by Chris Pina

I went to Catholic elementary school. That’s why I am a comic. And the nuns were the teachers. Like they didn’t have enough to do being married to the King of Kings, they had to teach too. They hated any playfulness or affection between the boys and girls. These nuns were scary, sadistic and sexless women. Thus the name - nun. „Never got nun, never will get nun, Don’t want nun‰. They were incensed by boys and girls holding hands, dancing close or sending love notes. One time, in Seventh Grade, after classes, on school grounds, my friend and classmate, Desi Arnaz Jr. and I -- Yes, Desi Arnaz, the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Sr. - were cramming five girls into the back of Desi’s family station wagon for an after school pool party as a fast-approaching Sister Angela Marie, the principal, blew the hell out of her sports whistle and angrily waved for us to return. And what did we, two intensely horny 7th Grade boys, with five girls schmooshed in the back of a station wagon do? We waved back, laughing at the nun as we sped off, leaving her to “EAT OUR DUST!”.

That evening, both our mothers were called by the principal and asked to come down to school the next day to discuss our inappropriate behavior. So, my Mom, Anita Pina, and Desi’s mom, Mrs. Morton, (because she was married to Gary Morton), were sent to the principal’s office. My mom likened the experience to being Ethel Mertz as Lucy Ricardo talked them out of trouble. So, Mrs. Morton and Mrs. Pina arrive the next day to the principal’s office as Desi and I were in class busily learning to hate Jews. As my Mom told it, the nun explained that she found our behavior intolerable and lascivious and we were „horning in with girls‰. Then Mrs. Morton tore into that nun-man like a commando - “What’s wrong with boys and girls getting together after school? So what if they were horning‚ in the back of a station wagon? That was MY driver who drove MY station wagon to MY home. What are you trying to do to Desi and Chris? Turn them into homosexuals?”.

My Mom’s eyes widened. Mrs. Morton continued, “Let them have fun with girls. The kids are alter boys, They’re not priests! Okay, Sista?”. She said „sister‰ like Queen Latifa in a cat fight. The nun turned red and apologetically expressed she never meant to INFER that female interaction isn’t encouraged at the school. Mrs. Morton saved our asses and the nuns never forgot it. Growing up, Mrs. Morton was always in my life. Every school day, I’d ride my bike down Benedict Canyon to Desi’s house, park it against the garage, climb into the station wagon and go to school. But, Desi would inevitably be late which had me loitering around a busy morning kitchen that had two maids cooking and serving breakfast. It was like a buffet and I must’ve looked a homeless guy at a soup kitchen because I’d always take their invitation to join in. Or, if Mrs. Morton noticed me, she’d say to the housekeeper, „Willie May, feed Chris. He’s eying my eggs.”

I’d always would look forward to goofing off at Desi’s. Swimming, basketball, making Super-8 films, phony phone calls, listening to rock music and, oh, occasionally doing homework. Mrs. Morton was there, either directing us for our high school drama class or supplying us with breakaway bottles and prop guns for the Cub Scout Talent Show. She was always encouraging us to express ourselves. One day, Desi and I came up with a great idea to get girls. We decided to put up a stage play version of the film comedy, „Some Like It Hot‰. Ambitious? Yes. Realistic? No. The plan was to audition all willing actresses from the Eighth Grade, award them supporting roles and then have sex with them. Like I said, realistic? - NO! The idea seemed do-able, but unfortunately, the girls weren’t. But, who got us eight scripts of Billy Wilder‚s actual screenplay for the production? Mrs. Morton. Who helped us cast the auditions? Mrs. Morton. Who was butting in on our plan for action? Morton.

Desi’s mom was taking over the production! All we wanted was to French kiss girls. All the potential actresses were so enamored with Desi’s mom that we never really got „any‰. I didn’t get it, the woman would work all day on „HERE’S LUCY‰, run Desilu Studios and then find time to putz with our little play? Mrs. Morton was definitely cramping our style. We never got the play up and we never got anything else up either. The upside was that Mrs. Morton instructed us on how to mount a show and most importantly, she encouraged us to continue acting. It’s one of the reasons I‚m an actor today. When Desi and I escaped from Catholic School and entered public high school, we were asked by his sister, Lucie Arnaz, who was attending Immaculate Heart High School, AN ALL GIRL’S HIGH SCHOOL, may I add, to audition for a school musical. We thought - an all-girl high school wants us to audition for a play! Wait. Why does this sound familiar? Then it hit us. This was our “Some Like It Hot” scam turned around on us.

