across from us, and looked so familiar that I kept looking at her, trying to think of who she was. I thought she might have been an aunt, or kindergarten teacher, and she was also a remarkably young-looking woman, at least for her age, and very together. At some point, she must have noticed me looking, because she started giving me this beatific smile, the same way she always smiled on PBS, totally encouraging me to recognize her. And I guess that’s when it went bad. On some impulse I don’t understand, as soon as she started doing that I looked straight forward and refused to showany sign of recognizing her. Again, not sure why I did it, maybe it was the imp of the perverse, but once started, it seemed like a course of action to commit to. Oddly enough, Keri had recognized her by this point, too, and was doing the same thing. We even said to each other quietly at one point, “Shari Lewis,” but no matter how many times she smiled at us, we just kept on looking away, like she was some crazy old lady who started yelling at us on a train. After a while, it just seemed cruel and awful, but it was too late to do anything else.

After the flight, we waited at the baggage carousel with Shari Lewis just behind us. At this point, it was a bit ridiculous not to say hello, but you know, I was a dumb kid. I have no excuse. She was even holding this little black case, and I’m sure — sure — I know what was in there, and at a moment’s request, Lambchop could have come out to meet us and made all our childhood dreams come true. But we just stood there, waiting, and that’s when the awful thing happened. As the bags wheeled round the beltway, in the midst of all the black carry-ons, plain as day, there came a little blue and white baby car seat, the standard kind, with a Delta baggage tag. It looked so absurd and alone and empty in that context, and I pointed and said, “Keri, look!”

Without missing a beat, Keri threw her hands to her face and cried, “There’s our car seat… where’s our BABY?!?”

I heard a gasp of shock behind me, and turning around, my eyes met those of Shari Lewis, who had clutched her hand to her chest, and whose face, like those of many around her, was torn between a look of deep sympathy and utter horror.

Of course, she was no dumb lady: in the space of a few seconds, this turned into The Most Pissed Off Look I’ve Ever Gotten from Anyone, and she turned away in disgust.


We probably deserved it.

comments 2

Dearest Timbo….great story about Lambchop and Shari…although u blew a great chance to possibly have your picture taken with a real superstar…not Shari Lewis but Lambchop….I had a little Lambchop doll when I was a kid…and when people would say they were having lambchops for dinner it would really freak me out…I knew they werent actually going to eat my puppet but I thoyught  they were just saying it to bother me…..and it really bothered me…I still won’t eat lambchops or leg of lamb…I don’t eat veal either…….why did Shari Lewis have to name that cute puppet after a common dinner food…I wonder how many godammned lives she has ruined!!!!!!!  U should have killed her and taken the black suitcase that presumably had Mr.Lambchops inside….I hate her!!!!!!!

Posted by tyler at May 7, 2003 10:22 PM

You and Keri got off easy. I am always the one who doesn’t recognize the celebrity and then says something unbelievably mean to them given the context of who they are. As if it is my fault, Dan Renzi from Real World Miami isn’t famous enough to get recognized at a cocktail party.

Awaiting my invite to Keri’s next Barbie event…

Posted by derek at May 10, 2003 10:21 PM

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05.02.2003: on eMusic and DRM
EMusic sucks worse, but it might not be a bad idea to wait to spend much money at the iTunes Store, either.

05.07.2003: quote of the week!
“‘Alan, you have a huge opening! Your opening is massive!’” archives