Guys and Dolls ★★★★

What’s playin’ at the Roxy? I’ll tell you what’s playin’ at the Roxy. A picture ‘bout a Minnesota man so in love with a Mississippi girl that he moves all the way to Biloxi! That’s what playin’ at the Roxy”.

1975 found me falling in love for the first time, and falling in love with musical theatre.

I first met Cheryl on The Loops. The Loops were the precursor to the 90’s / 2000’s telephone ‘chat lines’. They were a facility set up by Bell in their exchanges ( the buildings that contain the massively complex machines that connect your phone to another phone and are identified by the 3 digits that follow after your area code in your phone number ) so that a technician could test the signal quality to and from an exchange from a particular customer location. Generally, each exchange had two reserved phone numbers. XXX-0036 and XXX-0037 ( where XXX is the exchange code, of course ). Juvenile geeks like me discovered this. We contacted other geeks by this secret network. Then, because we were boastful geeks, the word got out and all the high schoolers started using the loops. Of course, geeks in real life had no way to meet girls. This was about to change.

I only have the vaguest memories of how I managed to charm Cheryl that January night when I was on 241-0036 Cheryl dialed in to 241-0037. It was when I was on an early Saturday morning … 1am or 2 as I remember … but it lasted to when my shift ended at at 7am. She wanted to meet me the next day. I was working again 8 hours later at my Hotel Pay Per View job at 3pm, off at 7pm. I gave her the address of my work, and said let’s meet up.

By the end of Saturday shift I had already been working for 24 hours in the last 36, and hadn’t changed my clothes or showered. On top of that, I heard my new boss, who didn’t particularly like me ( the old boss I had, who hired me, was recently fired ) was going to make a visit that Sunday afternoon.

Cheryl called and asked if it was still on to meet. Every fibre in my body urged me to call it off. But I didn’t.

When my shift ended at 7, standing outside the plate glass fishbowl into the mall that was our master control room stood three young women. One made my heart go pitta-pat. I asked her first if she was Cheryl. She said no. I then asked the other two, and they said no, too. It was the first. And there I was, smelly with greasy long hair. I offered to ride with them on the subway back home, and they agreed. When we reached the juncture where I went north and they went east, I was rehearsing in my head some witty remark and an ask for a phone number. While standing at the station Cheryl threw her arms around me, kissed me, and wrote her phone number on my hand. I swear to God I’m not making this up.

I was instantly in love.

A few months later my English teacher, Mr Allen, said that we would be mounting a musical play, and wanted volunteers for actors and technicians. Not being any form of actor or singer, but rather a geek, I volunteered to do sound and lights.

As we rehearsed, I couldn’t believe how the show resonated with my newfound feelings. There was nothing more powerful than love, and I was drunk on the experience. While I had reconciled that I loved movie musicals years before, seeing people you knew belt out tunes that you could both connect with and love made everything about this lovely fantasy so much more real. The musical could commute to real life.

I brought Cheryl to one of the performances. Our MC, the popular dude around campus, was so smitten by her that he dragged her away from me at my post in the wings to bring her on stage … which made me kind of jealous but also proud; as she picked me, not a handsome charmer like him.

Although Guys and Dolls is a well balanced battle of the sexes power struggle at the core of this 50’s exploration of life in the 30’s, the real message is about love, which is unconquerable and universal.

Love keeps happening all over.

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