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I’ve come to realize that none of us are able to make our dreams come true all on our own.
In haste, I bought a karaoke tape of James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” taped myself singing the vocals atop the canned background music, and threw it in the mail. It was fall when I arrived in Indianapolis, but the trip had taken so long that the leaves had already fallen off the trees.
Third, Fourth, and Fifth order of business: “You will rehearse during the day with Sandi, the dance captain, to learn your track.
Once adequate income and hygienic housing were acquired, I began to acclimate to my new surroundings. In addition to all the surfers, famous triathletes were a dime a dozen given the superior training conditions—year-long gorgeous weather, mountains for cycling, and ocean for swimming. Working out became high on my list of priorities, not only so that I’d fit in, be accepted, and be beautiful like everyone else, but also because there was so much I wanted to eat, without getting fatter. The word “cilantro” became an important addition to my vocabulary, and if either cilantro or some type of hot pepper wasn’t in my meal it was probably only my morning scone. Another quiet, unassuming, Librarian-like artist that intrigued me sold Chinese brush paintings, which consisted mainly of graceful, purposeful, abstract, thick, black, brush strokes with a splash of red. There was also a captivating dating scene, peppered with men unlike any I’d met in the Midwest. For a short time, I dated a very handsome Top Gun fighter pilot and even got to visit the officer’s bar at Top Gun airforce base where they filmed scenes from the sexy Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis film Top Gun. Aside from meeting groovy new people, I spent most of the course of that first year slaving away at the art gallery while taking the odd dance class.
To be honest, I had also become highly distracted by my persistent boss, Adam—a forty-five-year-old, tan, athletic, Jewish, ex-hippie–who finally persuaded me to go out with him.
So, I eventually acquiesced to his advances, against my better judgment of dating a man so much older. There’s nothing more rejuvenating and soothing to the soul than a trip to the beach and a walk along the water. When I announced the impending move to my Midwestern friends, their response was, “Are you crazy?
Pee-Pee also preferred to whiz on the stove while you were cooking or on your leg when you sat down to eat. To make matters worse, my fish died not long after settling in California, because the public drinking water he was swimming in was so bad. This adventure had gotten off to a somewhat rocky start, and I was feeling a buyer’s remorse of sorts. Cindy had been searching the want ads of the local paper for jobs, since she was currently out of hers having bailed on grad school. There are times when we feel unsure, confused, and befuddled about what we want to do with our life. While waiting to get accepted into graduate school, I took on boring jobs in retail and fundraising.
Finally, I left Michigan and my humdrum routine for graduate school at the University of Minnesota. The thought of quitting was so embarrassing and horrifying, however, that I mustered all my willpower and forced myself to stick through another semester and make it work. There is no better place for soul-searching than by the ocean, and as I walked barefoot in the sand, I asked myself, “How do I really want to be spending my twenties?” The most exhilarating, thrilling, exciting, passionate, scary, enticing, challenging, rewarding, suitable thing I could come up with was to be an entertainer traveling the globe.
What it boiled down to was I wanted my twenties to be a thrilling adventure, and I was finally willing to take the risk. The hardest thing would be telling my parents about another seemingly flippant, haphazard choice. So much to my parents’ chagrin, after finishing the semester, I quit school and moved back to Michigan, where I spent two months working as a secretarial temp at Ford Motor Company to bank some cash. It was another hot, smoggy, summer day in Los Angeles, and my studio apartment had no air conditioning. I swallowed a breath of stale air and perused the new Backstage West (the California version of New York City’s Backstage) hoping for a show that would start in the fall after South Pacific (the musical I was currently in) ended. I flipped the pages dreading the thought of having to return to theme park dancing if I didn’t find a “real” gig. I was desperate for income and had been lucky enough to land a job at Universal Studios Hollywood working on and off as a replacement performer for the The Flintstones Show–a surprisingly delightful, thirty-minute, mini-musical based on the popular, 1960‘s caveman cartoon starring characters Fred Flintstone, his wife Wilma and dog Dino plus pals Betty and Barney Rubble. The first year I was very low on the sub list, meaning about five other people had to turn down the work before I’d get asked. Being a big corporation, Universal Studios was like no other place I had worked as an entertainer.
