The other night at my show we were talking about some of the telegrammers past and present. Some were women who were shining stars while they were under my boss’s esteemed tutelage, and then decided for whatever reason to make the great exit. Yes, they decided to kill their dreams.
One was an assistant of my boss Bruce who was leaving as I was starting the job. Colette was a gorgeous triple threat and former pageant queen. Aspiring to Broadway, she worked for Bruce and was his resident Marilyn Monroe, naughty nurse, and sexy character gal. Basically me before there was a me at my job. However, she was good on the phones aka selling the product and I sucked during my short stint. Anyway, she was leaving the job because she was having a baby.
Now instead of being a triple threat in musical theatre, she is a triple threat in Westchester. She is a wife, mother, and has a job in real estate. Is she happy? I can’t answer that question because I have only spoken to her a total of three times in my life. But one thing is for sure, if she ever goes for a job interview they won’t ask her, “Headshot, resume, and best 16 bars.”
Another was Shoshanna, a nice Jewish girl from Long Island. A semi-successful Streisand impersonator, she had some high profile gigs in addition to assisting Bruce. Shoshanna was always searching for that nice Jewish husband. I remember her dating several men that I met, all whom I felt were beneath her that could only squawk about themselves and their small time show biz careers. However, she met one that wasn’t in show business. He was a civil servant of some sort. Basically Prince Semi-Charming told Shoshanna that she wasn’t making enough money as an actress, and had to get a more stable career. Not that he was rolling in bank. Shoshanna tried to go to school for Physical Therapy. That didn’t work. She talked about breaking up with him.
I remember telling Shoshanna that a man who wanted her to give up her career wasn’t worth it. Nonetheless she did, and married him. I think she wanted to be married and have a house more than she wanted to be the next Barbra Streisand. Some people are like that. Not everyone is a workaholic like me I suppose. Either way, she is married, has a house, and does some office thing. It’s all business without the show.
I have met a lot of brilliant and talented people who left show business for various reasons. Hell, a lot of the people I went to Tisch with are no longer doing theatre or in show business in any capacity. One girl I went to college with, who has a body I would die for, decided to change course and become a doctor. After spending the better part of a decade as an actress in LA, she’s doing a post bacc program and getting ready for medical school. Others have decided to become school teachers. That way they can use their creativity, change the world, and not worry about living in poverty. Some got an MBA, and others used their oratory gifts in different ways by becoming lawyers. Then there were those who started families, and live the boring 9-5 office life.
I understand why people would want to leave this career. It’s a life that is 99 percent rejection. Sometimes you will lose a role because you don’t have a look, aren’t sleeping with someone, etc. Sometimes you are denied spots because of politics, race, or some shitty booker doesn’t like women. Money is never consistent. If you want a family life, well nine times out of ten you can kiss that wish goodbye. This is a career where opportunity knocks once, and that means dropping everything to run for it. Partners and children don’t always understand it. Plus it is feast or famine. The workload is ridiculous when it is feast, which means no time for a personal life. Nine times out of ten you are the asshole friend or forgetful family member when this happens. I know, I’ve been there.
This past week I found myself tired and contemplating my life. For the better part of my twenties, I treaded the poverty line and fought hard for the career I have now. I showed up for a very long time. Often it was with no result. Often I was denied for being a woman, a ventriloquist, a loud mouth, having bad makeup, you name it.
However, as of late, the showing up has been paying off. The last three months have been nonstop work that I have loved, mannah from heaven in many ways. Additionally, the people I have worked with have all been wonderful, talented, dedicated, and kind. Money has not been an issue, and the rent has paid itself. Basically, I have been getting paid to do what I love. I filmed my DVD after a hellacious winter and everything has gone uphill from there. Also, my skills from my telegrammer past have made me able to handle any audience there is. Life is good.
The only downside is I am tired. I began to feel this way shortly before my big event Thursday. The night went off swimmingly, but then I felt like scrambled eggs afterwards, and thank God for my assistant. Shortly before my event, I was on the phone with my mother. Lately, she has been telling me how proud she is of me, and all the work I have been doing. In meltdown mode, I confessed to my mother that I was tired and started crying. My body hurt, my bones hurt, everything hurt. Not to mention I wanted to vomit that is how tired I was from how hard I had been working. In my little fussy fit, I told my mother all I had ever wanted was this career and now I was too tired to enjoy it.
My mom, being awesome, mentioned her whole life she had wanted a pool. A champion breast stroker, my mom had captained her Division I college squad and coached. My father however is not a swimmer at all. After years of begging and through the pains of empty nesting, my father gave in. After having the pool built and walking through the drama that was construction, she only got to use the pool at the end of last summer. Now this year, she confessed, she spends so much time with the cleaning and up keep that there are days when she is too tired to use it.
