Saturday, January 3, 2015

I Can Fly (Rainey)

Yesterday I broke a Guinness Book Record as a part of the World’s Longest Variety Show. Leading up to the show I felt a lot of things, and there was not one word to describe fully everything that was going through my mind. Heck, one word would have been unfair. A thousand words too many, but when words are your friend and your napalm and elixir against the unforgiving world, the one that tries to steal the ideas of writers and comedians if it doesn’t silence them outright, things get confusing.

For starters I felt crazy. Yes, I had been going since Christmas and I recently discovered a problematic young woman had been trying to pass my work off as her own, read last blog. Another word of course would be excited, because I was about to break a world record, DUH! Of course a third adjective would be nervous, because of some writing work and film projects I have not been on stage as much. Then there is the term humbled, because I am part of such a large group effort of people who do what they love, chased their passion to the Big Apple, and continue to chase that dream. I also say flattered, because I was on the show with some seriously well known performers and cabaret legends. Thus I cannot leave out the word magical, because I was going back to the Metropolitan Room, the place where I filmed my DVD.

Then later in the day, as I got ready for my show, another word that entered the trajectory became bittersweet. Yesterday, I got an update from an acquaintance from another part of my past. It is one that I no longer associate with, and consider myself removed from the people in it. This particular woman was on a bad trajectory when I knew her, and I wasn’t in the best place either. I always considered her a nice person, and although we were never really close she was a friend on a day when I needed one. However, my life started to crash and burn, and I made a decision to change my ways.

 She didn’t. Without getting into detail because I risk being judgmental, her life is a real shit show.
It made me sad because she is truly a good person, and never slighted me in any way. Can’t say the same for everyone I meet. Also, it was a punch in the gut because my life could have easily gone the same way. It was like being sucked into a terrifying portal, a Choose Your Own Adventure Book from the deepest darkest pits of hell. Yes, the one where I had chosen to stay with the abusive fiancĂ© and watched my life spiral from there. Yes, that ending. To say it didn’t make me ill, another word, ill, was an understatement. It also made me happy I had taken the better turn when confronted with that fork in the road.

When I got to The Metropolitan Room, the place was abuzz with performers and such. We were breaking a record. Apparently, they had been going since the night before, and there had been people performing around the clock. Some had been by earlier, and came back to support. I heard stories of people performing at 3 AM, 5:30 AM, my friend Bob Greenberg was there when the record was broken at 7 AM. The whole time the show was being broadcast around the world. Heck, some audience had been there for hours on end.

I made my way downstairs, because the room was being flipped after Marilyn Maye’s performance. While I didn’t get a chance to talk to her because of the commotion that comes with changing a room and after show fanfare, I went downstairs. There was comedy. Yes, comedy. This had been a long comedy show.

I remembered the comedy marathons during my earlier days. Once upon a time, I had hosted an open mic at a comedy club. In exchange I got a weekly spot on a bringer which already says nightmare. Anyway, after the bringer the show would change emcees and then bleed into regular club spots of fledglings who were trying to earn their wings like I was. The show could go on for anywhere from 4-5 hours. To say it was brutal was an understatement. There were the comedians who just died with the crowd. Others abandoned ship and simply just talked to the people. Then there were those who brought the energy and did alright, but it was a fight. I would have liked to say I was always the third, but not so. It’s tough to kill when they are already at the morgue.

To their credit, the crowd was engaged, but the crowd was trying to laugh but just couldn’t. They were worn out. They were beat. They were tired. This was truly the show that never ended. Then again, we were breaking a world record by not stopping.

During my waiting, I reconnected with an old friend of mine, Jack. I hadn’t seen Jack in a while, and the last time I saw Jack his life was hitting the skids similar to my old acquaintance’s. However, Jack looked good. So good I almost didn’t recognize him. He gave me a hug and mentioned after taking a break to get it together, he was singing again. Seeing Jack so happy and together not only made me proud, but also assuaged the guilt I felt about not taking the wrong door. Actually maybe guilt is not the right word. For someone that claims to know what to say and how to say it, there was nothing to describe the pang in my stomach when confronted with where my life could have headed. Jack had taken the same door I had. Like myself, Jack decided he had enough and took the fork in the road that led him in the right direction. It didn’t appear Jack was looking back, and I couldn’t either.

Jack sang, and rocked the house. I had always heard him talk about his love of music, but never knew he was as talented as he was. Apparently Jack had also won a cabaret honor. I was honored to call him my friend. Wow. And here we were, breaking a world record together.