Finally, I spotted an ad in the bottom right hand corner of Backstage West that got my attention: Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular Cast Auditions. The announcement stated that the Rockettes had another Christmas show in Branson, Missouri and needed an entirely new cast. The trip to Debbie Reynolds was uneventful, and, consequently, I arrived about an hour-and-a-half early, a bit earlier than I preferred. The surrounding neighborhood was sketchy at best, but it was by far my favorite studio and the most like the old, New York studios I was used to. Nervous as usual walking into an audition, I found the sign-in sheet but decided to wait to sign my name until I made sure I wasn’t going to be in the first group. It was time to hit the ladies room to change into my lucky purple audition leotard and tan tights. I put sweats on over my dance clothes to keep my muscles warm and then touched up my make-up. As ten o’clock neared, a female assistant passed out audition numbers and collected our headshots and resumes.
After the tap, we changed into our character shoes and learned a tricky, sharp, military version of “Jingle Bells” with some difficult rhythms, not the standard eight counts per measure.
For the callback, I wore my same lucky purple leotard, so they would remember me, and went through the same rigamarole with my best smile on. Once home, I went about my daily business trying to put the audition out of my mind so as not to drive myself crazy with anticipation. The path to our dreams can be wrought with ups and downs, stops and starts, successes and seeming failures.
One day I overheard a conversation in the dressing room at Steps, which not only dampened my already fading quest for stardom, but also sent me into a mini panic attack. That horrifying vision was the straw that not only broke the camel’s back but nearly gave it a nervous breakdown to boot. To top it off, New York City was simply overwhelming to this ingenuous, suburbanite chicken. Telling my parents and Jenny that I was already giving up after barely giving NYC a fair trial period was devastating and embarrassing.
With exit strategy in order, I took advantage of the few weeks I had left to do some sightseeing.
It was Christmas time, so Jenny and I strolled around Fifth Avenue window shopping and admiring all the bedecked buildings, some wrapped like presents or donning giant candy canes.
A couple weeks later, I flew back to New York, as promised, and rode the Celebration Magnifico bus to Atlantic City for our New Year’s Eve gig.
My thirty-five minute trip on the “N”ostalgia train had flown by in a New York minute, and before I knew it we had arrived at my designated stop—the 49th Street station at 7th Avenue.
I walked east on 49th to 6th Avenue and headed north toward 50th Street, alternatingly sipping my hot beverage and obscuring pedestrian traffic flow by stopping to crane my neck for a glimpse of the mammoth skyscrapers. Though we are only familiar with a single MTA map, dozens of other maps have attempted to make the NYC subway, er, reasonably comprehensive over the years.
The subway map we all know today is loosely based on a famous 1972 design by Massimo Vignelli, an Italian-American designer whose gem-coloured diagram eschewed geographical honesty for visual clarity. So what did the New York subway system look like before our current tan-and-rainbow map emerged? The MTA also started publishing “night” maps, which have a darker colour scheme to denote the change from day to evening service. La Historia con Mapa respects the intellectual property rights of others and expects its users to do the same. In accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, the text of which may be found on the U.S.
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Is there a better way to get around this beautiful city of ours than the NYC subway system? Anyway, most city kids, including my own, go through some sort of subway-obsession phase, and some of us (ahem, me), never quite get over it. This entry was posted in Apartment Living NYC, NYC Events and tagged new york subway lines, nyc subway history, nyc vintage images, vintage nyc maps, vintage photography of nyc subway, vintage photos of nyc. Join us as we explore New York City's new restaurants, hot spots, museums, galleries and cultural events!
In the 1970s, New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority did a huge transportation overhaul. But one eagle-eyed Reddit user spotted an old map from the 1970s that shows what NY's subway system could have looked like, had the MTA gone with a different plan. There's also a K line, a U line that runs through Brooklyn all the way up to the Bronx, as well as a bizarre O line that seems to do a loop de loop at 14th street.
So mainly it was cold, brisk, and gray—the familiar look, smell, and feel of football season in the Midwest. There was a lot to do, and quickly, as I had only a week to learn how to fill the shoes of the girl I was replacing.
At night, you need to watch the show to get a better idea of what you will be doing on stage. Why just this morning my fiance and I were talking about how easily we get distracted from our dreams. Famous or not, it seemed that everyone ran races or mountain-biked on the weekends, worked out daily, juiced, practiced yoga, got massages, and saw a therapist. The influence of nearby Mexico was as strong as a Habanero chili pepper, and there was plenty of fabulous Mexican food to be found: savory fish tacos made of flaky white fish nestled in a bed of crispy cabbage slaw with a squirt of lime juice and salsa verde all pocketed in a soft corn tortilla, crisp and salty tortilla chips to dunk in salsa fresco (diced tomatoes, onion, peppers, and cilantro), and overstuffed burritos with garlicky shredded beef, refried beans, rice, and guacamole smothered in cheese and sour cream and washed down with a tangy margarita.
