Growing up with two intellectuals for parents, we occasionally played games as a family or with friends. Games like scrabble or Trivial Pursuit. And when we visited our friends the Bushells on Camano Island every summer, we played lots of games like Hundred Thousand Dollar Pyramid and pen and pencil games where you write a word and think of as many words that start with each letter as possible. Perhaps because this week on Camano Island was always one of the most fun of the summer, with lots of kick the can, shell collecting at the beach, crabbing, blackberry picking, book reading, back scratching and eating of chocolate turds (waxy chocolate donut sticks), I have fond associations with these types of word games even now as an adult.
And now I have a group of friends from graduate school who are similarly enamored of these types of games. When we get together every Thanksgiving we typically play a round or two of Celebrity (where you write down the names of famous people and then play three rounds of guessing them - one round where you can say anything but the person's name, a second round where you can say one word, and a third round where you can only pantomime) or some other game. But we have had to take a hiatus for the past couple of years due to the deep rancor that can develop over who, exactly, is a celebrity. Is Elvis Schmeidecamp, the local used car dealer with billboards along highway 80, a celebrity? What about the author Ann Patchett? Similarly folks have gotten seriously pissed during the game over mistakes such as describing John Wayne as a fictional cowboy. Needless to say it took a long time to guess that one.
Among a bunch of competitive, overly educated, obstreperous ecologists, these things can get ugly. But they can also get very, very funny. Here for your amusement are two of my favorite ever moments from Celebrity:
1) Who wears a Diaper?
One year someone put Gandhi's name into the pool. When it came time for the round with a single word, my friend Rob chose, not India, not peaceful, not non-violent, not bald, or many, many other things. But in the spur of the moment, Rob chose "diaper". And then, for the entire remaining 59 seconds (you only have a minute to guess), he basically grabbed his crotch to simulate a diaper. If you guessed that we never correctly guessed Gandhi from this display, you would be right. But when we found out who he was imitating, I literally peed myself laughing and to this day, merely thinking the words Gandhi and diaper put a huge smile on my face.
2) Old Candy Eye
It is round two of Celebrity that brings out all the gems. One time someone put Sammy Davis Jr in the hat and during round two, my friend Tiffany said as her one word clue, "Candy" hoping to jog our memories with a reference to his nickname, The Candy Man. Unfortunately, candy, in and of itself, was not enough to remind us of Sammy Davis Jr. from round one. Then Tiffany started vigorously pantomiming and settled on pointing to her eye as the best clue (because he had a fake eye). Yep, we couldn't figure out who "old candy eye" could possibly be.