Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Bragging on the Bolshoi

January 21, 2015

The Fantasy


Cultured and sophisticated people are a different breed from Joe Six Pack and the other plebeians on the street. The world is their playground and they cast a larger shadow than average people. They donate money to museums and universities and have their names engraved on libraries, hospital wings and research centers. They donate to Masterpiece Theatre (cultured folk do not spell it theater) their children attend exclusive schools and their dogs are the offspring of champions awarded ribbons by stout dog experts with names like Mrs. Fitzboozer Smythe or Mr. Roger-Bailey Van Bumsby.


While most men concern themselves with football scores and baseball stats, and housewives focus on the foolish shenanigans of Say Yes to the Dress or Keeping Up with the Kardashians, others strive to be bastions of sophistication. The cultural divide separating sophisticates from lowbrows is never more apparent than when it comes to—ballet.


In 1977 I was not the sophisticated chatterbox you know today; back then I was concerned about my lack of interest in ballet, confused by emaciated tip-toeing women flaunting their underwear and looking in desperate need of a corned beef sandwich, and pretty men in leotards tight enough to show their circumcisions. But I’ve always thought of myself as cultured and refined, the type of person who’d say, “Excuse me,” after farting even when alone, so when someone gave us tickets to see the famous Bolshoi Ballet I figured it was in my best interest to attend, to expand my cultural awareness by exposing myself to the glory of a world-class ballet ensemble.


When I mentioned the free tickets, Mrs. Chatterbox was quite excited about attending a performance of the Bolshoi, Russia’s premier ballet company founded in 1776. Since it was my goal to observe the world from atop the cultural pyramid, I was excited by this über cultural opportunity.


When the lights dimmed and music began to swell, I was finally able to witness the glory that was the Bolshoi Ballet. I tossed aside my preconceptions in favor of firsthand experience: the drama, pageantry, athleticism, music, scenery—the mesmerizing combination of so many art forms brought together through the magic of theater, make that theatre. Truly, a spell-binding moment, an experience I’d heartily recommend if your finances permit. The experience left me and Mrs. Chatterbox feeling uplifted, so recharged with a passion for the arts that we exited the theatre feeling like we were walking on water.


The Reality


In 1977 Mrs. Chatterbox and I attended a Bolshoi Ballet performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. The tickets might have been free, but the evening wasn’t cheap, by my standards anyway, the standards of a guy working for minimum wage at Standard Brands Paint Store in Santa Monica. After enjoying the culinary delights of a nearby Sizzler, I was required to give the valet a sawbuck to park my ’68 VW Beetle, and the pre-performance flutes of champagne were also ten bucks each, not that sophisticated people take notice of such things.


We sat in the balcony near the rafters. Mrs. Chatterbox wasn’t dripping in jewelry like other female attendees, and the only suit I owned at the time was made of stifling brown corduroy and made me look like a grizzly bear. Shortly after the first act, we fell asleep and were rousted by ushers when our snoring disturbed nearby ballet lovers trying to enjoy the show.


I still don’t like ballet, and I’d like to say we’ve had better luck staying awake at operas, but it wouldn’t be true. So how about those Seahawks!





The only ballet performance I truly enjoyed, from Disney's 1940 Fantasia.






Anyone a ballet fan?



