When I was in high school, one of my friends had a reputation for being a prankster. Sometimes I found myself guilty by association, and sometimes I was an actual accomplice. He went through a phase during which he liked to find pictures of nude or scantily clad women and post them in friends’ lockers or Pee-Chee folders, so that when the person would open the folder, he’d have a little surprise waiting for him.
He actually got in a bit of trouble when he did that to a girl in our choir. The girl had red hair, you see, and so did the girl in the picture, and the picture was exceptionally lewd, so the girl reported my friend to the teacher. By way of a reprimand, the teacher famously told him, “Now, I like to look at a Playboy every now and then—”, which still makes us laugh, even all these years later. Hindsight being twenty-twenty, my friend thinks that was a cruel thing to have done to the girl, and if he could do things differently, he would. He also has daughters now, and that tends to make people grow up real quick, as well as to make them much more sympathetic to the tribulations that girls often experience in school.
Back then, however, the picture prank was something he did somewhat regularly. Once, he went to the library and found a National Geographic magazine with a story about Tahiti, which was full of half-naked women, so he pulled out a page and kept it for his own nefarious purposes. We sat next to each other in choir class, which meant that we shared a music folder. On that fateful day, when we sang the song “The Cloths of Heaven,” I opened the music and found the picture of a half-naked Tahitian woman. Ha ha. Then, when we finished the song, we put the music and the picture back into the folder, never to be looked at again, since the two of us learned and memorized music faster than most people. I only mention that fact because it’s apropos to the story. We had the song memorized from that day on, so we didn’t use the music anymore.
Three or four months later, our choir drove to a college an hour or so away, in order to participate in a somewhat prestigious regional music festival. I don’t remember much about the trip, to be quite honest with you (it’s been almost twenty-five years now), but I do remember that we did well enough during the afternoon performance to qualify for the finals later that evening, and one of the songs we performed was “The Cloths of Heaven.” At some point between the afternoon show and the finals, a couple of people came up to my friend and me, saying, “That wasn’t funny, you guys,” or, “Not cool.” We were mystified, and had no idea what they were referring to.
That night at the finals, it was our choir’s turn to take the stage. We filed onto the risers in our robes and awaited the announcer, who walked out a moment later. “Interesting story about this next choir,” the announcer told the audience of several hundred. He explained to them that the judges got quite a shock when they opened the music for “The Cloths of Heaven” and found a picture of a half-naked Tahitian woman inside. Our choir director was unaware that this had happened, but he had no doubt about who was to blame for this disgrace. He glared furiously at the two of us as we realized what had happened and tried unsuccessfully to suppress our giggles. Our surprised choirmates turned to each other, saying, “Who did that?” and others turned to us and asked, “Was it you guys?” as the entire audience erupted into laughter.
Our director was really angry, and after our performance he pulled my friend and me aside into a rehearsal room. He was convinced that we had done it on purpose, to prank the festival. We had to explain to him that no, this was just a private thing, and that we hadn’t used the music for months. We’d long since forgotten about the Tahitian. Out of the seventy numbered music folders our choir used, each one of which contained one or two copies of “The Cloths of Heaven” (our folder had two, one for each of us), the teacher’s aide had unluckily grabbed OUR numbered folder, and THAT copy, to turn in to the judges. I don’t think the director believed us at first, but eventually he had to admit that the circumstances were pretty funny, and we got off with a Well, Don’t Do It Again.
Oh, and our choir won the competition, by the way, so there you go. Apparently, sex sells.