Hello, fellow friends of sequins and sparkle, feathers and fishnets!
My long-awaited book LONG LEGS and TALL TALES: A Showgirl’s Wacky, Sexy Journey to the Playboy Mansion & the Radio City Rockettes is finally published and for sale at amazon.com! Join us as we celebrate with a Book Launch Spectacular party and book signing on Sunday, February 21, 2016 from 6:30 PM-8:30 PM at the Arbor Brewing events space in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For you out-of-towners, we’ll have a Virtual Book Launch Spectacular on the same day (on this very website) with loads of fun and frolicking, goodies and giveaways. Until then, the countdown to book launch continues–38!
Publishing a book requires an entire team of people, and today I’d like to feature and profusely thank the mega-talented, 3-time Emmy Award-winning costume designer Pete Menefee for allowing his fabulous dancer sketch to grace the cover of the book! This prolific, versatile artist has clothed showgirls, entertainers, and celebrities galore, including Michael Jackson, Kiss, Diana Ross, and Elvis. His jaw-dropping, jewel-dripping, feathered fashions have been featured on stage, screen, television, ice rinks, and at the Olympic Ceremonies. Extraordinary!
So this is no ordinary drawing. In fact, it is a design of the actual costume the Radio City Rockettes wore (myself included) in a sassy number called “Bizzazz.” Notice the resemblance between the pics below?
The costumes were a dream, but the supersized candy canes could be a nightmare, as you’ll read below in this excerpt from LONG LEGS and TALES:
Besides spontaneous backstage entertainment, rituals, and superstitions, live theatre always had its share of unpredictable mishaps that kept things interesting. Props and costumes were always helpful in this regard, and the giant candy canes from “Bizzazz” were no exception. When dropped on stage, they would make a thud to wake the dead. Whenever the Rockettes heard that awful sound, we’d quickly eyeball the stage to see where the runaway candy cane had landed in case it was about to trip us. The poor Rockette who dropped it had to scramble to pick it up and catch up to the rest of the girls who, by that time, had probably changed formations. God forbid the cane should go flying more than five feet away. Reminiscent of my childhood baton recital fiasco, it was nearly impossible to make one’s way through all the moving dancers to pick it up again without causing a huge scene. If it seemed too difficult to retrieve, a girl might leave her cane on the floor and pantomime the rest of the number with an invisible cane. (That was embarrassing.) Some dancers gave up altogether, ran off stage, and cowered in the dressing room in shame. Everyone else felt really bad for the poor soul who dropped her prop. After the number, there would be hushed whispers in the dressing room asking, “Who lost her candy cane?” We could tell by tracing where the whimpering and quiet sobbing were coming from. Generally, that would be a new girl. The veteran Rockettes were more likely to shrug it off with a “That’s show biz!” attitude.
What made dancing with these striped sticks especially treacherous were the slippery, white satin gloves we wore as part of our costume; they made it nearly impossible to hold onto the canes. Wardrobe’s solution was to glue-gun hundreds of tiny, sticky glue dots onto the palms. This approach worked well, but over time the dots wore down. It was imperative that the Rockettes be vigilant about monitoring the level of our glue dots, or we’d be in for a treacherous show. If we told our dresser that our dots needed replacing, and by the next day it wasn’t done, there was trouble (for us and our dresser). Before the number, we’d have to get to the stage early to talk lovingly to our candy canes and say a dozen “Hail Mary Tyler Moores,” or whatever worked, because we knew we needed all the cosmic forces on our side, or that cane was going down. When the prop master repainted the stripes on our canes, which he did periodically, our canes were even more slippery. Minute changes could mean the difference between a dynamite show and disaster. What might seem like a triviality to the layperson could mean serious injury or mortal embarrassment to a performer.
Thankfully, I never flat out flung my cane on the floor. On the contrary, my worst cane experience was when it slipped out of my hands as I was lifting it over my head, and it walloped me in the face. I thought I had broken my nose and was sure it was going to start bleeding right there on stage. It didn’t, but my eyes watered so much for the rest of the number that I could hardly see where I was going. It was like being smashed in the schnoz with a baseball bat. The accident report filled out by the stage manager hardly did justice to the incident: “Performer was hit in the nose with a candy cane,” it read. “Can’t you at least write that it was a three-foot, ten-pound, wooden prop?” I retorted. I didn’t think the insurance company would believe my claim, as how badly could one be injured by your average candy cane?
To avoid the aforementioned dangers, the smart girls massaged, smooched, pep-talked, and said silent prayers over their candy canes before each show. It was a superstitious ritual that we never missed for fear of the consequences. Props needed a lot of love and attention.
Kudos and gratitude, once again, to costume designer Pete Menefee for his incredible creations and to YOU for reading about my candy cane conundrums. See ya soon!
Kick high! Be spectacular!