Pine Nuts – Embarrassing Moments
March 14, 2023 | McAvoy Lane
As I wind down a gratifying career as an impressionist of Mark Twain, certain hilarious, if embarrassing, moments come to mind. Back in ’88, having discovered how much fun it can be to stop time and step into history, I accepted an invitation to the governor’s mansion to present, “Becoming Mark Twain.” Excited? Yes. I donned my new white suit, grabbed a cigar, and headed down to Carson City. Full to the brim with pride at having memorized an hour-long program, I forgot to put gasoline in my vehicle and ran out of gas at the top of Spooner.
So I stood out there on Highway 50 in my white suit, waved my cigar, and hoped somebody would recognize Mark Twain and give him a lift.
Several folks passed us by before an elderly gentleman, perhaps the oldest person ever to sit behind a steering wheel, pulled his chicken truck off the road and took us in.
As I climbed into the cab, feathers flew everywhere and I started sneezing. I thanked the elderly gentleman, and once we were back on the highway, he looked me over, and said, “You look like, maybe…somebody I should know.”
I smiled, and feeling full of myself, extended my hand, “Me, mui viejo, Mark Twain!”
He scratched the stubble on his chin, smiled, extended his hand, and boasted with no little pride, “Me, Ponce de Leon!”
So there we were, Ponce de Leon and Mark Twain, riding in a chicken truck down Highway 50 into Carson City. He was kind enough to take me straight to the governor’s mansion and drop me off. We shook hands again and I hoped he might always remember meeting Mark Twain, because I knew I would always remember meeting Ponce de Leon.
Another amusing, if embarrassing incident happened at the Nugget, when John Ascuaga brought out his pet elephant Bertha to warm up the crowd for Mark Twain. While Bertha was enjoying a round of applause, Bertha’s handler saddled up to me and said, “You brought me some trouble, Mr. Twain.”
Quite surprised, I asked, “Well now, how could that be?”
“Mr. Ascuaga and his daughter are giving me conflicting orders. Miss Ascuaga is telling me to follow Bertha, while Mr. Ascuaga is telling me to follow you around with this shovel.”
The very next day I was elated to get a call from Carol Piper Marshall, asking if I would present two shows a day, six days a week at Piper’s Opera House for the four months of summer…wow. I was able to try out Twain material on 200 live audiences and find out which passages recite, and which passages I should save for a rainy day. If Carol had told me back then, that we were launching a career to span 35 years, and that I would be presenting the last hurrah back at Piper’s in September of 2023, well, I should have asked for her hand and kissed it…