There may be one or two of you who noticed that I took some time off blogging. Well, I’m back! And I missed you. But I have a good excuse: I had to knuckle down and finish the book this blog is about. I bet there are a number of you out there who have a book in you or another goal that you’ve either started and put on the back burner or never even started at all. This book has been years in the making. Being a perfectionist, I just couldn’t seem to get it good enough to call it finished. It dragged on and on and on. Gnawing away at the back of my mind. “Finish me already! I’m tired of being in your computer. I want to get in the hands of the people! Let me out!” The incessant nagging of my book wasn’t enough to seal the deal. Exasperated, I said to my husband, “When is this going to end? This can’t take up anymore of my life. I need to move on!” “How about if we set you a deadline? January 18th. That’s your deadline,” he said pulling a random date out of the hat. “I suppose in theory it’s possible I could finish by then.” “And you need motivation,” he said upping the ante. “I’ll give you a shopping spree at your favorite boutique if you have your first draft completed and ready to give to the editor by the due date.” Now he had my attention. “You’re on!” I replied enthusiastically. Even with the holidays, a Florida vacation, other speaking gig deadlines, and a whopping 7 flippin’ snow days this winter in which school was cancelled and much of my writing time was spent making hot chocolate and catering to the demands of house-bound teenagers, I still did it! So if you have a lingering goal, there’s nothing like setting yourself a reasonable deadline and offering yourself an enticing reward for finishing. Imagine how good you’ll feel when you’ve accomplished what your heart desires.
Know what else feels good? Embracing one’s inner tigress (or bunny in this case). The picture above is my beautiful mom (second from the left) and her college gal pals dressed to resemble the infamous Playboy Bunnies. I’m sure when she posed for this photo she never dreamed she was foreshadowing her future daughter’s career. Hop along for the ride and read what happened below.
Please enjoy the next installment of my upcoming book
Long Legs & Tall Tales:
A Showgirl’s Wacky, Sexy Journey to the Playboy Mansion and the Radio City Rockettes
by Kristi Davis
Final Scene: New York City, August 10, 2002
Buddy had been good to me. The Rockettes had been good to me. Showbiz had been good to me. I wandered down the 6th Avenue “skyscraper alley” toward my destination: 1260 6th Avenue—Radio City Music Hall, “showplace of the nation.” When I finally arrived near the famed Music Hall, the sight of the massive marquee sent a chill down my spine. It covered an entire city block. The luminous appearance of this uberglamorous New York icon, world’s largest indoor theatre, and home to the Radio City Rockettes, took my breath away. I snapped a photo from across the street, but it couldn’t capture the magnificence and magic of what this place meant to me. Seeing Radio City Music Hall felt like a reunion with a close relative I was meeting for the first time. I was an alien returning to the mother ship.
Taking a deep breath, I headed over to the stage door on 6th Avenue and 51st Street. I loved stage doors as they always made me feel like I was going through a secret entrance privy only to the V.I.P.s. Today I felt even more privileged than usual. A security guard manned the entrance from his booth. “I’m here to teach the Rockette Experience,” I announced to him, trying to sound confident, despite being certain my heart was beating out of my chest. After checking his notes to make sure I was the real deal, he phoned the person in charge. Shortly an enthusiastic man arrived to escort me. He gave me a special badge to wear. Whoa…I’m in!
The nice man walked me through the building to show me the pertinent spots. “Here’s the green room where you can hang out before the workshop starts,” he said as we approached the first open door on the right. I stepped in for a brief look around. The green room had beautiful wooden furniture, leather chairs and sofas, drink dispensers, a refrigerator, and a coffee maker. I read the notices on the bulletin board, envious of all the girls who danced here.
The nice man walked me down the hall, past a couple of rooms where the Rockettes could relax with professional massages.” Finally we stopped by a brightly lit dance studio with mirrors covering an entire wall. “Here is the small rehearsal hall, and over here is the large rehearsal hall where you’ll be teaching. Any questions?” I was so impressed as I soaked it all up, imagining what it would have been like to be a Rockette here. “I do have one question. If it’s all right, I want to take the Radio City tour before I have to teach. Can you tell me where to go?” He kindly took me to the lobby to wait inside with the tour guides for the tour to begin.
None of the tourists knew I was an undercover Rockette. We all took photos of ourselves standing on the great stage. I pictured what it would be like to dance there, to look out on the audience of six thousand people, to ride the elevators and run through the halls backstage to make my entrances.
The tour guide led us to a holding area in front of the dressing room door, which, naturally, had a star on it. “Now we are going to meet a real Rockette! Is everybody ready?” the tour guide asked, as she knocked on the door. “They’ve been walking and talking with a real Rockette for the last half hour,” I thought, keeping the secret to myself. A lovely young lady appeared, decked out in her cute red costume and perma-grin. Acting on her best behavior, she happily posed for photos and answered questions with politeness and sweetness that would have made a Disney princess proud.
