“Woman, I have seen more ladies in my time than you have seen sparrows in yours!” bellowed Elliot Cuker, the Mayor’s best friend. “I have fought three duels because of ladies, I have walked out on 12 ladies, and nine ladies have walked out on me! So there!”
Tatyana Yassukovich, the woman Elliot Cuker was addressing, pulled a black veil over her face.
Mr. Cuker was playing Smirnov in The Bear , a one-act farce by Anton Chekhov. Ms. Yassukovich was playing Madame Popova. It was May 11, the same day Mr. Cuker’s best friend the Mayor, in the midst of a bad stretch, started a press conference by telling a reporter to “get lost.” Mr. Cuker was performing inside the Triad Theater on West 72nd Street.
Mr. Cuker, 56, a classic-car salesman and owner of a Midtown cigar bar, gave up acting years ago to make money. His performance in The Bear marked his triumphant return to the stage.
Admission to The Bear was free. The Triad’s stage, one flight up from the street, was small. About 20 people, most of whom seemed to know Mr. Cuker very well, sat in red vinyl seats around candlelit tables, drinking their two-drink minimum.
Mr. Cuker, bare-shouldered in a ripped T-shirt, continued in a baritone: “All women are pretentious, affected, gossipy, hateful, liars to the marrow of their bones, vain, petty, merciless …”
The Bear tells the story of a cranky oats salesman who comes to collect his debts from a recently widowed young woman. The two don’t get along. They disagree on many things. She challenges him to a duel with pistols. But of course Smirnov falls in love with the widow, and she with him, despite the fact she had sworn to be faithful to her late, philandering husband. They abandon the duel, and kiss passionately.
Mr. Giuliani was not in attendance that night. He had other things going on. But Mr. Cuker said the Mayor had come to see an earlier performance, on opening night.
“When I opened he came to see me,” Mr. Cuker said afterward. “He admitted that on his radio program. On the day he found out he had cancer, two hours later he came to see my opening. Because he knew I was very nervous and very anxious, and he knew that him being there would give me a lot of solace and comfort. And that’s what he did.”
So in this time of great need, both men are leaning on each other?
“Yes. That’s exactly correct. That’s exactly correct,” Mr. Cuker said. “He came, and sure enough, it helped me get through the first night.”
And that’s what friends are for.
- Ryan D’Agostino
Ol’ Dirty Comic
“I like cheese. I ain’t no rat. I like pussy, but not like that!”
It didn’t take long for the X-rated comic and philosopher Rudy Ray Moore to get to the point at Maxwell’s in Hoboken on Mother’s Day.
“I may be too old to cut the mustard,” he said, “but I sure can goddamn lick out the jar.”
The crowd hooted Mr. Moore on. Garbed in a gold shimmery jacket and beige chinos, he peered over his dark glasses at the crowd: indie-rock Hoboken hipsters in cowboy hats, mainly.
“I’m glad you all came out tonight. Because this is the biggest white crowd I’ve seen in some time.”
The audience hooted some more.
“You’re funny !” a lady yelled out.
Now in his late 60’s or early 70’s (he won’t say), Mr. Moore is a master of what was once called “signifying” and “playing the dozens,” but what may be referred to as “jive talking.” He started out as part of a post-war faux African nightclub dance act in the 1940’s. He spent 13 years, into the early 60’s, making R&B records. His singing on the albums wasn’t very good (though that hasn’t stopped Norton Records from reissuing a compilation of his early R&B singles called Hully Gully Fever ). But his between-song banter during his live performances got him noticed and eventually led to a series of comedy records in the early 70’s that would have made Redd Foxx blush. From there, Mr. Moore created the enduring character of Dolemite, the trash-talking Kung Fu star of such blaxploitation flicks as Dolemite and The Human Tornado .
Now Mr. Moore performs at comedy clubs, strip bars and colleges. He also makes guest appearances on records by rap artists such as Snoop Dogg and Big Daddy Kane, among others.
During the show at Maxwell’s, Mr. Moore stopped his act to hawk his new self-produced comedy CD Hip Shakin’ Papa , and his smutty buttons (carrying the album titles This Pussy Belongs to Me and Eat Out More Often ). He sent a guy into the crowd with a bucket of $3 back-scratchers emblazoned with the Dolemite logo. And he passed along bits of wisdom.
Here’s Mr. Moore on dating:
“Girls, use the grippers in your pussy. Good pussy puts a motherfucker to sleep. If after you give up the pussy, he puts on a jogging suit, you didn’t do it right!”
For the guys, he said simply, “Put your weight on it.”
The comic seemed honestly surprised that some in the crowd had memorized his pornographic ABC’s (sample: “P is for prick, a petrified prong, which stretches from 2 to 10 inches long”). At the end of the show, Mr. Moore thanked the audience for “letting me be myself.” The crowd cheered wildly, and Mr. Moore promised to fuck the Devil up the ass. Then he sat down at a table in the back of the room and autographed Dolemite back-scratchers long into the night.
- D. Strauss
If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Todd Zeile.
Some people thought he was slumping, and for a time, he himself had doubted that he was all there. But now, though he still fielded poorly, he felt confident, cheerful, clairvoyant and strong. He had fallen under a spell and was swatting baseballs under the sun. He was so stirred by the game that from the end of April he moved from place to place with a duffel full of gear. The clubhouse staff had carried this duffel from New York to Colorado. Three days later, he flew to San Francisco; from San Francisco, he went to a ballpark in southern Florida. Snug against the first base line, he fielded endlessly, fanatically, catching balls thrown to him by teammates, shortstops and pitchers, and from the catcher, one obscure catcher, and finally, the famous catcher.
It was the peak of spring at Shea Stadium. Zeile was alone at first base. Thousands of fans surrounded him in the park. When he opened his eyes in the night, the lights were like spiritual bodies. Fires, of course; gases, minerals, heat, atoms, but eloquent at 10 at night to a man standing near first, wearing Mets orange and blue.
All the while, one corner of his mind remained open to the external world. He heard the fans calling him names, asking for Olerud. Their harsh call was delicious. He heard the beer man at dusk. At night, there was a bad drunk. When he walked off the field, he saw pretty girls leaning over the dugout. The days were hot, the evenings flushed and dusty. At the plate, he looked keenly at the ball, but he felt half blind.
His friend, his former friend, Valentine, had spread the rumor that he wasn’t good enough, that he should have stayed in Texas. Was it true?
He was making the turn around second and saw the image of his face in the distant, pocked scoreboard. He looked weirdly tranquil. A radiant line went from mid-forehead over his straight nose and thin silent lips.
- Red Bellow