The Barbie and Ken Chronicles
About ten years ago, I had lunch with a friend who’s an actor. She asked if I would write a play that she could perform. I remember that lunch quite vividly. She served me two pieces of cheese, a cracker and a slice of apple. Some roasted beets, too. Not only was she an actor, she was also a terrible hostess.
I had been reading Gray’s Anatomy by Spalding Gray so I figured I would make the play a monologue. I would create a character with her life spinning out of control like Spalding did except I wouldn’t give my character a cataract or have her clean someone’s backyard (by the way, Gray’s Anatomy is brilliantly funny).
Reader, one should never attempt to write a monologue after reading anything by Spalding Gray. His life was just too sensational, his memory was so vivid, his writing so off the wall hilarious – this guy had you in his pocket on the first page.
I decided that my desultory hostess/actor friend would talk to an imaginary friend. Of this subject I am well versed since I had an imaginary friend named “Sanny” throughout my childhood (that is, till I was in my 20s). Most people give up their imaginary friends when they’re six or seven – “Sanny” was in my life till I got married.
I find it fascinating how lousy I am at creating dialogue considering the hours I spent playing with Barbie and her equally fictional boyfriend Ken. When Ken was introduced in 1961, I was nine years old and boom, I would spend hours listening to those two talk about life, careers, emotional problems and their inability to walk (their legs were molded together). I have difficulty writing “he said” or “she said.” I simply cannot do it. It’s crazy because I wrote some clever conversations for those dolls. The minute I came home from school, I would grab my pink patent leather Barbie dressing case (aside: I should have picked the black patent one), open it and create a scenario involving the dolls. Ken had a lot of issues with strong women and was forever asking Barbie to tone it down or maybe that was my mother screaming from the kitchen.
So I made the desultory hostess/actor friend “Barbara” who was in the middle of a divorce with her soon-to-be-ex-husband “Kenneth.” Kenneth had moved out and was living with a friend in Soho and Barbara was still living in the house they had bought thinking they could flip it. Naturally Barbara was livid, terrified, and eating Switzer’s chocolate licorice that she kept in the freezer.
I finished the monologue in four weeks, it was never produced and because of that lunch, I never spoke with the desultory hostess/actor friend again. The only good thing that came out of the project was the “he said,” “she said,” stuff. I didn’t have to do it.