Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Hayley Factor

I was chatting with one of the past kings of a Carnival krewe last night and he informed me that his daughter Hayley would be queen of that krewe next year. I remarked that she had been a lady-in-waiting, a junior maid twice, and a maid to my recollection. "Yes," he acknowledged I've gotten progressively poorer as she's gone on." People don't realize how much money it costs to be a king or queen for a day in Mardi Gras. For some of the bigger krewes, the cost can be tens of thousands and for smaller krewes the cost is at least $1,000- $5,000. His daughter is now 19 and she was named after Hayley Mills, according to the father. "Why would you pick Hayley Mills?" I questioned. "Alan," he looked at me knowingly, "how old are you?" I told him we both were approximately the same age. "Hayley Mills?" he continued. "She was my first girlfriend. Wasn't she yours?" "No," I responded. "My first girlfriend like that was Annette Funicello." "Oh," he said, "so you liked girls with 40 inch boobs." I didn't say much in response, but I answered. "Well, my mother's name was Annette, too, so I wasn't going to name any of my children after her (Funicello)." Again I pressed. "Why Hayley Mills?" Listen, he said, "I'm going to tell you a story: "When Hayley Mills was on her last American tour in "The King and I," my Hayley was nine years old. It was Easter Sunday and we flew to Houston." He went on to explain how, after attending services in the morning, they elected to go to the theater and see if they were fortunate enough to be able to see Hayley Mills as she was leaving the matinee performance. He was crestfallen when the guard at the stage exit informed him that Miss Mills had missed the matinee performance due to illness and that she might not make the final performance of her tour unless she recovered. Well, I won't drag this out any more than I have to. Hayley Mills did appear in the final performance on April 12, 1998 at the Jones Theatre in Houston. Following the performance, my friend and his daughter Hayley went back to the stage door exit to see if they could greet the famous actress. What my friend couldn't believe was that there were a lot of other little girls also least 10 by his count, all with their dads, and all named Hayley! Apparently, the name meant a lot to the very post-adolescent fathers, but my friend confided to Miss Mills how much she had impressed him as a young man and how he treasured her name as a result. Her response: "I hate that name!" An interesting confession in a veritable sea of Hayleys.
Checkmate Bobby Fischer: I was sad to see that one of my earlier idols had passed away at age 64, apparently from kidney failure. When Bobby Fischer challenged Boris Spassky for the World Chess Championship at the height of the Cold War, it was followed in the newspapers and carried over television. When Spassky was defeated, it was considered a great American victory, not just a personal triumph for Fischer. Yet, in the years that followed Fischer became a pawn in other people's games. He was a member of Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God and eventually left it disillusioned. He got into some hot water with the U. S. State Department later and ended up a lonely recluse in Reykjavik, Iceland, the scene of his championship win over the Russian in 1972. Interestingly, he seemed to dip more into madness as his years went by. He became an avowed anti-Semite, although his mother and, possibly his father, were Jewish. He began spouting tirades over radio broadcasts, especially in the Phillipines against the International Chess Federation, the Jews, and the United States. His statement of "This is all wonderful news" in response to the attacks on America on September 11, 2001 is probably a testament of how far afield his mind had strayed. I think I would like to remember him at the height of his chess genius, before the temperamental antics against Antatoly Kasparov that cost him his championship, and even before the bout with Spassky. I would like to think of Fischer as the cerebral underdog who was going to challenge the Russians, like an American Edmund Hillary ready to scale the peak of Everest one chess move at a time. He was a brilliant player back then and only concerned with playing chess and proving himself the best in the world. He was arrogant, but rightly so. In turn he made chess a sport all of us could enjoy. That's the Bobby Fischer I want to mourn.

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