Beverly Hillbilly

March 16, 2016

The beauty of getting older is that you don’t have to deal with men hitting on you anymore. The sad thing about getting older is that you don’t have to deal with men hitting on you anymore. Don’t get me wrong. Although I had my share of “life of the party” moments in my youth, I was never, ever the long legged filly that all the colts were eyeing for a date. Still, when and if a gent ever did throw a pass my way, it was received as a compliment, whether or not there was any intrigue on my part. That all came to a screeching halt years ago when young men regularly started calling me “Ma’am,” just as well mannered bucks are known to do here in the south. The last man who insinuated that I was a hot tamale was about eighty five years old and suffered from early Alzheimer’s Disease. He was sweet though, and he thought I was fabulous, God rest his soul. Much worse than the “ma’am” thing, is a misconception that someone is hitting on you, when in reality, they are just dealing with you. A girl never forgets her initial encounter with this unfortunate truth.

When I was in my late twenties, I had the pleasure of traveling to Beverly Hills on a business trip. It was the first time I had ever traveled for any purpose other than moving, visiting family or going on vacation, so I felt oh-so-grown-up and relevant about it all. My travel expenses were all covered and I was booked to stay at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, don’tcha know! Well, lah-tee-dah for me. I was working for a talent agency in New York at the time, and the agent whom I assisted was very old school. His California clients were people like Troy Donahue and Soupy Sales (look them up). The trip was fairly easy for me. Mostly, I schmoozed at a pool party. Just a little bit, I set up meetings and interviewed actors seeking representation. Troy took me for a ride on his motorcycle down Sunset Boulevard and pointed out where he and Suzanne (look it up) lived when they were first married. It was all a bit surreal and overwhelming. I was actually glad when, on my last day there, my afternoon was free. Since I had no car, but still had a twenty something figure, I decided to take a dip in the pool at the Beverly Wilshire. Surely, there would be oodles of movie stars lying around sipping rum drinks and shifting their gold chains so that their tans would remain even. So I put on my new swimsuit-yes, a bikini-and headed downstairs with my towel and book in hand. I had forgotten to bring sunscreen, but so what! I passed it right up in the gift shop and opted to pick up a drink from the bar instead. I was in Hollywood! Because I have such a pathetic sense of direction, it took me quite a few twists and turns in hallways to finally spot the pool. It was gorgeous and actually had a little fan of water shooting up from the center. Very old Hollywood. Strangely, the pool deck was empty of people. And although I expected to find puffy lounge chairs upholstered with fresh terrycloth, there were only a few regular chairs and umbrellas flanking the perimeter. That was ok by me, though. After all, the entire place was pretty exclusive, and it was only 2:00 in the afternoon. People were still closing deals on movie lots and in the bar of the hotel. Fine, I would take a little solitary dip, then seal the rest of my trip with my drink (Pina Colada) and a good book. Better that way anyway. New York was so crowded and noisy! I would soak up the luxury of solitude for a few hours before going upstairs to pack.

I set up my towel and my book on one of the chairs and inched my way over to the pool, where I tested the water with my big toe. Nice and warm, so in I went, very gently. I didn’t want to ruin my hair-do since the arid climate of Cali was treating it so nicely. My plan was to cool myself down with a little water treading before planting myself in the chair for the rest of the afternoon. The pool was dreamy, and quite shallow through out. That made sense to me. The shallowness of it made it easier for movie moguls and me to hold our drinks and carry on with other moguls without sliding under the surface. Still, it was barely two feet deep. Then it struck me. Oh! You are supposed to SIT, not swim! Of course. This wasn’t an olympic lap pool, after all. It was for schmoozing (look it up). Perfect. So I sat. Just me and my Pina Colada.

I had been soaking for about twenty minutes when I noticed an attractive man slowly walking across the pavement, directly toward me. He had that sort of smile, a smirk really, that I had come to recognize in my adulthood. He had spotted me from afar and had targeted me through his scope. Can’t a girl get a break? He wasn’t even in a swim suit. Clearly, then man was at the hotel on business, but even that didn’t stop him. He just kept smiling and strolling….strutting…towards me. That was OK, though. I knew how to handle these types. And this guy looked good, so he probably wasn’t used to rejection. I almost felt sorry for him, knowing what was coming and all. Confidently, he walked straight over to me, with my elbows draped over the ledge of the pool and my head tipped upwards in hopes of capturing as much California vitamin D as I could. I had on dark sunglasses, so he couldn’t see my eyes. He had no idea that I was watching his every move, like you watch a snake. He stooped down in his Euro-California custom tailored suit.

“Hello.” Smiling, he spoke the word almost as an apology for what was to come as he pulled his sunglasses down onto the tip of his nose and peeped over the top. The Blue Grotto coming right at me.

“Well, hello.” I cooed back, preparing to give him the bad news. I was not looking for fun. I wanted to quietly enjoy my drink and read my book. Poor guy.

“Uh, I am going to have to ask you to get out of the fountain.” All the words that followed were in slow motion, as in a nightmare.

“What?’’

“I am from security. Sorry, but you are going to have to get out of the fountain.”

“The….fountain???? Uh. This is THE FOUNTAIN? Oh, no.”

“Are you a guest here?”

