I was born into a fashionably dysfunctional family who loved bickering with each other and I learned to brawl with my middle sister. I smacked her with the broom and she threw scissors at me . I still have the scar in my knee where they got stuck! I was the oldest but the smallest of three sisters. Turned out I got the talent, Peri got the brains and Amy got the looks. We grew up in a small town in Oklahoma in the middle of the Bible belt. Which meant a middle class and very sheltered environment. I was happy enough but looking back I was always the last one of my peers to get the latest doll, the new Monkees album, enter puberty, buy a bra, learn to drive, kiss a boy and “go all the way.”
Mom was a singer and to keep her attention I discovered that if I mimicked her I could keep her attention so I guess I became a performer by default.. One father and two step fathers later at the age of 17 I was determined to be God’s gift to Broadway ! I mean I was raised in a dance studio and did all of the plays and musicals in school. And I was the final contestant on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour which was a huge claim to fame at the time.
So off to New York I went to take the big apple by storm. Except it took awhile. Luckily I had been accepted into the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and being a good student I happily attended classes and studied hard. What I learned outside of the Academy was mind boggling. “Dorothy wasn’t in Kansas any more!”
To save money I teamed up with two guys from my classes at the Academy to rent an apartment. They reminded me of two puppies always playing together and looking for great times. Gay, they were in all senses of the word! But not until I moved in did I understand “light hearted” wasn’t the half of it. After the shock of having “happy” roommates I grew to love them as brothers and they did look after me. We lived in the East Village but I never had to worry about crime because the neighbors were all thieves who brought their loot home with them and my happy buddies were like bodyguards.
My romantic life had a late start. I was shy at 17 and even though I’d had boy friends back home, New Yorkers were so much more worldly. I did develop a huge crush on the manager of a pizza joint after he hired me to be a waitress. He must have been fond of me somewhat because I also had to take cocktail orders and I had no idea what these drinks were! Constantly, I was screwing up and apologizing to customers but he never fired me! Instead, he switched me to doing piano bar work as a vocalist. I was relieved and I do remember he kissed me on New Year’s Eve!
Not long after landing in New York City , landing a job, landing roles in school productions and finding my favorite restaurants I started to make friends with my fellow classmates. I thought I knew everything there was to know to survive in the big world of show biz! One day I was in the ladies room at the Academy and an actress who was maybe five or so years older than I was came in after me. She began telling me how talented she thought I was and how adorable my scene work was in class. I loved hearing this, of course. Then she asked if I’d like to go out sometime. “Sure!” I said. To which she responded and sort of whispered, “I knew it! When did you come out?”
I’m thinking, “What? We haven’t gone anywhere yet.” This girl started to put her arm around me and I pulled back and said, “What are you doing? “ She called me a tease and stormed out. The rest of the year she stared daggers at me. When I told my roommates they died laughing and set me straight. They said my eyes got bigger than dinner plates. You mean girls could be happy too!!!
Life in New York was fun but stressful. I learned about being Jewish and wished I was one because they seemed to have all the jobs I wanted. I discovered that racism was alive and well because the Italians, the Irish, the blacks, and who ever else all hated everybody else for reasons I couldn’t determine. Where I was from I met very few exotic nationalities and foreigners. Mostly, it had been Baptists versus Catholics , etc.. in terms of prejudices.
A somewhat talented “triple threat,” when I landed in New York I discovered I had to scramble to be competitive in my chosen career. Where I came from everybody sang so it was no big deal that my colleagues were also good in that area, but my little small town dance and acting skills were laughable. I sounded like I was still 12 years old and never reached five feet tall. And of course the Oklahoma accent had to go! I had an acting coach who preached that all characters had a sexual motivation. What was mine, he asked and how long had it been since I’d been laid? My dance instructor’s mantra when we did leaps across the floor was, “Squeeze your asshole!” My poor little Oklahoma ears!
My first standing ovation in New York came at a gay bar my roommates took me to. I sang a couple of songs and ended with “Nobody Makes a Pass at Me.” I floated out of that venue!
After surviving the Son of Sam era, dodging a falling helicopter off of the Pan Am building, the great blackout in 77, out running a mugger at Grand Central Station right after I’d seen the movie “Death Wish,” I moved back to Oklahoma to lots more showbiz work with rock and country bands, regional theatre, opera and community theatre and even industrial corporate entertainment. I even did belly dancing and was a tapping heart for singing telegram companies! I was now a jack of all trades in my line of work! As my mom stated, “I was an abrasive New York broad!”
As the years went by I was a study in contradictions. I wanted the traditional marriage to a strong and protective Southern boy but I didn’t want kids. I wanted to be a housewife but I never wanted to be home. I loved great food but didn’t want to learn to cook.. I loved fashion but nothing ever fit me! I was a prude but I could do things sober that most everyone else had to get stinkin to do.
Politics? I was a brilliant conversationalist! If someone asked me my views on gun control, I would break into song, “You Can’t Get a Man With a Gun.”
Sexual revolution? I’d flirt outrageously but only if I didn’t give two hoots about you. If I was attracted I’d stay as far away as possible.
Global warming? Thank God I don’t have to wear sweaters and coats anymore. I’m always cold.
War on Women? Dang it, Where did I put that gun?
I could go on but in general I think too many of us are in each other’s business and wallets and don’t need to be. On the other hand so many of us don’t care about our own business so leaving it to others might work for them.
Looking back, I find I am still not worldly or sophisticated in the least. I treasure loyalty, humor, integrity, a solid work ethic, a good corny joke like lost heir looms. I love all children and animals as if they were my own, including my long ago
Southern boy husband. I appreciate good manners, simple kindness, a handsome virile man in uniform who will flirt back with me, oh, and a great chick flick.
So far, don’t know if I’ve gotten it right as far as living a productive life. Who knows what family and friends will give me credit or blame for.
I think of myself as a Diva who just needs to get her dress hemmed, her hair trimmed and maybe lower heels so she can walk (strutting in heels is needless work!). A manicure would be nice but I’d rather have a massage. Friends are wonderful but I also enjoy my own company and a good book.
Fiercely, I hold onto a faith that God will never let me down but he laughs at me constantly. When I stop laughing with him, I know its time to go!