Spanish was the second language, and I wished I knew how to “hablar espanol.” This was a place where illegal Mexicans risked their lives crossing the border into California to slave away as fruit pickers or work secretly in the kitchens of popular restaurants.
Truly, I was fascinated by anyone who had shunned the normal life of real nine-to-five jobs and following the rules and who risked venturing out and finding something better. My boss, twenty years my senior, had been wooing me–a flattering prospect, but not the wisest choice, perhaps, given the age difference and that fact that he had the ability to fire me. There was a professional studio in downtown San Diego, but it was inconvenient to get there and a pain to find parking.
In addition to designing and owning a gorgeous art gallery, he was also an artist himself; he was a woodworker who handmade exquisite furniture adorned with colorful, Southwestern inlaid designs in the studio behind his incredible house on the hillside overlooking the ocean. You’re moving to California with all those weirdos?” They were sincerely scared for me, worried I’d end up practicing naked yoga, consuming nothing but tofu and wheat grass juice, and shaking a tambourine at the airport with the Hare Krishnas. The sight of the sparkling, blue water took my breath away, a wave of peace and calm washing over me. Her four-unit apartment building, surrounded by palm trees and built on dramatic bluffs bordering the shoreline, sat smack dab on prime ocean-front real estate.
Her jesting only slightly softened the blow of the shocking sight of my new living quarters. She was a PhD student at the University of Southern California, and to call her a slob wouldn’t do her justice. When he was in a good mood, he’d walk up to you and vomit a hairball, but that was about the friendliest he got.
You know, like when you make a big decision such as moving across the country with no job and no home of your own, and you get there and your beloved fish dies and you end up living in a hell hole?
Tucked away on the top floor in the back of the building, it was a classy, eclectic boutique housing everything from faux Southwestern Indian pottery waterfalls, to unique jewelry dripping in amethysts and silver and turquoise, to colorful hand-painted silk clothing. There may be sunny days by the seashore and dark nights in a Crap Shack, but your willingness to explore will take you from surviving to thriving.
I loved dancing, but that wasn’t enough to overcome my fears and the challenges of life in The Big City. I had tried the business route, the academic route, the safe and secure and practical route, the route that garnered parental approval.
Truth be told, everything else made me so miserable that I was forced to do it as my last option. All I knew was that I had to find myself, discover the world, and fill the void of dissatisfaction that was gnawing at me. I felt relieved at the thought of having my sister around, plus California seemed like a logical place to relaunch my entertainment career.
I kept the windows open hoping for a breeze, but mostly I just let in more noise and air pollution. Theme park dancing was a job you were thankful to have but always secretly (or openly) hoped to get rid of. I could have easily been bitter about my status, but I knew that nothing was written in stone. We went through training with human resources to learn all the rules and regulations, were issued i.d. Must be proficient in tap, jazz, ballet, and be between 5’5 ?”–5’9” in stocking feet (no exceptions). While I had plenty of time to collect myself, prepare, relax, breathe, and not feel rushed, I never wanted too much time before an audition, or I’d get bored, overstretched and freaked out analyzing the competition.

I felt comfortable in that well-worn, slightly musty, hardwood floor setting with all the old movie posters lining the walls, many of them starring Debbie Reynolds herself. Even the casting people may joke about how you got the raw end of the deal by being in the first group. Knowing that a simple leotard and tan tights were the standard Broadway audition dress code, I figured this attire would probably apply to the Rockettes as well. It was a bit louder than what I would normally wear on the street, but not as obnoxious as what I’d wear on stage. I double-checked all the supplies I might need: water bottle in case I got a coughing fit and couldn’t sing, tissue in case of a runny nose that would send snot flying while doing turns, hairspray and extra hairpins, tampons in case nerves brought on my period prematurely, Band-Aids in case my shoes gave me a blister, more safety pins in case my bra disobeyed, and Advil for a stress headache. Squeezing among them, I claimed a small spot and sat down to locate my headshot and resume, which I set on top of my bag along with my sheet music.
