So, back in 1992, I joined the cast of Bottom’s Up – a long running Las Vegas-style revue.
I had always wanted to earn my living performing, and here was my chance.
I won’t lie. It was scary.
Okay, it was fucking terrifying.
But I knew that if I didn’t try it, I would always wonder “what if”.
So I told my live-in “boyfriend” to find other lodgings. (No loss there, trust me – but at least he agreed to take the cats, and I knew he loved them – a lot more than he loved me, so that was okay too.)
I put all my belongings, except what I needed while on the road into storage.
And I hit the road, driving from LA to Central City, Colorado.
Now, with Bottom’s Up, you were working without a contract.
Thinking back, I can understand why.
Each casino we played at would have its own contract with the show, so BU would have had to change its contract with us for each venue.
So sometimes our housing was provided. Sometimes, you had to find your own housing.
And, of course, no health insurance.
I applied for health insurance, but was rejected because I’m fat. Yup, in perfectly good health, no pre-existings, but I’m fat so no health insurance for me. (Like I said, it was scary.)
I forget how much I was paid, but it was an okay amount, especially since Nevada has no state employee taxes. I had done the math, and I was making about what I would have made working my job as a legal secretary/paralegal in LA.
I loved performing.
But what I found out was, life on the road is hard.
A life in theater is hard.
I should have done this when I was a sweet young thing, but I was 38.
When I was in my 20s, I could party hearty and keep on ticking.
At 38, I needed sleep, I knew drinking was rough on my throat (and thus my voice).
Also, I have this thing – while I am in a show, I feel totally guilty if I do anything that might adversely affect a future performance. I don’t party when I’m in a show. If people are paying to see me, then I have this need to be in as good of shape for the performance as I possibly can. Someday I’ll explain why, but that’s another blog for another day.
So I had little socializing, because of the circumstances, and because of my own personal demons.
I got off work at around midnight or so. Grabbed a bite to eat (2 shows a night makes you hungry!). Went back to my room, and was too wired to sleep immediately, so I’d watch TV or read for at least a couple hours, sometimes more. Get up fairly early (at least compared to the party hearty kids in the show – the only one who got up as early as I did was the star of the show Breck Wall). Get breakfast. Do laundry, write letters, read, make stuff (I helped with some of the costuming for the show), rehearsed – if we had a rehearsal called, got to the theater early – Breck was always already there, and he’d let me have his newspaper to read. And start all over again with 2 shows.
My “leisure” hours were when the rest of the world was working; and my working hours was when the rest of the world was having fun.
The two other grown-ups in the show (Breck and David Harris) had been doing this for 30+ years. They had their own routines and friends established. The other people in the show were the dancers – in their 20s, drank and/or did a lot of drugs (no judgment, just not my thing).
It was a lonely existence.
But the performing was great, unless I got sick.
And I did get sick. While we were in Jackpot, Nevada.
I don’t know what I had, but I suspect it developed into pneumonia.
I would have gone to the doctor, but we were in Jackpot, fucking, Nevada. There were no nearby doctors, and our run was almost over, and we would be on break, and I would be back in LA – where I figured I could rest up. Which I did, but oh, I was so sick.
I started to get sick in Lake Tahoe, later on, but I made the trip to Reno to an ENT and got some drugs and dodged that bullet.
So when we were in Tahoe, I called my old boss in LA and I asked him if he had a secretary. He said, “Yes.” I asked him if he liked her. He said, “Not really.” And I said, “Make me an offer.” He did, and I gave notice and went back to having a “real” life, and just performing for fun, which works out much better for me. And I did get asked to go back to BU to fill in for a week while Breck was on vacation, which I did. And it was fun. And when BU went back to Vegas, I went and saw the show there too. So no hard feelings on either side.
It was an adventure.
I don’t regret it (except getting my car broken into twice in Laughlin, and having a bunch of stuff stolen – did I forget to mention that?).
And I learned a valuable lesson about myself.
This fat old lady, loves her “stuff”. I like having a home with my belongings in it. I love having my kitties living with me. I like having health insurance. I am a bit of a security freak.
And after I was done with BU, I met and married my husband.