Edinburgh Stories

Edinburgh International Festival

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Actor Anthony Zerbe imitating the T. Nelson Downs coin star.

On the sidewalk outside of the Assembly Rooms on George Street was a perfect venue for us to busk during the festival with people coming and going to see the shows until after midnight.

The building hosted a slew of performances such as the classic comedy Playboy of the Western World in the main theatre and a one-man show in the Wildman Room by the American actor Anthony Zerbe, celebrating the poetry of E. E. Cummings. After watching five of Jim’s shows in a row, Zerbe introduced himself. He pointed to a button Jim was wearing that said, “It’s All Done With Mirrors.”
    “I can’t believe it,” Zerbe said to us, whipping out a tri-fold brochure advertising his show ‘It’s All Done With Mirrors.’ “This is what I’m doing here in the rooms. A serendipitous occasion that we met, don’t you think?”

   We broke bread at our favorite Italian restaurant almost every night afterward in Edinburgh’s Old Town that served meals until two in the morning and shared stories. Zerbe commented that he was always acting out the part whereas Jim was the part. Impressed by Jim's version of the Cups and Balls, Zerbe wrote a poem on an envelope and gave it to us:

 

all accumulated years
dropping
with my (and every) rendered pre-adolescent
jaw
while three (growing bald) balls
missdirect
three oranges into
one grapefruit plus two
(tons of pence/pounds/pesetas)

 

The Fringe added hundreds of avant-garde performances during the same three weeks in August. Buskers were allowed to do their acts not only outside but at any cabaret, bar, or venue throughout the city, and pass the hat. We camped at a luxurious campground two miles away in tents that our friend Chris “The Piss” Lynam provided. Each day for three weeks I threw all of our change into two large pillowcases. At the end of the festival, Chris helped me drag the pillowcases

up the sidewalk from the car to the Royal Bank

of Scotland on Princes Street. I had the dubious honor of weighing and packaging the most change the bank had ever received to convert into pound notes.
 

We ran into Jerry Sadowitz, Glaswegian magician and avid card man, halfheartedly attempting to do street shows on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Months earlier, we’d met him in Amsterdam, right after he’d wandered into a sketchy area not far from Centraal Station called the Vacuum District, where he’d been knocked down, beaten, and all his stuff hoovered off except for a set of aluminum cups and an empty, battered suitcase. Jim and I laughed when Jerry started his Cups and Balls routine on the cobblestone street by throwing the cups at people and insulting them. Instead of getting into the spirit of his abrasive comedy, most people left. Jerry only made enough pence to buy a cup of coffee.

 

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