One at a time, in our stocking feet, we stood flat-footed, back up against the measuring stick.
I quickly put on the only tap shoes I owned, the ones I had purchased for my very first New York City audition some eight years earlier. Having not tapped much recently, I was relieved to see it was basic tap–nothing too complicated. Pursuing your dreams should not be a drag, but there will be times when you could use a leg up.
Like I did, you may find yourself leaving the scene of your dream with your tail between your legs, embarrassed that things did not go as planned. As I was changing out of my dance clothes, I heard an aging woman remark to another dancer, “I’m thirty and I’m just starting my dance career.
Sure this whole dance adventure was kind of fun and interesting, but where would it get me? Following a book touting free things to see and do in New York City, I set out solo to see Battery Park, the view from the top of the World Trade Center, South Street Seaport, the Frick Museum, the Whitney modern art museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim. Sadly, I had to leave my nearly new dial-a-bed in the apartment, as we had no room in the van. As I limboed in the New Year with drunken strangers, I knew the coming year would be very different for me. I exited the train and made my way onto 49th Street where I found a street vendor (“What fun! I felt both exhilarated and terrified that very moment, much like the way I felt seven years ago at the audition that forever altered the course of my life. It’s hard to imagine that the 1, 2 and 3 lines weren’t always red, or that the L was once known as the “16 Line”, which is what makes these old maps so fun to peruse. Copyright Office website at DMCA , We will respond expeditiously to claims of copyright infringement committed using our website that are reported. So in honor of subway-lovers young and old, here are a couple of related items that have popped up on my internet radar of late. I sure do, with both a measure of fondness as well as relief that my kids ride in very different-feeling trains today. Buses, subways, and stations were updated and modernized, bringing the city's subway system closer to what we have today. The M train starts and stops in Brooklyn and isn't affiliated with the B, D, or F, and there are more midtown cross trains, including the Q, X, and E.
You’d have thought I’d been smoking some bad Tijuana marijuana when I made this decision, as this song wasn’t even remotely appropriate for the gig I was trying to land. Hello Hoosierville!” I settled in for a long day of travel, with multiple layovers and an overload of peanuts and Diet Coke. This allows you to become a candidate for Equity eligibility.” I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about, but if I didn’t do it, I wasn’t going to be working there, so I wrote out the check. Oh, and here’s your music for the pre-show with Brent and Jenny,” the stage manager said as he handed me a pile of sheet music. I was simultaneously thrilled about using a mic for the first time and petrified with fear that I would stink to high heaven and have everyone wondering whom I slept with to get this part. Having grown up with  such gastronomic delicacies as Jell-O, Velveeta cheese, Oscar Meyer bologna, and casseroles based on Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, these new, fresh, and exotic foods were blissfully expanding my palate.
Homes had roofs made of terra cotta tiles and were often decorated in Southwestern turquoise and salmon colors. Many of these people were artists showing their work at the art gallery where I was recently employed. Having spent many a movie drooling over Tom Cruise since high school, I was in awe of it all. Plus it took me a while to find an instructor I liked well enough to make it worth my while. He was very creative and was constantly reconfiguring the interior and exterior of his stunning home, which he embellished with a collection of provocative African and Southwestern artifacts.
It was gratifying to be desired by this worldly man-about-town, and being on some tenuous mission to find myself, I allowed myself to experiment. This would’ve been a great retirement lifestyle, but I still wanted to make something of myself and utilize my potential.
Looking out at that seemingly infinite expanse of sparkling, blue water, I could have been in California staring at the Pacific Ocean.
