Michael was a clown. He had always wanted to be a clown. He was born to be a clown, with curly red bushy hair, a big mouth and strangely sad smile, which made a lot of makeup unnecessary. As a young man he was the class clown much to the dismay of his teachers, but he was bright and engaging to talk to in spite of his mawkish humor, classroom upsets and humorous outbursts. He was a straight A student and got the highest scores in the school on his SAT test, was an excellent long-distance runner and finally earned a scholarship to Yale University. He surprised everyone by turning down the scholarship and enrolling in an international Clown school where he studied for three years and graduated with honors and eventually earned a Master’s degree in Fine Arts and Acting. During this time he was making a living as a standup comic and as a clown entertaining children and even as the entertainer for adult groups. Slowly over the next two years he began to make a name for himself as a performer, making the rounds of the best Comedy Shops and even several late-night appearances on television shows.
This was the life he had wanted and envisioned all his years and
while his family and friends had derided him for his “foolish” endeavors, he arose from the poverty and ignominious life to a position of fame and fortune.
As with so many of his acting friends, he had many women admirers and was in a group where first marihuana then cocaine was introduced into his life. His acting career blossomed into a series of short films and then a major comedic motion picture. This was accompanied by more drugs and alcohol and deteriorating personal lifestyle. Friends often tried to get him into recovery, but he was still able to function and he was following the path of several other comics whose drugs had led to their demise. It was 2004.
One evening after a successful night at a Comedy Shop, he left the club at 2A.M. and was confronted by a man whom he had teased during his last performance. The man was high on drugs, as was Michael, and an altercation resulted in the man pulling a gun and shooting him in the neck. During the commotion the gunman escaped leaving Michael bleeding on the street. Shortly after he was found and brought to an emergency room where he was barely alive from massive blood loss and destruction of his windpipe. Fortunately, the trauma surgeon was able to insert a tube into his lungs and suture the torn blood vessels, and he remained in critical condition for several weeks. When he was finally transferred out of the intensive care unit, he was stable but with one permanent disability. His vocal cords had been destroyed and he had a permanent tracheostomy, a tube exiting from his neck through which he could breathe. He was sent to a voice rehabilitation center to learn how to use a voice simulator creating a sound which would emanate from his mouth and give a semblance of gruff expressionless speaking.
Needless to say, he was in a great depression. His life as a clown and stand-up comic were over. He was not the type of clown seen in the silent films and could not see himself as a voiceless Claribel of the Howdy Doody era, running around honking a horn. He had hoped something would develop with the artificial voice, but the sound was expressionless and he didn’t want to be lecturing like Stephen Hawking. He saw his life as he planned it coming to a conclusion and decided to take his life.
He was in his apartment planning his suicide when the doorbell rang. At first, he was not going to answer it but the bell kept ringing and very annoyed, he finally went to the door and opened it. There before him with whitened face, old hat, white pants and a gray sweater top stood the aging Mime Marcel Marceau. He had heard about Michael’s situation and decided to intervene. The mime just stood still, leaning on an imaginary cane, staring at the young man in front of him. This was the greatest mime of the twentieth century having made an international name with the pseudonym Bip and without uttering a word on the stage for over fifty years.
Michael stared at the man. No words came from the mime as he looked at Michael’s neck and actually made humorous gestures about putting a finger in the tracheostomy and then falling down dead. His histrionics were so funny that after a few moments even Michael began to smile then laugh, a silent laugh.
Marceau did not utter one word during this private performance in front of the suffering clown. And after twenty-five minutes, the old mime just turned around and departed leaving the amazed wounded clown standing alone in the doorway. Marceau had not spoken a single word!
The next morning, a young fellow with a speaking disability boarded a plane to Paris, France and three days later, on the recommendation of an old performer named Marcel, he was admitted to the prestigious Ecole Internationale de Mime Corporel Dramatique in Paris, France. He studied there for two more years before emerging as the foremost mime in the school. He went on to have a famous career for the next ten years without muttering a sound.
Which goes to show that when God closes a vocal cord, he opens an artiste.