That Crazy Stagecraft

 

Like you, of course, I wait for the sold-out house to chant my name before taking the stage. We may be doing it all wrong, though:

He knew how to make an entrance – or rather, he probably didn’t, and it came naturally. Frank Sinatra has the same technique, but in his case it may well be studied: no fanfare, no announcement, simply walking onstage while the orchestra are still settling down, and starting to sing. 

That’s from George MacDonald Fraser’s memoir of combat in Burma, Quartered Safe Out Here*, and admiringly describes (the excellently named) General William Slim:

TNA_INF3-5_General_William_Slim_1939-1946

Fraser adds:

Perhaps the most revealing story, not only about Slim but about what his army thought of him, tells how he was addressing a unit preparing to go into action. The magic must have worked again, for some enthusiast actually shouted: “We’ll follow you, general!” And Slim, with one of his rare smiles, called back: “Don’t you believe it. You’ll be a long way in front of me.”

 

*For irony-challenged Yanks who might think it’s a book about a camping trip, the American edition is helpfully subtitled A Harrowing Tale of World War II. The UK edition calls it A Recollection of the War in Burma. (Both are, in fairness, correct.)

 

Author’s Note: Yes, I did think about titling this post in clever homage to a certain Troy McClure film, but the Chairman told me not to spoil it all by saying something stupid. (What the General told me… well, let’s just say, it wasn’t nice, and certainly not easy.)