Last Laugh

Father Time

By Clint McElroy

To: C.E. McElroy
From: The Officers of the Zem Zem Band

Clint McElroyThose words are etched on the back of a gold wristwatch my mom gave me on my 50th birthday. I am not, nor ever have been, a member of the Shriners’ Zem Zem Band. (I wish!) Neither am I the “C.E. McElroy” inscribed upon it. I am his little boy, C.E. McElroy Jr.

It’s a great watch. Beautiful. Well taken care of. It’s just not my style. I like big ugly watches that light up and tell the date, atmospheric pressure, heart rate, temperature and shoe size and cost about $25 at Wal-Mart. So I kept the watch in its box in the place where I keep my most precious treasures: my underwear drawer.

Then I had a reason to drag it out.

A very talented young man named Justin Havey contacted me. Justin had seen me as the father, Baptista Minola, in Marshall University’s recent production of William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, directed by Jack Cirillo; he wanted to know if I would be interested in playing a father in a short film he was shooting in and around Huntington.

Being the ham that I am, I said, “Yes.” Plus, I got to work with some of my favorite actors from Marshall: Michael Ross, Tim Woda, Michael Norton, Ruthie Stanley, Trevor Jones, Grae Greer, Ryan Cardwell, Jacinda Wallace, Emily Pritchard, Luke Hagley and the always animated Jordan Marx. (She played the Bride of Frankenstein when I directed Monster at MU.)

The film is a moody, spooky piece called Identity. How moody and how spooky you ask? Our first eight hours we spent filming in a mortuary. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot because we are trying to work out a big Hollywood-style premiere screening in Huntington in the fall.

I was getting into costume in my dressing room (my bedroom at Casa McElroy, Ironton, Ohio – look for it on your “Homes of the Stars” tour), and I thought, “I should probably wear pants.” My next thought was, “I’m playing a dad. I should wear my dad’s watch.” I dove in amongst the boxers and tighty whities, snagged the box and slapped the watch on my wrist.

Fast forward to three hours later. I am standing in the middle of a mortuary, being an actor, trying to create a character without overplaying it. I am having a hard time. As you might expect I don’t care for funeral homes – for obvious reasons – and I am just not “getting it.” That’s a tough circumstance for someone who gets paid good, hard American dollars to teach acting, albeit adjunctly.

So I decided I would come up with some “business.” Business is a term for the actions actors perform pertaining to their hands, body, etc. It can help you develop your character, provide motivation and make the director think you’re actually doing something. I decided to wind my watch. It seemed like the kind of action a distracted father would do when he was trying very hard not to think about all the sadness around him.

I did a little research into the Servelle Watch Company. I couldn’t find anything, even on Google. I have to assume they are no longer in business.

Maybe they should be, because they did great work.

The hands of the watch began to move.

My dad’s watch still worked.Clint McElroy

Nearly 50 years since he last wore it. Nearly 50 years since his fingers wound that little knob to give it life. Nearly 50 years since that beautiful, gold time machine ran.

It ran, and oh how it ran. In fact, it still runs and it keeps perfect time. I know because I am wearing it.

I killed the rest of the shoot. I was inspired and energized and turned in the best performance I could.

Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad.

Folks, the gifts you are passing along to you kids really do have an impact. You may never see that impact, but it will happen. Make sure you’re giving them good gifts.

And the adventure continues …

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