While most certainly fine, upstanding citizens and consummate professionals with the best of intentions, the Rockettes couldn’t be expected to be that wholesome and pure all of the time. Could they? I’m sure even Cinderella wanted to let her hair down and let loose now and then. Constantly having to be perfect can drive a person crazy and, perhaps, even call in one’s naughty side to balance oneself out. That perfect, good-girl image required of the Rockettes was the polar opposite of how I was expected to behave in one of my earlier jobs—a member of the “Playboy’s Girls of Rock & Roll.” Oh, the freedom of being the “bad girl” and embracing my inner floozy. If dancing with the Rockettes was my superego, then dancing for Playboy was my id in wild abandon. It was the angel versus the devil in me, and the devil can be very tempting.
Act 2, Scene 1 Flashback 1993: Playboy’s Girls of Rock & Roll
I wasn’t really Playboy Bunny material, and, even if I were, I hadn’t the slightest clue how to get my buck-naked body on a centerfold nor would I want to bare my birthday suit for friends and strangers alike to critique. Nevertheless, it seems I was destined to be associated with those famous, fuzzy rodents because, like a free lap dance, the opportunity to work with Playboy simply landed in my lap.
(Note: So my Mom and Dad don’t have heart attacks, I’m telling them right now to skip this whole Playboy section and resume reading when the next section begins. That goes for the rest of you who have a low tolerance for talk about breasts and G-strings. I confess this book is no worse than a PG-13 movie, so those who were hoping for some X-rated material should skip it altogether. I’m still a goody two-shoes even if the shoes are stilettos.
It happened like this: A few months after my Branson stint with Buddy Ebsen, I got a call from Celebration Magnifico, as they had recently expanded their operation and opened a West Coast office. Jenny had told them I was living in California and that they should contact me. With reluctance and a bit of nausea, but needing the cashola, I rejoined the ranks of party dancers. I was grateful for the opportunity to make more money but wasn’t all that jazzed about having to ask strangers to tango again. Oh well, I’d make the best of it, and at least I’d be dancing. The downside ended up being less the job itself and more the extensive driving, as parties could be located anywhere from San Diego up to L.A. and its surrounding area. Unlike New York City where we were transported everywhere by the company, here we were expected to have a car and get ourselves to the gig. A party could easily require a two-hour drive up the coast. Still, it was $100 that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Celebration Magnifico actually booked us some decent trips that included transportation, like the one-night gig at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. My first time performing there, I was excited in spite of the fact that I still thought Vegas was sleazy. As we flew into the city, I saw the shiny black pyramid of the Luxor hotel rising up from the desert. We learned a dance to “One” from the musical A Chorus Line and opened for the infamous, brash, insult comic, Don Rickles, who was as entertainingly obnoxious in person as he was on stage. We returned to Vegas another time to dance at an extravagant, black-tie New Year’s Eve party thrown by Caesar’s Palace. Getting paid triple overtime was a terrific way to ring in the New Year, and it was fun to be a part of all the action. My absolute favorite trip was to Maui, Hawaii, where we stayed at the luxurious Hilton Wailea in $500-a-night rooms. The service at the hotel was impeccable: Too hot as you lounge in the sun? A pool boy would spray you with an Evian spritzer. Too sweaty as you run on the treadmill in the open air gym overlooking the ocean? A gym servant would offer ice cold, wet towels and Evian water to drink. This was the life! We ate from sumptuous breakfast buffets loaded with succulent, tropical fruits and rode bicycles into town to shop for chocolate macadamia nut candies. It was heavenly! The decadent setting more than made up for the fact that I had to dance as half of the Brooklyn Bridge.
My enthusiasm for the job had certainly waned since those initial days in New York, but the California dancers were cordial and relatively laid back. The pool of performers was much smaller than New York and, consequently, without the distinct A, B, and Z teams. Here, the Jersey girls were replaced with nipple and navel-pierced, tattooed, vegetarian Valley girls, and I even made a few friends. An aspiring actress, who trained with the famous improvisational group called the Groundlings, invited me for a night out with a couple guys she knew. One guy, Jonathan Elias, a successful movie soundtrack producer, gave us a tour of his gorgeous home/recording studio in the Hollywood Hills and handed out copies of his latest C.D.—a compilation of film scores he had written. His impressive resume included creating music for the motion picture trailers for Alien, Altered States, Bladerunner, Gandhi, Ghostbusters, and Back to the Future, scoring scenes for Nine to Five and Still of the Night, writing the title song for 9 1/2 Weeks, and working with such artists as Duran Duran, Grace Jones, and Yes. At the time, however, I had no idea how who this composer was. Call me clueless. Call me naïve, but this is the caliber of amazing person you can run into in Los Angeles.