Then it hit me. There was another less obvious reason why people, talented people, drop the ball on this career. You spent so much time lusting for the spotlight and applause. You give up everything to get it. It wears you out. Then once you book the gig, your time is spent looking for the next gig and preparing for the next gig. And you barely can be where your feet are. Much energy is expended looking and preparing for what might not happen. And when it does happen, it happens at once and you have no time for yourself or a personal life. Madonna and Prince dedication is rare. Many people want a spouse, family, and friends. The demands and sacrifice become too much and they become drained. They have nothing left to give, and therefore they stop giving.
The day before my show I met a fan of mine in the salon. A young man from Texas, my friend Wyatt called me and said this dude had seen me on TV. I went to the salon, barely able to string together a sentence because my mind was so scattered from all the sleep I wasn’t getting. The man said I was incredibly gifted. I wanted to say, “Yes, but also incredibly tired.”
The day after my show, my boss called me to do a rapping chicken. I was indignant at the request. So tired I was getting migraine headaches and vomit was coming up my throat, I asked myself why I even said yes. It must be the German in me. While I basically failed the language the lone quarter I had it in 6th grade, the genes are in my blood. Sure, I havent gone on a racist rant ever and don’t plan on it. But I am a hard worker. Even my critics cannot detract from that no matter how many times they slander me. Germans work, and we don’t complain about it. We say yes to work.
I went and was a rapping chicken in Korea Town. Going to the gig, I felt a little better. The dude I did the gig for was a little resistant, and it took every ounce of energy to make him do what I wanted. My hat fell off, and the kindly Korean woman operating the restaurant got it for me. The people were nice enough to tip. I was praying they wouldn’t tell my boss I looked cracked out or that they hated me. But I got a nice applause afterwards. I gave it my best. I showed up despite my condition. I gave it my best. When I get tired, I like to beat myself up. I like to tell myself I am not enough and will never get where I want to go. If they tell my boss I sucked, great. I still did my best. Did I mention the German gives me my Type A personality, and at times I never feel I am enough?
Yesterday I was a complete disaster. I tried to do my Ranter job, and as my brain was shutting down I thought Brazil was playing again. Not to mention I was so sick I forgot I had a gig in Long Island because my body was cramping, vomiting, shitting and all that happy shit. They were nice enough to let me reschedule. My Ranter device was being crazy. It was God telling me to take a nap. In my dizziness I told myself perhaps it was time to throw in the towel. I had done what I needed/wanted to do in a way. Maybe it was time to move to Westchester, find a husband, and have a few babies. Sure, I have success and fans. But most of the time, I have no life.
Then I decided it was time to get some sleep.
I went to church this morning, my spiritual home. Being Catholic is like a crack habit, you never quite get rid of it. Then I remembered how miserable I was when my fiancé made me give up my puppet children, and how self destructive I was during that time. I also realized for as tired as I am, I am the happiest when I am working. Yeah, I was one tired bird in Korea Town, but when the people started laughing and clapping the tired went away. There is no better feeling than making someone laugh and smile, whether it is in a silly costume or behind a mic. In this ever maz’ed world where I feel like an awkward outsider, it’s where I feel most at home.
I also thought of my Nunni and Pop Pop. My Nunni had acted in local theatre, and was very proud of me for going to New York to chase rainbows. Pop Pop passed Thanksgiving Day, but his last big outing was my book signing in Pittsburgh. He was so proud of me for writing that book, and would brag every time I was on television. I also thought of my great-grandfather Brucker, a man I have never met. His whole life he had never been more than a roll turner in the steel mill of Pittsburgh. However, he had been a sports nut who listened to several games at once on different radios in each room of his house. He would be so stoked about my job at Ranter, just as he was proud every time he saw my dad sing a solo in his church choir.
In my mind entered Joe and Chacho, my dearly departed friends. Joe got me to write again, and convinced me I had the talent to make people laugh at a time my spirit was crushed. Chacho always wanted to be someone, and would talk about his “famous friend” whenever I was on TV.
Then I thought of my fans, and how much they mean to me. Yeah, I am only starting to get a following, but it’s pretty sweet I must admit. I also thought of the young people who write to me telling me about how they dream of being like me someday. And then my father’s words echoed through my mind, “It is your job to hoist the next generation on your shoulders and bring them to another level.”
I also thought of how, despite being tired, this was only temporary. I always felt good again when I stepped onstage and heard the laughter. Sleep and some me time could cure tired. Nothing could scratch the itch that the spotlight and applause cures. As I go to the next level, I am bringing those around me with me on my journey, whether they are coworkers, friends, or family. I love what I do, and am blessed to do it in the greatest city in the world. My journey is not only mine but their’s as well, and I have to remember that.
It’s easy to contemplate life in suburbia when I am tired with a husband who will less than sexually satisfy me. However, it is just a passing thought.
Truth: I will run towards my dreams even if my legs fall off in the process. I will run towards my dreams even if it kills me. And if the journey kills me, they will have to pry the stars out of my cold, dead fingers.