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Crumpet Goes West

August 10, 2016

I have an actor friend named Scott Gardner. He’s got some impressive credentials. He’s also a writer and a puppeteer. Very talented guy.

He got his early training in Hollywood, then decided he was ready for the big time: New Hampshire!

He made quite a reputation for himself here. If Scott was in a play, you knew it was a must-see.

One of his most brilliant (and funniest) performances was as Crumpet, the somewhat-embittered elf in The Santaland Diaries. It’s a one-man, one-act play based on David Sedaris‘ account of working as a Christmas elf at Macy’s department store.

Last year, Scott decided to return to California to pursue acting full-time. He took his mom along. Here’s a caricature I did for him.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
caricature drawing actor Scott Gardner his mom leaving NH for Hollywood look ma no mittens Crumpet Elf costume Charlie Chan Jimmy Chan Gee Pop

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highYou’re wondering, of course, what Charlie Chan and his son are doing in there. Like all inside jokes, it would take too long to explain, plus, when I was done, you’d cry: it wasn’t worth it!! So I’ll just tell you that it relates to some dialogue in the female version of Neil Simon‘s famous play, The Odd Couple.

If you watched a lot of Charlie Chan movies like I did as a kid, you’ll know that his son was always exclaiming, “Gee, Pop!!”blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
Fictional Honolulu Chinese detective Charlie Chan eating rice chopsticks asking son Jimmy what letter follows F Gee Pop

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highHere’s a publicity still of Scott for the Actor’s Circle Theatre production of The Santaland Diaries. Scott also recorded a series of interviews for the show.blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
Scott Gardner as Crumpet the Elf in The Santaland Diaries based on David Sedaris' essay about working at Macy's during Christmas performed in Peterborough, NH

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highAnd here’s a shot of the two of us at Scott’s going-away party. Hey, that guy on the right’s so handsome, he shoulda been an actor!!  : )blank vertical space, 32 pixels high
Actor Scott Gardner illustrator Mark Armstrong going away party Keene NH 2015

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highStrange the things that stick in one’s head. I’ll confess that one of my happiest childhood memories is watching the antics of Number One or Number Two Son in the old Charlie Chan films— especially the “Gee, Pop!!” schtick.

I decided to check YouTube for an appropriate clip. I found one posted by someone who clearly enjoyed the Gee, Pops even more than I did. It features Number One Son, Lee Chan, who was played by Keye Luke.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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A final note:

The character Charlie Chan was created by American author Earl Derr Biggers— who was white. Three different actors played Chan in 44 films spanning the years 1931-49. All three actors were white. The films were a product of their time. Today there are many who would– justifiably– consider them racially offensive.

In 2010, author Yunte Huang had a huge national bestseller with Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History.

The book received overwhelmingly positive reviews, including this one by Harvard professor Doris Sommer:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

Yunte Huang restores our pleasure in Charlie Chan, and deepens it. Reading Huang, American fans of Chan novels and movies will feel relief from the automatic guilt we have learned to identify with the pleasure of enjoying a racially marked character… In Huang’s hands we recognize ourselves to be the butt of the Chinaman’s humor and the beneficiaries of his wisdom.

BlankVertSpace.8pixelsI picked up the book at a library book sale about a month ago. I’m looking forward to reading it.

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Any other Scott Gardner fans out there?

Can anyone explain the special appeal of murky old black-and-white films– or is it just me?

Does anyone have “Christmas elf” listed on their LinkedIn profile??

Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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footer for all future blog posts showing picture of blog author Mark Armstrong, along with short bio and contact information

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2016 11:20 AM

    You brought back childhood memories for me. I remember watching Charlie Chan movies as a wee girl, lying in front of my Grandad’s fire. I also remember when the penny dropped that the actor was not Asian. I enjoyed all those old movies as a kid. My absolute favourite was Harold Lloyd. I also loved the Topper movies – again racially questionable. I’ve actually been introducing my kids to Classic movies recently. They loved Nosferatu so I figured if they could cope with silent movies they were ready for other classics. I think Arsenic and Old Lace or Some Like It Hot might be next.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 15, 2016 12:44 PM

      Hi, Laura! First: a thousand apologies for being so late in responding to your lovely comment. Ten whacks with a haggis for me, and I deserve it!! : (

      So nice to hear that someone else was soaking up Charlie Chan’s wisdom as a kid. I even remember someone giving me a very thin paperback called The Wit & Wisdom Of Charlie Chan for my birthday one year– a compilation of all his movie sayings. I didn’t quite have the nerve to use it for a school book report… : )

      Interesting: Harold Lloyd is my very favorite silent screen comedian. It irks me that Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton seem to get all the glory in that department. What Lloyd managed to do back in that era still seems astounding, even by today’s standards. A comic genius, for sure.

