I hate hearing people using words like “‘tard” and “retard,” but here I am guilty of it.  I couldn’t resist, and you’ll see why.  In a nutshell, sometimes a perfect title makes a story worth telling.

A long time ago–the very late ’80s–I worked at the Comic Strip in El Paso.  Mostly I ran the kitchen, but I also had the responsibilty of keeping the comics entertained on their off-time, of which there was plenty.  I mean, think about it:  They’re there for a week, living in a cheap motel, and working twenty, maybe sixty, minutes a night.  That’s a lot of time to kill.

A lot of them were happy to go golfing, which worked out well as my good friend Jeff also worked at the Comic Strip, and he was a golf fanatic.  He went on to become a golf pro out at Painted Dunes; now I think he’s some kind of salesman in Colorado.

Be that as it may . . . .

I got to meet a lot of really cool comics back then.  Ellen Degeneres, Gary Mule Deer, Rich Hall, Dave Chappelle, Paula Poundstone, George Lopez, Bob Zany, that fat guy from Minnesota who hosted Family Feud for a while (sorry, but I can’t think of his name)–the list goes on and on.

One of my keenest memories is of dropping a just-opened #10 can of cocktail sauce on Brad Garrett’s brand new Tony Lama shark-skin boots.

Brad Garrett, in case you can’t place the name, is probably best known for playing Ray Romano’s brother Robert on Everybody Loves Raymond.

The Cocktail Sauce Affair was well before his sitcom success.  He was just a touring stand-up schmoe at the time, and he wasn’t a very happy person.  He had won Star Search with his stand-up, but he really only had about twenty minutes of good material, and he was still trying to milk that same twenty minutes, which everybody had already seen.  He was getting a bad rep on the stand-up circuit–not because he was a bad guy or anything, but because he didn’t have any fresh material.

So he was bitter, built like an oak tree, and I had just spilled a #10 can of cocktail sauce on his brand-new Tony Lama shark-skin boots.  I figured that I was pretty much a dead man, but, to his credit, he was very nice about it.

“Don’t worry,” he said–and I can still see his fake smile and hear his very deep voice, like he used on Everybody Loves Raymond–“it’s ooooo-kay.”

Anyway, there was this one comic–I forget his name–who was married, and was determined to stick to his vows of fidelity.

It’s very, very easy for a stand-up comic to get laid–after all, the room is full of young women getting drunk.  They approach the comic at the bar after the show, trade a little small talk, and next thing you know, they’re off to the motel room.

This guy wasn’t like that, though.  He refused to have any hanky-panky on the road.  He did have his wife’s permission, however, to visit strip clubs–as long as he kept his hands to himself.

So one night, after the show, I took him to this awful strip joint called Prince Machiavelli’s.  I hate strip joints–I think it’s because I don’t like wanting something I know I’m not gonna get–but that’s where he wanted to go, so off we went.

Quick sidenote, and then back to the story:  When I lived in Austin, one of my various jobs was driving a cab.  Around three or four in the morning, a lot of strippers need a ride home, so I’d take the call.  They invariably paid me with one-dollar bills creased the long way, sparkling body-glitter and stinking of cheap perfume and perspiration.  A lot of them like to talk about how wonderful their lifestyle is, and how much money they make, but trust me–it’s a sad, lonely life.

So anyway, this stand-up comic and I went to Prince Machiavelli’s one night, and this girl gets up on the stage, wearing a cowboy outfit.  The DJ rattles off the customary “And now, put your hands together for showgirl Tanya!  Tanya!  Right now on Stage B.  Let’s hear it for Tanya.”  And I’m sitting there thinking “Holy crap, I know her.”

Her real name was Patricia, with the Spanish pronunication–Pa-tree-see-ah–and I had grown up with her.  She was assistant manager of a Radio Shack a few miles down the road but, as I found out later, she wasn’t happy with the money she was making there.  This was her first time dancing at a strip joint, and pretty much an audition to see whether she’d get hired.

The music started thumping and blaring–Pat Benatar’s Hell is for Children, which is probably the least sexy song on earth, and now I’m really starting to wonder about her childhood–and she started taking her clothes off, which took forever.  I don’t know about you, but I can get undressed in pretty much nothing-flat.  First she played with her cowboy hat and finally sent it Frisbeeing off into the crowd, very nearly leaving the comic with one eye (which he thought was funny).  Then she flirted with her vest, which went on for an agonizingly long time.

Finally–finally!–it came time for her to take her jeans off, but guess what:  She had forgotten to take her boots off first, so there she his hopping and hobbling around the stage, jeans around her ankles, trying to pull her boots off while her little boobs bounced to and fro.

Can you picture anything less sexy?  I can’t.

After this went on for a minute or two, the DJ mercifully cut the lights and music and she gathered up her few shod clothes in the dark and shuffled, crying, off the stage.

I went to the mens’ room, and when I came out, there she was waiting for me in the hallway.  Turns out she had spotted me from the stage, which probably hadn’t helped her opening-night jitters.

“Oh, John!” she said, throwing her arms around me.  “I’ve never been so humiliated in my life.”  I could feel her little public boobs against my chest, bobbing up and down as she sobbed.

“There, there,” I said, and gave her a fake pat on the back.  “It’ll be okay.”

She wasn’t welcome back at Prince Machiavelli’s after that, and had already given notice at Radio Shack.  I never saw her again.