Next to theater, dancing, Maxine and a few glasses of sherry, Al Brooks's favorite activity is talking. The first to admit when he has gone so far out on a tangent that he can't remember how to get back, Al is nevertheless a seasoned and entertaining practitioner of the monologue. Even when he's performing in a high-rise retirement community living room, it's hard not to picture him on a stage. So what the hell -- here he is, in a world premiere of Tangents: Selected Pieces of Al Brooks's Life.
1. And then came the draft:
I started out in the Air Force in Great Falls, Montana. Do you know Great Falls? I had a recreation hall and put on a show every week -- pretty far from home, but it was still the creative thing. I wrote all the songs and titled the revue Some Like It Hot (long before the other one). Our commanding officer decided to send us all over the world doing this show. But he was replaced, and there was no world tour. Instead, I applied to go overseas, and since my father knew Harry Truman, it was arranged. I was sent to the Azores. It was pretty central -- a constant influx of people on their way to Europe. And it was rather peculiar, being a neutral country. We saw Nazis around, and they really looked like Nazis. It was my job to get movies and show them, but the minute the priests saw Betty Grable with her bare legs, they shut the movie down. Next I had to build a whorehouse. I was so lucky; I had the best architect. You see, the laborers from America who had come to do the construction were of the lowest possible type. They were having sex with the local sheep, and we had to do something. We imported the whores from Madeira, but the priests wouldn't let them off the boat. I ended up defending one of the laborers who had been seen in daylight with a sheep. And we still developed a wonderful theater. Frank Sinatra and Phil Silvers came through.
2. 1527 Champa Street in 1966:
There was a tiny Greek shoe repairman's shop the width of the stairs. The Greek shoe repairman's son was a playboy who drove a red roadster around. We saw a sign on his window that said "For Rent," with the "n" written backward. We went in and looked and saw the maple floor, and that was it. People would say, "Oh, you're living down there; I never go down there." So many people said that, but I'm not sure where they did go. There wasn't any Cherry Creek. Wherever they went, it wasn't here. We were pioneers in the truest sense.
3. Patrons of the arts:
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Palmer Hoyt, the editor of the Denver Post, I went to see him, to tell him what we wanted to do. His wife -- she was an absolutely terrible artist -- said, "I'll use your gallery for a show." Well, we did it. We weren't being flooded with offers at that point. She put up pictures, three and four deep all the way around, and they were just awful. She kind of expected me to take care of whoever she invited. She had told her friends they could come any evening, and she wanted them to have alcohol and free champagne, and I was to serve it. Anyway, Palmer was helpful to us in the long run, and he even managed to survive this wife.
4. The transformation of former landlord Robert Waxman:
He's changed so totally. He doesn't want anything about the theater changed. He wants this woman to buy all the sculptures, not even to change the name. He used to stop by once in a while, but a few years ago I met him on the sidewalk. He said, "Al, I started back in school. CU." "What are you studying?" I asked. "Metaphysics," he said. I was so floored. After a year or so, he let his gray hair grow, and now he looks like an aging hippie. Since then, he sold everything to Wolf Camera. I thought he would be rich and not want to charge us so much rent, but it didn't turn out that way.