A tale of betrayal and revenge on the high seas
This story contains graphic and gory details that some of my readers may find shocking. Please accept my apologies, but I feel compelled to tell this sorry tale. Is it a confessional or a warning? You will have to decide…
My first job out of college was doing the lights and sounds for the stage shows on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. This may sound like fun work, but let me tell you that quite the opposite was true. It is a little known fact that people go insane working on cruise ships after serving for 8-12 months. Most of the cruise directors have been working for 7-10 years. They feel that the boat is the whole world and they are king. They live to make the lives of underlings miserable at any whim. Forget about Julie, the real thing is quite a bit more frightening.
The cruise director on my boat didn’t like me. He would frequently snub me and constantly tried to undermine me in little ways and I never knew why. I figured I could ignore his disdain and carry out my duties with honor, until that fateful night…
After most evenings of work, the cruise staff would retire to the crew bar to unwind after a hard day. Since beers were only 50-75 cents, it was quite common for people to buy a round for the bar as they entered. I had done it myself on numerous occasions. One night after the shows were over, the cruise director entered the bar and said, “Another round for everyone… except him.” I could feel him pointing at me before I saw it. There was no explanation. It was even more of a snub because the cruise director got free drinks. It would have cost him nothing to include me. This was the last straw.
If you ever vacation on a cruise ship, you know you will have to hear Mack the Knife at least once. It’s just part of the package. I knew for a fact that the cruise director hated this song. (He had been working ships for 8 years after all). Another little known fact is that some entertainers live on the boat and some fly in, meet the boat at a port-of-call, perform, and fly off at the next island. The pieces of a plan were starting to formulate in my mind.
As the sound technician, I met with all acts before they performed. On this particular week, I knew the live-in entertainer performed on the first night and always included Mack the Knife in his repertoire. The second night, the other live-in entertainer performed. He was always drunk, never watched the first performer and it was easy to convince him that he should add the song to his set. One by one the fly-in acts came aboard for their performance nights, and one by one I stroked their egos by telling them how much I loved their renditions of our boy Mackie’s rash adventures. Each of them took the bait and included it. I even convinced the comedian to perform it on his night. The orchestra could have been my undoing by warning the performers of the Mack the Knife Marathon that was afoot. But it never happened and they became silent accomplices, perhaps because of some slight they had experienced from the cruise director.
For good measure, I also made sure the song was performed in the disco, the lounge, the piano bar and by the reggae band that played by the pool. I don’t know if the cruise director ever knew what was really going on or why, but I enjoyed watching that vein in his temple get bigger and bigger with each new rendition.
The following week, I packed my bags and got off the boat in Old San Juan, never to return. If there were any long term ramifications of my Mack attack, I would never know about them. As the big white ship got smaller and smaller behind me, I found myself singing:
“Oh the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear,
And he shows them, pearly white,
Just a jack knife has old MacHeath, babe,
And he keeps it, out of sight…”
For Your Enjoyment:
- Mack The Knife – The Best Of Bobby Darin Volume Two
- The Complete Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife
- Mack the Knife – Louis Armstrong
- Duets 2 – Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Buffett do a duet of Mack the Knife on this CD.