Valentine’s Day, Florence Henderson and Resurrection: An Easter Reflection
by Rev. Jane Voigts
For most of my 55 years I have more-than-disliked Valentine’s Day. That’s because I have detested not having a “special someone” to spend it with and hated knowing it’s dumb to be so bothered about it in the first place.
One Valentine’s Day back in the mid-80’s, when I was in my 20’s living in Chicago trying to figure out how to become a comedian, I got a call from the manager of the club where I’d done most of my performing. He’d decided at the last minute to put together a Valentine’s Day show; would I be on the bill?
I was taken aback by the offer, not because I was offended he’d called assuming I wouldn’t have other plans, but because I didn’t know what I would do for an act. I’d tried stand-up a few times but had failed miserably and was so humiliated by the experience I’d decided to go on hiatus (already). However, at that moment, performing on Valentine’s Day was at least something to fill this more-than-dreaded evening, so I said okay, I’ll think of something.
And then, suddenly, I did! I remembered that Valentine’s Day is also Florence Henderson’s birthday. Of course it is; who else would be born on February 14 than Mrs. Brady!
And I knew exactly what I would do – have a Florence Henderson birthday party! I’d start by bringing audience members onto the stage and have them play musical chairs with the soundtrack from “Song of Norway”, a “Paint Your Wagon”-type Hollywood (bomb) that Florence starred in back in the day. Winner would get Wesson Oil. Then we’d play “Pin the Weird Flip on the Back of Mrs. Brady’s Hair.” Winner would get Tang. We’d close with everyone singing The Brady Bunch theme song, and best singer would win a pantsuit. (In those days you could get pantsuits by the truck-load from the thrift store for $.50 apiece.)
Needless to say, the act was a hit, and it fully informed me of how I wanted to do stand-up from then on — goofy, playful, and in the spirit of a Florence Henderson birthday party. I became “The Czarina of Fun, Kissing Cousin to the King of Comedy.” I not only enjoyed a very nice stand-up career in Chicago (I even had groupies!), but some extraordinary (and extraordinarily wacky) showbiz adventures after moving to L.A. — including directing a production of The Real Live Brady Bunch in Sydney, Australia — but this knack for making things goofy fun is and always has been at the heart of the mystical call to pastoral ministry I received in the desert on Good Friday of 1991.
Today, I get to teach how the Bible is essentially comedy, preach how God is like a pantsuit, and promote potlucks for peace (isn’t that really what the world needs now??).
I can’t believe how joyful, creative, funny, and surprisingly purposeful my life has become. It really transcends language!
And to think it all emerged from Valentine’s Day, my most hateful, embarrassing, oppressive of places.
This, actually, is what Easter is all about: the powerfully fresh, colorful, vibrant, endlessly wonderful and even wacky (!) new life and new world that boldly spring up from the worst place, the place you most wish never existed and are quite sure brings nothing even remotely good. This was the place of “the cross” in ancient Roman society and what makes the biblical story of Jesus’ resurrection so remarkable.
Regardless of your relationship to the biblical text, Easter speaks of a promise we can all celebrate, hope for, and avail ourselves to and especially now. The irrepressible Spirit of Creativity is seeking to take our hearts, imaginations and feet in amazing new directions that we could never make up, even if we’re really good at making really good stuff up.
As a postscript, I’m happy to say that I finally found someone to love and share very happy Valentine’s Days. I met him at a costume party. I was dressed as “The Devil in a Blue Pantsuit,” in a bright blue polka dotted bell-bottomed polyester beauty, bedecked with all the devilish accessories. I know, it makes perfect loopy sense that this how I finally found romance; that it was in a Carol Brady-type pantsuit that my fella first laid interested eyes on me.
Of course, if you ask him, he’ll say the first thing he noticed about me was my tail.
Here’s to the more-than-extraordinary new leg of the journey that’s in store for us all! Happy Easter!!Tags: Bible, Easter, Florence Henderson, Performing live, Reverend Jane Voigts, Stand-up comedy, The Real Live Brady Bunch, Valentine's Day