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IN THE history of show business it will have to be recorded that vaudeville died two deaths. The first death was caused by the advent of the moving picture and the radio program. The rebirth of vaudeville was due to the happy union of television (an ancient term for video) and diehard vaudevillians.

As for the cause of the second death of vaudeville . . . well, there are many different views on the subject. It is my own opinion that the so-called "new" musicoloroma video shows killed vaudeville-little over three years ago. People are so easily led into fads. I contend that these pseudo-culture programs of "artistic and intellectual significance" will sicken and die of their own stench and once again video fans will howl for "new and different" escapes. Vaudeville will return.

But I'm getting away from my story. I mentioned that there were several reasons expounded as to why vaudeville lost popular favor for the second time. One of the most popular—and in my opinion, most erroneous theories was that Pike Pickens killed vaudeville. Now I could sit right here and say that Pike Pickens was one of the best comedians of all time. I could even say he was the greatest all-round song and dance man of all time. And millions (including the Pike Pickens Fan Club in Colday, Jupiter) would agree with me. True, there are many who would disagree (especially those who get so much stupid satisfaction out of "musicoloroma") for Pickens and his show was something you had to either love or loath. No fence sitters as far as Pickens was concerned.

Now I rather liked Pike Pickens and his video show. Knew him personally, of course. Appeared a few times on his program, in fact. But that is still another story.

I thought you might like to know what happened to Pickens after the second death of vaudeville. Oh, you know now, of course, but I bet you don't know it all. And anyway I mean right after the depresh hit us.

I know I wondered where Pike had gotten to. Lost touch with him for awhile you see. Most all ex-vaudevillians were seeking employment in other fields and we didn't always have time for the old "get-togethers" like we used to have. . . .

I finally got this job here. Not had when the customers are drunk enough to be generous and yet not so drunk as to miss the hat. I often wonder how much money I actually lose when the coins roll under the table and are retrieved by the damned busboy who I know makes more than me in tips and poor service he gives too. . . .

No one seemed to know what happened to Pickens. Poor Pike. So very famous. Presumed to be loaded with the long green. So what if vaudeville did pffft, they said. Old Pike has more dollars than he can spend in two lifetimes. That's what they thought. Hah. Remember the Subspace Investment Bubble? Pike (and a few others, myself not excluded) got took good on that deal. Of course, the guys behind it didn't make out so good either, not unless they can spend the stuff in sub-sub-space or wherever they took off to when the government boys cracked down on them.

Well, when I got to wondering more than a little about Pike and got over the letdown of working in a crummy joint like this I thought I'd look him up. I figured he was probably doing as bad as me so neither of us would have anything to be ashamed of. He didn't have me on his last few programs; got the idea it was me who talked him into the Subspace deal. He was just as excited about it as any of us. But I figured we were both too poor to be sore at each other, and then there was always the chance that he was doing a bit better than me and might know of something extra in the way of a break for me. Well, you know how it is.

I couldn't find Pike anywhere. Imagine that, if you can. A big name in show biz and nobody—but nobody—knew where he was.

IT WAS only pure luck and by accident that I found out about him. I had the afternoon off . . . oh, this was over a year and a half ago. I went down to the spaceport to watch this new job take off. Yeah, I know you know but listen. All of it, you don't know.

Everybody and his brother was there. Everybody and his brother's brother. But I'm an old crowd dodger-througher and managed to get as close as the law allowed. It looked like just an ordinary spacer to me and I thought, hell I shoulda stood at home and got it on video. You remember, they were going to make a special announcement about it and what the special announcement was. Yeah. Sub-space. The government had taken it over and had really developed it. That is, the science boys with the UN, though the way the announcer talked you'd think he'd done it all by himself. I think he's the same guy that's on that early afternoon musicoloroma show. Hell of a thing to wake up to but it does give the correct time.

So this ship was going off into sub-space and come out on the other side of Alpha Watchamacallit. Yeah. Centauri. Ever hear Pike sing his song on that? Little did he know. . . .

And they'd be back within a year, according to the schedule. Yeah, I know you know all about that but I wanted to tell you about Pike Pickens. He was on it. A member of the crew of the Faraway World! A messman yet. Of course, Pike always was a good cook. Gad, the parties he used to throw and the food. None better.

Pike—too old? Don't kid yourself, buddy. Sure we had that running gag about his age but don't forget. He may have been around in show biz a long time but he started young. Remember the Child Star of Video? That was him, under his real name then. Little Lewey Yoder. Didn't know that, eh? Why, I thought every Pike Pickens fan knew that. . . .

Getting back to Pike and the Faraway World. I found out he was aboard when they read the list of crewmen and their occupations. At first it didn't click and I almost didn't hear it, his name being down at the bottom of the list of messmen and beginning with a Y too. When the announcer said "Lewis Yoder," it didn't mean a thing to me 'til about two seconds afterwards. I does a double-take and ask aloud, "Did he say Yoder?"

The lady next to me said, "Yoder, Schmoder, so what? I still don't see how a submarine is gonna work in space and it looks just like any old space-tub to me."

Get it? Subspace, submarine in space. She actually said it to. I've been saving that one; when vaudeville comes back. . . .

