Dick’s Endowment

By Gary Wrednal.



 
 

I get nightmares about appearing naked on stage. It was almost thirty years ago when I had to do this for real, yet I’m still getting flashbacks. Because I possess a much smaller penis than average, exposing it in public had been a challenge at the time, but it must have affected me more than I’d thought.

I’m standing in the wings of a theatre, about to step out into the lights for the scene in which I strip off entirely. This is my recurring dream these days. I know that when I drop my shorts, the audience will laugh uproariously at their first sight of my cock. Some nights I wake up in a sweat.

In the summer of 1990, I was in my mid-twenties and working as a stage actor. I had managed to get my foot in the door of a prestigious theatre company in London. My contract was only for a single show. As a spear-carrier and bit part player in a revival the company was mounting of its epic production from a decade earlier, Alexander the Great. In two scenes, I had a short speaking part as a messenger, but any other time I appeared; I was filling space upstage like an extra. Nonetheless, I thought the job was a break.

I was desperate to stay on with the company after the run of performances ended, but every other show in the remainder of the 1990/91 season had already been cast. This included a comedy that had been a big hit during the previous season, and which was due to be revived in the New Year. It was called ‘Dick’s Endowment.’

I’d never seen the play, but I knew it had been intended as a vehicle for the comic Clive Palling, who was a big name back then. He’d built a reputation for being willing to do almost anything in front of an audience to get a laugh, no matter how undignified, and he was contracted to play the lead role again.

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Because ‘Dick’s Endowment’ had been created solely to highlight his talents, you may imagine the company’s shock when only a month before rehearsals were due to start, Palling withdrew. It was too late to pull the show as tickets had been sold, but they needed to find a replacement quickly for the lead, and that wasn’t going to be easy. The basis of the play was that the main character possessed a tiny penis, and in scene after scene, this penis had to be on show in full view to the audience, an object of attention, and the butt of punch lines. Casting the part demanded a talented comic actor who was genuinely under-endowed yet sufficiently uninhibited to allow his genitalia to be the focus of attention.

I remember the atmosphere of mild panic in the theatre when Palling pulled out. It was just days before my contract ended and unemployment loomed. Looking back, I can see the funny side of the strained effort my colleagues in the dressing room made to remain tactful as they encouraged me to put myself forward. They were kind and unkind at the same time – generous in being prepared to see my career advance, cruel by making it clear they knew I had the right physical attributes, or rather the lack of them.

In fairness to my colleagues, it would have been hard not to notice. Around a dozen of us, bit-part players shared a cramped room high up in the theatre, and our minimal costumes for Alexander the Great meant we spent most of our time backstage semi-naked. Everybody saw everyone else stripping off completely to put on the gear for playing the background soldiers. It wasn’t possible to keep our modern underwear on because other than a plumed helmet, sandals, and a short cape, all we wore were abbreviated leather loincloths that hugged our groins and exposed our buttocks. Wearing theirs, my colleagues” hefty bulges thrust confidently outwards, but I was self-conscious that on me, in profile, there was hardly a blip at my crotch.

Worse still was the even briefer costume I had to wear for my small role as the messenger. All I had on – apart from a primitive satchel – was a minuscule pouch made of sackcloth, held up by a thin band of twine that ran around my hips and through my arse-crack. The pouch didn’t even rise high enough to cover my pubic hair, obliging me to shave it. I was not particularly shy about exposing my torso. In those days, I kept myself in shape with swimming and weights – but in this revealing costume, I was all but naked, and there was no way I could disguise that I had virtually no packet at all. Yet that was how I had to appear in front of the audience.

One evening the actor who was playing the principal role of Hephaestion paid a visit from his much grander dressing room downstairs while I was making one of my several costume changes. He poked his head around the door just as I’d slipped off the tiny pouch.

“Ah,” he exclaimed. “So, this is where the small parts are.”

I should have called him a cunt to his face.

So far away in time, I don’t recall the exact details of the process I had to go through to audition for Dick, the lead part in Dick’s Endowment. Maybe I’d confided to the stage manager. I’d like to be considered who kindly put in a word for me with Philip, the director for the revival. I have a blurred memory of the few hectic days when I underwent a series of trials – auditions with Philip, a read-through with various deputy staff directors, workshops, then a meeting with the co-star, Jimmy Jackson-Soames, who was to reprise his role as Dick’s uncle, and a mini-rehearsal of our scenes together. The company would take a big chance if they gave me the part. I was, after all, a complete unknown, so they had to be sure I could do it, but they really put me through some hoops.

What I do remember clearly was the occasion I was called to a meeting in the casting director’s office. This was when the production team was close to reaching a decision and apart from me apparently only also considering one other, better-known actor. My hopes and excitement were rising.

