Wild wed­dings of­fer best mem­o­ries

Cecil Whig - - CLASSIFIED CHESAPEAKE - By ED OKONOWICZ Spe­cial to the Whig

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.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY ED OKONOWICZ

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