The grungy, brown living room contained two shabby sofas–one placed on the floor in the usual manner conducive to sitting and the other vertically propped up on its end, leaning against the wall. It’s at The Plaza, which is great, because we could even walk there if we wanted to.” Just after I arrived, this three-story, high-end, open-air shopping plaza (aptly named “The Plaza”) opened in the heart of the main street—Camino Del Mar. Cindy and I both got hired there, and while we would still have to count our pennies, we eventually earned enough change between us to move to a very nice one-bedroom apartment a few blocks away from Le Chateau du Merde. Plus, becoming a professional dancer was a tremendous shock to my system having come from such a sensible, academic, risk-averse family. I did not thrive in a practical life of nine to five, suits and nylons, weekends off, one-week vacations, and bottom lines. I was successful there, too—got a full teaching scholarship, earned good grades, had a nice apartment in a fun neighborhood, made some friends, and even dated a bit. The Tony-Award-nominated musical Kinky Boots (music & lyrics by Cindy Lauper, book by Harvey Fierstein) surely does both. Santa Monica Boulevard bustled with activity, including the neighborhood drug trafficker and his customers my sister had been spying on from her second story apartment, kiddie-corner from my place. Whenever I did work, my performances so totally rocked, that the second year I moved way up to first and second sub. The Rockettes?” The notice shocked and surprised me as I didn’t even know the Rockettes held auditions. It usually took me forty-five minutes to get to the Debbie Reynolds Studios (named after Debbie Reynolds of Singin’ in the Rain fame) in North Hollywood, but even the psychic hotline couldn’t predict with any accuracy how long it would take you to get anywhere in L.A. I much preferred it to the stark, sleek, modern, hip-hop studios that had sprung up to attract the MTV dancers.
They will probably mark you a little too low to leave room for really spectacular performers, and then realize the rest of the group is at about the same level. I popped a couple Advil as preventative measure and moved the tissue and water bottle to an easy-to-reach position in my bag.
Then I stood and slowly unfolded my legs up to my head one at a time, working until I could comfortably kick to my forehead and do the splits in all directions. I was slightly self-conscious about wearing them, because, since that time, they had been painted yellow and peach stripes for a show, and there were holes wearing through the soles. I was booked solid with parties in December, a busy party month, culminating in New Year’s Eve. Meandering down Wall Street, I sampled gigantic doughy pretzels and piping hot sausages draped in grilled onions and green peppers from street vendors. We melded into the throngs of people at Rockefeller Center for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, where the police surveyed the crowd from horseback like Canadian Mounties. A street vendor!”) and bought a cream-filled donut and a cup of coffee in a paper “I (heart) New York” cup for old time’s sake. I recalled my 1987 visit to the top of the World Trade Center—it was exhilarating to be on top but also terrifying, because you’ve got a long, long way to fall. But those early maps also held a mirror up to the technological and design currents in the world at large. If you searched the archives of your life story, you’ll likely find a host of people without whom you would not be where you are today. They had obviously scored the cheapest flight option available, but at least I wasn’t footing the bill. The theater was located just off Indiana interstate 465, exit 27, amongst hotels and office buildings, and, oddly enough, just down the road from my college sorority national headquarters.
There are many opinions on the origin of the term, but suffice it to say that the room is rarely actually green.) She then led me into the theater, which could hold up to 450 patrons sitting tableside, surrounding centrally-located, portable, buffet carts covered in sneeze glass. Luckily, nothing needed alterations except for the shoes, which I filled and then some, as they were two sizes too small. There was one main street in town, which included a delightful mix of funky little shops, cafes, coffee houses, art galleries, independent bookstores, boutiques, seafood restaurants, very expensive gourmet dining establishments and waterfront luxury hotels, to support the influx of people with deep pockets.
Instead, I dated Matt–a hunky, long-haired, thirty-something artist whose work was displayed at the art gallery. My date was debatably as hot or hotter than the diminutive movie star, and even though his gun may have been the tops, sadly, the relationship didn’t fly.
I also tried a studio a few towns north of Del Mar that had some good teachers, but I was too tired to travel all that way after working at the gallery all day. As you’ll read below, there was a time when I thought I had to leave my home state of Michigan to find such pleasures and aquatic treasures. As if that weren’t disgusting enough, the living room became infested with fleas from the cats. Even a good night’s sleep eluded me at first, because the sound of the ocean waves crashing on the shore were so loud. It was absolutely gorgeous–a heavenly, peaceful shopping and eating oasis overlooking the ocean.
Tossing my education out the window to do something so frivolous and insecure seemed selfish and foolish, two characteristics I did not wish to possess.
Working an office job, I felt like a piece of cheese sitting undiscovered, molding away in the back of the refrigerator. Still, it was lonely living all by myself in a new city, so I bought a beautiful, blue, Siamese fighting fish to keep me company. It’s kind of interesting stuff to learn, but I hate statistics and I don’t really want to do social psychology research for a living.
She was abandoning her PhD program in Oceanography to pursue something much sexier—screenwriting. I just returned from a long weekend in NYC where I laughed, cried, and cheered as the cast of Kinky Boots dazzled and amazed me with their ability (men and women alike) to shred the stage in outrageously high heels. Perhaps this dream of yours is taking longer than expected or you’ve encountered unanticipated obstacles. Many performers made a decent living for years through the steady work of theme parks such as Universal Studios, Disney, Six Flags, and Hershey Park.
