“Gaieties is really nothing more than one two-hour inside
joke,” says Vince Foecke, ’ 81, MS ’82, who worked on the shows
as a “backstage guy” from 1977 to 1995. Without Gaieties how
could freshmen thoroughly understand the Cal rivalry or dorm
traditions? Typical: All the years writers worked the line “
Branner sucks” into the Gaieties script.
Gaieties casts are known for their camaraderie, the perhaps inevitable byproduct of mounting any show. Things
aren’t always the crucible described in the 1954 report by
technical director Albert L. Gibson, ’ 55, but the details in his
seven-page account of di;culties faced and barely surmounted
—“There is really only one main cause of di;culty in pro-
ducing a ‘Gaieties,’ the fact that the material and its running
order are never set until the very last moment, and this means
up to and including the final performance.”
—“[A]ny T.D. must be prepared and able” to “spend twelve
hours a day in the shop for the last two weeks.”
—Props was “a thankless job” that required the acquisition
of “two dummies: one human and one bloodhound, a jukebox
with the record playing mechanism removed, but the lighting
mechanism intact, a Christmas tree (silver), which proved
rather di;cult to find in the middle of November on about a
week’s notice, a window shade ten feet long, a telescope six feet
long” and more.
—Costumes were slow to be built; the sound crew could
never scrounge enough mics; the preset lighting had deficien-cies that might have been “apparent to even the most untutored audience member,” the orchestra played a volume that
overwhelmed diction-impaired actors; ASSU purchasing procedures were maddening.
His report ended: “It was fun!”
Wally White, ’ 51, remembers, “I loved working with other
people.” Initially crushed when he was not cast in the show his
freshman year, he started submitting songs as a sophomore.
Conductor Kirke Mechem, ’ 51, encouraged White as he went
on to write a dozen or so Gaieties songs, including “Big Red
Machine”—a finale that became a football-game staple for a
number of years. White became a New Yorker writer; Mechem
is a San Francisco composer known for choral works and the
Jason Richman, ’09, participated in Gaieties all four years
he was on campus and now works as an assistant at United Tal-
ent Agency in Los Angeles. Hired in January 2006 as the pro-
ducer for that year’s From Cal With Love, Richman loved the
entire process, including the three-hour-a-day rehearsals all
fall quarter. “It was my life for 11 months,” he says. “It’s this
baby that you birth.”
And rather as it goes with every parent’s own baby, every
generation thinks its Gaieties is the funniest. “The best show
is always the show that you’re in,” says Marjorie Schuetz, ’ 10. ■
K;;;; S;;;;;;;, ’83, writes the Cardinal Conversations blog at
alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/blogs. She played clarinet in the
orchestras for the 1980 Gaieties and two spring musicals.
64 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2011
Mem Aud’s stage sometimes
led to bigger ones.
EXOTIC LOCALE: ‘Mayhem in Marakesh’ from 1958.
“We understand that your studio is seeking new talent,” starts
a 1937 letter from the Ram’s Head dramatic manager sent to
MGM, Columbia, RKO, Paramount, 20th Century Fox and
other Hollywood colossi. “In this connection we would like to
announce our Big Game Gaieties on November 10. . . . We
wonder if you would be interested in sending a talent scout.”
Here are a few names—a not-at-all comprehensive list—
for your consideration.
WINSTEAD “DOODLES” WEAVER,’ 35, philosophy (1911-83)
Ram’s Head: Performer in several Gaieties.
Career: Actor, musician and word-playful comedian
whose work spanned decades of radio, comedy recordings
What’s more: He was an early contributor to Mad magazine.
In his persona as Professor
Feetlebaum, he gave Abe
Lincoln a thorough copy-editing (and a grade of C-)
STANFORD QUAD 1959; STANFORD QUAD 1937
BIG COMIC ON CAMPUS:
Weaver, front right with other
Ram’s Head o;cers, was a
go-to funnyman on Stanford
stages. He played soccer, too.