That morning I was confronted by about a dozen people, all of them senior in either the theatre company’s organization or the production team for Dick’s Endowment, even the artistic director of the company was there. This was clearly serious. I tried not to feel intimidated.

Philip spoke first. He and said how well I’d done in the auditions, how they’d like the way I was underplaying the comedy, and how suited I’d be for the role.

“You’ve been a revelation,” he said.

I mumbled thanks.
“There’s just one thing we must still be certain about,” he went on. “Well…two things, actually.”

“Yes?”

“As you know,” Philip led incautiously. “There’s a lot of nudity for the lead, and much of the humor derives from jokes about the character’s actual bodily parts.”

“Uh-huh,” I said.

“Well,” he continued. “We need to make sure you’re one hundred percent comfortable with taking off your clothes.”

“I’ve got most of them off in Alexander,” I joked.

Philip smiled politely. “I was going to say,” he went on, “you have to be okay with people looking directly at your genitals, and we must see that you are.”

“Right,” I stuttered.

“And also,” he added, “we need to make sure you have … uh … you know, the right dimensions.”

Then he waited for my response.

“Well,” I said, “I’d have thought those were obvious from the loincloth I wear.”

This time he didn’t smile at all. “We still need to have a look,” he said.

“Now?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Here?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“You mean strip naked right in front of you all?” I asked.

“Yep,” he said.

I looked around, hoping for at least some demurral, but everybody in the room just stared back implacably.

There, in the everyday office, beside filing cabinets and telephones and secretaries passing back and forth in the corridor behind the window, and in front of twelve dispassionate, fully dressed people, I submitted, taking off my clothes one by one to build a pile of my boots, socks, sweatshirt, jeans and t-shirt on the floor beside me. The atmosphere was excruciating, yet no one said or did anything to relieve the tension. They stood impassively, waiting for me to expose myself to them.

I remember I had on a pair of ordinary white cotton briefs that day, and once I’d stripped down to these, I knew they’d all notice that I had almost no bulge at my crotch whatsoever. It was an ignominy I’d numbly grown accustomed to in every dressing room and changing room I’d shared since adolescence.

My fingers went into my waistband, and I whisked off my underpants. As soon as I’d stepped out of them, I raised my eye-line over my judges” heads so that I didn’t have to see their reaction, and they weren’t confronted by mine.

I knew what they’d be gawping at; flaccid, my penis is under an inch long. Even when erect, it’s less than three. Usually, it looks like an acorn. The only extruding flesh is the bobble of my glans, resting directly on top of my small ball sack. I allowed them to stare.

Then I heard someone say, “Nice,” and somebody else added, “Perfect.”

I lowered my gaze and saw a semi-circle of serious but satisfied nodding heads.

Philip stepped in towards me. “I think you must be even smaller than Clive,” he said, referring to the star who’d played the part before. “Do you mind us all looking at you like this?”

“Not at all,” I said. I was lying.

“If you played the part, you realize you’ll have seven hundred strangers out there, basically all staring at your todger,” Philip warned me.

“I know,” I said.

“And you’re prepared for that?” Philip enquired.

“Totally,” I said. Except I wasn’t.

He moved in even closer, as now did some of the others, yet if I remember correctly; it was the designer, Robert, who touched me first. Why he needed to be present at all is still a mystery, but he didn’t refrain. He cupped a feathery, quivering hand under my balls and gave my knob a tweak as if he had the unchallengeable right to do so.

“Beautiful,” he purred.

Emboldened by this, more moved in to grope me. At least six of them fondled my penis. I hated it, but I stood there frozen, letting it occur, pretending it was all right, but not wanting to jeopardize the job mostly. I’d like to think that none of this could happen nowadays.

Philip put a stop to the free-for-all, yet his intervention only made me more uncomfortable.

“You never saw the show, did you?” he asked me. “Typical of Clive, there was a gag he put in for during the time he was naked. He’d do a pratfall and end up on his hands and knees. His bum was up in the air, sticking straight towards the audience, and because his knees were apart, everyone could see right to his asshole. I mean completely. Every single night it got a roar. People were astonished he’d show himself like that. Now then, would you be okay doing the same?”

Would I? I didn’t have time to think it through properly.

“Fine,” I muttered.

“Great,” Philip beamed. “So … be good to your word and pop up on this table here to let us have a look.”

“Err … right,” I mumbled. I was a bit dazed by this time, but I clambered onto the desk.

Philip gave me instructions. “Put your head right down, knees apart, now stick your bum in the air. And, uh…pull your cheeks apart with your hands. Give us all a good view, will you?”