But getting back to Yoder, alias Pike Pickens. I knew I had found him. The announcer said something about last minute visits of friends and relatives. I rushed to the administration building there at the spaceport and put in a request to visit Pike. Yoder, that is. Told them. it was Very Important, etc. Thought Pike might refuse to sec me since it looked like he was hiding out from all of us. But I was wrong. He saw me and a half dozen other show biz characters. A typical Pike Pickens going-away party, on a much smaller scale than usual, of course.

But all we needed was Pike. The bottle he was passing around helped too, but Pike was Pike at his best which is the way he always is, in my opinion. Knocking himself out to get a laugh. Anything for applause and haw-haws. He sang. He danced. He cracked wise. He out-punned Jack Forst (whom you know is considered the world's, in fact, the System's champion punster). He did imitations. Good old Pike. He just threw the whole thing at us in a half hour or so. Wonderful. All we had time for was to say Good Luck and maybe weep a little into the. empty bottle.

Then Pike danced his way out of the room—his usual half-drag, half-bounce exit—and he was gone. Gone forever, we thought, for we had little faith in the subspace thing. Even with the UN backing it now and the fact that Pike was sticking his neck out.

WELL, that didn't mean much. Not that Pike was the hero type but he wasn't kidding me with all that buck and wing, gladhand, hoopla and hokum. All that song and dance was just a cover up. He was really low, believe me.

I saw him that way only once before and that was when his third wife died. Never married again after that, you know. Really had a find in her and bingo she's killed in that airbus accident, He put his show on that night same as usual and a lot of people said it wasn't right for him to do it. But Pike would never let an audience down, never walk out on his loyal fans. It was tearing his heart out but he went out there and put on one of the best shows video has ever seen. And that's the way he was the day of the takeoff. He was just putting on his last show—for us, his personal friends; swan song and dance and then pfffft.

He figured like we did. Subspace was The End. He wasn't going to stick around and see if vaudeville would come back. He was living now and he couldn't stand living without it so . . . death to Pike Pickens and let Lewis Yoder, mess-man, live awhile until . . . until whatever happens to people who dare to enter subspace happened. It was supposed to be a short cut to other systems. He hoped it would be a short cut to oblivion.

O.K., O.K., I'm telling it.

You see, Pike Pickens wasn't dead at all. You just can't kill a good vaudevillian. How do I know? I got it from a spaceman who was also a crew-member on the Faraway World. You remember when the Faraway World returned and was covered with glory and whatnot. Well, of course, I tried to find out if Pike got back OK but when I got to the spaceport it was so jammed with people I couldn't even get into the place this time. Why they didn't stay at home and get it on video I'll never know.

Well, I had a reason for going down. I had to see if our boy Pike got back. Finally I gave up trying to buck the crowd and went across the street to a bar. Thought I'd wait 'til things calmed down.

A guy was sitting there drinking beer and making loud smacking noises and then he'd bang his fist on the bar and sing out for more. I noticed he wasn't paying and wondered about it until the barkeep says for him to drink up, spaceman, it's on the house.

"I been dreaming of this," said the spaceman, "I been dreaming of this for months. Real honest-to-gawd beer. Aaah."

"Maybe I should call you subspace-man," cracked the barkeep. I got it then. This spaceman was a special friend of the barkeep's and somehow he had eluded the cheering crowd and got into this quiet little bar to enjoy his beer in peace. This guy was a Faraway World crewman and maybe he'd know about Pike. So I asked him.

"Lewis Yoder," he repeated rather doubtfully, "Yoder . . . Oh! You mean Pike! Old Pike Pickens. Hell, we recognized him right off. Him and that fake name, Yoder! Who wouldn't know Pike? Why I've been a Pike Pickens fan for as long as I can remember."

My heart warmed to this intelligent young spaceman. It is people like him who will bring vaudeville back to its true place in the world of show business.

"Could you tell me—about Pike?"

I asked. I was a little afraid. If anything had happened to him . . . Yet I had to know. You know how it is.

"Tell you about Pike," he said, "Could I tell you about Pike? I sure as hell could! Every man jack on the Faraway World could tell you about Pike! I suppose it'll hit all the newscasts but who'll believe it or get it right? Let me tell you about Pike Pickens. Like he used to say. Voss Dere, Chollie."

He told me about Pike.

IT SEEMS that the trip through subspace was a snap. No one even got spacesick. In fact, those who had gotten spacesick from being in regular space felt good again when they went into "subspace drive"—whatever that means. And got sick again when they came out of it and into normal space again. They got to Alpha You-know and were coasting around looking for a planet similar to Terra or at least one where they could use the suits and masks they use on Venus, Jupiter, etc. This you must have heard or read.

Well, after all their technical testing and what not, they land on this small planet which proves to be similar to good old Terra in atmosphere and gravity. They divide the crew up into scouting parties and take turns going out looking for inhabitants, flora, fauna, and other things and stuff they look for on alien planets.

I guess the science boys had a great time, though every one else had been bored by the trip and were even more bored by the planet. It was similar to Earth as far as gravity and air were concerned but the landscape looked like one big rock slab with cracks in it 'here and there. Some crazy kind of vegetation grew in clumps around these cracks but otherwise—nothing.

