it's funny, last spring i had to go to india to get a hernia operation. i took the opportunity for an inexpensive vacation, staying a month after i had recuperated. on a bus to goa they played a movie, i didn't catch the name. there were songs, of course, and dancing, the whole bollywood routine. then an office scene, lots of straight lines, der fuehrer at his desk. he stood up, walked to his war map, a marvelous ditty about barbarossa on his lips. my fellow travelers on the bus turned and looked at me in awe.
springtime for hitler, indeed
I took a year out from it. I was done with the whole thing. I started playing keyboards in a Sparks tribute band, started painting again in colors other than red and black. I changed the way I brushed my hair, took a master gardener course and planted an allotment. My day job felt like less of a grind without the black dog of my other activities.
Then, one day, a phone call from my agent.
"Tom, I know you were taking some time off, but they're casting for Valkyrie and Roger Mussenden asked for you by name."
I go numb. I hear my voice make appointments to come in for a reading. In the background, the black dog growls softly.
no one else understands what its like to have skinheads as your biggest fans. your only fans. smelly white trash whispering "fourteen eighty-eight, brother" in your ear at sam's club. there's no such thing as a discrete sieg heil salute but those dumb motherfuckers try it anyway, right there next to the frozen shrimp platters.
they really need to think out their scheduling better.
This morning they were pushed at Paramount and we had to share the green room. Usually I wouldn't mind, except for who they were auditioning next door.
The fucking Jesuses.
It's easy to be a Jesus. You grow your hair out, get a beard, smoke a bowl before you come, and you're giving out that infinite love shit like a burning coal gives out heat. What's more, you don't get any shit for being a Jesus. Nobody looks at you funny in the deli. Nobody goose steps behind you when all you want to do is get to the stop and get the bus home. Jesuses just blend right in and nobody gives a fuck because it's just one more hippy.
Even this wouldn't be so bad if they weren't so fucking smug about it. Forget Jim Calveziel and Robert Powell, both true thesps, most Jesuses are either smug post-ironic dickheads or devout born-agains who think that playing the One True Son will give them some kind of consciousness expansion.
I don't know who made the first comment, but I do know who threw the first punch. Lachlan should have given up the Jesus gig ten years ago, nobody wants a Jesus going gray at the temples. He's old enough and wise enough to know better than to whistle the Dad's Army theme around Tobias. Tobias was a dick to hit back, but when it kicked off, I wasn't swinging for Tobias. I was swinging for Hitler.
The train shut down two stops out from my exit. Bad weather, the stations were swamped. So I walked, collar hiked up, as the thick, greasy sky poured down. The rain was coming down at just the right angle to slip beneath the brim of my hat and trickle down my collar--by the time I hit my own block I was soaked from neck to ankles. I wanted to stop at Sal's, get a drink, but Gina's been so distant lately...I couldn't take the chance. And besides, I didn't want the look the locals always give Hitler when he sidles up to the bar.
I get home half past late. The kids' windows are dark, but the bedroom light's on. So it's another argument tonight, angry whispers to keep from waking the girls, and a bitter sleep on opposite sides of our bed. It's been building to something for months, I know it. Gina's the only woman who's stayed with me this long, who's put up with the life: the stares, the jokes, the long hours and scanty pay. I'm the only one of our group who's stayed married for more than a year--and as I creep up the stairs as quiet as I can, with creaking boards and wet footprints behind me, I can feel the fear coiling in my stomach. Things are about to change.
I push the door open as softly as I can. "Gina?" She's in bed already, reading, little round glasses pushed up on her nose. She looks like she's about to nod off. But...
But she's wearing the nightie I bought her on our honeymoon. And as she looks up at me, her eyes light up like searchlights on a Berlin rooftop. She slips from the bed and walks towards, me, and all I can do is stare. Her hair's done up in buns, but this morning it was mousey brown--now it's honeywheat gold.
She comes to me, starts easing the coat off my shoulders. "Gina?" She puts a finger to my lips. "No, not Gina. Eva." Her Bavarian accent is flawless.
I'm the luckiest Hitler on Earth.
Everyone always assumes the mustache is the worst part. It's the most iconic, sure, but I've gone from zero to Hitler in about a week. The devil is in the details, mostly. Once I got done filming and shaved, immediately feeling like the old, familiar weight was once again off my shoulders. It wasn't until the waitress at Perkin's looked at me with that equally old and familiar glare that I realized the combination of mirror-polished boots and conspicuous comb-over gave me away. I think she spit on my eclair, but I can't prove it. And even if I could, they'd blame me. There's no such thing as Hitler the victim.
the pain starts in my left arm. I knew I should have gone to the doctor sooner. Too many breakfasts from catering trucks on crappy sets, too many nervous cigarettes in audition rooms, too much schnapps drunk in shots as rewards for memorizing lines.