“Yes. Yes, I am!”

“May I please see your key, ma’am?” Ma’am. That was my first time. It stung. This whole thing felt like a punch to my flat little tummy.

“Oh, uh, sure.” I crawled out of the…fountain (I had to sort of climb out like a baby crawling over the rail of a crib because there were no steps), and reached for my key. It was an actual key, as was common at the time. It had the room number engraved on it, so it was proof that I was a real guest and not a hooker.

“Ok, thanks. Sorry. The pool is over there if you want to go for a real swim.”

“Uh, no. I think I better just go upstairs and (suck my thumb) start packing. I have an early flight tomorrow. But thanks. Sorry….about the fountain thing. I thought…..”

“It’s ok, no harm done.” I wrapped myself tightly in the towel, then gathered my book and the drink. I avoided all eye contact as I bolted away from the p…fountain.

“Ma’am!”

What now? Couldn’t I just leave? Please? My shoulders felt a little pink.

“The building is the other way.” He pointed in a direction that meant nothing to me, but I turned and followed his point anyway.

“Right! I know! I was just going to…right. Right. Sorry!”

I went straight to my room, minus a couple of wrong turns, and packed my bags while I finished my drink. By six o’clock I was ready for bed. The time change thing, you know? I took the last sip of my PC, which had taken the edge off my humiliation. At the bottom of the glass, I found the realization that if Mr. Security had not been on duty, he would have definitely made a pass. Definitely. Poor guy.

Advertisements

The Circle

March 3, 2016

San Angelo is little university town deep (very deep) in the heart of the heart of Texas. Until last week, I had never even heard of it, but since I was invited to go there, I went. Why? The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival held its regional gathering and I was invited to attend along with a group of Southeastern Louisiana University students who would be performing pieces from my first musical play, High and Mighty. How could I decline an invitation that included the words Kennedy Center in the verbiage? I couldn’t, so off I went prepared to watch, learn, listen and teach. Also included in the week of plays, seminars and contests were opportunities to meet and greet other theatre lifers, such as li’l ole me. Some of these thespians were young enough to be my children, some were old enough to be my parents, but somehow, we were all the same, sitting in darkened theaters or poorly lit rehearsal rooms, loving/hating/questioning a performance, script or process. Truth be told, most of the attendees were students, so my actual peers were the minority, which was somewhat liberating. I could move inconspicuously, incognito. I could come and go without being noticed. If I wanted to go back to my hotel room to eat Skittles and read my favorite new book, Hamilton (of course), I could…and did, actually. I would not lose points or be reprimanded. People just seemed to be happy to see me when and if they did.

After spending three and a half exhausting days together, the Southeastern group of young actors gathered together to, one last time, perform the two opening musical numbers from my script. Members of the original production and design team were all there as well. In rehearsal, we watched and listened as the students marked the numbers in a pseudo cue to cue rehearsal prior to opening the house to the audience. About fifteen minutes before the students were called to their places, we all gathered outside the building, standing in a circle, holding hands. Each cast member was given the opportunity to say a few words about the show and what it meant to them. We had all grown to know and love each other in the way that only performers and, perhaps, team athletes can. During the run of the show, these actors had come to fully trust each other and push each other to their maximum potentials, with respect. Actors who had never dared to sing in a musical had to belt out notes and lyrics knowing that the person across the stage from them had been formally training, vocally, for years. Singers who had never been taught to fully develop a character were standing next to actors who had been studying characterization and physicality since high school. These dynamics are fertile ground for insecurity and jealously, but those demons were not invited into this circle. Instead, I witnessed nothing but spunky, gentle, loving support firing in every direction. As this cast shared their final thoughts with each other -“best thing that has happened to me at Southeastern…..this show has changed my life…..I have learned so much…..let’s make this time the best one ever….. one last time!”

Michelle was the first one who started taking light-footed jumps as she chanted. “One more time! One more time! One more time!” Then Jamie joined her, followed by Olivia. Soon the others dove in until our little circle was a single unit of rhythm, a united front, a single purposed organism, jumping together to the words, hands still held tightly.

“One more time! One more time! One more time!”

When the volume and energy reached it’s pinnacle, they broke with hoots and yahoos, as though preparing to sprint onto the field for the Super Bowl. They were bulls in a pen, scraping the dirt with anticipation. It was one of the most fascinating and inspiring things I have ever been a part of and I knew that this circle would never leave me. Their performance was riveting, even for me, and I have seen it countless times.

The next day, we all began to drift in different directions as the festival wound down. Some people departed for home a day early and I could feel the air quietly escaping our collective balloon. That evening, the production received exactly three awards of recognition from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Region 6. Early the following day, we all hit the road or the air, heading back to our real lives and routines. That was almost a week ago, and I am now back into my daily familiars; not a bad thing. Still, I will never forget these performers who are now my friends. Even after they are long removed from my presence, I will hold them close to my heart. They gave me a gift that I can never adequately described, and unquestionably, it is one that will stay with me forever. I cannot wait to see what they each do next, for every positive experience is a mere stepping stone to something else, isn’t it? Maybe my play will get another production. Another place, another time. I hope so. One more time. Still, nothing will ever top High and Mighty, 2015 production. She was one of a kind.