Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'm Gonna Live Forever

In May of 1982 I went to my first dance audition. I had just turned 16. The audition was for the Broadway department stores (whatever happened to that chain?). The audition notice in the newspaper announced that they were looking for high school age dancers to model their back-to-school line in a local tour. I had had no formal dance training at this point, just a huge desire to dance, fueled by my fanatical enthusiasm for the first season of "Fame," the TV series.

I hadn't even gotten my driver's license yet. My band geek friend, Dee Dee, was one of the sousaphone players in La Mirada High School's marching band. I paid her $5.00 for gas to drive me into Los Angeles for the audition. We made a day of it, driving in from the Orange County area with a couple of the other band geeks. The audition was at a Broadway department store in Century City, right by the 405 freeway.

I didn't have a head shot or resume. I didn't even know about those basic audition tools at the time. I wasn't sure what to wear. I ended up wearing my new Levi's 501's and my purple Britannia polo shirt. I wore a purple bandanna for a head band, figuring it would make me look more like a dancer, at least.

There was already a huge line of dancers when Dee Dee dropped me off. I got behind two girls who looked very professional in their leotards, tights, and leg warmers. I would've felt more intimidated by their confident appearance if they hadn't been so nice to me. They were Claire and Jill from Alhambra, and they did have head shots and resumes, along with their fancy dance wear.

The audition itself was a crowded cattle-call of a madhouse. I remember seeing a few other students from La Mirada High, including my Very Close Friend Erin. She was there with a few of the other LDS girls from her church. Erin looked cute with her long brown hair pulled to one side, held in place with a ribbon bow. She was a talented artist at an early age. At the audition she had worn a hand painted shirt with a calico cat and her name printed in large letters at the bottom. I thought she was smart to make herself stand out like that.

The dance routine for the audition seemed hard. I don't remember the combination, today. I'm sure that whatever the routine was for the first cut, though, would probably look very basic and simple to me, now. But back then, with not a single dance class under my belt, it seemed hard. It seemed like everyone else around me was picking it up while I tried in vain to follow them in the ordered steps.

But I loved it. Even though I couldn't do it, I loved being in the middle of an authentic dance audition. It looked exactly like what I had imagined it to be. It matched the images I had seen on TV about the contemporary dance world.

Dee Dee and the other band geeks came back from walking around the mall.
"God, it looks like 'Fame' in there," Larry, my fellow trumpet player said. And he was right. The packed room was full of young dancers, mostly female, stretching, practicing the dance routine, talking to each other, and waiting for their turn to audition.

Neither Erin nor I got hired for the Broadway's Back to School Tour. I did get a letter from them, though. I could tell right away that it was simply a courtesy letter because it was thin. It wasn't a thick letter full of forms to fill out, like the kind you get when you're admitted to a university. Still, it felt good to be acknowledged, as if they had actually remembered me from the audition.

Twenty-six years later, I am now living only a few miles away from Alhambra. I wonder what happened to Claire and Jill? I wonder what they've been doing for the last quarter century?


Prince Gomolvilas said...

Holy crap, I remember Broadway! There was one at the Santa Anita Mall, and back then it was one of those fancy department stores on par with like Macy's. Can you imagine?! The fucking Broadway? Fancy?!

plain jane said...

Great story.

I think the last Broadways in Arizona were converted to Macy's just a few years ago.

golfwidow said...

You just made me wonder whatever happened to Dwight Mendenhall. He was the only member of the Fame cast with whom I identified, because even though I was teensy, I couldn't dance worth a shite.

Sunshine said...

I wonder what happened to a lot of people....oh how I wish women would put their maiden names on Facebook!

I'm sure not hiring you to dance was a HUGE error they regretted immediately!!!!

and in 1982 I had my 10th birthday party at the roller rink. And I had a cool shirt with the number 10 on it and a RAINBOW...I was the epitome of style.

Peter Varvel said...

PG, I love when Paula Poundstone had an audience member who worked near the Broadway and she said, "So, you felt you were working off-Broadway? Such a sad delusion!"

PJ, thanks for visiting! I freakin' LOVE your Turkey Lovers photos!

GW, omg, David Greenlee?!! I BOW to your 80's trivia expertise!

S, I would've matched you with my rainbow suspenders and rainbow-checkered Van's. We woulda' been stylin'. Had you been my younger sister's friend, we would've taken you to the underage/teen dance club with us.

Quin Browne said...

oh, this is what i wanted to do, when i'd walk down the hallways at school or a sidewalk, and


to run, throw myself into a dance...

until i remember(ed) i can't dance.

you, though.. you DID it.

Peter Varvel said...

QB! Happy Belated B-day!
Hope you had a swell day/week!

Mike Valentino said...

i wish i could dance

like James Brown

but with more tassels

Peter Varvel said...

Mr. MV, you don't need to know how to dance, OR wear tassels, when you're so drool-worthy in looks.
Hmmm, looks, brains, a wicked sense of humor . . . YOUTH, and a cute lil' dog named Dixie.
Does your wife know how lucky she is?

the Constantly Dramatic One said...

So many dances do you speacilized in now? And man...I wish I can dance.

I cam shake my booty...and well that's it. =p

Peter Varvel said...

TCDO, I'm too freakin' old to dance anymore, but I can still shake it with you in the clubs when you come visit L.A. or I fly out to Malaysia to stalk you!

thelastnoel said...

Wow, auditioning at 16. I used to take the bus to auditions or my mom would drive me. Oy! We really loved it then.

Peter Varvel said...

Yay! Noel's back from Mexico!