Another Door Closes…But the Phoenix Shall Rise Again

Posted: June 16, 2011 in Broadway, Cabaret, Culture, Entertainment, New York City, Nightlife, Performance, Theater, Theatre, Uncategorized

Thirty-four years in show business, folks. Thirty-four. Thirty and four. One score and fourteen. And I’m still here. And why?

Because I may be many things. Some of those things may be somewhat cowardly, some of them may be somewhat undignified. But I am not a quitter and never will be. And some may argue that thirty-four years is a long time to continue chasing a dream. But I will not stop. It’s MY dream, and if I want to keep chasing it, that’s my business.

I come from a showbiz family. Several forebears on my mother’s dad’s side were in the Yiddish theatre, and her mother (my sainted Nana) was the first woman in New York to own and operate a chain of dance schools. Nana had two sisters; one was Barbara Stone, who amassed the world’s largest private collection of original opera recordings (now archived at Lincoln Center Library), and the other is Estelle Aden, who was for many years the Adjunct Dean of the Drama department at Hofstra University and a great theatre actress in her own right. My mother was a child star during the Golden Age of Television as a ventriloquist and singer, and among other cousins there was the concert pianist Joan Steinberg and the violinist Barry Finclair, who played with the New York Philharmonic for several seasons before joining the chamber music group L’Ensemble. And my grandfather was an incredible vocalist who made many cantorial recordings and appearances, along with the Kadima choir, backing up the legendary Moishe Oysher.

In my own case, and for whatever reason or whether genetics had anything to do with it, I got bitten by the acting bug when I was nine. I have no idea why I felt it so imperative to become an entertainer, other than the fact that I love an audience and I think I have a reasonable enough amount of talent. That’s when I started class, as Sheila sings in A Chorus Line, followed by three summers as a Musical Theatre student at the Usdan Center on Long Island, and my first professional job in ’84 as a founding member of the TADA! Youth Theater. I have some basic musical training on both piano and guitar although I was honestly never very good at either one, but I did excel at violin when I was a student at Suzuki for five years, and I can still (excuse the pun) fiddle around quite a bit. But being a musician was never really my bag. What I wanted was to be a STAR. ON BROADWAY. That was the goal.

I’ve had exactly eight close brushes with getting to Broadway after multiple callbacks. The first was a very ill-fated production of Macbeth, directed by and starring Nicol Williamson and featuring Sigourney Weaver as Lady Macbeth. I was up for the role of Son to Macduff, which is more or less an ‘under-five’ in theatrical parlance, and Williamson loved my acting, but in the end they decided to go with some unknown kid named Christian Slater (whose mother just happened to be the casting director, which was very convenient). The second was something called Almost an Eagle, which starred James Whitmore as a Scoutmaster and his troop of Boy Scouts, and they wanted me to play the fat kid, but I guess I wasn’t chubby enough in the long run, because John Navin got the part. The third and fourth respectively were the revivals of Oliver! and Mame; in the former I was being considered for Dodger but I was a little too tall (first time that ever happened), so they gave the role to Cameron Johann (no big surprise, since he was just coming off his success as Little Guido in the original Nine) and in the latter I was seriously considered for Young Patrick, but they gave the part to a kid whose parents had put three-quarters of a million into the show, and who shall remain nameless. My fifth chance was with Rags and they gave it to Josh Blake (well, why wouldn’t they? The kid was a TREMENDOUS talent) and the sixth was Roza and they gave it to Max Loving (a kid who was NOT a tremendous talent, but I guess more so than me). Then came Big Deal; I am so not a dancer, so I don’t even know what possessed me to go to the open call, but I went and had three callbacks for a small role in the chorus because they needed a young’un. Didn’t get the part but it made me happy to know that Bob Fosse actually knew who I was, and they later cut the part out of the script. The last was Carrie, for a role in the chorus.

ALL of those shows flopped on their faces, and while I’m not one to gloat over the empty triumph of the fact that eight battleships sank without my being on board, a part of me is left to wonder if they might have lasted if I’d been part of the proceedings. But this shows why I possess what psychiatrists call a “complex ego.” My ego is gargantuan. Absolutely enormous. But it’s also extremely fragile. One put-down can absolutely sever me. At the same time, and for whatever reason, my ego is extremely resilient; once I fall apart, I’m right back on my feet a few hours later and fighting again on the front lines. Which I’m told is a wonderful thing if you want to be in show business.

And I’ve had my brushes with fame in other media as well. One in particular was back in ’95; NBC was looking to develop a prime-time show with a comedy troupe based on Kids in the Hall, and they decided I was absolutely perfect for it. Unfortunately, Brandon Tartikoff died unexpectedly, and nineteen shows died with him, including that one. And the shot I was given to possibly be on the team for Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. More recently there was talk of my getting a syndicated broadcast on BBC Radio, and then the woman who was going to produce it got stricken with cancer and is clinging to life as I write this, poor thing.

The reason I’m bringing all of this up is a simple one. For the last three weeks, I was under the impression that I’d be moving to California, to start work on an animated series. Today I woke up to discover that the whole shootin’ match has been canceled. And all day long, people have been asking me, “Are you very upset?” No. I’m not upset. I’m just very angry. And very scared. And getting very tired of ALMOST getting there and then the rug being pulled out. But I can’t quit yet. I used to tell myself that if I wasn’t a household name by the time I was thirty-five that I would just give up and go into a safe profession. Then I turned thirty-five, and I was like, “WAIT a minute. I can’t quit NOW. We’re just getting started!!”

So I’m not quitting. I’m not a quitter, and I have no choice but to keep going. Whatever’s meant to be will happen. And I can’t wait to see what’s next, because this phoenix still plans to rise from the ashes and soar to the skies.

  1. Good for you! Go get ’em!

  2. Stephan says:

    When my boyfriend dumped me and made me homeless, I thought it was the end of the world. But God works in mysterious ways and I wound up here in Newport, Oregon, of all places. It might not be Broadway but I’m getting leads in shows and designing sets and people actually ask my advice on things. Who ever knew THAT would happen? When it happens for you, it’s going to be like an atom bomb going off. To quote the master, “There won’t be signs big enough!!! There won’t be lights bright enough!!!”

  3. stevenL says:

    Sorry you didn’t get to work with Georgia Brown, but those are some extreme flops you almost got there. Hal Prince didn’t really come back from such as ‘Roza’ until ‘Phantom’
    The ones who ‘make it’ are of course lucky; but the ones who are actually doing it are making the Bubbie and Zayde proud.

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