I was reminiscing about an old friend of mine who died a couple of weeks ago. We were not close but I had known him well for forty years or more.
David had been a shopkeeper, running the old established family business all his life and a stalwart of the small town along with the bank manager (in the days when he was a real Manager) and the local solicitor. Always ready to help anyone in trouble. You get the picture.
He was also a founder member of the local Round Table, where I first met him and where this little tale unfolds.
For those who don't know about Round Table, it was in those days an association of young professional men with the common interests of charity fund raising, generally helping in the community and having a jolly good time whilst doing it. Ours was particularly well known for our ability to have some good fun and fellowship not to mention the levels of drinking accomplished by its members.
Also at that time, when you achieved 40 years of age, you were ceremoniously thrown out and it is about a 'chuckers out' night that I relate.
We had hired the local town hall and had invited a lot of guests from other Round tables. The guys being thrown out that night had written and performed a short revue or series of sketches but that is another story worth telling sometime!
One of the sketches involved the grand entrance of one of the characters. Think pantomime with the entrance of the demon king with a flash and a cloud of smoke.
I was the stage manager for the night and had arranged with David to borrow his mains powered stage flash and smoke machine. This was a device like a small mortar launcher which had to be packed with a small amount of magnesium powder and some chemical or other that gave off a lot of smoke.
Therevue down well with the audience who were seated on 3 sides of the stage in a sort of horseshoe configuration.
The ... er...um... Dancing Girls booked for the evening were also well received but the 'blue' comedian who was part of the package was absolutely rubbish and stormed off the stage in disgust at the barracking that he received.
To be fair, if you haven't suffered a pee take from Round Table then you don't understand what one is but we had previously hired comedians who could handle it and positively make something from a good heckling. Everyone likes to see a good put down of the wise guy in the audience.
The 'comedian' came backstage to complain to me. I was suitably sympathetic (cough, cough) telling him straight that if he didn't get out there and tell some jokes he wouldn't get paid. So, muttering under his breath, he ventured out into the audience who were now getting restless.
As you can imagine, he just did not get a laugh. Meanwhile, I could see David ramming an extra large charge into the flash machine and surreptitiously sliding it to a position behind and almost between the legs of the guy. If anyone else saw this they did not let on and so when David triggered the device the comedian completely disappeared with a huge flash and enough smoke to hide a battleship.
Well, the audience loved it and were quite literally howling and rolling around in tears. I guarantee that the comedian had never had a laugh from an audience anything like it.
But instead of being grateful, he just stormed out, unpaid, shouting "You people just don't know a professional when you see one!"
And that is how I will always remember David, a true gent, who unfortunately died 4 days before his son's wedding.