In spite of my ranking on the totem pole, both years I got plenty of calls and made a lot of extra dough. Usually, if you are one of the first five people to sign in, you will be the first group to dance at the audition. But by the end, they’ve forgotten how good you were and your marks don’t really tell the whole story or reflect your relative talent. There were a lot of people in black, as it is the most slimming, but nobody else was wearing bright purple.
She had tried wearing three-inch heels to boost her height, but when the shoes came off, she was toast. While ridiculous looking, I didn’t have extra cash to spend on new shoes, and they were extremely comfortable. I was elated to be invited back, but how I wished they would have hired me after the first audition.
The ironic thing is that I had been one-hundred percent successful from the time I moved there. New Year’s was a big deal as performers got paid triple their usual salary and Celebration Magnifico had so many parties booked they needed each and every performer. Eyes closed, I sat listening to Garrison Keillor’s “Lake Wobegon” stories on the radio—tales of the comforts and security of life in a small town surrounded by family and friends.
The ways in which information was conveyed were changing rapidly in the first half of the 20th century: From the way printing presses worked, to the development of san serif typefaces, to a revolution in how graphic designers thought about communicating through images. That’s great!” I said, finding it awfully funny that this girl was phoning me out of the blue. He said you need to fax in your headshot and resume and mail in a vocal demo tape right away,” Jenny insisted. In the end, he did, mainly because I was immediately available, likely to fit the costumes, and saved him from having to spend time auditioning people. Being young and naive, I stuffed my tootsies into them anyway, like the ugly stepsister pretending to fit into Cinderella’s glass slipper. I breathed a sigh of relief.  “I might actually be good at this,” I encouraged myself, not willing to let a little pre-show rain on my parade. Its oceanfront also offered some “gnarly waves, dude,” so you could walk down the street any day and find buffed, tan, young surfers changing in and out of their wet suits by their cars on the side of the road. Even the freeway medians and roadsides were lush with lemon-yellow and hot-pink flowering bushes. She was a handsome, thirty-ish, tall, leggy, tan, runner with a short, black, pixie haircut, who painted abstract designs on silk neck ties and scarves.

After reaching some ridiculous number, like one-million, we were allowed to stop the stirring ritual and actually start painting. His big-ticket items were stunning, large, plaster wall-hangings—bas relief sculptures of wild horses made to look like antique relics using paint and fake cracks. Now he owned a retail art gallery, and his daily work attire was khaki shorts and a good quality Hawaiian shirt. My free time was now spent hanging out with this long-time Del Martian who wined and dined me, taught me about running and cycling and art, took me on exotic trips to Hawaii, Banff, and Las Vegas, on gallery art-buying excursions to San Francisco and Scottsdale and on ski vacations to Whistler and Mammoth. You, too, may feel the need to pull up stakes and leave the comforts of friends, family, and familiar territory behind in search of your dreams.
My underpowered and overloaded car labored up the steep, snow covered roads at a maximum of thirty-five miles per hour, semi trucks whizzing dangerously past. Even the one-armed bandits and cheap, all-you-can-eat buffets weren’t enough to entice me into staying any longer than absolutely necessary. A back-up in case of a couch emergency?” In addition, there was a towering, ceiling-high, ratty, dirty-beige carpet-covered cat scratching-pole. Even her bed was completely covered in rubbish, and the bathroom shower curtain could have served as a science experiment, growing mold and an assortment of fungus in its thick layer of grime.
Eventually, however, I learned to take comfort in their tidal rhythm and was lulled into dreams of life away from The Crap Shack.
My parents didn’t discourage my wacky dance adventure, but I knew they’d sleep more soundly (as would I) if I went to graduate school. If I didn’t get out soon, I’d shrivel up and die from a life of missed opportunities, wasted potential, adventures not experienced, and what ifs.
