The road to the stardom is fraught with danger and excitement.
“My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” Glee has triumphantly returned to the television airwaves after an interminable absence and receiving the Oprah seal of approval. I’m drawn toward Glee like a poor drag queen on a budget to a size 22, sparkly, sequined prom dress at Deseret Industries. It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, even more than poppers.
Watching the kids perform the fantastic musical numbers in Glee reminds me so strongly of my days in high school, way back before the invention of the wheel, amid the potato fields of Idaho. It was so much better for me as a closeted gay kid to feel at home and be able to hide in the music and theatre departments, rather than, God forbid, on the football team. I still don’t understand why the coach got so upset when I be-dazzled my football helmet with glitter and a few tasteful rhinestones, and color coordinated my knee pads with a jaunty pastel scarf.
Naturally, I auditioned for every single play and musical that the school performed.
Sadly, for a budding drama queen, in a school with a population of only 100 students, the musical production numbers consisted of an out of tune piano, paper scenery and ten kids whose only experience in dancing was in a square, listening to the hog caller at the last Gold and Green Ball. As you would expect, since the school was so small, everyone who auditioned was able to be in the production, sadly irrespective of talent. I wonder if that’s how Paris Hilton got started?
In my junior year, the school musical was Where’s Charley? For the theatrically ignorant, here is a synopsis: “Oxford University students Charley and Jack invite the young and winsome Kitty and Amy to lunch under the chaperoning eye of Donna Lucia, Charley’s wealthy aunt (it is, after all, 1892). But when Donna Lucia doesn’t show, a desperate Charley disguises himself as his aunt so the young ladies can visit. Amy’s stuffy uncle, promptly falls for Charley’s aunt-like charms! Then the real aunt shows up, and it’s all downhill from there.”
I was cast as Charley — no big surprise there. As you can imagine, I was both excited and terrified about playing in drag in front of the whole town, lest my secret be exposed when it showed that I might be too comfortable with my feminine side. However, this was license for me to do drag in the mainstream, so damn the high heels and full steam ahead as I dived right in up to my corset. My dress was a formal 1890’s black satin frock reminiscent of ones Queen Victoria wore. How fitting that on my debut as a queen I should resemble The Queen.
I was in virtually every scene, and I had 17 very rapid costume changes. During weeks of rehearsals, I got very adept at getting fully into and out of costume in 45 seconds or less — a skill that would prove to be very beneficial in latter years (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). It didn’t hurt that one of the cutest guys in school was assigned to be my dresser to help me make each transition. He would stand off stage holding my dress and waiting for me to just step into the costume and, of course, his big, strong, “Oh take me I’m yours” arms. I nearly swooned 17 times each night!
By opening night, I had become a bundle of nerves. Anxious that I would forget my lines, that I might be detected as gay, that I might “accidentally” kiss my hunky dressing assistant between scenes, or that I might slip and fall during the soft-shoe dance solo.
The curtain went up, the applause died down, and Act 1, Scene 1 began with me waiting in the wings for my cue.
Suddenly, my emotions and nerves got the best of me and I had a great need to hurl! Even though I hadn’t been to finishing school yet, I sensed that projectile vomiting on the floor was social faux pas. So I grabbed an antique pitcher which was a prop for the next scene, and my lunch made its encore appearance therein. I missed my cue. There was silence on the stage. With my face so pale that even grease paint couldn’t cover it up, I pulled myself together, entered stage left and performed the scene. When I exited, I was met by the director who said to continue on, but that if I got sick again to just turn, walk off the stage, and they would close the curtain and make it a scene change. By the end of the second scene, someone had procured a bottle of paregoric to settle my stomach. I quickly drank the whole bottle, much more than a normal dose.
WELL, paregoric is a level three narcotic made primarily from opium and alcohol. By the end of the first act, my nausea was gone, but I was flying higher than Amy Winehouse. I don’t remember too much of the rest of the night, but suffice it to say that the newspaper gave us glowing review. They said that they had never seen a more natural slapstick comedy. Sadly, subsequent performances did not reach these exalted heights.
Like always, these events leave us with many eternal questions:
1. Was the director guilty of typecasting me?
2. Could I possibly still fit into that dress? (Not even with a shoe horn!)
3. Why don’t football helmets have rhinestones?
4. If my dress had been a miniskirt, would my hunky dresser have taken advantage of me?
5. If I kissed him, could I have blamed it on being drugged?
6. Is paregoric the preferred introduction drug of choice?
These and other important questions to be answered in future chapters of “The Perils of Petunia Pap-Smear.”