Wild weddings offer best memories
ELKTON — “Went to a fancy, upscale wedding last weekend,” I told Cuffs, the North Street Hotel’s infamous grump.
“Am I supposed to be impressed?” he asked, adding, “So what? It’s summer, also known as Wedding Season. Everybody gets invited to those silly parties. Except me, of course.”
“I’m really surprised to hear that,” I replied. “I’da thought you’d be on everybody’s A list. Or, to quote the late great singer Old Blue Eyes: ‘You’re A No. 1. Top of the heap. King of the hill.’ ”
“You trying to be funny?” Cuffs asked in a snarly tone.
“Sorta,” I said. Then added, “Let’s be honest, Cuffs. The life of the party you’re not. You roaming a backyard barbecue is like a junkyard dog prancing around with a lit stick of dynamite. Everybody’d be terrified, wondering when you’d go off.
“Plus,” I continued, “you never go to anything, even when asked. That’s why you don’t get invited.”
“Well,” he said slowly, “I’m probably not missing much. How was your fancyschmancey affair? Do some serious dancing? Enjoy some good eats? Pick up some hot chicks?”
“None of the above,” I replied. “Wasted four hours of my life. Sat through a long, boring ceremony. Preacher musta thought he was there to recruit new sheep to his flock. There were no embarrassing moments. Whole reception was scripted like a political fundraiser. Worst of all, the music was so loud you had to shout to be heard — and even that didn’t work.”
“What’d you expect?” Cuffs said. “So you’re saying nobody started a fight, got tossed in jail, or had their car stolen.”
“Of course not,” I said. “What kind of wacky weddings did you go to?”
“That’s what it was like when I was in the entertainment business. Those were common crazy events back in the good old days.”
I recalled hearing that Elkton’s agitated elder at one time had a brief career as a wedding band singer and roadie — working the stage and setting up sound equipment in reception halls.
“Got paid decent bucks, plus free meals and all the booze I could drink,” he said. “Even now, years later, I remember those wild receptions — that turned into disasters — as clear as day. But the ones with no excitement or problems are a big forgotten blur.”
Without much prompting, Cuffs recalled some of the bizarre incidents he had viewed from the bandstand.
“There was this time, at an old VFW hall in Delaware,” he said, “when the bride and groom were sharing their wedding cake. On the count of three, the couple was supposed to smear a little bit of icing on their spouse’s face. Encouraging guests to laugh and take pictures.
“Instead, this groom — who musta been high on booze or steroids — slammed his cake against the bride’s skull. Poor girl fell back, and her head crashed against the tile floor. I mean, she was out for the count. They got a few ushers to haul her into the lady’s room. She musta been seeing stars, ’cause nobody saw her for the rest of the night.” “But the reception continued?” “Of course. We still had two hours of open bar left. Nobody from that crowd was leaving as long as they were pouring.”
“Tell me about the time the cops raided that fire hall in Kent County,” I urged him.
Cuffs’ eyes lit up, as he recalled that sacred scene. “That had to be the wildest one, ever. These two families absolutely hated each other. Had a longstanding, Delmarva feud, right outta the Hatfields and McCoys.”
Both sides had agreed to a truce through midnight of the wedding day, which would allow the happy couple to get through the evening reception and escape from the county unharmed. But an argument over how much money each side would tip the bartenders ignited a fuse.
“When it exploded,” Cuffs recalled, “chairs were flying across the hall. Plates of food became deadly weapons, and beer bottles were soaring like rockets. Somebody called the cops, and both county and state police cars arrived. After surrounding the building, police burst into the hall and started clearing out the mob with their nightsticks.”
“Me and the guys in the band hunkered down behind overturned tables. It was like being in the middle of a battle. There were bodies flat on the floor, blood on the walls. Women wailing like it was a funeral. If that happened today, somebody’d get rich selling their cellphone video to cable news.”
After taking a deep breath and savoring the memory, Cuffs said, “That had to be the best of the worst I’ve ever witnessed. I mean, you had to be there to believe it.” “What happened to the bride and groom?” “Poor slob bit a cop and spent his wedding night in a cell. She made it home with her folks. They got the wedding annulled, and each of them married one of their own kin within the year. But more than 40 years later, locals still talk about the ‘marriage massacre.’ Everybody claims they were there, even though it was a small affair. But proud locals tend to insert themselves into that kind of historic event.”
I had to ask the next question. “Is it true some drunk took out a wedding cake?”
“God!” Cuffs shouted. “That was a great one, too. Happened at a church hall near Newark. Supposed to be a real classy affair. Some rich, car dealer’s daughter marrying an uppity real estate guy’s son.” “Get to the good part,” I urged him. Smiling, Cuffs watched the event unfold in his mind.
“They had this mega size cake. As I recall, it was an emotional event,” Cuffs added. “Even the wedding cake had tiers.” He paused and flashed a smile. “I’m talking ‘tears.’ Get it?” I groaned, and signaled him to continue. Cuffs said it was a highbrow crowd. Big money people. No expenses spared. But somebody brought in the wacky uncle that the bride’s family kept locked in the attic. Guy was rarely allowed out in public — and then only under strict supervision.
But Uncle Chuck had a decent voice. After a few drinks, he thought he was Dean Martin.
“Halfway through the evening,” Cuffs said, “Chuck climbs up on the bandstand and announces he’s the bride’s uncle and she wants him to sing her a tune.” Cuffs paused to add, “Of course he’s lying, but the band doesn’t care. Usually, we’d just hand wannabe crooners a dead microphone, and play louder to drown the singer out.”
On this occasion, Uncle Chuck took the stage and really got into it. Started swaying and dancing with the microphone. When his legs got tangled in the cords, he fell off the stage — landing on the table holding the cake.
Laughing at the memory, Cuffs said, “The poor slob took out all seven tiers of dessert. When he got up, it looked like the Abominable Snowman crawling outta his snow cave. He wasn’t hurt, though. Drunks never are. Just covered in white icing.”
“Then there was the time the best man took off with the newlyweds’ car. He intended to hide it for a few hours, but smashed it into a tree. Totaled the thing, and walked back to the hall. Downed a few beers at the bar, like nothing happened.”
After releasing his laugh, Cuffs said, “Those were great days. Live bands. No canned music. Lots of booze. Big buffets. I kid you not. Anything could happen — and sometimes did. While it was embarrassing at the time, those rogue moments provided memories that have lived on — and even gotten bigger and better with age.
“Unfortunately,” he added, “nice and boring — and too loud — are the norm today. But I’d prefer an unconscious bride, jailed groom, smashed cake, and wrecked car anytime.”
Editor’s note: Cuffs will be on vacation for the next few weeks.