By Merilyn Jackson

© Merilyn Jackson 2003

Director Lee Breuer and his Mabou Mines crew came over for supper after their last Peter & Wendy workshop/rehearsal at Arizona State University in 1992. It went on to win two Obie Awards and many others around the world.

First to arrive was the great Scots drinker and fast talker, Johnny Cunningham, (Nightnoise; Silly Wizard) composed and played his violin for Breuer’s show, Peter & Wendy. (Check out his brilliant CD on Itunes.) We had grilled salmon, black beans in dark rum, corncakes, and grilled eggplant in balsamic vinegar and a key lime tart. But Johnny ate nothing, having found our liquor supply early. He claimed to have gotten an upset stomach the night before and that only a few shots of tequila would stay down.

At the Pub

Everyone left by 11, so we took Johnny over to the Dubliner Pub. His dirty blond locks fell down between his shoulder blades and he constantly threw his head back like a horse tossing its mane.  He dressed in black with his shirt unbuttoned to the waist, but tucked into his jeans. Around the instep of his thick boots were heavy chrome chains, ready for riding or fighting, depending on which came first – a motorcycle or a moron.

At the pub, John sat in with the band for a few tunes, fiddling madly. Back at the table he picked up on the stories he’d been regaling us with at supper. His stories of a  recent gig with Hall and Oates held our attention.

In Vegas

“I was, I mean, there I was, in Caesar’s Palace, down the hall from Elvis Presley’s suite.  Sleepin’ in a huge bed that could’ve slept six.  It was so big they called it “The Four or More.”  So there I was, livin’ the life of Elvis, shit, with a huge sunken tub right next to me bed.  And I had me a wakeup call everyday at 5 PM and breakfast sent up shortly thereafter.

And at the wakeup call, the fuckin’ faucets to the tub go on so when they bring me me breakfast each evenin’ there I am, already in the tub waitin’ for me coffee and me International Herald Tribune. I mean t’say, I was livin’ the life of Elvis, sittin’ on, maybe, the very toilet seat where he’d once sat. And if I went out, the chauffeur would be waitin’ right outside t’take me anywhere.  Angelo was his name.

“Good evening, Mr. Cunningham, sir,” he’d say. “Where to?”

And then, West Virginia

“And then back in the room after the show, Darryl and me and some of the others would wind down. Hall went to his room with his young chippie — can’t be blamed — and there we all were, livin’ the life of Elvis. And when the gig is over I fly off to West Virginia, to this little coaltown college where I’m givin’ a master class and they show me to this little dormitory room with no air conditionin’ a’tall and they hand me sheets to make up me own bed!

“This, after livin’ the life of Elvis!

“I tell you,” he paused to down the fresh Tequila Sunrise that had just appeared before him, “I tell you,” he began again, “What I did was I got them to get me a refrigerator in the room and I unscrewed the fuckin’ light bulb and slept all night with the door of that refrigerator wide open on me. I mean, once you’ve lived the life of Elvis,” he winked, “there’s no turnin’ back.”

John Cunningham: 1957, Portobello, Scotland – 2003, New York, NY

Peter Pan: 1902, United Kingdom –