If Sammy Davis Jr Had Written Moby Dick


Call me Ishmael, Charlie. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth, as happens so often in this crazy business… and believe me, I say that with no undue grandiosity or pomposity, but with the true humility that comes from the wonderful, wonderful thing that I receive back from you lovely people, sincerely, the thing I call a vibe of love.

But dig, sometimes a cat grows grim about the mouth. The applause and the warmth, that’s a beautiful dream, it’s rocket ships and moonbeams, and I’m not putting it down. I’m not one of those cats who can’t wait to get offstage. This is where I live, kids. I thrive in that environment of give-and-take that we call performing for you generous people who have sacrificed from your daily routine to partake of our humble pageantry. But in this world that we call human, it happens that a cat of a certain frame of mind grows grim about the mouth. You’ve done it. Dig, your old lady’s done it. Baby, watch out when that special lady grows grim about the mouth. That’s a schlep to Tiffany’s and chateaubriand for two. Believe me, I know whereof I speak. And don’t skip the shrimp cocktail either, daddy.

So it’s a universal thing is what I’m saying. It happens to everybody, even those of us lucky enough to do this thing that we do, up here with the lights and the mishegaas and all the wild, wild foolery that you so kindly indulge us to present for your pleasure.

So when that time that my dear friend Peter Lawford calls “simply beastly,” when that real blue moment comes for yours truly, I account it high time to take to the sea as soon as I can. I know some of the fellas can relate. But sometimes when you go so far from home, you’re looking for something that’s right here all along, you dig? In the old breadbasket, where it counts. You get out to sea and you think, Uh-oh. This cat with the nutty tattooed face is giving me the eye like I’m the fabulous Britt Ekland. That, baby, that’s what I like to call time to turn the boat around.

I want to lay a koo-koo trip on you tonight, folks. It’s something that happened to me last time I had the great honor of shipping out to sea on one of our country’s terrific whaling vessels. Those cats do some top-notch work, and there’d be a whole mess of empty oil lamps without them, am I right? Am I right, folks? I think America’s whalers are the best whalers in the world, who’s with me?

Well, that’s inspiring to hear. It makes me especially proud of our next number. I think you’re just the crowd to really latch onto that spot where we’re coming from. We’re going to do a thing that we love to do, which is kind of a chantey. You know what a chantey is, don’t you? It’s French for “I was drunk when I wrote this.”  But seriously, you’ve been so responsive to our chanteys in the past. And for my money, nobody chanteys any better than this man, Marty Paich, the cat swinging the stick this evening as the leader of this marvelous band.

Thank you, you’re too kind. The orchestra thanks you.

But I must ask your pardon. I’ve been too, too loquacious. I tip my hat to your patience, and I hope I can reward it in the only way I know how. So sit back while I put it out there, all about a real weird cat named Ahab and his hang-up with a fish of some repute. And if you will do me the extreme courtesy of listening to the words, listening with this, the part of you that goes thump thump thump… If you will do that one little thing for me, maybe, just maybe the universe and all the crazy stardust and taffy and rainbows out there will click for us, we’ll start to groove together on the same wavelength, and your mind will reach out to this bouncy ball of thinking in my head and say, “Hold it, Jack! You’re flapping your choppers about more than fish.” And if that’s the perspicacious conclusion you reach, I will feel as if I have accomplished my part of this transaction of love and life and entertainment from me to you, a little thing I like to call… “Moby-Dick.”


Megan Milks is the author of Margaret and the Mystery of the Missing Body (Feminist Press, 2021), a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in transgender fiction, as well as Slug and Other Stories and Remember the Internet: Tori Amos Bootleg Webring.

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