Our Holiday Turkey, Perry
by Bobbie Cimo
I come from a generation when the whole family got involved with the preparation of the holiday meal. My father usually did the manly stuff like lift the turkey out of the car when my mother when shopping. And transported it around the kitchen when it needed to be move from refrigerator to sink–from sink to oven. Yes, those commercials that now appear on the TV where the woman struggles with lifting the turkey, thou funny, arenâ€™t too far from being accurateâ€¦except I never remember the bird sliding from my mothers hands, out the window, and knocking my father down.
While my mother was main chef and organizer (telling the rest of us what to do) my sister was her assistant, cutting up the ingredients for the dressing. As for me, I was what they called the little helper–mainly, cause I wasnâ€™t good at much else. I was the one who cleared the table, washed bowls and threw out the garbage. It was hard growing up, unable to dice celery, onions and eggs just the right size–but now looking back, I realize how lucky I was.
Another memory of those early years was the gathering of the family to watch TV Holiday Variety Specials. Remember this is the time before VCRâ€˜s, DVDâ€˜s, You tube, or Ipod broadcast. In other words, if you missed it the first time around, you werenâ€˜t going to get the chance to see it again.
Seeing our favorite entertainers decked out in winter gear, either standing in a winter wonderland, or huddled inside around cozy fire, singing Christmas songs, gave us a warm fuzzy feeling that brought out own holiday spirit more to life.
Known for his effortless singing, cardigan sweaters, Perry Como, fondly referred to as Mr. C. was on TV for over 45 years. I donâ€™t know how many Christmas specials he did– but there were a lot. Nor do I remember who all of his guests wereâ€¦what songs he sangâ€¦or even what countries some of these shows were shot in. But I do remember how they always ended.
After singing Eva Maria, heâ€™d walked over to an exquisite long dining table, where already seated were his guest stars and family cast members. At the head of the table he would stand with carving knife in hand where he would proceed to carve the most beautiful turkey ever seen, and pass the plates around. Needless to say, I didnâ€™t know about the spraying of food for TV (kind of like the way the pretty people of today, are air brushed for the covers of magazines). Which explains why the guest and cast never ate any of the food.
Such is how our turkey became known as Perry. Year after year, I would slap him on his chest and say â€œHow ya doing Perry?â€–the turkey, not Mr. C– as he laid waiting in our kitchen getting prepared for the big day.
Years later, when I grew up and began working for CBS, every day was an adventure, as you never knew who you were going to run into. Sometimes the word got out in advance, but most days it was by chance youâ€™d ran into someone famous. I remember my first week at work, I just happened upon a set where Bob Hope and Danny Thomas were doing a skit. Another time James Caan helped my boss carry books into our office.
Before the second-floor was converted to small studios recently used by Tyra Banks (pre-move to NYC) and â€œThe Late, Late Showâ€ starring Craig Ferguson, there were large rehersal halls, similar to gymnasiums with hardwood floors. Outside of a large table and folding chairs, a phone on the wall and a big urn of coffee, there was no other furniture in the room. Occasionally, theyâ€™d roll a piano in, if they had to rehearse a musical number. The Stage Manager would mark the floor with tape, outlining where the real furniture would be on set and also giving the actor his â€œmarkâ€ where he would be standing once he was downstairs in the studio, taping before a live audience.
Now back to me and Perry (the man and not the turkey). Because Perry Como was such an icon in my family, when I found out he was in one of the rehearsal halls, I was more then a little thrilled to try to sneak a peek of him. But I didnâ€™t know which one. In order to check out the room, you had to cup your face and press it against the small port window or else youâ€™d only see you own reflection looking back at you. It never dawned that someone inside could see me. Actually, it was a blessing– I didnâ€™t have to approach Perry, he waved me in. At first I wasnâ€™t sure he meant me and not someone else, but then I realized I was the only â€œPeeping Tom,â€ around. But to play it safe, I pointed to my chest and mouthed, â€œMe?â€ Perry nodded and again waved me in.
He turned out to be very sweet and listened intently to whatever it was that I was jabbering on aboutâ€¦even when I told him how our names were so similarâ€¦different only by one letter. His name was Cimo and mine was Como. Yes, I actually renamed him and gave him my name. But he just laughed. And even when he was called away by his rehearsal partner, he refused to end our chat. Not until she insisted for the second time, only this time loudly–â€œPerry, I need you and I need you now!â€™â€™ — did he make his apologies to me and went back to the piano. Oh, the womanâ€¦it was Doris Day. She and Perry were working together to record a song.
Because Perry Como, really belonged to my parentsâ€™ generation, it only seemed fair that I have my mother come in to meet him. During those early days the Execs were very lenient of your comings and goings in the studios. Many lunch breaks I would take my brown paper bag to the bleachers, enjoying my lunch, while being entertained by some of the top performers of the day. If you wanted to bring a relative in to see someone, you could deposit them on the stage while you went back to your office to finish your work. Needless to say, things have changed a lot since then.
Stage 31 had been the home for shows as Sonny & Cher, Tony Orlando and Dawn, and the Jim Nabors Show. But on the day my mother visited, everything had been cleared away transformed into an entire Vermont village — including an actual ski lift! — for another one of those famous Perry Como Holiday Specials.
My mother did end up having her picture taken with Mr. C. (Itâ€™s framed and here in my office.) As for me, I had my picture taken with Perry, tooâ€¦No, not Mr. C., but the one that came out of the oven.
A few weeks ago, we had a turkey shoot at CBS (a turkey raffle) and I won. I guess it was only fitting that Perry and I would end up walking arm and armâ€”Correction, arm and wing out the doors of CBS, together.
Bobbie Cimo is the OCC/RWA Programs Director who has brought us such notable speakers as Dean Koontz, Tami Hoag, Jackie Collins and Robert Crais.
Bobbie, another great story. I never get tired of hearing them. BTW, I saw Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood at the airport once. They weren’t inclined to have a dialog with me, though. LOL! That’s the extent of my celebrity profile–except for all of you at OCC.
Yeah! Time you started sharing the stories most of us can only enjoy second-hand. No more keeping the goodies to yourself.
And a Merry Christmas to wonderful Orange County!
Bobbie, you meet the coolest people!
I love hearing and reading your stories, Bobbie! You have so many. 🙂
Anytime they run those specials with Bing Crosby or Perry Como, I try to watch them. Unfortunately, they’re not on too often.
Oh, and I’ve been on a Doris Day movie kick all week…Sorry she interrupted your time with Mr. C. LOL
Bobbie, thanks for writing this! Perry Como singing “Ave Maria” is one of my favorite childhood memories! I LOVE PERRY!
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