The second question I’m asked most often (the first being “who farted?), is how I got my wavy hair. Here’s the story:
When my Mom and Dad took me home from the hospital, they planned a party to show off the new baby to the neighborhood. They invited everyone. Everyone, that is, except the old woman who lived at the end of the street. We called her The Crabby Lady because every time we played in the street and our ball ended up in her yard she would come out on her porch, wave her cane at us and call us hooligans.
The day of the party I lay in my crib, basking in the adoration of the women of the neighborhood and the total disregard of the men. (There was a Red Sox-Yankee game on the radio and all of the men except my Dad were huddled around it.)
After a few “isn’t he adorables” and “are you sure it’s a boy,” there was a loud noise and a puff of smoke from the front doorway. All eyes shot in that direction and saw … The Crabby Lady. The screen door had slammed behind her and the usual cigarette was in her left hand. Everyone gasped.
“My invitation must have gotten lost in the mail,” she wheezed, coughing sporadically. “I’ll only stay for a moment to deliver my gift.”
Gift? But her hands were empty … except for the cigarette.
“My gift is this,” she grumbled. “I will grant the boy one physical attribute. The mother only has to say it.” With another loud noise (the screen door slamming) and puff of smoke (she took another drag as she left) The Crabby Lady was gone.
The neighbor women and my Mom and Dad stood there in shock. (The neighbor men, hearing that Rip Collins had just hit a three-run homer were also in shock.)
Finally, Mrs. Autino from across the street said, in a soft voice, “The boy should have Tyrone Power’s beautiful brown eyes.”
There was some quiet murmuring. Then, Mrs. Palmer from next door spoke up, “He should have John Wayne’s broad shoulders.”
From the back of the mass of women huddled around the crib came my Dad’s voice: “Give him Milton Berle’s cock!”
Mrs. Delano said, “He should have Cary Grant’s dimpled chin.”
Mrs. Fitzpatrick said, “He should have Laurence Olivier’s lips.”
My Dad said, a bit louder this time, “Give him Milton Berle’s cock!”
Mrs. Collins said, “He should have Edward G. Robinson’s ears.”
Mrs. Alberto said, “He should have Gregory Peck’s long fingers.”
My Dad yelled, “Give him Milton Berle’s cock for God’s sake!”
Mrs. Tortolini said, “Give him Jimmy Durante’s nose.”
The women giggled and Mrs. Autino said, “Come on, Angela, be serious!”
My Mom finally spoke. She had a determined look on her face as the room went quiet. Everyone waited to hear her choice.
“I want him to have Van Johnson’s wavy hair,” she said, smiling.
All at once, three things happened simultaneously.
The first thing was a brilliant flash of light.
The second thing was every woman in the room turning to see my new and luxurious wavy hair and gasping in delight.
And the third thing was my Dad screaming, “Holy shit, Helen, I can’t believe you didn’t give him Milton Berle’s cock!”
And that, dear readers, is how I got my wavy hair.