RichardDaub.com, March 2021
Jerry pulled the ’79 Ferrari 308 GTS—the Magnum P.I. model used in the original 1979 season, and also Christie Brinkley’s ride in National Lampoon’s Vacation—into the only available space in the “guest” section of the Massapequa High School parking lot, facing the giant mural on the wall of the bagel shop next door painted by students in the art club that featured a giant war bonnet and “MHS: HOME OF THE CHIEFS”, and also the Batman symbol, which had been there on his own class’ mural back in ’72—each year, shortly after it was finished, someone in the night would spray-paint the Batman symbol on the mural, not over the main artwork but in a blank space off to the side that would make it look like it was part of the piece, and it was a mysteriously cool thing that continued through the decades, though now it looked sloppily done, the paint having run and left long black and yellow streaks down the wall, and the bat inside the oval totally crooked—
Inside the building, he navigated the familiar old corridors to the Little Theater, where he met his old “Public Speaking” teacher, Mr. Herrmann, who’d always reminded him of Gilligan—hyper-flustered, skinny, shirt untucked, mop of hair. The class featured a different guest speaker each day, from people who’d succeeded greatly, to others who’d failed miserably, including a recovering alcoholic who said he used to check the front of his car every morning for blood to see if he’d hit anybody the night before, and WBAB disc jockey Roger Luce, who said ZZ Top was the coolest band he’d ever met, and after leaving the radio station they walked off into the sunset with a beautiful woman on each arm and fade-vanished like they did in their videos. The students didn’t have to take any tests or quizzes for the class, but they were required to sit up and listen.
Since Jerry was a “special” guest, they would have class down in the Little Theater so more people could see him than up in the classroom—despite having his own prime-time sitcom on NBC, school administrators did not consider him big enough for the Main Auditorium, which was reserved for those of a certain ilk, such as pop stars Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, Nassau County Executive Tom Gulotta, and astronauts. It did make him feel better that, six weeks earlier, TV weatherman Storm Field had been relegated to the Little Theater, as was local novelist William Gaddis—who lit a cigarette on stage, then cursed at the first student who asked him a question and stormed out, which, Mr. Herrmann realized, was for the best, because he’d been a total pain in the ass to deal with, and not one student, even the smart ones, had ever heard of the guy, nor had any of the English teachers—while actor William Baldwin was relegated to the cafeteria—
There was a smattering of applause after Mr. Herrmann introduced the comedian. The students already looked bored.
“He will not be telling jokes today,” Mr. Herrmann explained. “He will be speaking about his time here at M.H.S., and answering your questions.”
“Hi, everyone,” Jerry said. “How is everybody today?”
No one responded.
“So,” Mr. Herrmann jumped in, “why don’t you tell us about your time here at Massapequa High School.”
“Sure. Let’s see, I graduated in ’72, I liked it here, it seemed like a good education—yes, uh, it looks like someone has a question—”
“Yes, Bridgette,” Mr. Herrmann said.
“Are you going to, like, tell any jokes?”
“No, Bridgette,” Mr. Herrmann said, throwing his arms in the air. “I just explained that he will not be telling jokes today. Please pay attention, everyone. No sleeping. Yes, Robert has a question—”
“Why not?” Robert asked, clad in Megadeth t-shirt that had a big hole under the right armpit.
“He’s not telling jokes, Robert,” Mr. Herrmann said, face turning red. “I apologize, Jerry. Please continue.”
“Well, as I was saying, I enjoyed my time here, and actually performed in this theater once—”
“Hold on, Jerry,” Mr. Herrmann jumped in. “Carl has a question, this is the first time he’s raised his hand all year. Yes, Carl—”
“Are you friends with Howard Stern in real life?” Carl asked.
“Uh, sure. I know Howard.”
“Any other questions before Jerry continues?” Mr. Herrmann asked.
No one raised their hand.
“So,” Mr. Herrmann said, “why don’t you tell us about your television program. Thursday nights on NBC.”
“Okay, sure,” Jerry said. “We do a sitcom on NBC, which is in its third season—”
“Yes, Robert has a question,” Mr. Herrmann interrupted.
“Your TV show sucks,” Robert said, getting a good laugh.
“That wasn’t necessary, Robert,” Mr. Herrmann said. “Does anyone else have any questions?”
Jennifer C. raised her hand.
“Yes, Jennifer C.,” Mr. Herrmann said.
“Can we hear the band now?”
The students cheered.
“You booked a musical act?” Jerry asked Mr. Herrmann.
The band, Bambi and the Forest Friends, led by student guitar hero Ian Rummer, plugged in their amps and set up the drum kit, then ripped into Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”, the audience leaping from their seats—
“Thanks for coming, Jerry,” Mr. Herrmann shouted in his ear, offering his hand—
Back out in the Ferrari, Jerry noticed he was low on fuel—
“308GTS, horrible MPG,” he said out loud to himself, annoyed, stomach in knots, even worse than the ones he used to get after subpar Carson appearances. He roared out of the lot and onto Merrick Road, then pulled into the Mobil station across the street in the corner of the FoodTown shopping center. It was an old station with two garage bays and an office cluttered with engine belts and soiled car manuals, and a metal cash box for the gas customers, who were required to come in and pay before they pumped. The office also doubled as a waiting area for customers having their cars fixed, with a stained Mr. Coffee machine and a tower of Styrofoam cups on top of a small table, and, next to it, a metal folding chair, presently occupied by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister—
“Hey, Dee Snider,” Jerry said.
“Hello, Jerry,” Dee said.
“Do you live around here?”
“Nah, my parents do. That’s actually why I’m here, I brought my mother’s car in to get fixed.”
“You’re a good son. Where’d you go to high school?”
“Baldwin. You’re from here, right?”
“Yep. I was just over at the high school.”
“Oh yeah? Were you there to see Bambi and the Forest Friends?”
“Uh, no. Just dropped in to say hello to someone. Listen, it was good to see you, and good luck with the band, I’m just gonna pay for my gas and go—”
“Sweet ride. Is that the Magnum P.I. car?”
Back in the Ferrari, his stomach now further unsettled, he decided to remedy it with a chocolate egg cream at Krisch’s Ice Cream Parlor.
He parked out front and plugged the meter for two hours. Inside, he found his sitcom castmate, Jason Alexander, seated at a booth with Massapequa native Alec Baldwin—
“What are you doing here?” Jerry asked Jason. “Hi Alec.”
“Hello, Jerry,” Alec said.
“I heard about the flap,” Jason said.
“Flap? What flap? I left there like ten minutes ago. Oh yeah, I saw Dee Snider at the Mobil station over near the high school. He was getting his mother’s car fixed.”
“He’s a good son,” Alec said.
“We should do an episode about it,” Jason said.
“About seeing Dee Snider at a gas station?” Jerry asked.
“No, about the flap.”
“The one at the high school.”
“I heard about it too,” Alec said. “Sounded ugly, but I heard the band was good.”
“Where are your brothers?” Jerry asked Alec. “Don’t you have like fifteen brothers?”
“Do I look like their keeper, Jerry?”
“No, not really.”
“Then damned if I know where those maniacs are.”
“Hey,” Jason said, “at that table in the corner, the guy in the wheelchair—isn’t that Ron Kovic?”
“Oh yeah, it is,” Jerry said.
“Should we go over and say hello?” Alec asked.
“Wouldn’t that be complicated for him, you know, with the wheelchair?” Jerry asked.
“Perhaps,” Alec said.
“Leave the man alone, he’s been through enough,” Jason said. ▪