An Ivan O’Uris poetic adaptation, titled …
Paraphrase of a passage from the entry to a journal kept by a 19th-century literary groupie, who recalls her backstage rendezvous with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, particularly her reaction to Mr. Longfellow removing his trousers and showing her “Professor Balldee”
Longfellow was shoooooooooooooort.
– The End? –
Background Notes: This “poetic adaptation” had its premiere in February 1988 with a public recitation by Ivan at Ye Wilde Oates Club, an underground Kansas City, Mo., riverboat nightclub and casino for Quakers. Founded in the early 1980s in anticipation of the push for legalized riverboat gambling in Missouri, the club was owned by Lauren Oates, a would-be entertainer who became an entrepreneur after failing to draw interest in her act of portraying Warren Oates as a cabaret singer.
To help pay for college, Ivan worked as a bouncer at Ye Wilde Oates Club. However, not many Quakers frequented Ye Wilde Oates Club. To fight boredom, Ivan composed verse while waiting to card the occasional Quaker.
One night, Lauren Oates saw Ivan scribbling on a yellow notepad and asked what he was writing. Ivan told her it was a poem about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Sensing her customers were growing bored, she had unsuccessfully attempted to entertain them with her Warren Oates musical cabaret tribute. Desperate, she asked if Ivan would recite his poem.
Ivan’s performance was enthusiastically received. One audience member doused him with the bucket of Quaker Oats she had brought with her for Quakers Sow Your Wild Oates at Ye Wilde Oates Club with Quaker Oats Night. Unfortunately, the other audience member then immediately doused Ivan with 10W-30 engine oil because he mistakenly thought it was Quakers Celebrate with Quaker State Night and, caught up in his emotions, showed his appreciation by rushing the stage and enthusiastically pouring his bottle of Quaker State on Ivan’s head.
Since a recording of Ivan’s performance began appearing on bootlegged mix tapes in the early 1990s, a false rumor has surfaced that Ivan felt inspired to write the poem after hearing a Longfellow-related joke in the Rodney Dangerfield film “Back to School.” According to another false rumor, the poem is a veiled reference to Ivan’s feelings of inadequacy about the length of his own “Professor Balldee” following an alleged backstage erotic encounter with Lauren Oates at Ye Wilde Oates Club. Legend has it that Ms. Oates laughed so hard upon seeing Ivan’s “Professor Balldee” that she lost her sense of direction and accidentally knocked herself unconscious by staggering into a 10-foot concrete phallus that was one of her Warren Oates cabaret set pieces.
Actually, the poem’s inspiration comes from Ivan’s research for a college term paper for an English class about 19th-century literary groupies. For his topic, Ivan chose Penelope Layne, a groupie believed to have been the great-great-great-grandmother of Penny Lane, the famous 1970s rock groupie depicted in Cameron Crowe’s film “Almost Famous.” While researching her diaries, Ivan discovered that Ms. Layne had started the trend of literary groupies throwing their corsets onstage when authors did recitations, which foreshadowed the practice among rock groupies of chucking their panties onstage.
Ivan also discovered that Ms. Layne had a backstage encounter with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during Longfellow’s 1864 recitation tour of New England. In his paper, Ivan quotes the following diary excerpt:
June 18, 1864
Dearest Beloved Diary, To Whom I Can Disclose My Tales of Temptation and Tawdriness,
This glorious, sensuous night, which falls during the lateness of spring in breathless, shimmering, perspiring anticipation of summer’s glorious ejaculation of warmth and sunshine, I met the great poet Mr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The languid, exquisite, yet supple verbal dexterity aroused my breasts so much that, yea, my bosoms swelled until my undergarments had to yield to their quest for freedom.
Being ladylike, I delicately, gently, tempestuously, passionately placed my neatly arranged, soft alabaster white undergarments (with their tint of my female perspiration) by Mr. Longfellow’s feet and smiled the most coy of the multitude of feminine smiles I had learned at Lenora Hastington-Smythe’s Charm School and Boil Purging Academy for Ladies. Mr. Longfellow later invited me behind the plush, flowing, rippling lavender curtains that had been his backdrop. Ever the gentlemen [sic], he unbuttoned his swarthy wool trousers and requested the honor of my seeing his “Professor Balldee.”*
Sadly, alas, Mr. Longfellow’s “fellow” was not at all long….
As the entry suggests, Ivan based the poem’s title on the first two major paragraphs and its text on the first sentence of the third. In adapting Ms. Layne’s diary entry, he wrote the word “short” with extra “o’s” and put the question mark after “The End” to symbolize her disappointment.
There’s a rumor that Ivan came up with various ways to paraphrase the text and was reluctant to use any of them, including the version printed here, because the wording differed from the original and he feared he would anger Ms. Layne’s spirit. There’s also a related rumor that he even stopped working on the piece and was afraid to finish it after having a disturbing, yet strangely pleasurable vision of Ms. Layne flogging him with a piece of raw tenderloin. As with most Ivan-related rumors, both are unfounded.
However, it’s true that Ivan’s original manuscript was misplaced for more than 10 years. Ivan O’Uris scholars E.E. Pointer and Shawn Roney found it a few years ago in Ivan’s cluttered apartment – underneath to the 10-foot concrete phallus given to him by Lauren Oates.
*According to Ivan’s research, Longfellow received the nickname “Professor Balldee” from another literary groupie, in reference to his Harvard University teaching stint. Pronounced like the word “baldy,” he used the alternate spelling of two “l’s” and two “e’s” because he felt that it gave his anatomical part dignity. In keeping with that, he placed an accent over the second “e” and pronounced it “bawl-DAY” during his encounters with French literary groupies.
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