It was a cold February in 2005. I was having some problems in my marriage and felt as if heading out of town for the weekend would cure everything. I called my cousin and she agreed that New York City was just the medicine I needed. We booked our flights and within a few hours we were pounding the pavement of this luscious city.
We ventured down Broadway and decided a show was in order.
“What do you want to see?” she asked me.
“Not sure, let’s mull it over in the next bar.”
Without hesitation, she ducked into the next drinking establishment and before we knew it we were downing Irish Car Bombs with some locals.
“We wanna go to a show tonight,” I announced to one of the smiling, red-faced gents we were sharing drinks with.
Before he had a chance to answer, a tall young guy with tousled brown hair and a giant Adam’s apple chimed in, “You need to catch a burlesque show. It’s the new hot thing around here. My roommate performs at this great little place called The Slipper Room, you’ll love it.”
“Whoa…burlesque, new?” my cousin asked, sarcastically.
“Well, it’s kinda being reinvented. People like the tease…” he responded.
I looked at my cousin and she shrugged slightly as if to say, “why not?” I nodded back.
“So, where is this Slipper Room place, anyway?”
That night we got all dolled up in our best NYC hooch attire and caught a cab to the Slipper Room. It was a quaint little place that was whimsically decorated with old paintings and dusty velvet curtains. Votive candles sat atop each round table, and a large bar made from mahogany wood lined the entire back wall.
We found a table near the front and claimed it.
“I like this place,” my cousin said through a smile.
The lights dimmed and the sound of a saxophone drowned out the crowd’s babble. We watched intently as the curtain slowly lifted, exposing a toned, fishnet-covered leg, one inch at a time.
I was hooked.
Exactly one year later, I was holding auditions to create my own show in North Carolina. I put ads in every paper and on Craigslist, searching for classy dancers that were desperate to perform.
I was scorned and laughed at for my attempts. Naysayers were telling me that no one would support that kind of show in Greensboro, and that it had been tried more than once, only to flop on opening night.
I ignored them. I was going to do something totally unique, and I was going to do something else that no one had done before: donate the proceeds to a charity.
After months of auditions, costuming, and rehearsals, we had finally prepared a great little show. I had named my troupe The Stiletto Starlets, and was submitting press releases everywhere I could imagine. I happened to get a half page feature article in the local paper, showcasing my troupe and our charitable efforts. It was entitled, “Burlesque Comes to the City”, and under the heading was an ultra-large picture of yours truly, donning full burlesque attire. I’m sure my mom was proud.
We pre-sold 250 tickets for $30/each, and 50 VIP tickets for $45/each. Flop? Hardly.
The craziest thing is that the charity we pre-selected to receive the funds sent me a letter only two days prior to the show refusing the money. It was the MS Society, and they didn’t want any part of what we were doing. Their letter basically said, in a nutshell, the following:
“We appreciate your choosing us, but after much careful consideration, we feel that burlesque is demeaning to women, and do not want your money. Thank you.”
I was flabbergasted, especially since I had sold the tickets on the pretense that the money was going to the MS Society. Gulp.
I had to embarrassingly address the audience the night of the show, but luckily everyone agreed to vote on a new charity. Brenner’s Children’s Hospital won the vote and we sent the money to them.
This worked out to my advantage because when the press caught wind of the mishap, they were all over it. My troupe got even more exposure and therefore pushed me to put on yet another successful show just five months later.
I’ve been swamped with my new company and have since retired from my stint in show business, but the valuable lesson I learned was to never let anyone stop you from pursuing what you want to do. The only way you can ever fail is by not giving it a shot, and by listening to others who, quite frankly, just don’t have the balls to do what you can. Period.