No need to adjust your eyes or your ears. Yes, that moustachioed man in the white suit wandering the halls of the Mays Landing branch of the Atlantic County Library System, was indeed Mark Twain, writer of such beloved works as "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
After spending a century in the afterlife, Twain is back, rogue sense of humor still intact. And he would like a scotch and a light for his cigar.
"If there is no swearing in heaven, I wouldn't stay there," he said. "There isn't."
Reports of the famed author's death 100 years ago seemed to be greatly exaggerated April 21 when the "resurrected" literary figure (professional actor Alan Kitty) held a special anniversary talk before an audience of about 60 people. The crowd was a mix of adults and teenagers, most of whom were Mainland Regional High School students reading Twain's novels.
Kitty, who spoke in a gravelly, Midwestern voice, played the role well. He retold the ghost story "The Golden Arm," a variation of the short story that made Twain famous, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," and a "new work" that played off "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court."
On the serious side, Kitty recounted some of the joys in Twain's life, such as the courting of his wife, Olivia Langdon, and the tragic moments, such as the many failed business investments that bankrupted the writer and the death of toddler son, Langdon, of diphtheria.
The actor took a jab at clueless young people in his 85-minute talk, lamenting how the walking "Twain" has been confused with food entrepreneur Colonel Sanders, "a dead president" and other Twain impersonators.
"I've been mistaken for many things in my lifetime, but fried chicken wasn't one of them," Kitty quipped. "Then I got mistaken for Hal Holbrook. Who the hell is Hal Holbrook?"
Politicians weren't spared either, and Kitty, as Twain, jokingly decided to run for president in 2012.
"Both major parties agree it doesn't need experience ... no broader platform than mine - stem cells for all, war and peace, and heaven and hell," Kitty said. "But I reject any claim that I am a waffler."
One: he was born in Missouri, the middle of the country.
Two: "I failed at nearly everything I tried, two exceptions: storytelling and lying."
Three: "It took me an entire lifetime, and a little more besides, to reach my full potential and be morally ready to lead - I'm dead! And many in Congress play dead, especially when it comes to passing legislation."
Irene McMichael, a retired marketing director who lives at the Fairways at Mays Landing, chuckled throughout the show. McMichael and her friends, Linda and David Shappell, went to the event because they love the writer and their book club read Huck Finn.
"I'm going to vote for him for president,"McMichael said.
What was Twain's presidential appeal?
"He's so relevant today. He really is," McMichael said, "I think his bigger theme is how history repeats itself. It's all run the same way, just change the name. He challenges truth."
Linda Shappell said Kitty's performance brought back memories of reading Twain's work in college. Listening to "The Golden Arm" again also gave her a thrill.
"We were like little kids waiting for the punch line," Shappell said about the surprise ending. "You could tell your grandchildren."
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