I did as I was asked. I have nightmares about this moment, too. It was the most humiliating thing I had ever undergone. At the time, I was aware of them of forming a tight semi-circle around me, shuffling to get the best position to scrutinize my exposed anus. I was already acutely conscious of being the only naked one in a room full of fully clothed people, and now I was having to adopt a pose that was flagrantly degrading. I even overheard one of them whisper, “His cock’s so tiny you can’t see it at all from behind.”

For a minute or two, while I held this position, there was some muttering about something else that I couldn’t catch. Finally, Philip said, “Please get down.” And when I did, he said, “We’re all in agreement. We’d like to offer you the part.”

I squirm now to think about how I must have gushed my thanks, though I have a clear recollection of my queasy reaction afterward when they left me to dress, alone. At one and the same time, I felt elation and self-disgust. And the two didn’t mix well.

It was only after I’d signed the contract that I read the script properly and realized what I’d let myself in for. The premise was indescribably silly, and most of the jokes were either weak or awful, but you could see why the show might make people laugh.

The setup was that the lead character named Dick was an inventor seeking financial backing for his prototype pogo stick come cocktail shaker from his wealthy uncle, a keen naturist who was called (what else?) Willy. In the first scene, Dick goes to visit his uncle, who’s lounging in his garden, puffing on a cigar, without a stitch of clothing on, but shy, prudish Dick won’t be encouraged to strip off likewise.

Uncle Willy unexpectedly dies, and Dick learns that although he is the sole heir, the will prescribes a condition: he must not wear any clothes at the business meetings in which he promotes his invention. Unless he’s in the buff in public, he won’t be endowed his uncle’s fortune. He battles with his instinct for modesty, then after a climactic scene in which he drops his shorts, Dick finds he’s reconciled to being the only one naked when everyone else is fully dressed.

Perhaps I need to explain that in the wake of post-sixties permissiveness; this type of no clothes on farce just about remained popular up until the early nineties. By then, we’d reached the extreme boundary of what performers could be expected to do, particularly where nudity was involved.

The tattered text I’d been given was scrawled with additional lines I discovered Palling had improvised during rehearsals and incorporated into the play. He’d come up with endless jokes about the smallness of his/my character’s penis, none of them particularly novel or witty, but all of them self-lacerating.

For instance, another character, unimpressed by Dick’s promotional spiel, had the line: “I’m sorry, but that’s the biggest load of cock,” and the stage direction that followed read: ‘Dick glances down at his penis and shares a look of astounded disbelief with the audience.’

There were other panto-style, fourth-wall-breaking jokes. Apparently addressing a sales conference, the Dick character – my character – had to say. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll stand here naked for the rest of the presentation. For those of you near the back, I should explain that what you’re looking at is a penis—only in miniature. No one’s going to use the word schlong to describe Cecil down there. In fact, you’ve probably all handled larger suitcase keys. Or zip pulls.”

From day one, in every scene in which my character was meant to be naked, Philip made me rehearse without any clothes on. I wish I could say I grew accustomed to standing around in the rehearsal hall completely unclothed alongside my fellow actors who were fully dressed, but I never did. It felt weird and discomfiting.

Not all my memories of that time were bad. The rest of the cast was great, especially my fearless veteran co-star, Jimmy Jackson-Soames, who was always warm, supportive, and hilarious.

But I’ll never forget the shock I felt during the opening week when I first saw the production photos they’d displayed outside the theatre. There I was, almost life-size, fully frontally naked, captured in mid-air in the scene where I jumped the splits, my pitiably undersized penis the focal center of an image which was already pulling the attention of passers-by like a magnet, detonating sniggers. The photo didn’t last long. Somebody complained, and the City of Westminster made the theatre take it down.

And the other thing I shan’t of course ever forget was the audience’s reaction the first time my penis was revealed. There was a long buildup to this. The first act had finished with a scene in which it seemed I was about to expose everything to a group of financiers, but which in fact, was a feint.

I’d taken off my business suit, shirt, and tie and apparently only be wearing a pair of voluminous boxers. These came off, and underneath, I’d have on a pair of Y-Fronts. After that, it was a progressive striptease because beneath the Y-Fronts were Speedos, which despite their brevity concealed some bikini briefs that I’d take down to reveal in turn a thong, a leopard-print g-string, and a diminutive posing pouch.

At this point, I’d register panicky second thoughts, and shouting, “No! Nobody’s going to see, Cecil!”

I’d stomp off stage. Curtain.

