My First Love: Hugo Man of a Thousand Faces

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Just recently one of my good friends procured a doll that I had coveted since elementary school: Hugo, Man of a Thousand Faces.

You should of seen my expression when he told me about finding Hugo in almost mint condition… that most of his pieces were included (even his sideburns!)… and yes… he had received him in the original packaging.

I tell you… my face must have shown the pain and longing I felt for my first love… the shame and humiliation I had endured… knowing that I one day carelessly tossed him aside, left him to fend on his own, while I headed off to a joyous time at summer camp, not knowing that my mother would seize the opportunity of my absence, root through my room, and quickly hand Hugo and other misfit toys over to the Goodwill.

I looked at my friend’s new Hugo doll and suddenly, I felt an irrational anger. Just like a child unwilling to share, I wanted to snatch that Hugo box from out of his hands and make a mad dash to my car where I could sit and play with him free from interruption.

But just as I was about to throw a tantrum and exclaim that Hugo should really be mine, my friend said, his voice sweet as he held the box gingerly in his large manly hands and looked lovingly at the photos and description, “I always wanted a Hugo. But no one ever got him for me.”

And I felt my heart give… I wanted to steel myself to the moment but I couldn’t… my envy turned into understanding: I knew what it felt like to pray for Hugo and believe you weren’t going to get him.

I couldn’t begrudge him this gift. I smiled and expressed my happiness at his find, while my thoughts turned back to my own childhood.

It was Christmas, 1975. I was ten years old.

My world had consisted of a multitude of Barbies and G.I Joes.

I had every doll that you could imagine.

I had dream houses and Barbie jets.

G.I Joe tanks and an arsenal of weapons.

I had elaborate stories for each one of my dolls; most of them hinging on the fact that we were in the midst of the Vietnam war during 1975 and my Barbies were always waiting, hoping, praying that my G.I Joe dolls would return safely from war.

I had just come back inside after making my large and very scary clown doll, attack my entire Barbie village while the G.I Joes tried to contain the situation to a “20 mile radius,” when I heard an announcer’s voice from our old Zenith console TV shout: HUGO CAN BE ANYTHING AND HE’S A HAND PUPPET TOO!

Something about his voice seemed “urgent.”

As if I was about to miss out on the deal of a life time.

I ran to the living room and watched as a boy, about the same age as me, used Hugo’s numerous disguises to create “thousands of pretend fiends.”

I knew immediately: I had to have him.

I screamed for my mother who took one look at the TV and said, “That is the most hideously ugly doll I have every seen. I’m not buying you that” and headed back to the kitchen to finish making our tuna, toast and gravy for our Saturday dinner.

I was barely deterred.

I knew how to lobby for a toy.

I would make a campaign to win my Hugo.

I started by leaving my Richie Rich and Little Archie comic books laying around the house, because I found that they always had an ad for Hugo, on the back page.

Each time the commercial came on the TV I would mimic the announcer’s voice loudly and draw attention to the screen.

I wrote my Christmas list early and HUGO was the only item on it.

And when I was afraid that even that might fail, I prayed out loud each night that Jesus would not only protect me while I slept but also bring me Hugo… just Hugo… and with him… I could save the world!

By the time Christmas morning arrived I could barely contain myself.

I was up by 3am, begging at my parents’ bedside, to open presents early.

I’m surprised they didn’t get out of bed and spank me senseless with the orange Hot Wheel track… their weapon of choice… but they didn’t. They told me I could grab my Christmas stocking, open it in my room, and not to come back to wake them again until it was a more reasonable hour like 5am.

I sat on the floor of my room and looked at the pathetic offering in my stocking: a candy cane, an orange, a bag of jacks, a box of crayons and a coloring book.

Nothing was enough without Hugo.

The hours until 5am were some of the most painful of my young life… each second an eternity… as I lay on my stomach, ate my orange, and colored.

When my kitty cat clock finally hit the magic hour of FIVE OH OH… I ran down the stairs at a furious pace… rushed past the Christmas tree to scream for my brothers who slept in the downstairs rooms off the back hallway, and then did a quick reverse and ran back to our tree.

I looked at all of the unwrapped gifts Santa had brought to us: Schwinn banana seat bicycles, Malibu Barbie, the game of Sorry, but no Hugo in sight.

I tried to look happy.

I tried not to behave as a spoiled brat.

But I would have traded everything under that tree for my Hugo: EVERYTHING.

An hour passed by with each of us taking turns opening gifts while my mother and father sat in the recliner chairs, sipping their coffee, and trying to keep some semblance of order in the present opening rotation.

And soon… all of the presents were open…

All of the wrapping paper was being burned brilliantly, by my brothers, in our fireplace… while I sat in the corner by the stairs, pretending to play with my Malibu Barbie, my head down, big warm tears rolling down my cheeks.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job of being quiet and hiding my pain but I guess I should have known that I couldn’t hide my emotions from my parents.