      Great to hear you’re introducing your kids to the great film classics. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never seen Some Like It Hot, but Arsenic And Old Lace is an old favorite. The latter includes a funny inside joke involving a tombstone.

      Oh– and speaking of classics: don’t forget Geordie!! Of course you’ll have to explain to your boys that hammer throwing is not a backyard sport… : )

      Always great to see you, Laura– thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

      • August 15, 2016 1:22 PM

        I will for sure be pointing out the Archie Leach joke to my kids. My middle two sons are movie trivia nuts so they love that sort of thing. What they call “Easter eggs” in movies are what we call in-jokes, winks and nods. Kid lingo, eh! As for ‘Geordie’, it’s a film I’ve heard of yet never seen. I should check it out for a chuckle some time.

        Liked by 1 person

        • August 16, 2016 7:59 AM

          I saw Geordie once, more than 30 years ago, and have never forgotten it. When I googled it, I was surprised to find the title was just Geordie. Would have been prepared to swear it was Wee Geordie. There are a lot of Alistair Sim movies that I haven’t seen, and I’d like to get my hands on them!! : )

          Liked by 1 person

        • August 16, 2016 8:10 AM

          Maybe the American title was different? I’ve noticed that happens sometimes.

          Liked by 1 person

        • August 16, 2016 9:11 AM

          I’m awarding you the Oscar for Best Surmise! It was indeed released in the U.S. as Wee Georgie, and here’s a review you might enjoy. : )

          Liked by 1 person

        • August 16, 2016 11:27 AM

          I am going to have to track the movie down now. I always enjoyed Alastair Sim in movies. He remains my favourite ever incarnation of Scrooge. I first discovered him through the St Trinian’s movies when I was wee.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. August 10, 2016 6:51 PM

    Very impressive credentials, Mark! I couldn’t help but smile when I read Scott has a 34″ waist! I guess that must be quite important in the acting world.. 😉
    A fire, and a renewal… very impressive. I hope his current work is agreeable for him!
    As for the pic of you! I agree, you shoulda been an actor, but then…… are you not?
    Gee Pop!

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 15, 2016 1:09 PM

      My dear Carolyn!! How nice to see you!! Please excuse this very belated reply. I was admiring myself in the mirror, and just couldn’t tear myself away… : P

      Yes, interesting about the 34″ waist! Perhaps that’s for casting agents for productions with extremely limited budgets– they have to cast people who can fit into existing costumes!! : )

      I do know Scott just got cast as Felix in a stage production of The Odd Couple that’s set for a 6-week run– so he’s making the rounds and keeping busy.

      Ha! you’re right, I am an actor, I’ve been one all my life. A strange amalgam of introvert, wallflower, ham, and exhibitionist. Shaken and stirred. Gee fizz, gee POP!! : )

      Wonderful to see you, I do hope you’re well– thanks so much for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. August 19, 2016 2:38 PM

    Aw, gee, Mark, you sparked wonderful childhood memories of Saturdays and Sundays in front of the boob tube when the weather kept me indoors. Of course, the books were better, but nothing could beat good ole Charlie showing Number One Son how good detective work is done. 🙂

    Like

    • August 23, 2016 8:58 AM

      Another Charlie Chan fan?? Excellent! Yes, the ol’ boob tube sometimes came thru on a rainy Saturday afternoon. We used it to improve our minds, and I’m sure you can say the same… : )

      I’ve never actually read one of the books. If I ever do, I’ll probably get the audio version so I can hear the “Gee, Pop’s!” Yes, television has spoiled me… : )

      Always great to see you, and please excuse this tardy response!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. September 3, 2016 8:04 PM

    I never watched Charlie Chan and wasn’t even aware of the character as a child.

    I had no idea about the real Hawaiian cop. Makes wonder if I should try to order this..oops check library lst.

    Like

    • September 8, 2016 8:58 AM

      Hard to keep track of fictional cops and detectives. If you lined ’em all up, they’d probably circle the world a few times. Add in all the dead bodies they’re investigating, and you’d really have a long line– especially if you laid all the bodies end-to-end… : )

      Check the library first– spoken like a true detective, Jean! They’re always going to libraries looking for clues in old newspapers– especially in movies that predate the internet… : )

      I haven’t started that Charlie Chan book yet myself, so I’m afraid I can’t give you a review. Good luck at the library, and don’t leave any fingerprints!

