© 2024 KGOU
Colorful collared lizard a.k.a mountain boomer basking on a sandstone boulder
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

James Judd - "The Book Report"

GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

Welcome back to SNAP JUDGMENT from PRX and NPR. Remember, you heard this on SNAP JUDGMENT - the finale already in progress.

(APPLAUSE)

WASHINGTON: And now people call him lots of things - an adventure traveler, a raconteur, seller-out of one-man shows. Here on SNAP JUDGMENT, we call him the closer.

(LAUGHTER)

WASHINGTON: Put your hands together for Mr. James Judd.

(APPLAUSE)

JAMES JUDD: You know, when Glynn asked me to do this show, I was hesitant because I knew that I would have to portray myself as a 10-year-old. And if there are two things I really really cannot stand, it's adults playing children and children.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And then I thought why not? It's 1975. It's the first Tuesday in June. It's the semi-finals of the Foothill Elementary School Fifth Grade Book Report Competition.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And right now, I am this close to being named top fifth-grade book reporter.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I know. It's huge. Now, picture me at 10. I already stand five-feet nine-inches tall. I have a huge head of curly red hair, a pear-shaped body. I'm the type of kid who wears long-sleeved shirts and pants even during summer. I'm a nerd. I'm an outcast.

But I have convinced myself that when I win this book report competition, it is going to turn it all around for me.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And I am so ready to be part of the in crowd.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: But there is one person standing between me and victory. And her name is Mary Appelbaum. Mary Appelbaum is the second most popular girl in the entire fifth grade. Felicia Johnson is the first most popular girl because she already has boobs. But Mary Applebaum is a very close number two. And she's in my class, which means I'm going to have to beat Mary Applebaum today if I'm going to make it to the big show tomorrow. And Mary Appelbaum, make no mistake, she wants to win this competition. She thinks she's got the whole thing all wrapped up. I mean, with the other kids, she tries to play it cool. She's like ugh -

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: - I don't care. I just think it's really nice that everyone has a chance. Yeah, I'm not buying it.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Because I see her for what she is. She is a ruthless competitor. But the fact is, this competition will be won by the person who has picked the biggest and hardest book to read. And true, I don't know what book she's picked. And yes, it worries me. But she doesn't know what book I picked either.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Now, I know. I know. I know. I know. I know. I know.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I know that I am not cute and perky and good at tetherball and everybody's favorite person like Mary Appelbaum. I know.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: So I know that if I'm going to win this thing, I need a book that's really big. I need something that's just going to put me over the hump. I need something edgy, something ripped from the headlines. So the book I've chosen is "My Search For Patty Hearst"...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: ...By Steven Weed.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: It's not a random choice. I have been obsessed with the missing 19-year-old newspaper heiress since she was kidnapped about a year ago not 40 miles from where I was growing up outside of Berkeley, California. And since nobody knows where she's been hiding since she apparently joined the group that kidnapped her started to help them rob banks around San Francisco, it seems plausible to me at least that maybe she is still hiding somewhere in the area. And many times after school, I would take my miniature dachshund Brownie and we would scour the neighborhood looking for clues.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: As it turns out, she was hiding in the area. Brownie and I were so ahead of our times.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: At this point, everyone else in the classroom has taken their shot at this thing, except for me and Mary Appelbaum. And I don't see any other real threat to my ascension to glory. Well, right now our fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Husong (ph) - beehive, cat-eye glasses, scratchy (ph) issues, smells like powder, lots of rings, big clunky shoes - calls Mary to the front of the room.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Hi, everyone. My name is Mary Appelbaum. You guys...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Stop clapping. I haven't won yet. My name is Mary Appelbaum and the book I've chosen for today's semi-finals of the Foothill Elementary School Fifth- Grade Book Report Competition is "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott. It's a really good book. Well, I am not going to lie to you. Mary Appelbaum nailed it. I mean, she really nailed it.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: She had characters on the blackboard. She quoted the book from memory. She said something in French. I don't even know what that was about.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: She did a little dance.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And then she had people singing at the end. And people were crying. I mean, she nailed it.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Oh my God, she nailed it.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Oh my God, she really nailed it.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Well, Mary finishes to a thunderous ovation and Mrs. Husong (ph) calls my name. But as I get up to approach to the front of the classroom, a teacher from another classroom comes in. And she knocks on the doorway. And she beckons for Mrs. Husong to come out into the hallway and talk to her. And Mrs. Husong says go on James. Just get started without me. I'll be right back.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And she's gone. Well, this is not part of my plan.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And just as I approach the front of the room...