Jonathan and his buddy took us to chichi Club Tatou, where we were supposedly on the V.I.P. list. As V.I.P.s, we had to wait in line at the “secret” back door entrance with the thirty other trendily dressed “Very Important People” and convince the big, scary bouncer–an ex-con from the L.A. County Prison, no doubt–that we were worthy. The bouncer/security guy eyeballed us up and down, assessing our grooviness. Concerned we might be turned away, my new guy friend assured the man with the requisite name dropping, “We’re friends of So-and-So. We’re cool.” Jonathan most certainly was cool, and finally Scary Security Guy bought it. Mind you, we still had to pay the $25 cover charge. If we V.I.P.s had to beg to be let into a nightclub, I felt sorry for the Very Unimportant People. Maybe you have to be a V.V.I.P. to walk in free of charge and without groveling. On the way to the dance floor we passed Rod Stewart and his model wife, Rachel Hunter, dining with their large entourage. “I bet they never stood in the V.I.P. line,” I whispered to my friend. It bothered me that you had to be somebody famous or know somebody to get into these places. You had to look the part, or forget it. Yuck. Of course, I pretended not to be impressed by Rod and company. I was just that cool.
But I digress. What I’m really getting at is through Celebration Magnifico I also met the super-hot, Italian, dream boy, Gino. With his wavy black tresses and abs of steel, he was as charming as his muscles were solid. I didn’t stand a chance with him, as he was gay, of course. Sigh. But, over time, we became buddies, and he offered me something else I couldn’t refuse. “I’m going to be choreographing a show for Playboy,” he announced, “and I thought you would be perfect for the job.” “Say what? The real Playboy? As in the magazine? As in Playboy Bunnies?” I asked incredulously. He assured me it was the real deal. The next thing I knew, I had an audition with the executive producer of Playboy’s Girls of Rock & Roll.
I must admit, I was nervous walking into Playboy Enterprises for my initial interview. Would this be the last we’d see of a once-wholesome Midwestern girl? Would I suddenly want to throw all caution and clothes to the wind? The success of Playboy magazine made me question the validity of the phrase “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” Apparently, men never tired of looking at mammaries, at least not at those resembling full-grown melons. Hugh Hefner—the founder of this fruitful empire—had the money to prove it.
The multi-story glass office building looked perfectly normal from the outside. What did I expect? Giant breast-shaped domes and a phallic tower? It wasn’t until I walked through the hallways past oil paintings of scantily clad women that I sensed any sexual overtones. I suddenly felt a bit overdressed and concerned about what my interview would entail. When I met the producer of the show—former modeling agent Valerie Craigin—I was slightly comforted by the fact that she was a woman. Rumors had it that Valerie was in her mid-sixties but she looked like a well-preserved fifty. She had short coiffed brunette hair, professional attire, a deep smoker’s voice with a nasal, drawn accent, and a nervous laugh. She took the liberty of saying “Hef” instead of “Hugh Hefner” although I don’t know how well they knew each other. Valerie seemed harmless enough and, thank God, had no intention of making me take my clothes off. We chatted a bit and that was it. I had the job! She mainly held the interview in order to get a good look at me and make sure I wasn’t a heifer, so I could be a “Hefer.” (Having parents who grew up on the farm, I personally think heifers are adorable, but that’s beside the point.)
“We’ll be touring all over Southeast Asia, so be sure to get your shots,” Valerie advised. “I’ll be sending you an itinerary as soon as our travel plans are confirmed. We’ll start out in Indonesia and then we may go to Singapore, Malaysia, India, Japan, Australia, Germany, Puerto Rico, who knows? There are so many possibilities, it’s driving me nuts! Plan to be gone for six months.” I tried to remain calm and professional but inside I was thinking “Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod!” I was so excited: dancing for Playboy, traveling to exotic countries. Now this was something to call home about. Or not. What would my parents think? “Oh, I almost forgot,” Valerie continued. “Next week we’ll be doing a photo shoot with all the girls to be used for posters and promotional items to be sent overseas.”
I went home over the moon about the job I had just landed. Then the doubts and fears and insecurities set in. I’m not a model. I don’t know how to do a photo shoot. I don’t have a perfect body. I wish I had better abs. I wish I were thinner. I wish I were prettier. I wish…
Did I condone magazines that flagrantly promoted women’s bodies as mere sex objects? No, I can’t say that I did or do, and perhaps, if I had put any serious thought into it or been more enlightened, I would have taken up a feminist stance, stomped my foot, and shouted defiantly, “How dare you even ask me to be associated with a company that is degrading women by shamefully displaying them as play toys!”
Instead, I was eager to get a firsthand look at the debauchery behind this famous furry icon. It was more of a sordid curiosity—like wanting the forbidden fruit simply because it’s forbidden. My inner tigress was roaring and ready to be let out of its cage. This was just too much of an adventure to pass up. After all, I wasn’t going to be doing anything really naughty; was I?
No need to be naughty. Hop to it and finish that project that meant so much to you. You deserve it. Thanks for reading.