Journalist Eric Sandstrom recalls the deal between Richard and his sixth grade teacher Mrs. Yingst that gave Richard his first stage. Richard’s chronic tardiness to class threatened to make his time at Blaine Sumner into a repeat of his ill-fated tenure at the Irving School. Mrs. Yingst had other ideas, though.
Sensing Richard’s love of performing, Mrs. Yingst struck a deal with the boy: if he arrived to class on time, she would give him ten minutes every Friday afternoon to do his slapstick routines in front of the class. Richard jumped at the chance to bring the lessons he learned from watching television into the classroom, and was rarely late for school again.