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Smoking Between Acts

In my early 20s I played in a pit orchestra in Chicago. It was a theater in the round and the orchestra pit was below the stage. Each act would begin with the band marching from backstage onto the stage, where we would descend into the pit using a ladder. In the summer, we would wear tuxedos with white dinner jackets...in the winter, black jackets.

I smoked at the time; so during intermission, I'd head to the head, then light up a smoke...finishing it before stage manager called "Orchestra to the pit!" One night in the summer there was an electrical problem so instead of getting the call, we were told it would be 10 minutes before we would go back into the pit. I lit up another cigarette...a 100 as I recall....I smoked one puff when we got the call...well, shucks, I didn't want to throw a new cigarette out. So I put it into an ash tray filled with sand...checked it and it appeared to be out...so I put it in my jacket pocket to finish later.

Since I played 4th reed, I was last guy into the pit. I'm standing on the stage kind of looking around waiting for everyone in front of me to descend when I felt a tug on my dinner jacket.

I looked down and a gentleman in the front row was tugging on my jacket saying "Excuse me, but I think you're on fire"....when I looked, my pocket was smoking...one of the guys grabbed my jacket off me and threw it on the stage jumping up and down on it. He handed it back to me (rather roughly as I recall)...the piocket was burned and still smoldering...but the audience loved it giving me a round of applause.

It was the end of the summer season so no stores were selling white dinner jacke4ts so I had to wear my burned jacket for the remaining 3 or so weeks of the summer.


Old King Log
Staff member
I've still got my white jacket somewhere (probably in the storage POD), but haven't had cause to wear it for many, many years. All of the stuff I did in Houston was strictly black coat, black tie.

I recall seeing the Houston Symphony decked out in white jackets once, but they got to make their own wardrobe decisions. Not so us worker bees...
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