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Two sides of Dr. Manoukian

by Ron Walker

We touch elbows, a quick smile, and it’s down to business.

Dr. Paul D. Manoukian runs a taut ship. He has offices in Gardnerville, Carson City and Fallon; a veritable empire. I sit comfortably in the examination chair and he sits on a movable stool, that allows him to scoot over to me or remain at his space-age electronic device as he dictates the barrage of information. He grills me relentlessly, and accepts nothing less than absolute clarity in my response. If I am obscure, I hear about it. I hear him say “comma” and then he presses me to answer more clearly. The reason I am here is because my right salivary gland has been giving me trouble. Dr. Sue Sanchez made the diagnosis and recommended Dr. Manoukian and, of course, I procrastinated. Now, a month later, the crisis has passed, but to be absolutely sure, I keep my appointment and receive a clean bill of health. The examination is over. Dr. Manoukian noticeably relaxes.

“So, Mr. Walker, what did you do for a living?” Dr. Manoukian asks. His new relaxed manner is openly discernible. I tell him I was a dancer, a choreographer, and danced on the Perry Como Show. His curiosity invites me to continue.

“Every Christmas, Mr. Como gave a party at his golf club for the dancers, the Ray Charles singers, and everyone on the crew,” I tell him.

Dr. Manoukian chimes in with words about a friend at a casino in Lake Tahoe, who flew with Perry and his wife to Florida, and who later remarked “they were the nicest, most gracious people.”

I mention Gene Kelly. I was a young choreographer at Resorts International and Mr. Kelly was appearing in the Superstar Theatre.

“Ron, how do you think I should come on stage at the beginning of the show?” he asks me. Mr. Kelly listens politely, then says, “Thank you, Ron, but I think we’ll slit the upstage curtain. I’ll hold an umbrella in front of me and, just before I get to the lip of the stage, I’ll lift the umbrella and strike a pose.”

And that’s what he did to huge applause. (I was much too inexperienced to think of slitting one of our curtains.)

Dr. Manoukian mentions Fred Astaire.

“You remember the number with the coat rack that he spun around and it wobbles and he does a whole dance with the thing,” he asks. I reply that Mr. Astaire never tried to stay in top physical condition between movies, but when he took on a new project, it was perfection all the way. Dr. Manoukian immediately mentions Debbi Reynolds crying every night while rehearsing “Singing in the Rain,” and I recall how hilarious Donald O’Conner’s “Make ‘em Laugh” routine was.

Somewhere along the line, I think I heard Dr. Manoukian use the phrase “laser focus.” That’s what all these gifted men have, including Dr. Manoukian.“You are of the same ilk as these men,” I say.

Time’s up. “Thank you for sharing some of your show business moments” he says, and walks me to the receptionist. What a pleasure meeting Dr. Manoukian.

Ron Walker can be reached at walkover@gmx.com