A few days ago, I attended a Labor Day party at the home of a new friend, a theatrical agent who over the years has represented some ‘big-name’ clients including Mickey Rooney and Dorothy Lamour. She was showing me her wall of photographs, past and current clients, and one of them was her “dear friend”, Misty Rowe. Who could forget a name like Misty Rowe?
About 20 years ago when I was teaching art history at the new Stamford campus of the University of Connecticut, the person in charge of Student Affairs was concerned about the lack of cultural activities on campus. She put out a request for faculty to come up with events to keep them around after class. I, although I can’t for the life of me remember why, volunteered to put on a cabaret in the main atrium at 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon, hopefully catching the commuting students before they left for home. I enlisted my lawyer friend, Glenn, to be Master of Ceremonies and perform his magic act. He had once owned a cabaret in the West Thirties in Manhattan and had started out as a street magician. Perfect! I put out the word that I wanted “acts” for my cabaret and a number of interested parties immediately contacted me: a puppeteer, a modern dance troupe and a TV actress named Misty Rowe, a gorgeous-looking former “Hee Haw Honey” who wanted to try out her new stand-up comedy act. I made up a flyer and sent it out.
On the day of the cabaret, Glenn (in a proper MC tuxedo) and I set out chairs and put out snacks for the students, few of whom appeared. Just as we were about to give up hope for an audience, twenty or so Russian immigrants from a nearby Senior Housing project came in, led by their English instructor who saw the cabaret as a perfect way for her class to improve their non-existent command of the English language. “Vere’s da food?” their spokesman (the one who spoke English) inquired immediately upon entering the hall. Not a good sign.
Glenn, I must say, did his best. The puppeteer turned out to be a schizophrenic who was working out her split personality issues with the puppets; the dance troupe was having a terrible time with the space, totally unsuited to their work, and our “Ace in the Hole,” the extravagantly named Misty Rowe was totally unintelligible to her non-English speaking audience.
I have to say, Glenn and I thought she was wonderful. Her claim to fame was as a “Hee Haw Honey” on an extremely popular TV comedy in the late 1960s, early seventies, Hee Haw, a spoof of rural life populated by well known country stereotypes featured scantily clad beauties in “farmer’s daughter” cut-offs and short skirts. The show was bawdy and stupid but lasted on local television for almost 20 years. Misty’s stand-up act consisted mostly of her hilarious adventures as a Hee Haw Honey. There was one particularly funny shtick that has stuck with me about how when she went to bed with a man and took off the padded corselets the Honeys' wore, the poor guy didn’t know whether to go after the “bustier” or her. Needless to say, the Russians didn’t understand a word, didn’t laugh at any of her jokes and sat in stony silence waiting for “da food”.
She apparently was devastated, quit trying to be a stand-up comic and is now touring (happily) in a musical comedy about the life of country singer, Patsy Kline that my friend manages. Her defeat at the hands of the Russians (she didn’t know that was why they didn’t laugh) still rankles, although I recently received a note from her thanking me for explaining after all these years that it was audience failure, not hers.