Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What I really want to know is, are you kind? (1 of 4)

On Facebook, I've been reminiscing with former colleagues about the time they had to chase off the bum who was pissing in the 64-year-old stripper's pink bathtub in the alley and other good times from our work at granny's tits and feathers show.

It's reminded me of another story from those days, when I had to fire one of our headline acts between performances because they wanted a pink spotlight. We were at the beginning of our season, during which we ran 10 shows a week. In a 700-seat theater, we enjoyed ticket sales approaching 100 percent throughout the season. So it wasn't as if we had the time to find another headline act or that nobody would notice--in fact, it created a hole in the program that 7,000 people would notice every week. Not to mention the work the cast and crew would have to do to work around that gap in the program. No, I fired them because I had to.

The act was a British comedy magic duo, and they were good, but they suffered from an excess of ego, which is fairly common in show business. Yes, even at granny's tits and feathers show. As a standalone act rather than individual performers, they were also used to being able to dictate the needs of their show, which included their look.

They had never met The Producer, however.

The act and The Producer quickly reached amiable agreements about schedule, wardrobe and pay--especially pay. When you're over 50 and you've been on the road with performing act for most of your adult life, there's nothing like a guaranteed paycheck for a year, especially if that year is spent in Palm Springs, where I would go for a swim in the outdoor pool before work while the rest of the country was still scraping off their windshields and shoveling out their walks.

What the act didn't like, however, was The Producer's insistence on using a white spotlight. They felt that it was too harsh, made them look cold, and generally ruined the experience of their act for the audience--never mind the uproarious laughter and regular standing ovations.

I won't detail the tennis match that ensued between The Producer and the man of the act, but suffice it to say that when two strong willed men lock horns, there's not much that a bystander can do to prevent a knife fight. Being too old to safely wield knives, the men threatened each other with another cut: the act swearing to cut itself out of the show if they didn't get their way, and the producer returning the sentiments in kind.

So it was that between the matinee and evening show one day I was playing Henry Kissinger to their Israel and Egypt when the ultimatum came from the producer: tell the act that because their position is firm they have been cut from the show, final paperwork is being prepared for them, and they need to leave the premises as soon as possible. I went across to their bungalow and delivered the message.

That conversation was about as pleasant as being in a knife shop while a tornado blows through it.

Tomorrow: I give myself away.

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  1. I am not sure about that knife shop in a tornado, but my husband can describe what it is like to be surrounded by coin (lots and lots of coin) and then rolled down a hill. At least the truck didn't collapse on him. No fear there.

  2. He is okay. I have the pictures here on the table, just not electronically. I think they are worried they would end up on the internet, which they probably would, since that is how I would send them to my family.