A week after I started college I accidentally got the lead role in a production of How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. This was a big deal in lots of ways, but there were various unpleasant aspects to it. It certainly cured me of any desire I'd ever had to perform on a stage. But that's another story and another post. As a performance and a show I'd call it a success.
But what this meant was that for my first six weeks of college I was eating two small meals a day (I hadn't yet learned to get up for breakfast and I didn't like the food much), walking a good deal up and down hills, and rehearsing for six hours a night. It was like fat camp, I suppose. In those six weeks I lost perhaps 25 pounds. When I went to college, I was a bit on the chubby side, as I had always been my whole life. This is me six weeks later:
That picture really scares me to look at, although it explains something. A few weeks into the show a woman in the cast said to me, appropros of absolutely nothing: I'll bet you're one of those people who can eat anything he wants and stay thin. Since the word "thin" and any description of me had never come within thousands of miles of each other before, I was completely stupefied and even confused. But I look at that picture (33 years later) and now I get it.
I not only had dropped a huge percentage of my body weight, but I had shaved off what had been the biggest bushiest beard I've ever grown and chopped off my hair -- and, for the show, reparted it on the side and sprayed it down. This was at Tufts, outside of Boston. My parents drove up for the show and at first did not recognize me in the lobby photos.
Here is one of the lobby photos (poorly scanned, but you get the idea). This is "I Believe in You/Gotta' Stop That Man":
One thing about the role that stayed with me is the tendency to smile. The character of J. Pierpont Finch, at various key moments in the play, has to turn to the audience as if time has stopped and beam a huge shit-eating grin. I kept that mannerism. Here's that grin caught on camera at technical rehearsal:
It's, um, disconcerting.