My youngest brother, whom we refer to lovingly (and accurately) as Crazy Eddie, has lived in Orlando, Fla. since before the Animal Kingdom was built, most of those years working as an entertainer for the largest media and entertainment company in the world. I kind of imagine my brother’s life is like the official website for Orlando itself: an obnoxiously colorful and busy landscape, full of pop-ups and moving screens advertising water parks, aquariums, “top 10 places to smile” and rides based on animated television shows or Hollywood blockbusters that have more than one sequel.
Crazy Eddie and I talk every few days (mostly he talks), and recently I’ve been amazed how easily he’s amazed. You’d think after being bombarded with countless breakfasts starring oversized ducks and mice in the morning and orgasm-substitute
fireworks displays in the evening, it would take a helluva lot to make even the most cheery sit up and pay attention. Not Eddie. He hasn’t lost his taste, even for the cheapest drug of the spectacle variety.
“Dude,” he tells me (yells at me) over the phone. “Never guess where I was last night.”
“Close but no cigar, Fidel. I’ll give you a clue.” Then he proceeds to lay on the stalest cockney accent this side of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins and sings: “I’m Henry the VIII I am/Henry the VIII I am, I am.”
“God, that’s awful.”
He ignores me and rolls on: “Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits! Isn’t that awesome?”
“Yeah,” he says in a braggart’s tone, “been having so many good shows down here: Chubby Checker, Davy Jones, Tony Orlando, Jon Secada.
“That’s quite a lineup,” I say. “Almost makes me want to pack up my Xanax and move.”
“I know, I know, but I have to admit…” His voice dips like he’s about to inform me that our cousin John jumped from the Silver Legacy Resort in Reno. “Jon Secada sucked.”
“Don’t know which is more surprising,” I tell him, clicking my teeth.
“The backup singer for Gloria Estefan sucking or you actually dragging your family out to see it.”
“Good one.” I can hear him breathe. “Anyway, we got there about 45 minutes early to, you know, get good seats and we’re all decked out in our best tie-dye.”
“Best tie-dye? Isn’t that an oxymoron?”
“And Peter Noone spots Marcy and says, ‘Look me little lady, yore dad iz a hippie’ and guess what?”
“Hurry up.” I yawn. “I’m dying of anticipation.”
“Hands her a signed CD. From Peter Noone! Of Herman’s Hermits, dude.”
“She must have died and gone to casino circuit heaven. Given that her father wasn’t even born when the band had their biggest hits.”
“She was stoked! Especially since there were so many Noonatics there fighting for the schwag.”
“Lunatics? Sounds right.”
“No, little sister. Noonatics. Noon-a-tics,” he says slowly with the pace that stupid people employ when dealing with the deaf or foreigners.
As if it’s not hard enough for me to imagine my poor niece Marcy and nephew Nick being lugged to sad swan songs of fat and fading rock bands, Crazy Eddie then explains that there’s a group of pudgy and pickled adults who follow Peter Noone around donning fringe and British flags, holding signs and singing loudly to every word of “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.”
But then it clicks. B bands need B groupies in the same way Eddie needs something to do in that former backwater-turned-citrus-grove-turned-tourist destination for families desperately trying to “make some memories.”
So I let him rant on, happy we don’t live close enough for an invite.