Archive for the ‘Tales from the Telegrams’ Category
22 Jun

The Real Life: Tales from the Telegrams, Pt. 1

Yup, this is me as the Pink Elephant!

During my college days in Boston, I ended up working as a singing telegram. The job had its advantages – I traveled all around Boston, made great tips, and barely ever worked before 11:00 a.m.  The telegram company had several costumes that a client could choose from for the delivery. Included in the menagerie was a basic circus ringleader outfit (boring) and two popular client favorites, the gorilla and the chicken. The gorilla was an expensive, nice costume, but it was heavy and hot making it awful during the summer. The chicken was getting old and raggedy, but I created a character for the chicken that people liked and I often got requests to do the chicken from repeat clients. Then there was the bumblebee. I really hated that one. Luckily, it was rarely requested so I was able to keep the mental damage to a minimum. If you remember the killer bees sketch from SNL, that was the costume. As if singing a lame song to a roomful of people isn’t humiliating enough, add the bee costume with tights and antennae to it and the phrase “paying your dues” takes on a whole new meaning. But my favorite costume was the pink elephant. It was brand new and I was the first one to use it. The costume was a bit cumbersome with the round feet, big head, and hooped center, but it was very light and when I walked the hoop moved back and forth creating quite an image. Plus it just looked fun.

My favorite telegram in the pink elephant was something I did on the spur of the moment. I had finished a late morning telegram in downtown Boston and had some down time before the next job when I heard on the radio that Natalie Cole was going to be appearing at a record store signing autographs and promoting her latest album “Dangerous.” This was in 1985 right before she started to burst back on the pop music charts with “Pink Cadillac” and other hits. I’m not sure what possessed me, but I thought it would be an interesting promotional thing to pop in on Natalie Cole and do a singing telegram for her. My thought was that there would be a lot of people there and I’d easily get in with the costume and do the promotion and hand out cards. The record store was on the way home so I drove over, got in the pink elephant costume, wrote up some special lyrics to one of our standard songs, and waddled my way into the record store. Unfortunately, when I walked in there was barely anyone in the store. Just a few shoppers and a table in back where Natalie Cole was with her mother, a PR person and a handful of folks getting autographs. I felt kind of bad that hardly anyone was there, so I decided to buy her album. I grabbed the album and did a little skip-dance over to the table. I put the album on the table and then proceeded to do the telegram and hand her a certificate. They really liked it – more so than I expected. All of a sudden everyone is taking pictures of me with Natalie Cole! Her mom was snapping pictures and then I had to pose with her as well. They were all very nice and really appreciated the effort. I was always sad that I never got one of the pictures that was taken that day, but I did get the album signed.  It says “To Aaron the Pink Elephant – Thanks!  Love, Natalie Cole.” I still have it and always will. It was one of my favorite moments as a singing telegram. But there are a few more…

Stories real and surreal of days singing telegrams will be shared in upcoming posts.