I am in a weird place in my life. Yes, I am still young. While not as painfully stupid as I used to be, I can still be so stupid I chew pebbles and wonder why they are crunchy. At the same time there is a lot I still do not know. Since moving to New York at the young age of eighteen, I have done a lot. My name is still not front and center, but I have done a lot.
I am what they call a Z lister. Sometimes I get recognized on the street. Yes, they know me as The Puppet Girl from TV. Sometimes they even have gotten a singing telegram from me. Sometimes they have seen a youtube video. Sometimes they have seen me onstage. Sometimes they have even read my book. Yet my bank account indicates none of this mind you. Anyway, I had a long weekend and found myself grungy and scrungy running around Times Square in my sweats. In this daring ensemble I found myself wandering aimlessly in Forever 21.
I looked at all the young people buying clothes and did like some of them. While I am not terribly young, I am not terribly old either. It’s a weird netherworld. Riding the escalators I thought of some of the theatre people in my home town because I will be doing a signing there in a week.
One was a production company that did musicals. The alumni of this place has gone on to national nonunion tours of various shows for low pay, and to stomp and whistle on various cruise ships around the world. Some have even worked at Disney. For the most part they are at the top of the small time. I remember one mother always had this painted on tan and wore these tacky high heels and sequin tops. She always looked like she was going to dance at a low class strip club where she would probably receive her paycheck in slimy quarters. She was a choreographer of some sort. Her daughter finished high school to work on a cruise ship and now is married with a kid. She still follows her dream by being the lead singer in a wedding band. I don’t know. She was always nice. Just never understood her mother’s fashion choice. A lot of the rinky dink musical theatre people were like that in my town. None of them ever worked in Vegas. None of them had ever seen Hollywood except for the sign in the movies. None of them had ever been on Broadway except to walk on it as a tourist in my fine city. The question is, why do they feel like they need to wear the costume pieces on the street? Not judging. Just don’t understand. Actually fuck it. I am.
One of my favorite dance teachers in college always looked sweaty and like she was worn out from a long day at the studio. A former Rockette who worked on Broadway, I don’t think I saw her in sparkles once. I also have met and known my share of famous people and worked with a few too. For the most part, on the street they are low key. It’s jeans, ball cap, sweats. They don’t have to announce their presence as performers. They don’t have to look like they walked out of the life story of Gypsy Rose Lee. Maybe it’s because they know they have made it and don’t need to prove their identity to the world.
As a Z Lister, someone who isnt quite invited to the party’s yet, which way should I go? Do I wear the ball cap and secretly rely on my own inner self worth to guide me? Do I assure myself that I am a good enough writer and comedian? Do I tell myself the sweats I wore to the studio all winter/spring to feel comfy in the cold to record my audiobook was good enough? Yes, the place where women came in dressed for the jiggle fest for the most part? Sweats and the ball cap make me take myself seriously when I wanna feel comfy.
On the other hand I show up relentlessly for my career. As a woman comedian, I work ten times harder than my male peers and only get a third as far. Not to mention I am only taken an eighth as seriously. Despite all my hard work, sometimes I am shafted because I am a woman or whatever else. For as hard as I try, sometimes things just don’t fall into place. Nothing is ever released on time in my time. As I get older I see the clock ticking. Yes, I have some fans who will live and die for me but I am not a household name. Do I break out the tacky outfits? Do I bedazzle myself? Do I get my high heels and paint on tan, strutting around and pretending to be a big star?
Today a barker for the club that fired me stopped me on the street. He tried to sell me comedy show tickets to the shit hole that fired me. An alum from a show I did a cameo on that has been cancelled was headlining. I remarked that her career has certainly nose dived. The barker didn’t know how to take my cynicism except to deny he was working and affiliated with the biggest shithole ever. Of course the barker kept saying this chick was on this show and that show which was a lie. Maybe she should invest in the tacky outfits, the bedazzler, the high heels, and just spray on that damn tan. Or maybe not. I heard through the grapevine she is nice. Too nice for that shiteous wardrobe choice. I will shave the skin cancer look a like contest for those I hate.
There was a part of me that when this idiot asked who I was, I wanted to reply, “Don’t you own a TV?” Part out of my still raw resentment from a club that worked me to death, got the best publicity from me ever, and then kicked me out like a homeless man camping out in the bathroom.
And when the barker asked my name. I told him April. He asked my last name. I told him April was fine. I should have said, “The name is April, but it is Ms. Brucker to you, Sir.” That is when I decided to walk away. While I am a Z Lister there is room to move up. I am not ready for the skin cancer looking spray on tan. I am not ready for the high heels that no one can walk in. I am not ready for the bedazzled sequins and bad hair. I am not ready to rip off my wardrobe from a Las Vegas show girl. I am not ready to pretend that I was something great, when I could still be something great. I know in my heart I am the real thing.
Yes, the sexism is stifling as the men step on my bones and the women stab me in the back making them feel equal. Yes, the male world makes me feel like I am not enough while the female world excludes me because apparently women who look like me have some in. Yes, it is just another excuse to have a terrible attitude and to be a professional victim. Maybe I need new comedy friends, but the idea of friends is so foreign since I started to see some success. When the idea of support from my so called amigos was to spread rumors about how I got ahead, and throw all I had been through in my face. Who knows? Who cares? I know I am a smart, capable, career orientated woman.
Either way I am not ready to be a tacky bitch. So what I might walk around in sweats? If I am recognized by a fan they will recognize me because they like me, I am enough. If I feel like dressing crazy that is my business too. Yes, I am enough. That is my message to young people, especially young women. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. You are enough.
I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Download my audiobook https://itunes.apple.com/ne/album/time-i-was-nearly-white-slave/id727756232