Monday, December 04, 2006

Lobster Boy -- The Long-Awaited Explanation

Here's the requested Lobster Boy explanation. I'm sorry this is such a long post, but you really have to know all of this stuff to fully understand the Lobster Boy story. Our Kodak website has some photos from Dave which will serve to enhance the latter part of this story.

The Beginning: Summer, 1998

Once upon a time, in a bookstore in Branson, I stumbled across a true crime novel called Lobster Boy. It’s the true story of a woman who became so fed-up with her abusive husband that she hired her son-in-law to kill him. This seems like a very humdrum, “Lifetime movie” story (and, indeed, it is a badly-written book) until you realize there’s a bizarre element that makes this story stand out from others: the fact that the abusive husband was Grady Stiles, Jr., otherwise known as Lobster Boy. He was born with appendages that looked (and worked) like lobster claws instead of hands and feet. He was the son of Grady Stiles, Sr., (Lobster Man), who suffered, of course, from the same congenital deformity. The abused wife was a former bearded lady. The son-in-law (married, of course, to Lobster Girl) who killed Lobster Boy was a human blockhead – one of those guys who drives spikes into his head through his nose. They all lived in a little town in Florida populated almost exclusively by sideshow freaks and carnies.

What fascinated me most about the book was the “sixteen pages of shocking photos” contained at its center.

I asked my friend Randy Story (who was with me in the bookstore) to take a look at the book.

“No,” he said. “I don’t like gross, gory things like that.”

“C’mon,” I said. “It’s a book about revenge in the freak show community. How can you resist it?”

Randy continued to object, and I continued to insist… until a practical joke was born.

I decided I would buy several copies of Lobster Boy, and hide them in places where Randy would find them. Eventually, he would have to read the book.

The Saga Continues: 1998-2004

I began by hiding the book in obvious places – his medicine chest, his freezer, etc. He would find the book quickly, then give it back to me without comment. This, of course, would give me very little satisfaction.

I began hiding the book in places not so obvious. I emptied out the Swiss Miss Instant Cocoa box in his kitchen cabinet and replaced the packets with Lobster Boy (it fit perfectly!). It was a month or so before he found it there. I hid another copy of the book in his MODEL OF THE GLOBE THEATRE (the requisite model every drama teacher has in his classroom) with the face of Grady Stiles, Jr., peeking out through one of the tiny windows. A couple of months after I nestled the book into this new hiding place, a student announced to Randy in the middle of class, “Hey, Mr. Story, there’s a little man looking out one of the windows of the Globe Theatre!”

I once convinced a seller of rare books from another state to send Randy a copy of Lobster Boy instead of the out-of-print Old-Time Radio book he had ordered. I had to pay the guy twenty bucks, but it was worth it.

Sadly, Randy never gave me the satisfaction of letting me know his reaction to any of these encounters with the book. I could only imagine his surprise, shock, and consternation. Eventually, Randy stopped giving me back my copies of Lobster Boy.

Thank God for Although it’s out of print, it’s still available – often at a very reasonable price.

I eventually tired of the game. He wasn’t going to read the book, he wasn’t going to respond, and he wasn’t going to retaliate. So I gave up. Until…

A Hope Reborn: Summer, 2006

One night in Hubbard House a bunch of NITS people were talking about practical jokes. I told them about the Lobster Boy adventure. My brother Dave Wilson said if he was ever anywhere near Missouri, he would like to be the random guy who just walks up to Randy and hands him a copy of Lobster Boy.

I kept these words in my heart.

Opportunity – A Shining Gift from God: October, 2006

My friend Randy told me he would be missing a few days of school late in October because he would be attending, for the first time, the Friends of Old Time Radio Convention.

In Newark, New Jersey.

New Jersey. The home of Dave Wilson.

I e-mailed Dave and told him “the Lobster Boy guy” would be in Newark at the end of October. Dave’s response: “Sweet Jesus, I’m only fifteen minutes away!”

A plot was then hatched for the greatest Lobster Boy caper ever.

Dreams Becoming Reality: Late October, 2006

Here’s the (fairly) elaborate plan I laid out.

Dave was to appear at the Friends of Old Time Radio convention pretending to be Tim Burton’s East Coast casting director. He would explain that he had come to audition people for Tim’s new animated film. He would eventually approach Randy, saying he had heard some of his audio work (Randy, in real life, is an amazing voice talent – he’s worked with some of the best artists in the audio theater business). He would, hopefully, set up an audition with Randy. If Randy inquired about the title of the new project, Dave would tell him it’s a secret, but that he would share the source material with him during the audition.

On the next day, during the “audition,” Dave would open up a locked briefcase. Out of that, he would take another locked case. He would unlock that case, and take out a package. He would open the package, and take out of that yet another package. Finally, he would remove the “source material” for Tim Burton’s new film and give it to Randy.

The “source material,” of course, would be Lobster Boy. The ultimate delivery of the accursed book.

Ah, how brilliant and beautiful.

ABORT PLAN A! Late October, 2006

Here’s what really happened. On the day before Dave was to put this plan into action, I had a change of heart. One of Randy’s big dreams is to someday be a voice in an animated feature film, and it seemed that, after thinking about it for a while, it would be unduly cruel to make him think he had a chance to be in a film like this when it was really just a hoax. Dave was willing to do it (although he said he would feel sorry for the guy), and I’m sure he could have pulled it off, but ultimately it was too mean-spirited. So, I modified the plan a bit. Dave became a mysterious messenger, delivering the highly-prized Lobster Boy (complete with bizarre packaging and an aluminum briefcase) to Randy with no explanation at all.

Randy called me up immediately upon receiving the package. The people at the front desk actually x-rayed it before giving it to him, telling him the contents weren’t explosive. He said, “I don’t know how you did it, Wilson, but I’ve got another copy of Lobster Boy. Who did it? Who did it? Who do you know in New Jersey?”

Using my best New Jersey accent (which, of course, is really bad) “I’ve got a guy…”

It didn’t have the whammy I originally intended, but it DID convince Randy that Lobster Boy’s reach is (at least) nationwide.

And that’s the Lobster Boy saga. For now, anyway.


At 9:49 PM, Blogger educat said...

Brilliant. Thank you.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger kv said...

Hilarious. I volunteer to be your Lobster Boy messenger in California, if you ever need one.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger Emily said...

I'll be your messenger boy in SOUTHERN California, when you need me.

At 7:41 PM, Blogger Shakespeare Teacher said...

I will be Kim's Lobster Boy messanger helper in NORTHERN California very soon!

At 11:41 PM, Blogger Michael said...

There are no California Old Time Radio plans yet, but I understand there's a BIG OTR Festival in SEATTLE my friend may someday attend... and I seem to remember having a contact there...

At 10:35 AM, Blogger Sandi said...

Deep South Lobster Boy representative logging in...this is sheer genius, my know, we get quite a few science fiction conferences out this way, what with Space Camp and all, so it isn't out of the question....

At 2:09 PM, Blogger Shakespeare Teacher said...

If there's ever an opportunity for an Eastern Shore of Virginia caper, I'm yours.

And once again, the blog has gotten me in trouble in class. I should not read the saga of Lobster Boy while students are taking a test. (And while an administrator was walking by the door. Even though I'm the "crazy drama teacher" maniacle laughter while the students are totally quiet was hard to justify)



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