I studied the crowd, these were cabaret people. A large majority were well-educated with a narcissistic edge. They knew theatre and they could answer any Sondheim Quiz on Buzzfeed. If that wasn’t enough, some were unemployed theatre professionals. Schooled in their craft but without a gig, they scrutinized every angle of your performance. I felt it. I felt the bitchy middle school girl eyes they gave each performer. The hosts were all cabaret people as well. Shit, they were going to hate me. The whole world was going to see it, too.

I thought about it again and again. They were going to hate me.

Just then I saw one who reminded me of a woman I delivered a singing telegram to. Then I remembered all my telegramming adventures. There were some people that were harder than others, but because of my day job I am rather fast on my feet and can make any performance situation work. I know I sound like an egomaniac, but it’s true. Note, some are MUCH SMOOTHER than others. However, it is a reminder that everyone does need to laugh no matter who they are, and wants to do so no matter how much they do or don’t  admit it.

Then I also remembered this past year I had been embraced by the cabaret world in a way I never thought I was going to be. Not only had I begun performing in their venues more regularly, but I had done a good show and was treated very well. Oh, and I had been highlighted in several publications in that genre. To say that the insiders had supported me would be an understatement.

I took a breath. Now I wanted to go onstage and rock it. Sure, sometimes there were telegram deliveries that were harder than others. Then there were the interminable comedy shows that went on forever. Ha! While this record breaking show wasn’t ending for sometime, at least there was actual talent on this lineup. The best part was, I was performing alongside some legends and damnit I belonged.

My name was called and I took the stage. I did some crowd work to wake the people up. Then I cracked a few jokes. They were laughing. Okay. Then I asked, “Do you have any roommates?” And got no answer. Dead silence. They got the cabaret crowd look where when you lose them, they are like bodies lost at sea. You might never get them back.

I lost them. Shit. Then again, they were kind of tired. Just then, a female cabaret singer said, “Yes, I have one.”

“Do you like him?”

“He’s my husband.” She responded. The place laughed.

“Do you like him?” I inquired.

“He’s been doing the same job for 32 years…..I needed to give you something to work with.” The place laughed again. Okay. Sigh. Saved.

Then I brought May out. The first few seconds were dicey. This was an odd hour and the puppet might weird the people out. Our first two jokes got eh. Then we got rolling and we got them. They liked two jokes, but then they didn’t like another. We just acknowledged that they didn’t like the joke, and when we did that, it got a laugh. Then we got them again. Then we lost them. Then we got them. Then we lost them. Then we got them again, then we lost them. Finally we almost got them again, but now we were all just tired. That is when I got the light and the set ended. They had made me work for it, and now we were all exhausted. But hey, it was fun.

When I got off the stage my friend Jake hugged me. He asked me how I thought it went. I told him I thought it went alright, but they made me work for it. “Yes they did.” Jake said and we both laughed.
“Did I come across okay?” I asked him.

“Oh yeah. For what it was you did really well, April. You had good energy which they appreciated and you didn’t turn on the crowd.”

“Were people turning on the crowd?”

“Yeah.” Jake said. Comedy 101, you never turn on the crowd.

The people running the event complimented me on my set. And when I checked my phone I saw a message from an award winning comedian I love both as a performer and as a person complimenting me on my work. This meant a great deal to me, because I respect him oh so much. It was great.

Maybe the cabaret world could be insane, but it was my kind of insane. The performers never do anything less than their best, and everyone cares about their work to an OCD fault. But then again, I always kick my own ass when I do less than my best and I make OCD look calm. Oh and the show must go on. Maybe the cabaret world had embraced me because they were my kind of people all along, and I just had to grow up a little. Either way, I look forward to a long and beautiful friendship with them.

I also know what is next for me is going to be good. I spent my 20s delivering singing telegrams to everyone from the baker to the CEO of Credit Suisse to royalty from all over the world. I spent my 20s performing for hostile crowds and doing shit spots on shows that would never end. I escaped the hell of a guy who beat the crap out of me in order to do the things listed above. There were times I didn’t understand why I was being led down the road I was where nothing seemed easy. But then again, when you can roll a boulder you can easily throw a pebble. Translated, if I didn’t have to endure some of the things I had, I would have never handled that crowd the way I did. Actually, it makes me feel like I can handle anything, anywhere. That is, until you talk to me next week.

I held my certificate knowing I helped make history. Sure, I could have gone down the path I was going. But I didn’t. Yeah, I had to keep going and couldn’t look back. No, actually, that’s incorrect. Not only can I not look back, I need go onwards and upwards.

I can fly. 

PS I kissed a Marine and I liked it

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