My father came over and stood beside me, his COOL menthol cigarette in one hand, coffee cup in the other.

“What’s a matter with you?” he barked.

I shook my head… afraid to speak… afraid that I would sob and look like an idiot that didn’t appreciate what was given to me.

My mom shouted from the kitchen, “I think you have another present behind the tree.”

And for a brief moment… my hope returned.

I dropped Malibu Barbie and crawled across the floor, slid under the pine branches of our tree, and reached to the far back corner where I found a box that looked… unfortunately… like a shoebox.

I pressed my back against the wood paneling of our wall and sat… unwilling to come out and open yet another disappointment… a new pair of Ked’s or worse yet… Wallabees.

“Come out,” my dad said.

I crawled from behind the tree and sat with the box in my hands.

“Open it,” he told me.

I said a silent prayer… a final prayer for Hugo.

I reached up and slowly began to rip the Santa paper off the box.

Through a small hole in the top I saw a large “H” and suddenly the rest of the moment escapes me.

I think I actually lost my mind.

There he was!

MY HUGO!

MY MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES!

I squealed with delight and rushed up the stairs to open the box in private.

It was even better than I imagined.

I opened the instruction manual and began to count off the itemized list of disguises:

  • 1 wig
  • 1 goatee/hairpiece
  • 2 glue sticks
  • 2 sideburns
  • 1 mask
  • 4 eyebrows/mustaches
  • 2 noses
  • 2 glasses
  • 2 chins
  • 1 eye patch
  • 2 eye pieces
  • 1 bandage (with fake bloodstain!)
  • 4 scars A bunch of warts/moles
  • 1 set of fangs

It was fantastic.

I spent the entire morning making Hugo into numerous fiends while my brothers sat next to me, eating crispy bacon, mesmerized by my immediate “mastery” of disguises.

Hugo became the villain and the hero in each and everyone of my stories.

He sat proudly on my desk, his mysterious smile, holding all of my childhood secrets that I had quietly whispered to him in moments of play.

Yes… Hugo was my best friend and confidant until that fated day my mother got her hands on him and finally got rid of the “hideously ugly” doll I had begged for.

I often wondered why she got him for me to begin with if she felt so strongly about him?

Maybe she had once wished for a toy that she had never received.

Or maybe it was my father’s doing.

But either way… Hugo was the best Christmas present of my entire childhood.

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Saturday July 13th through Saturday July 27th: Ms Wood will be on SUMMER VACATION!

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Enjoy one of your favorite posts from the past until I return to entertain you!

And thank you for your loyal following.

D.D. Wood

In the Recording Studio with Tom Petersson from Cheap Trick: My first Rock n Roll CRUSH.

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In 1990, at the age of 24, when I began to record my first solo album with Disney’s Hollywood Records, I was pleasantly surprised by my Producer Julian Raymond… who knew about my first “secret” Rock n Roll crush.

He knew that THIS band had been my first arena show EVER…

He knew that I still had all of their pop-punk buttons hidden in my ballerina jewelry box…

He knew that when I was 13, I would often lie on my bed and sing their lyrics, while holding their record cover close to my face, and kissing my “secret” Rock n Roll crush, during all of the silent pauses between everyone of their hit songs.

Yes…  he knew all about my affair with Tom Petersson, bass player of Cheap Trick, and it seemed that he had somehow become “Wish Master” the man who had the ability to grant me my Rock n Roll fantasy: a date with Tom Petersson.

“I have someone coming down to the studio to record with you this next week,” Julian said.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Julian smirked. “I think you might have heard of him. His name is Tom Petersson.”

I felt like my head was actually going to explode.

I tried to play it cool, like all good Rock and Roll musicians are supposed to do, but my “Folk Roots” must have kicked in because I became an emotional mess in a matter of seconds.

“TOM PETERSSON?” I shouted. “TOM? MY TOM?”

I never thought I would hear a man giggle, but Julian actually did, as he left me in the recording studio and walked back into the control booth.

I watched as he pushed the control room sound button and said to me, “Yep. Your Tom Petersson.”

My heart was racing.

I had been madly in love with Tom Petersson all of my 7th grade year and way into the summer.

He was beautiful to me in every way.

His dark hair.

His blue eyes.

His flirt of a smile and of course…

the biggest seducer of them all…. his talent.

Tom Petersson.

My secret Rock n Roll crush.

With me.

An entire week.

Working on MY MUSIC.

It was too good to be true.

I’d like to say that I didn’t primp for the big event with Tom but… I did.

My X hadn’t seen me so pumped up about “being with a man” since our wedding day.

“He’s just a bass player,” he mumbled. His lead singer ego all in an uproar.

I gave him a big hug, “You’re my man,” I whispered and watched as he smiled and toddled off to go play with one of his tube amps.

Don’t get me wrong… I adored and loved my lead singer husband, but there was no way in hell I could tell him that all of my life I had been secretly in love with bass players… yes.. the list is actually legendary and no need to name names… you all know who you are… and Tom Petersson was at the top of my list.