Once again, I missed dancing and started taking classes at a reputable dance school downtown. I want to experience life as an entertainer, living on the stage, being paid to do what I love most–sing and dance. This sparkling, feel-good show was just the thing I needed to resuscitate and turbocharge my enthusiasm for my goals. I usually kept quiet with the windows closed so the Jehovah’s Witnesses and overly aggressive, door-to-door salespeople didn’t think I was home, but today the heat was just too stifling. Some shows were quite high-quality productions and certainly good performance venues on which to cut one’s teeth. It was weird repeating the same show over and over and over, back to back to back, like a television rerun marathon. Well, maybe not in the thirties, but it was pretty common knowledge in the dance community that no one left the Rockettes unless they died or lost a leg. It stinks to dance first, because you have to pick up the choreo faster than anyone else does. If you turned down New Year’s Eve, you might as well say sayonara to the job and leave your glitter gel behind. But Vignelli’s Helvetic-swathed iconography still graces everything from shirts and mugs to tattoos and children’s books.
Who knows where I’d be if not for my pushy pal, Jenny, as you”ll read about below? Here I was in Del Mar, California, population 4000-ish, plugging away at the art gallery and going nowhere with my entertainment career when out of the blue, no audition necessary, a dance job falls into my lap. As a kid, I had seen the movie version starring Barbra Streisand as Ziegfield Follies star comedienne, Fanny Brice, and Omar Sharif as her gambling husband, Nicky Arnstein. My feet could have been permanently damaged, thereby ruining my career, but I was afraid to ask for new shoes.
It was good to keep an eye on them as occasionally one would accidentally let his towel slip.
This piquant, tropical paradise felt worlds away from the grey, bland, frigid Michigan to which I was accustomed. When hanging out in Paris some years earlier, she had seen an advertisement for silk-painting classes in the back of a magazine. Finally, I started teaching aerobics and a few dance classes here and there, figuring I might as well get paid to workout. Adam was a native Los Angeleno, and his father had been the agent to one of the most successful and famous horse jockeys in history.
I kept a vigilant watch for runaway vehicle lanes on the downward slopes, as I never knew if my brakes were going to work. I envisioned the roommate twenty years down the road as one of those crazy cat ladies you see on the news, with forty-seven cats and a condemned home filled with their feline feces. Grad school turned out to be terribly stressful, and the chain-smoking assistant professors seemed more overwhelmed than the students. I want to wear exotic make-up and glitzy costumes and meet famous people and go places I’d never go on my own,” I answered myself enthusiastically. If I failed, I would have wasted some time and felt like a fool in front of friends and family.
If a man can look beautiful in a bikini doing back handsprings wearing four-inch spikes, you certainly can make strides to accomplish your dreams. Never rocking the boat and always dancing my best with a good attitude and work ethic paid off not only in terms of moving me up the sub list, but also in impressing the Flintstones choreographer, who eventually cast me in a tour of South Pacific–a real, honest-to-goodness musical that I could brag about. After doing it too many times, I’d get so tired and confused, I’d forget how many shows I’d completed and where I was in the current show. If I had to return to The Flintstones Show, my health and sanity would surely be on the rocks.
I was very familiar with the route as Universal Studios was just down the street, but I had my Thomas Brothers Guide in my car in case of detours or in the likely event that my car should break down.
An extra thirty seconds of practice time can mean life or death–the difference between knowing what you are doing and not having a clue, food on the table or starvation, and, in this case, fame or obscurity. We exchanged greetings, but I didn’t know her well and preferred to keep to myself so I could get my mind focused on the audition. It wasn’t the most flattering hairdo, but I knew it would stay put and look neat and professional. It was a lot harder kicking with a girl on either side of you hanging on, but I felt pretty good about how I had done. Pull that tail out from between your legs and start wagging it with excitement, because all your efforts are getting you closer to your dream.
If I stayed I might end up a mental patient escapee hiding out at McDonald’s with the other defectors.
I got a dance scholarship from one of the best known studios in New York on my very first try.
I was reneging on a whopping seven parties while I drove my stuff home to Michigan, but I had decided to fly back to do New Year’s Eve.
Our bedroom, which doubled as our dressing room during the show, was full of costumes and wigs resting on white Styrofoam heads. She learned the trade and now made a living selling her hand-painted ties and scarves in galleries around San Diego. Fresh, whole strawberries were served along with Chinese tea in delicate Chinese porcelain cups. What really intrigued me were Matt’s travels down to South America to make plaster replicas and rice paper rubbings of Mayan and Incan designs. For the most part, I was spending all my energy paying rent and getting adjusted to my new surroundings.
Adam’s family had a box at the Del Mar Race Track, and he took me to the momentous Opening Day.
