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2001-06-13 / 2002-06-22

Robert Reed
B. 10.19.32 Highland Park, Illinois / D. 5.12.92 Pasadena, California

A hundred years ago there lived a race of servants, the last effulgence of an ancient line which had existed since the dawn of wealth. From childhood, men and women were maintained, for life, by all but the meanest or least ostentatious households; they were required as human labor in the days before refrigerators and gas stoves and washing machines and sloppy inadequate self-dressing by both sexes (and me).
Had you been walking down a well-off residential street in any city in the Western world a hundred years ago, and had stopped to inquire at any random door how many servants were concealed within, the answer (depending upon the time of day) might have been anywhere from five to fifteen. Each home, in addition to housing its own help, would have seen a constant ebb and flow of small traders, delivery and errand boys, idlers of both sexes (like me)
who might wind up in several houses on the street on any given day (a nascent media).
And every basement would have yielded its bounders and beauties and monsters of pride; every block its heroes and prodigals and saints of miraculous marriage into rank; through every neighborhood would have circulated lists of those to watch as well as tales of the lamentedly gone-downhill. You just wouldn’t have known any of this to walk down the street—it didn’t impinge. Then came appliances. . .and diaspora.
Frustrated footmen, fireboys and butlers, incurably lewd bootblacks and the palest parlormaids—the ones who would have lingered upstairs to watch the dinner guests arrive a hundred years ago—the servant race’s natural celebrities—were left with no choice but to become television actors.

Robert Reed fell into what was beneath him.
Robert Reed fell down the basement stairs.
Robert Reed was relegated to the kitchen.
Robert Reed auditioned.

Poetic assistance by Claudia Mackie.

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