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When I was a kid I took ballet lessons- but now.....I don't pay attention ...I'd rather listen to rock and roll and dance around in the kitchen!
By: Kathe W. on January 21, 2015
I have never been to the ballet, but I'd like to go. Unlike you, I think I could very well appreciate those super tight tights on the six pack flaunting men.
By: Michael Offutt on January 21, 2015
Not me, but I like Fantasia
By: Uncle Skip on January 21, 2015
I'm sure it would surprise you to know I have never been to the Ballet or the Opera. And I vow to keep that record intact. Though I might enjoy the Ballet...maybe. Holy Hannah $10 to park...in 1977! I sold my '68 Bug in '93 for $50. it was still running great and I still regret ever selling it. Did anyone NOT own a VW in the 60's and 70's?
By: Cranky on January 21, 2015
the only ballet i ever attended was set to music by prince - it was fabulous!
By: TexWisGirl on January 21, 2015
The only ballet I've ever seen has been the Nutcracker - & it was interesting. The first time :)
By: The Bug on January 21, 2015
Being a sophisticated fishducky, I love ballet--but I've never seen the Bolshoi!!
By: fishducky on January 21, 2015
I went to the Nutcracker about 10 years ago and realized it was about 2 hours too long (It was a 3 hour production). I still wonder how those children, their Mom's drag to the ballet in party dresses and patent leather shoes, make it through. I left at intermission!! Now, how about those Seahawks!! Go Hawks!
By: Laurie on January 21, 2015
oh well, this made me laugh. being a self employed artist, the high brow arts have always been beyond me. I don't care for the ballet all that much either though I've only been to one and of course it was the Nutcracker. Never been to an opera though I would like to go to one at least once. I did enjoy the hell out of Stomp though.
By: Ellen Abbott on January 21, 2015
I've been a pro dancer and my fav show is "So You Think You Can Dance," but even I can't take a full length ballet (or opera). I guess I'm not really all that cultured and sophisticated. Good luck to your Hawks. I despise NE/Brady/Belichick axis of evil, so I truly hope the Hawks win. :)
By: Lexa Cain on January 21, 2015
Yes, i love ballet -- and football, when it's the team i love and support. So it's possible to enjoy ballet without being a snot, i promise.
By: mimi on January 21, 2015
I haven't been but would love to go. What little I have seen has blown me away with the grace and beauty. Go Hawks and please beat those deflate gate Pats.
By: Akansas Patti on January 21, 2015
I've never been to a ballet. I'm not sure if I would like it (maybe for a short time), but I'd probably enjoy the music.
By: Pixel Peeper on January 21, 2015
The symphony is the closest I've been to culture. Nobody danced. Let the record show that I didn't snore.
By: Val on January 21, 2015
WEll, you have very sophisticated post on your lack of sophistication on ballet. I've tried to get ballet but It's not there for me. I didn't go to sleep but I did yawn once or twice.
By: red on January 21, 2015
One musn't order drinks at the theatre if one wants to pay the mortgage. I have always wanted to see a ballet, and not The Nutcracker. Maybe I'll get to the ballet one fine day. I certainly never thought I'd never see a Broadway show, and I've done that more than once. I have absolutely no interest in opera. I think shows are a lot more fun when one sits close enough to the stage to see the faces of the performers. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on January 21, 2015
You are a rarety among those cultured snobs, Stephen. You are an honest man.
By: Catalyst on January 21, 2015
I loved this post. It is hilarious and to the point. I'm no aficionado, but I've been to a few ballet performances and have been fascinated by the fitness and athleticism of the performers. I understand what you say about the "culture" of the ballet community. It's good to note that some of those wealthy patrons are at least parting with some of their cash for a performance art.
By: Tom Cochrun on January 21, 2015
Never been to ballet. I think it would be interesting to go at least once and if all else fails I can have a good sleep, just like I did when I went to see Cats, (not Lloyd Webber's best in my opinion but maybe I was just tired....)
By: John on January 22, 2015
Cultured or uncultured... their farts stink as much as the other. I have no desire to see either. However, musicals are much more entertaining to this bourgois gent.
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 22, 2015
I love the ballet and the opera, too. The first ballet I ever went to was to see Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev many long years ago. When the curtain went up, my eyes filled with tears it was so beautiful. Nowadays, it is not very affordable to be able to go and it is often seen as something only the wealthy and snobby go to see, but I assure you many of us are ordinary people with very catholic tastes. Congratulations to the Seahawks. Me, I am a Patriots fan :-) xxoo
By: The Broad on January 22, 2015
The only ballet I enjoyed was "The Nutcracker." Although it was uncomfortable sitting with my legs crossed. You can't be too sure, you know.
By: Al Penwasser on January 22, 2015
Like many others, I've seen the Nutcracker twice. It was one and a half times too many for me. And you certainly have enough class to use the umlaut over the U in über. ;)
By: Hilary on January 22, 2015
Your blog however.. doesn't read Mac accents. :)
By: Hilary on January 22, 2015
Well I enjoyed Billy Elliot, does that count? Opera bores me to death. And most classical music too. Which of course makes me a pleb.
By: LL Cool Joe on January 22, 2015
That is a really talented piece of writing. Ballet - I've never been, because no one has ever asked me. Some of it LOOKS good, but I can't help thinking I'd either nod off or have disturbing thoughts if I had to sit through a whole show. It seems a little contrived? Can I say that? Oh - some of us spell theatre like that normally...
By: Mike@A Bit About Britain on January 23, 2015
I actually enjoy most ballet. But, the only thing that keeps me awake through an opera is that some of the singers are so damned loud.
By: Mitchell is Moving on January 23, 2015
I don't think they would let me in. Snort. I've been to a few plays, does that count?
By: Sonya Ann on January 27, 2015

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