My poor, gorgeous, royal blue fish sloshed about so violently in his fishbowl that he turned a pale, deathly gray. She had started her collection with two pets we nicknamed “Pee-Pee” and “Psycho.” Psycho was afraid of everyone but her owner and would run around like a maniacal scaredy cat. I made that fish endure motion sickness, the frigid cold of Colorado, and the oppressive heat of the desert, only to be placed in toxic, flesh-eating water. Even if they started out strong, eventually they morphed into mind-numbing jobs you tolerated for financial security.
Thomas Brothers Guide (a thick spiral bound book) was the most detailed and revered map of Los Angeles.
Plus, when you don’t dance first, you generally get to watch the groups ahead of you, thereby giving you more time to memorize the steps. We will put you up in beautiful two-bedroom condos less than a mile from the Grand Palace Theater. Maybe they, too, had come to NYC with dreams of grandeur only to freak out and go off the deep end. I got into a modern dance company the day after arriving and had never even done any modern dance before.
We had really become close friends, she softening her opinions and I becoming more street savvy. I could really take in the excitement, splendor, and beauty of this place of extremes, it’s wealth, poverty, and everything in between.
I would soon tire of seeing the same salad bar, beef, chicken, and baked potatoes night after night, but it certainly saved on the food bill. She also cooked for a family or two and would travel with them on their boat as their private chef. We ended the afternoon in the artist’s lovely, peaceful, flower garden with a session of tai chi. He gifted me a rice paper rubbing of a pregnant woman and a miniature sculpture entitled “Bondage” of a long-haired slave in a loin-cloth kneeling with an arched back.
This gossipy, slightly dysfunctional, small town functioned like a soap opera, and I was now part of the melodrama.
I could have done that poor, little guy a favor and simply flushed him down the toilet before I left Michigan.
There’s nothing worse than wondering, “What if?” I could always go back to school later, but this was something I had to do when I was young. I’d end up either sick or injured–usually a foot problem due to the raked stage and unsupportive footwear. You aren’t always allowed to dance on the sidelines as you wait, but you can watch and possibly mark it in miniature.
Lastly, one at a time, we were called in to sing our 16 bars of music to live piano accompaniment.
That’s how I landed my first professional musical theater job—it was handed to me like a gift. I collected delicious recipes from her: basil beer bread, mint-chocolate brownies, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and ginger-soy chicken.
Life was for him, and he lived it the way that made him the most happy, disregarding the opinions of the outside world.
Adam provided me with an instant social life which kept me from wallowing in unsolicited solitude, as my sister Cindy was deeply focused on her writing and often unavailable.
What a relief to be doing something that seemed like the intelligent, practical thing to do—a decision that would bring sincere support from my parents and a guaranteed paycheck. After a few months, I noticed my saggy derriere in the mirror and decided it was time to start working out again. Prepared and professional, I was well-rehearsed and confident that I my singing was entirely passable for what was primarily a dance gig. In order to do that, I must go back to where I previously left off: my departure from New York City after my initial toe-dip into the waters of show business. As you’ll read below, after making the big, brave move to Cali to pursue my show biz career, I got bombarded by enticements leading me astray. Hotel staff and patrons pointed and laughed as I carried in my fishbowl wrapped in a pillow to keep the traumatized little passenger from turning into a frozen fishstick.
You can put your stuff in my room.” Cindy shared her two-bedroom apartment with another young woman, and now I was adding all my stuff to their already cramped space. More importantly, what am I going to do with my life if I give up on this, too?” My fish stared back in silence with a look that said, “I’m stuck alone swimming circles in this tiny bowl for the rest of my God forsaken life. If I were lucky, some funny cast member would make me laugh or accidentally goof up or lose a wig or something to help me get through the day. He took me to Tijuana to shop, eat, drink tequila, and be accosted by small, pesky, insistent Mexican children selling Chicklets. You’ll share a two-bedroom condo with another Rockette and split the monthly rent which is $700.00. Taking a bite out of The Big Apple still moved me forward, and your little nibbles will too. You, too, may find yourself giving in to temptation and getting off target from time to time.
I came home chewing gum, carrying two bottles of cheap Kahlua and covered in a layer of filth and grime. Is there someone you’d prefer to room with?” “I don’t know anyone in the show, but my husband will be coming with me.” “Oh,” Ms. Longstern responded coolly, “That presents a housing problem.” She was clearly annoyed at the inconvenience, but being newly married, I wasn’t budging.

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