So, we auditioned and were awarded the best roles in a Broadway, Roaring 20‚s musical, “The Boyfriend”. Desi was the young, romantic lead and I was cast as the character lead - a dirty old man named Lord Brookhurst. During rehearsals, there were girls running around everywhere. And they were AS willing as we were. GOSH, this was going to be a great show! We rehearsed for weeks, getting very close with our fellow thespians, partying together any chance we had, and experiencing teenage romantic interludes. This musical was my introduction to sex... and comedy. That’s why, to this day, my girlfriend laughs during sex... So, there’s a sea of girls... and Desi and me. We were like two pigs in poop. And those nuns were worse than at our old school . They had epaulettes and facial hair! Yikes! But, we just put on our „Eddie Haskell‰ face, learned our lines, hit our marks and after rehearsal, it was girls, girls, girls! Then, the big night came. My mother, father and brother arrived, Desi’s parents showed, though with different spouses. The place was packed. It was electric. I did my own make-up - having done monster make-up since the ripe age of nine and turned myself into a rosy cheeked, elderly rascal, complete with tails, a top hat and a cane. The curtain went up and the show began. It was there, at the wings, I got to see the whole show. It was at that moment, I realized, that I had never paid attention to the story of the show. I knew my cues, my own lines, entrances and exits, but never knew what the story was about. Anyway, I was on stage, singing, dancing and getting laughs. Big laughs. It was thrilling. I never felt so alive. I wanted to make them laugh more and they did! I performed the „Never Too Late To Fall In Love‰ duet with Lucie Arnaz. I thought I got away with murder because I was really doing (go into voice) „the Mad Hatter from the television series, BATMAN‰. The show ended. We took our bows to a gleeful, standing crowd. It hit me like a wave of love. This was almost better than sex... Almost. Afterward, in the dressing room, my parents were so proud and encouraging.

I knew then, they believed in me and would stand by me if I wanted try acting again. As I was hugging my father, I glanced past him into to these grinning eyes. These beautiful smiling green eyes and this bright red hair that broke the room’s light like a bonfire. It was Mrs. Morton. She rose from her chair in her pink pants suit and approached me with arms outstretched. I broke my embrace with my father and rushed to her. We hugged. She gently braced my face, stroking my cheeks and smiling proudly, like I’d never seen, and then she said, „You are a little genius‰. My mom overheard this and since that moment, and up to her death, she always reminded me of that, not to mention reminding everyone she knew.

Until today, I’ve only told these stories to a select few because I thought my mom had exploited Mrs. Morton’s kind words and I was embarrassed she did it.

Now, after my mom‚s death, I realized why she told people that Lucy called her son a genius - because she was proud of me... Listen, folks, I‚m not a genius. It‚s just nice Mrs. Morton said it and my mother believed it.

As the years passed, I would see Mrs. Morton at family functions, parties, and the like, and she was always warm and inviting. We would play backgammon for hours and drink booze. I would be playing and look up, smashed on coke and rum, and see this weathered, inebriated, comic icon and think, „Mrs. Morton is fucked up‰.

Later, in the Eighties, Gary Morton contacted me to write an episode of her new sit-com on ABC. It was a sad kind of show. The venerable Lucille Ball, a woman in her seventies, was reduced to recreating the madcap Lucy from days of old. I sold the script which had Lucy reuniting with an old high school love who turned out to be a homeless man. I was attempting to expose a softer, more touching side of Lucy.

Well, apparently she liked the script and I was asked to come down to the set and watch a rehearsal for another episode. I entered the sound stage, serpentining Stage 2, searching for Mrs. Morton. Finally, after tripping over power cords and grips, I stumbled upon Desi's mom. She didn't notice me as she waited for her cue, sitting on an apple crate, behind the facade, staring to the ground, looking beat tired. I remember wondering if she had it in her anymore. I stood there in silence. She lifted her head and readied herself for her entrance. She felt my presence and turned in my direction. At that exact moment, the director came over the intercom and asked Mrs. Morton to enter the scene. In mime, she gestured for me to stay. So, I remained there, on an Astroturf front lawn of her fake sit-com home waiting for Mrs. Morton. She returned, and like that night in the dressing room at the all-girl‚s school, Mrs. Morton approached me and braced her hands around my face, kissed me and said, „Chris, my sweet, I enjoyed your script, but I just found out they’re canceling my show‰.

Then, I realized why she had looked so down. Her last hurrah had hurried away. She had been cancelled for her first time in her television career. My script would never be performed by my best friends mom. But, that was okay because I knew I was funny and Mrs. Morton thought so too.