The moment I finally exposed my dick came later, after the interval, and happened suddenly, to surprise the audience. The scene was another meeting amongst suited businessmen, and I’d arrive at it wearing a pair of baggy khaki shorts. I was naked underneath. Almost instantly, I’d hook my thumbs into the sagging waistband and yank the shorts off.

As I did, so there’d be gasps and splutters, then howls. At the first performance, the laughter must have gone on for over a minute, which is a long time when you’re standing on stage with nothing on and nothing to do and you know that what’s being laughed at is your own body. I was utterly unprepared for this.

It was much the same at every other show. Professionally, the run should have been the best time of my life, but though I hid it from my colleagues, there wasn’t a night I didn’t come off stage feeling sullied and depressed.

Playing the star part on the London stage should also have been a professional launching pad, and indeed, while the show was running, I was offered a big role in a film, but it was only some dire British produced ‘Carry On’ style comedy set in a nudist colony. I read as far as the direction: ‘At last Timmy takes off his swimming trunks, and the girls gather round to giggle and point,’ and when I turned the film down, my agent lost interest in me. I had about two more years of looking for acting work, and then I gave the business up.

Among the many jobs, I did afterward; I was once (much later) working as a heating engineer. One ordinary day I was called out to some big house with grounds in the outer-London golf club belt. A housekeeper opened the door, but when I’d repaired his radiator, the proprietor wandered in to inspect. He was older, of course, but I knew who it was straight away.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Are you, Mr. Palling?”

Immediately he cranked up a showbiz beam, apparently delighted still to be recognized in his comfortable semi-retirement.

“I took over from you,” I explained, “When they revived ‘Dick’s Endowment.’”

“Did you know?” he said, intrigued. “What’s your name?”

“My stage name was Terry Stubbs,” I said.

“Terry Stubbs! That’s right.” He gave out a chuckle: “You bastard. I heard you were better than me,” before reducing his voice to a growly whisper. “And I heard you were smaller.”

For a terrible moment, I thought he was going to propose unzipping and having a measuring contest there in his kitchen, though instead, we chatted inconsequentially for a minute or so about our experience of the show. But then his tone changed.

“I couldn’t face it, that revival you ended up doing,” he said. “It was only a month beforehand, wasn’t it, when I pulled out?”

“Yes.”

“I upset a lot of people, but I knew I’d not be able to take it again. I’d have…”

His voice trailed off for a moment, though he recovered by saying, “First time round, fine, though I could barrel through. I mean, I came up with half those gags. All of them at my own expense. But actually, it got to me. Every night when I took my cock out, that was the cruelest laughter I’d ever heard. It was as if I’d given them a license for spite. Did you feel that?”

I nodded.

“Couldn’t go through that a second time,” he said. “I didn’t want to be humiliated anymore.”

It was hard to credit these sentiments from someone I’d seen so often on his TV series, Calling Palling, where every week he’d end up performing some dignity-destroying stunt or other: cycling into a slurry pit, being tarred and feathered, or getting trapped inside a revolving cement mixer.

“Letting them laugh at the size of my cock was …” he searched for the word. “Demeaning.”

This, from a man whose trademark turn was to dress up in a little girl’s party frock and have custard, slapped on his pink frilly-pantied backside.

“I still get nightmares about it,” he said.

While I was with him, I just about held it together, although I was aware, my breathing had become shallow, and my hands were trembling. Once I’d parked the van a bit further down the lane, it was as if a dam had burst. I sobbed without control for half an hour. Though there in his kitchen after I’d swallowed the lump that had jammed my throat I had, in fact, managed to reply: “Yes. I do, too.”

*****

“But here comes Dick. He can tell you about his invention himself.”

It’s my cue. I’m waiting in the wings. All I have on is a pair of baggy shorts, and all I need do once I’m in the scene is poke my thumbs against my hip bones and propel them off, then brace myself for the crowd’s reaction. I need to step onto the stage this instant. Go! Move! Move right now!

I can’t.

“Um, yes, as I was saying, here comes Dick. He’s going to tell you about his invention himself.”

“Can you see him there?”

“Dick! We’re waiting for you, Dick!”

“Are you sure he said he’ll be here?”

I hear my fellow actors lamely improvising lines to fill the silence, I feel unease whip through the house as the audience senses something wrong. I sense the tinny Tannoy in the green room relaying the stage manager’s frantic instruction. But I’m locked to the floor, not able to go anywhere, paralyzed by dread.

“Mr. Stubbs to the stage immediately, please! Mr. Stubbs to the stage immediately!”

 

The End.

 

*This story has been edited to fix spelling, punctuation, & basic grammar, but the narrative and plot has remained the same. Just remember, even with the limited editing we do, it doesn’t mean any possible major flaws in this story were fixed.

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