Friday, October 25, 2013
I'm a little low on content today but that's never stopped me before! I'm even low on photos but... we'll make do.
The only feedback I got on things to blog about came from Barbara who wants to know more about my time in theatre and more about being a young mom. I'll do some mom tales later on this week but OH the stories I could tell about my life in the theatre! I used to want to write a book called, "Confessions of a Fag Hag: A Fairy Tale". Seriously. Being the best friend of a gay man... especially one who is dramatic and talented and all that... I have got me some stories to tell!
There truly were some amazing times when I was hanging out with people who were far more talented and creative than myself. I came to work in the theatre because my brothers were involved in the local community theatre... which led to my youngest brother being asked to join a dance company... which led to my kids being invited to come and take dance class... which led to them participating in The Nutcracker... which led to my introduction to Purple Michael... which led to me working with Michael on two shows: Footloose and Fiddler on the Roof.
Michael is magical. There is no other way to describe him. He has this personality that draws you in... unparalleled charm... he's handsome... and he has this incredible voice. Once we took a group of kids from the dance school to perform at a La Leche League Convention. Each group was going to do a dance number and then Michael was going to sing. We had prepared all of the children that these were nursing mommies and there could be breastfeeding and it was all perfectly natural and normal. We neglected to inform the gay man who was with us. Michael gets up to perform and he's singing this really sweet romantic song and THE MILK... BEGAN... TO FLOW... He said he was singing and all of a sudden, "BAM... Out comes a breast... and another breast... and another breast..." I think he still has post traumatic stress from it today.
Michael first talked to me at The Nutcracker because I was sort of the stage mother to all the male performers because, well, half of them were related to me. He was a performer but he also had a crush on a male performer who had a close bond to me. We also had a mutual crush on a stagehand and it evolved into our first game of "who can get him first?". A game we played up until the time that Michael became exclusively partnered with Ross. The mutual crush turned out to be a short time thing for me. I don't even remember his name, to be honest. We went on one date and he was all handsy beyond what he earned on one date. Then he was sketchy and I didn't hear from him for a few days so I was sort of bummed about it so Michael invited me over to spend the night with him and his roommate Ken. We drank martinis in our pjs and had the best girl talk I've had in my life! Later, the crush guy found out I was hanging out with Michael and all of a sudden he wanted to come hang out. Which made me think... maybe he was just using me as a pathway to Michael?
Michael was the first gay man I had spent any sort of time with. As a born and bred Southern Baptist, I had always just thought of homosexuality as a sin and figured it was better for me to avoid it but... all of a sudden this "sin that I was supposed to avoid" had a name and a face and a laugh that draws everyone in for miles around. He listened to me. He cared about me. He cared about my children. It didn't take long for us to become a family. We took care of each other. I will always struggle with what I know to be true in the bible and what I also know to be true in how gay men were my village when I was a single mom. That's another post in itself though. Let's move on.
Sometime during those first few months of our friendship, I lost my job. I had worked in Freight Forwarding and Customs Clearances that were done through the Atlanta Airport. After 9/11 the amount of freight going by air had dropped way off. I was the last hire so I was the first fired. I was devastated until Michael said, "hey... I'm directing these two shows with Clayton Alliance For Summer Theatre this Summer and I could really use your help. What I lacked in theatrical training, I made up for from being a single, working mommy of three boys - I knew how to handle the logistics of getting a lot accomplished in a short amount of time. I work well under pressure. I am protective of Michael which makes his job easier because I'm answering the questions that he didn't need to be bothered with and making sure he has time for the people who truly do need to see him. Michael took care of the creative aspect of the shows and I took care of the logistics of it. And made sure he ate. And made sure he got enough rest. And really, just mothered him.
I formed a lot of relationships through theatre and one of the early ones with with Joey, a high school senior from a very conservative family. Joey was ALL over the stage... he knew the ins and outs of theatre and was willing to teach me the things I needed to know... he was willing to do the things that needed to be done - anything from set dressing to hemming costumes - he could and did do anything we needed of him. He, like Michael, were likely to turn up at my little double wide trailer more than once a week. There was always something going on.
