Niagara Gazette

February 9, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Cleaning up from commercial job

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Super-Bowlers — Doug endured the worst moment of his 64-year journalism career (we miscalculated last week), about 8 a.m. on a Friday 15 years ago, on the I-390 entrance near Letchworth State Park.

The previous night he’d reviewed the musical “Pippin” at Niagara University. Brother Augustine, the director, had granted him access to the preview because there’d been a death in our family and we had to make it to Harrisburg, Pa., a grueling drive, by 1 p.m. Friday for the services. The review would run the following day.

Everyone had been terrific, an easy review to write except that Doug couldn’t find the unique words to describe the wondrous skills of the narrator, or Leading Player, as the script dictates. He wrote the review with a hole it in, into which he’d insert a rave notice when better rested.

We awoke with the chickens, to learn there’d been a flood along our route and we’d have to recalculate, in those pre-GPS days. Dazed but dutiful, Doug faxed in the review (this WAS a long time ago) and we were squinting into the sunrise by 6:15.

We had a plan as precise as D-Day — quick breakfast here, change drivers there — and were ahead of schedule as we looped onto the Interstate.

“Oh, @#$%,” Doug exhaled, a torrent of trash talk. “What’s the matter?” Polly yelped, “Are we low on gas?” Doug sighed. “That I could fix,” he said. “But I forgot to write about Carmen Floyd.”

There was no way of making this right. In perhaps the finest performance of her life so far, Carmen Floyd would go unmentioned, as if beneath commentary.

We called “Bro” on return, gushing regrets, and wrote Carmen a note. “Didn’t bother her at all,” Bro said. “She says it’s no big deal.” Sure.

But now “Pippin’s” left-behind Leading Player is one of the most talked-about actresses in America, after washing out the Joe Montana stain from her husband’s sweatshirt in the Tide commercial that many hold was the Super Bowl’s best. Interviewers have swarmed her way.

Carmen is handling her literal 30 seconds of fame with classical charm, insisting on stressing what Niagara meant to her, and to others, how it trains people not only for theater, but for life. And its disappointments, such as reviewers who seemed to have been struck blind by her talent.

We were blessed to reconnect about four years ago, and fleetingly share the stage with her in a show at O’Connell & Company in Williamsville. Yes, she remembered. No, she never felt slighted.

Carmen has gained far less recognition for doing work far more complicated than laundry. But a few sudsy have made her the talk of the town, and she insists that her alma mater share the glow.

Come visit. Bring laundry.

Polly and DougE-mail