Please, I think as I hit the floor, the pain spreading and pulsing in constricting waves please don't let me die dressed like this.
I start to see visions of late night comedians and stifled giggles at my funeral, as the room goes black around me.
It was purely an accident that three of the other Hitlers and I discovered we could all sing. We were all waiting to audition for the most humiliating of Hitler roles, The Producers. To pass the time, we all jokingly sang lines from the song. Then, just for fun, we tried it in three part harmony. All the Goebbelses said it was beautiful, though they might have just been trying to get into character. It turned out we all knew all the words to Das Deutschlandlied (a coincidence I am still grateful for) and before we knew what was happening, we had formed The Singing Hitlers. It may not be the most respectable of Hitler work, but it sure beats reciting speeches in German-tinged English for rowdy crowds in red suspenders.
if one more suicide hotline operator hangs up on me after I tell them what I do for a living and that I'm thinking about sticking my head in my oven and turning on the gas I swear to god
midday. i awake in traction, hung over from another night of drinking. my hand trembles as i reach over to the nightstand for a cigarrette. what the fuck did i drink? some schnapps...a long, slow belch confirms it. dry heaves. oh god, my daughter. i remember now that she wet the bed. the poor girl came out to the living room with her head hung low, almost whispering that she was sorry but that she had made a mistake. ash, i'm so sorry...daddy was strung out from playing hitler's last days in the bunker. the scene called for me to yell in an unhinged, maniacal way at my underlings, and burgdorf (some two-bit aryan who auditioned for hitler and was pissed he didn't get the role) kept breaking character. fucking, what? at least fifteen takes. by the end i didn't know who i was anymore. oh god, now i remember the drinking started at six. by eight, which was ashley's bed time, i was out of it. linda was at pilates'...so i took her to bed. maybe i thought it was funny at the time, but i basically ranted and raved at her as she lay there crying. ashley, you lost us the war! ashley, you're too weak to deserve anything but annihilation at the hands of soviet dogs! ashley, you...you failed as a daughter...finally i calmed down and left her there. it wasn't a half hour later that she came down and then i lost it again, ranting in german this time. i don't even speak german...it was just a bunch of "gefagen"s and "schlitz"es screamed in a way onlny a seasoned drunken hitler can scream. did i wash the sheets? where was linda? oh jesus, i'm sorry..
A HUNGRY MOUTH
The Hitlers lucky enough to afford houses work especially hard to fit in. The whole neighborhood knows. People talk, after all. But when Hitler's a director of the homeowners' association, there's not much they can do.
Prince of PURRsia
Painters have Picasso. Composers have Mozart. Directors have Hitchcock. For us, the pinnacle of our profession, the one who elevated it from craft to art, is Ralph Manza.
You've seen him, particularly in TV shows and movies from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. He sometimes played roles other than Hitler ("Notlers," we call them), for back in those early days, they had not yet realized being Hitler was itself a calling. Yet his Internet Movie Database credits list is incomplete, for it leaves off more than 200 appearances as Hitler, beginning with a role in a wartime propaganda film when he was a soldier on the European front. He invented the role of Hitler, defined it, but as Hitler, he was uncredited - always uncredited. It was not the credit he craved, but the understanding of what it meant to truly "be a Hitler."
Then finally, in 1974, his moment had arrived. It was, in all things, a comedy by Mel Brooks, the very man who had mocked and debased being Hitler in The Producers not six years earlier. It was one line, but Manza knew it was his moment, the culmination of his life's work, the chance to show the world with characteristic dignity, wit and flair what it meant, not just to be Hitler, but to be a Hitler.
"They lose me after the bunker scene," he said.
This was it. Art about art. The world of a Hitler explained in a seven-word monologue in Manza's inimitable way.
Then the movie came out. Manza was at the premiere. He sat all the way through the credits. His name was not listed. Not once.
After that, Manza never played Hitler again. Seven years later, Brooks begged him to revise the role for History of the World Part I, but Manza refused. So Brooks played "Hitler on Ice" himself - and perhaps in recognition for how he had robbed Manza, did not credit himself in that role. But it was too late. The damage had been done.
For the rest of his life, Manza was a Notler. He turned to drinking. In 2000, he died of what the doctors called a "heart attack," but which all Hitlers knew to be a broken heart.
Every year, we hold a banquet - nothing fancy, just a small dinner at a country club or Holiday Inn conference room. We print out certificates for awards to give one another. The awards are called the Manzies in his honor.
Hitler Secrets: Ray has to wrap his pelvis with ace bandages so the camera doesn't pick up his erection. He does it at home before he comes in and goes to makeup and wardrobe. He tells everyone he knows how to sweat on command. Truth be told, we kind of envy him - glycerin gets incredibly tacky under stage lighting. We're still not sure what to do if he starts dating someone.
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