Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Claudia Boutwell: Genie of the Metaphors

A Bit of Video



I can't make these videos coherent for anyone who wasn't in them. And it's been so long since they were made that most of the people who were in them probably won't understand them very well either. But, if you just have to watch (or already have), here's what I can tell you:

(1) There are two scenes here. The first is called "3 Losers". Basically, it's an infomercial for an album featuring terrible cover versions of popular songs. After all, "Why pay money for the expensive originals when you can hear losers sing them for free?" You can tell this was filmed in the '90s, because we sing "Lightning Crashes," the "I Love You" song from Barney, and an incredibly embarrassing version of "I Just Can't Wait to be King" from The Lion King (which, by the way, prompted one of several "are you sure you're not gay?" conversations from my dad back in high school).

(2) The second scene is called "Marriage Counselors, Inc." Filmed in the darkness of my parents' pre-Katrina home - seen here in all its wooden-paneled glory - it tells the story of a family with a dark secret. As the scene begins, a mother, Joy, is reading the Bible with her two daughters, Faith and Hope. They are soon joined by their husband/father, Clarence. Everything goes along smoothly until “later that day!” when Faith, Hope, and Clarence get back from work and school. That's when the dysfunction starts to show. Several shouting fits occur (the best one comes at 5:48 when Joy screams, "You WHAT?! MY GOD!!"). This continues for a couple of minutes and then comes to a sudden stop. The family is then seen, happy again, explaining that something called Marriage Counselors, Incorporated, helped them...Don't ask. I don't get it either.

(3) If you went to college with me, you undoubtedly heard me sing my intentionally terrible/annoying/loser version of Michael Bolton's "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" on at least one karaoke night or another. The performance you see here is where the idea first came from. (Remember, we were "3 Losers" - the performances were supposed to be terrible.)

(4) These videos were filmed as part of a class project (explained below). I don't remember much about it, except that we lost points for our casual mention of S&M. Teachers are such prudes sometimes.

A Bit of Philosophy

Tell me if this makes sense, dear readers. Some people come into your life as friends, family members, acquaintances, romances, or co-workers. Other people come into your life as symbols.

Your high school, for example, probably had at least one student whom everyone knew was incredibly intelligent. You may not have been a close friend of this person - in fact, you may never have spoken to them at all - but you knew who they were, and you knew that they were intelligent. You have an idea of them, as opposed to an actual bond. Thus, for you that person exists as a symbol of intelligence. And you probably have "symbol people" for just about everything. If you don't believe me, just take a few seconds to fill in the following blanks.

(A) Tonight is Trivia Night at Two Stick? Dude, call _________ and see if he/she wants to be on our team. That dude/chick is crazy smart!

(B) I'm doing this to better myself. Lord knows I'd hate to screw up my life and be a total failure like ______.

(C) Do I think your new boy/girlfriend is hot? Absolutely. I mean, he/she is no _________, but he/she is definitely hot.

You had a name for every blank, didn't you? Yes you did. And those names are your symbols for intelligence, failure, and attractiveness. The same is true in literature. You don't need to read Peter Pan to know that he is a symbol of eternal youth and mischief. You don't need to read A Christmas Carol to know that "Scrooge" means "old, mean, and nasty." And on and on...People as symbols. You get the point. And now that I've laid the groundwork I can finally tell you a little bit about Claudia Boutwell.

A Bit of Autobiography

Claudia and I met sometime in 1994 or '95, near the middle of what I call "my theater days." We had both been cast in a Center Stage production of Aladdin, but we weren't in any of the same scenes and had therefore never rehearsed together. So, when I first ran into her backstage, all dolled up in black eyeliner and a midriff-exposing genie costume, I was kind of at a loss for words.

Where had this girl come from?

As you can probably guess, I've never been the kind of guy who gets shy and nervous around women. Even in my worst moments, I can usually find something to talk about; and more often than not, I can make people laugh. But I'm not gonna lie - those first few minutes with Claudia were absolutely pitiful on my part. We're talking clumsy adolescence at its very finest. I tried to pull it together, but my god, that outfit! And that voice! Even her name was hot: Claudia. Like a character in a James Bond movie or something. A friend of mine witnessed the whole thing and told me later that he'd never seen me like that. It became kind of a running joke: the one time J was flustered by something. (Go ahead and laugh if you must, dear reader, but you can rest assured that no straight man ever watched I Dream of Jeannie for the plotline or dialogue.)

After that, Claudia and I bumped into each other here and there at various Center Stage functions, where she was famous for improvising a line of dialogue about becoming a "genie of the nose ring". A couple of years later she was briefly enrolled at Biloxi High and we recorded a couple of odd little scenes for some class project (the video up top). That was the full extent of our face-to-face time. But the idea of Claudia (here's where it all comes together) has lingered long and found its way into any number of my creative endeavors.

During my garage rock days, she was the subject of the Brass Tacks song "B.Enigma." When I was writing Pink, I needed a perfect name for one of my stronger female characters: so, naturally, I named her Claudia. She even loaned her name to a practical joke I pulled once (long, terrible story). Yes, one awkward little moment of backstage chatter and her name was forever synonomous with femme fatale. And now, after all these years as a metaphor in my personal mythology, she has officially joined my Facebook friends list. It's kind of funny in its own way.

Welcome aboard, genie. Here's hoping I can keep it together this time around.

1 Comments:

Blogger Mom said...

Jason, u rock!!!! You have managed to break through the memory blockages of my little theater/awkward high school days. Dude, I had no idea what an impression I made on you. Thanks for the "Claudia shrine"! If there was a ever a person who needed a tribute, it is me.

11:13 AM  

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