Bass players always seemed so mellow, laid back… cool.

They dropped a goose egg here or there…

They never stole the limelight…

They kept the rhythm going and popped out of the mix every once in awhile to shine.

So I shaved my legs, and curled my hair, and picked out my cutest dress to wear the first day that I would meet my big crush.

And when Tom came into the studio… you could imagine my surprise… when the first thing I noted was his size: not much taller than me actually. I had always pictured him larger than life… but as he strutted towards me, I could see that he had this charisma about him that seemed to radiate throughout the room.

He walked forward, skinny jeans, expensive London mod boots, tight black t-shirt, open white suit jacket…  his hair cropped punky and short now… but still dark… and his eyes… still a brilliant blue and said, “D.D.!” as if I had always been and would always be his best friend as he reached out, hugging and kissing me, until I thought I really would just lay down happily and die.

I rarely get tongue-tied and I rarely get star-struck but for a moment… I felt myself turn back into a 13-year-old DORK, though I tried to contain it, as I gave him a great big smile before saying, “Tom!” Just a little too loudly… and a little too breathy… giving away a bit of my junior high school persona.

“Can’t wait to play on your tracks,” he said. “Good stuff.”

And I thought that of all the validation I had ever received in my life time, to have one of your star musician crushes tell you that your music was “good” basically “worthy of their attention” that they would take time out of their superstar life to come and play with you… well I tell you… it was the best validation ever…

“Pull my finger,” Tom said abruptly, causing me to immediately step out of my starstruck validation moment, while realizing that his voice had the same rough and raspy texture as David Johansen’s from the New York Dolls.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“Pull it,” Tom repeated.

I hesitated a moment before I reached out and grabbed his finger, and the next thing I knew, Tom Petersson blasted out a terrific fart.

His laugh had a lot of bass and a booming tenor… it was a guffaw that filled the room.

“Don’t you just love fart jokes,” he said as he walked into the recording studio and got his bass out and ready to play.

I looked at Julian who said, “Don’t you just love the reality of the situation?”

I’m sure he meant it to be facetious… but actually… I did.

To find out that Tom Petersson was just “one of the guys” a down to earth, super cool, “Good Time Charlie” made me beam from ear to ear.

I couldn’t imagine what the week would hold: the possibilities of fun and trouble were obviously endless.

The next day, I rushed to the studio to be with Tom and found that he had brought me a present.

“D.D.” he said. “You have to see this.” He handed me a video tape.

I was afraid to touch it.

“It isn’t porno,” he said. “It’s Robert Tilton.”

Okay… so maybe I was confused. Did Tom Petersson, my Rock n Roll crush… my Musical God of Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll just give me a tape showcasing an evangelical television preacher?

“Watch it,” he said. “Actually,” He grabbed my hand and dragged me from the studio, “Let’s find a TV and watch it together now.”

We rushed down the hallway, and broke into an office, where we found a TV and VCR and popped the tape into the player.

“You’re gonna love this,” he howled as he grabbed two chairs and pulled me down to sit next to him.

I watched as the tape began to roll and Robert Tilton appeared. He was preaching about the word of the Lord when suddenly he stopped, squinted his eyes to pause for spiritual emphasis, and then a loud fart sound emanated from his ass.

Tom squealed with laughter.

“Isn’t it great?” he said. “Someone took all of his TV sermons and added fart tracks behind it. Isn’t it the best thing ever?”

I can’t say I wasn’t enjoying myself… I was… I was alone with Tom Petersson, I was sharing a personal moment with him, ANYTHING would have made me happy but… I couldn’t help but wonder for a moment, What if Robin Zander were in the room with us? Did he have the same bathroom mentality?

Tom shook my hand, sure that I wasn’t paying proper attention.

“Look D.D.!” He shouted, “Look!”

I watched again as Robert Tilton paused for spiritual significance and a long rapid series of fart sounds descended upon us.

Tom could barely breath. He actually slapped his skinny little Rock n Roll knee, shook his head and sighed before saying, “I just love this,”  and I felt a sudden ache in my heart.

How I wish I could have been on the road with Tom circa 1977.

I bet he was so much fun to travel with.

He must have been the prankster. The trickster. The one always up for a good time. I bet he had never been mean to a fan in his life time. He was everything I could ever want him to be.

Our week together passed by quickly… one prank after another: fart jokes, pages of porn magazines taped under office desks… and in cartage containers… and stuffed into acoustic sound holes of guitars… and when it was time for him to leave… I knew how much I would miss him.

“Stop it,” he said in his deep booming voice. “I’ll see you soon. You’ll come to a show right? We can hang out. Have fun.”

And there it was again… my 13-year-old fantasy come true.

And as the years have passed… it’s been nice to hear from friends in the business that he still asks after me… still rants and raves about our great time together in the studio that week.

And fart jokes and all… my Rock n Roll crush is still… my beautiful legendary gentleman.