Joey wanted to audition for a show "Damn Yankees" at Stagedoor Players in Dunwoody. He was young... not really used to driving around Atlanta... I went along with him to the audition and after he got the part, I made several trips with him for rehearsals. If anyone needed my help with something... I did it. I made sure Joey was on time and fed throughout rehearsals and shows. I worked the front of the house selling tickets, selling concessions, being House Manager. I was there for every show. I felt like I belonged. That's how I met my dear Mr. Drake. (I could write another whole entry on my Adventures with Mr. Drake because he truly expanded my horizons!)
And then Joey wanted to audition for The Rocky Horror Stage Show. Most of the show the characters are in corsets and little black panties. Joey was just turning 18. I wasn't sure he'd get it. We had just finished set strike for Damn Yankees and were rushing to get Joey to his Rocky Horror audition. I got almost all the way home and realized I had Joey's headshot in my car. SO I... on a Sunday evening, after having worked all day at set strike... drove all the way from Fayetteville to Decatur - probably a 45 minute drive - and ran down the steps into the green room (where the actors were waiting) saying, "I've got your picture, Joe!" I sounded like Mama Rose. And so I became Mama Rose.
So Joey DID get cast in Rocky Horror. I'll scan some pictures for you guys at another time (too tired tonight) and I ended up getting drafted to help build costumes. I worked on bedazzling the robe that Frank Furter wore... it was a delicious deep green trimmed in feather and with little sparkling jewels all over it. I worked on that on piece on a Saturday for over 12 hours. Didn't move... no food breaks... just kept working. Once the show started I worked again in the front of the house... making audience participation bags that contained all the stuff you throw during Rocky Horror. And these bags... they had my lip print on them. I wore deep blood red lipstick and kissed hundreds of those bags! I dressed up with heavy tranny makeup, especially the thick, blood red lipstick that I used for the bags. I wore sassy clothing like fishnets and gold lame... and collected tickets, sold concessions, helped with costume repairs... whatever.
One night Michael came to see the show. The wine we served was really bad, cheap wine. Box wine. And we ran out during intermission. Now... I had been bringing my own. I'm not a big drinker usually and I'm an incredibly unsophisticated drinker. I'm still just as happy with a bottle of Boone's Farm than I am the best bottle of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay (My kids used to say, "mommy's getting KJ Chardonnay!". When we ran out of wine in the lobby and Michael came to complain about it/see if I could fix it... I whispered in his ear, "there's some backstage in the costume closet..." So we snuck into the costume room and found my stash of Boone's Farm.
Now... we would do two shows every Saturday night for Rocky Horror. I'd be at the theatre by 5 for an 8pm show. There was always something that needed my attention and if not, I could hang with my cool actor friends. I was such a groupie! We would start in on the box wine before the first show... and when it ran out, that's when we turned to Boone's Farm. Every Saturday night during the run of that show, I was always wiped out by the time we did an 8pm show and a midnight show. We'd leave the theatre bone tired and fighting to come down from a buzz. Joey's apartment was about two miles away so we always made it home safe and sound.
Back to the Boone's Farm in the costume room. Michael and I have always had an affectionate relationship. He's gay and I'm a straight girl so there's obviously no mo-jo there but we were very comfortable with each other. We even ... on occasion... will kiss... it's not a big deal. It's sort of like playing spin the bottle... you kiss but it's only in that moment and there's a pre-defined line of how far it will go. It's like... the fun of kissing a member of the opposite sex without the fear that it will go further than you want it to go. So when we got to the costume room we found the wine... finished it off... and we made out. It was lighthearted, silly, funny, friendly but it was really not sexual. It was a good kiss - passionate - but not foreplay.
It was dark backstage. Dark enough that we could barely see to make our way up the long dark hallway back to the front of the house. We opened the door to go back to the lobby and ran right into our friends Ethan and Josh. (small world sidebar: my Joey had a massive crush on Ethan, which is what got us steered toward theatre in Atlanta in the first place. And Josh... his mom cuts my mom's hair.) Josh kept looking back and forth between Michael and myself. He said, "were there two of you kissing back there?" and we both denied it heartily. "No way!" And then as Josh started speaking again we turned and looked at each other... "then why, " says Josh, "Does she have her red lipstick smeared all over your face?" We saw each other and both doubled over laughing. Pretty much every inch of our faces from the nose down were covered in that thick, iconic blood red lipstick.
I'm still taking requests so if there's something you want me to blog about... let me know!
Love and hugs, y'all!
Posted by Heather at 9:58 PM