(MUSIC)

JUDD: ...A beam of light...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: ...Bursts through the curtains at the back of the room and lands in a dazzling white pool of light right in front of my feet. And I step into that light and I think spotlight.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: So I ask how many people here have ever been kidnapped?

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Nobody raises their hands.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: So I ask how many people here have ever been locked in a closet?

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: A couple of people raised their hands.

(APPLAUSE)

(LAUGHTER)

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I asked, for a month? And the hands go down.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Well, by the time Mrs. Husong comes back into the classroom, I've already drawn a number of pictures on the blackboard, including all the names of all the major members of the Symbionese Liberation Army - the SLA - the group that kidnapped Patty - Donald DeFreeze, Nancy Ling Perry, Bill and Emily Harris. You know the rest.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Over here is a seven-headed snake, which is the group's trademark and frequent backdrop for publicity photos.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Here is a crude layout of a Hibernia Bank where Patty reintroduced herself to the world as a member of the terrorist organization. And here is a stick figure of Patty as she appeared that day reintroducing herself to the world as Tania.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Tough chick bank robber with a machine gun and a wig with a wavy curl.

(MUSIC)

JUDD: Well, Mrs. Husong comes back into the classroom as she stands in the doorway. And I can tell she's discombobulated by the pictures on the blackboard.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And by the silence in the room because just at that moment I was having everybody write their own ransom notes.

(APPLAUSE)

JUDD: You don't get that in "Little Women."

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Mrs. Husong says, James, what book have you got there? I say "My Search For Patty Hearst." She says, James, that is completely inappropriate material for the fifth grade. Sit down. But I said I'm not finished yet. She said, oh, yes, you most certainly are finished. I ought to wash your mouth out for bringing that filth into my classroom. Now, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know now, now I know, now I know, now I know, now I know that what I said next was wrong. I know that now. Now I know.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: But you have at least have to admire my commitment to the moment when I turned to my fifth grade teacher as 10-year-old and said, oh, yeah? Well, maybe I should lock you in the supply closet for a month until you start to see things my way. Power to the people.

(CHEERING)

JUDD: (Yelling) Rise up my revolutionary brothers and sisters. Get up. Get up.

(CHEERING)

JUDD: Now I know.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Well, the principle calls my mother and tells her to come pick me up from work. And my mother is livid not because of the book, she gave me the book.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: But because she hates to be called away from her new part-time job at IBM where she is becoming something of an expert in the hot new field of word processing.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Oh, it was big. The first word processors changed everything. It was a very exciting time to type.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: My mother helped to raise a scourge of liquid paper, who wouldn't want to be a part of that? Well, she drives our '75 Ford Granada back to our suburban ranch house in a fury. She slams on the break, I tried to sneak out the side door. She says, oh, no, you don't. You're not getting off that easily. Since you're so good at remembering people's names and all the terrible things they do to each other, I have a little job for you to do for me while you're at home today. You do it and I won't tell your father what happened at school. Well, this was not an offer that I could refuse.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I come from something of a strange family. When my parents met, my father was a missionary from Utah, my mother was a cocktail waitress from Las Vegas. I liked to tell people I was really the only hard drinking Mormon in kindergarten that could shoot craps.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: A man is lying in the hospital bed, the nurse comes in. She says I'm going to take your temperature, would you like an oral thermometer or a rectal thermometer? He says what's the difference? She says the taste.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: The point is I was a star in need of a gig. So I said to my mother, OK, what is it, what do you want me to do? She said I want you to watch "The Young And The Restless" for me and tell me what happens.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Now, my mother was addicted to soap operas, but now that she had this new part-time job, it was killing her not to know what was happening on her favorite soaps, especially "The Young And The Restless." I mean, this was the land time before time when there were no VCRs or TiVos or DVRs, there wasn't even Betamax at this point, so, you know, it was really killing her not to know what was going on. She says it comes at noon channel 2. You do a good job and this whole day will be our little secret. So I watched and, wow, what an eye-opener.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Later that night, after the rest of my family had gone to bed, my mother comes into my room, she pulls up a chair next to the bed, she turns on my overhead lights. She gives me a shake and she says, well? What happened? Lauren was buried alive on the eve of her wedding to Paul by a jealous ex-boyfriend. (Gasping).