      Like

  5. October 9, 2016 4:15 AM

    I’ve missed your posts so much (I’d been “away” for nearly two months after buying a house, recovering from a series of colds that kept circulating at work….and being distracted by all manner of things). As always, I loved this post from start to finish….so fascinating and entertaining is your signature way….you always teach me things while making me smile…what a gift you are! And, please tell Scott that he makes for a most delightful elf…oh, and, yes, I, too, am struck by the singularly mesmerizing appeal of grainy black and white classics….after watching that clip, I longed for Turner Classic Movies, but it is just after 5am.Sunday morning…too early to go downstairs and turn on the TV. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Like

    • October 13, 2016 9:05 PM

      My dear Truly!! How nice to see you, and thanks so much for your lovely comment! Please excuse my lateness in replying to it. If I get much further behind, I’m gonna meet myself going the other way!!😳 <= mortified

      You bought a house?? And it was filled with germs that made you sick?? No, wait– the germs were at work, hangin' around the water cooler, no doubt… (do water coolers even exist anymore?? Probably not– they’re a figment of old B&W movies…) 😊

      So glad you enjoyed the post, you are really too kind. Scott’s doing very well out in California. He got one of the leads (Felix) in a stage production of The Odd Couple, and is just finishing up a very successful 6 or 8 week run. Hopefully he can build on that.

      5 AM?? You were up early! I can identify. This time of year in New Hampshire, when I drag myself shivering outta bed, I hafta make a tough call: do I drink that desperately needed cup of coffee first, or do I somehow find the gumption to light the woodstove?? Yup, tough call. Sometimes I make a second cup of coffee, and wrap my feet around it… ☺️☕️👞☕️👞

      Hope you’re feeling better, and thanks again for stopping by!!

      Like

      • October 13, 2016 9:58 PM

        Hahahahaha…I can fully relate, my friend…no worries….you can do no wrong in my books 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • October 13, 2016 10:06 PM

          Hmmmm, for some reason, only the first part of your reply showed up….having read the rest of your comment…I loved the original Odd Couple (TV version….Jack Klugman and Tony Randall) and I bet Scott is awesome as Felix. Secondly, I am a social worker/counselor who works in school with children and youth…hence, the circulating cold. Also, I live in New Brunswick in a town that borders Maine. Small world…
          P.S. Not sure why I was up at 5am. Probably just my body’s way of celebrating the chance to sleep in…I awake early, just long enough to register that I have no where I need to be, then smugly drift back to sleep 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • October 14, 2016 9:37 PM

          You’re a social worker/counselor who works with school kids… my dear Truly! that makes me very happy. It sounds so right. Just based on our few exchanges, I feel certain you are exactly where you belong, doing invaluable and wonderful work. Excellent. Well, excellent except for the circulating germs, perhaps… 😬

          New Brunswick… I got up to Nova Scotia once on a bicycle tour some years ago. And I see Prince Edward Island advertised a lot in the Sunday paper travel section. And everybody’s heard of Quebec, of course, where everybody talks funny like my old French teacher. I guess New Brunswick keeps a lower profile– and there’s a lot to be said for that!!

          And yes, drifting back to sleep… it’s one of life’s little pleasures. I just wish it didn’t happen while I’m sittin’ at… the… compu t e r … zzzzz 😴

          Like

  6. October 18, 2016 6:52 PM

    No pressure, but I’ve nominated for the 3 Quotes in 3 Days challenge….
    If you are up for it, post 3 quotes, 3 days in a row (doesn’t have to start today) and, on each of the days, nominate 3 people to do the same 🙂

    Like

    • October 21, 2016 9:12 AM

      My dear Truly! I’m no good at these nomination things, but I’m happy to leave three quotes:

      “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” –Oscar Wilde, upon arriving in New York, January 1882 (quite possibly apocryphal)

      ““Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity.” –G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who was Thursday, 1908

      “I’m at my most serious when I’m joking.” –Cary Grant, The Bishop’s Wife, 1947

      Like

      • October 21, 2016 9:18 AM

        I’ve learned that I’m not either…I was very flattered, but came to realize that I found it anxiety producing for some reason…I think it was the deadline and that it was a “command performance” so to speak. I’m more of a ‘go when the inspiration hits me’ type of sharer 🙂 But, thank you for these amazing quotes! They are so reflective of you…and, me…our sense of humour mixed with depth…you are wonderful and appreciated…thanks again 🙂

        Like

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