Lecture Hall

A speech series from Toronto tries its best to make New Yorkers smart

First prom parties, now lectures. For further proof that New York City is composed of nothing but people who exist in a state of permanent, arrested adolescence, see the TRAMPOLINE HALLLecture Series, in which a group of Canadians host an evening of lessons about bizarre subject matter. They've been doing this for several years up in Toronto, where SHEILA HETI first started this wackiness, and now New Yorkers are in its thrall. Clearly, we love it, judging from last Tuesday's event at the Slipper Room, which was filled to capacity with eager-beaver TRACY FLICK-types at the ready with pen and paper and tape recorders. (All together now: doooorks!) OK, I was one of them, but I get paid to take notes.

It's not every day that one gets the chance to hear a former writer for DAVID LETTERMAN wax poetic about weird wax (the vinyl kind) he's scavenged at garage sales and eBay. STEVE YOUNG delivered his spiel about Industrial Musicals to the bemused audience, who trilled with each telling of such album discoveries as Go Fly a Kite. Back in the '50s, '60s, and '70s, large corporations like General Electric blew big bucks on albums meant to inform their employees about the company and its product. Hence, "hits" like Ford-ify Your Future and Diesel Dazzle. Young became entranced by these records, and started collecting them. "They were pretty cool in a pathetic sort of way," he admitted sheepishly.

As with any good show-and-tell presentation, Young had sound samples cued up from these corporate show tunes, some of which were penned and performed by actual famous people. VALERIE HARPER may be horrified to learn that her Go Fly a Kitecontribution has been exposed to the world. One record, Young noted wryly, was written by the same people who composed Fiddler on the Roof, BOCK AND HARNICK. The crowd favorite seemed to be a ditty from the record for the 1969 American Standard Bathroom Show, which featured a blowsy female vocalist singing, "My bathroom is a private kind of place."

"Betty," an illegal Canadian immigrant, tells of her trials at Trampoline Hall.
photo: Tricia Romano
"Betty," an illegal Canadian immigrant, tells of her trials at Trampoline Hall.

Mr. Young's lecture was followed by DORETTA LAU, a young Canadian who gave a speech about the plight of Canadian immigrants—or the "secretly Canadian," as she put it. While she admitted that Canadian immigrants' struggles pale in comparison to Mexican immigrants', they still face many INS problems. Up to that point, her lecture was simultaneously ridiculous and straightforward, but it delved into DAVID LYNCH territory when "Betty"—an illegal Canadian immigrant—came onstage. "Betty" wore an Incredible Hulk mask and spoke through a vocoder to "protect her identity." I guess you could call her Lau's "visual aid."

More nuttiness ensued. Before the third lecture, on the World's Greatest Female Ping-Pong Player, ANGELICA ROZEANU, Trampoline Hall host MISHA GLOUBERMAN asked ERIC MORSEto come on down. Morse—whom I know from Seattle—has an online magazine called Trampoline House, and sometimes holds events under the same name. Apparently this caused some confusion with fans of the lecture series. So, the two decided to clear up the dispute like men—i.e., without the help of lawyers—and Morse promised in front of the crowd to call his live events something less trampolinesque, and they shook hands.

After JESSE COHEN finally took the stage to talk about Angelica Rozeanu, whose story he chose for its Forrest Gump-like qualities, he was shocked and awed by a guest in the crowd. Throughout the lecture, Cohen referred to numerous e-mails from MARTY REISMAN, a former table tennis champion. At the oration's end, Reisman announced himself, and everyone cheered. Dressed in a gray suit with a hat that matched, Reisman looked like an Italian mobster, and talked like one too. He had the crowd wrapped around his pinkie (which I swear had a ring on it) as he relayed how rubberized paddles ruined Ping-Pong, then began hawking his own wares (he wrote a book once, The Money Player). But alas, there are always only three lecturers at Trampoline Hall events—and you can't be an expert on the subject—so Marty will have to come back sometime to talk about something else. I'll be there, pen and paper in hand.

 
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