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Is she still alive? Yes. She managed to drill an air hole with a diamond on her engagement ring.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And it popped out of the ground just as Paul was walking by. Well, did he dig her up? No, he didn't have a shovel so he went looking for one. And he ran into Nikki, and Nikki said she had a shovel and she'd give it to him. But then Nikki said that she's in love with Paul, too, and she wants him to marry her tomorrow instead of Lauren. And if Paul is OK with that, well, then maybe they should just leave Lauren where she is.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Well, what did Paul say? Nothing. He opened his mouth to speak...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: ...And then he closed it. And then he opened it...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: ...And then he closed it. And then the show was over. Now, I don't know how many of you here watch soap operas, but that's what they do to you. They find some way to get you interested and then they make you wait and wait and wait and wait for the whole hour until they finally get to the one thing you want to hear someone say, then they open their mouth to speak and then they close it. Open, close, open, close, open, close - like a fish.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And the screen fades to black and you have to wait for a day or a week or a month or forever to find out what it was they were going to say. My mother says, oh, that is a perfect way to drive a person crazy.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: OK, you can stay home tomorrow, too.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Oh, what the heck, there's only a week left of school, you can skip the whole thing. Well, by the end of that summer, my mother was paying me a dollar a day to stay inside and watch her soaps for her. And than act them out for her when she gets home from work. Well, needless to say, it was a great summer.

(APPLAUSE)

JUDD: Oh, it changed me, it changed me. I learned things watching soaps I could never learn in elementary school. Things like how to walk into a room and cause a scene.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I learned that no matter whom you marry, you're always going to wind up with her sister.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I learned how to hold on to a grudge for dear life like it was the last life vest on the Titanic.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: But the most important lesson I'd learned watching soaps was that you got to be ready. You've got to be ready because if you are, at least once in everyone's life will come one golden shining moment when you can - when you can - when you can emerge from the shadows at a wedding or a funeral or a courtroom and announced to the stunned assembly that, yes, in fact, I am very much alive.

(APPLAUSE)

JUDD: The summer end, summer ends...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: You thought it was over, it's not.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: I keep going. Summer ends - as we all hope this show will one day.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Summer ends, I go back to school and, as luck would have it, Mary Appelbaum and I are once against classmates. And at the end of the first day of school, we find ourselves alone together in the classroom. Mary is at her usual place at the front of the room, I'm in my usual place in the back of the room. But Mary, well, she can - she can sense that something is different about me. Something has changed.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And she gets kind of kittenish and she puts on her backpack and she says I just want you to know that I feel really bad about what happened last year's book report competition. I'm sure you didn't know your book was dirty and bad.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: Anyway, I guess you also know I won the whole thing. It shouldn't come as any surprise, "Little Women" wins every year. The trophy looks really nice in my room.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: From my place at the back of the room, I get up and I begin slowly to approach Mary Appelbaum saying nothing, but speaking volumes with my eyes.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And I get right in front of her, right in for my close-up and then I grab her and I kiss her. And when I let go she kind of swoons for a moment. And then she grabs me and she kisses me back. I think, yes, victory is mine. I may not have won the trophy, but I won the girl who won the trophy. Even if I don't really want her.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: It's good enough for me. And I break our embrace and I turn and begin to walk quickly out of the room. And just at that moment, Mary Appelbaum runs forward. She says, James, wait - James, waits. James...

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: James, wait - tell me, what about us?

(LAUGHTER)

JUDD: And I turn slowly back to Mary Appelbaum, look her right in the eye and in my very best soap opera voice I say...

(APPLAUSE)

WASHINGTON: Good news, that performance, that James Judd performance, we caught it all on tape and it has to be seen to be truly believed. It's free for a short time. Peep how SNAP Live! went down for yourself at snapjudgment.org. Let the world know that you are a Snapper - sport the brand-new SNAP JUDGMENT T-shirt and be the envy of the wannabes. It's hot. How else will they know you're one of us? Come down and get the SNAP VIP backstage passes for our next live show and all kinds of SNAP goodies at snapjudgment.org. Brilliantly filmed by the hardest working team in radio.

WASHINGTON: And even though this is not the news, as much as they want to make it the news, as much as we refuse to be the new, even though if SNAP and the news accidently wandered into the same time portal - even then you would still not be as far away from the news as this is, but this is NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.