Incidentally, the spaceman told me that the boredom of the trip had been alleviated by Pike's putting on some of his acts for the crew. I guess most of them liked it, though the spaceman said there were a few who actually got up a petition asking him to "can it" for a couple of days. Now how anyone can be bored by the versatility of Pike's talents I'll never know.

Anyway, like I said, the crew was divided up into scouting parties and came the day that the party Pike was in (though I'm sure it wasn't his favorite kind of "Party," heh-heh-heh) was supposed to do the scouting. Each day the party on duty would make a circle of the ship going out farther each time. I think it was the third or fourth day of scouting, if I remember correctly.

The spaceman who told me this was in this party too. Name? Oh yes, his name was Wally. Wally said they got pretty far away from the spacer. They had two of the techs with them, the scientists, you know. About all the crewmen had to do was keep a sharp lookout and let the techs know ii they saw anything unusual or saw trouble coming, etc. They had stopped near one of those big cracks in the rock floor and the techs were messing around with the vegetation growing there.

Wally was helping Pike set up his portable mess outfit as it was getting near showtime. Pike, as usual, was singing and wisecracking while some of the men laughed and a few deadheads grumbled.

Then it happened.

Something came up out of the crack in the rock and absorbed the two techs. Some of the men would never have saw it happen if the techs hadn't screamed all the time they were being absorbed. It took several seconds, I guess.

Of course the men were awestruck. And just stood there staring. Then they started to shoot at the things with the variety of weapons they carried with them. Everything from .38 pistols to flame-throwers. The thing—which looked like a big mass of orange-colored gelatin—wobbled up out of the crack and came towards them.

Looking back over their shoulders as they ran, they saw that more of the things were coming up for air too—and for them. The alien beings must have had mental telepathy or something because presto! more of them popped up out of the ground several yards ahead of them. They were surrounded; cut off from the ship. The techs had been carrying the walkie-talkie and it was gone with them.

Eventually someone would come from the ship looking for them. Eventually. In the meantime the . . . the . . . things would be eating them alive.

WALLY or someone figured the things could throw up an invisible shield around themselves; only way he could explain that the weapons didn't stop the monsters. The things moved slowly but were closing steadily in. . . . Everyone was scared speechless.

That is, everyone but our boy Pike Pickens. He was scared too, but never speechless.

"Maybe we can reason with 'em," he suggested, "get in contact . . . think at them. . . ."

"This is no time for jokes," croaked someone, "they probably don't think the way we do . . . they're completely alien. . . ."

The man started shooting again, wasting their ammo.

"Wait a minute!" called Pike, "I got an idea!"

By this time the men were too scared to object, if they wanted to. So Pike outlined his plan.

"Look, guys," he said. "When I started on this tour I wasn't figuring on coming back. I'm surprised we got this far. As long as I don't have vaudeville to go back to I don't much care if I ever get back to Terra or anywhere in our system. Then there was a gal named Melina . . . gone too. So here's what I propose. I'll do everything I can to attract these things' attention. I'll try to get them to chase me. Then maybe the rest of you can find a break between and try for the ship. What can you lose?"

Nothing could they lose. Someone suggested drawing lots. Someone suggested that more than one person make the sacrifice on the theory that the monsters would be more inclined to chase two or three people than just one. But when Pike has the stage he's the whole show. No one can steal scenes from him. He insisted that they do it his way and there was little time for argument.

"Here I go," he said. That's what he always said just before every show, just before the signal said On The Air. . . "Here I go."

I-Ie started off at an angle between the two groups of monsters. He faced the group that was between them and the ship. If he could distract their attention, get them after him alone. . . .

He began a sidestep dance and sang:

"Take me back to Alpha Centauri. . . ."

The rock ground was really hard and his metallic shoes made the tap-clog sound good. This was really his swan song and dance, yessir. . . .

He sang louder and danced harder and. gave that familiar shout between lines. . . .

"Yaaaaaaaaa. . . ."

The alien beings began to move towards Pike. Pike alone! It was almost too good to be true, was what some of the crewmen said. Of course they hated to see Pike get it, but the rest of them would be saved. . . .

They could see the ship now. If the monsters would move just a little more. Pike went into a buck and wing and then began his imitations. Then back to the song and dance routine again, hamming it up good.

The things kept after him and Pike kept moving.

The crewmen broke and ran. Halfway back to the ship Wally turned around to see what had happened to Pike, He had heard no screaming. In fact, he could still hear Pike singing. . . .

There was Pike, dancing and singing, surrounded by the monstrous blobs.

He raised his voice a pitch higher and began all over again.

The monsters moved in . . . closer ...closer..,.

Then . . . they all dropped dead.

Wally said Pike felt really lowdown and blue about it all the way back to Terra until one of the techs finally explained to him that it was probably the sonic vibrations peculiar to Pike's voice (or any singing human voice) which killed the alien beings and not necessarily the quality of Pike's Songs, Dances, and Snappy Chatter. . .

Beer? Don't mind if I do. . .