and Years and Years
By Sarah Stanley
November I got a call from my sister, Susy, regarding our other
sister's latest accomplishment -- Kelly made the finals, and our
mother was so happy that she was bawling.
thrilled that our baby sister Kelly made the finals of American
Idol. It was I, in fact, who had forced her to audition, even
though she thought it was cheesy, and a Kelly from Texas had already
won the thing. And even though I'm a singer too, I had no problem
with the possibility of my much, much younger, more glamorous sister
becoming an instant superstar. In fact, maybe my years and years
and years of struggling and experience might somehow help my young
sister-friend find some short cuts on this rocky road of the business
they call "show."
a teen, it was my pleasure to have a four year old following me
around -- my own little built-in-by-birth-order fan. While our other
sisters kind of enjoyed my puppet theatre showcases and time-to-learn-every-word-to-the-Funny
Girl-soundtrack time, only Kelly participated with inspired
commitment in the drama-geek improv games that I forced upon my
young siblings in order to avoid the reality that I was babysitting
them. For free.
when Kelly, age five, fell down the stairs, and didn't move. Finally,
after our tearful father called an ambulance, Kelly jumped up, took
a bow and said, "That was my impression of a dead baby bird!"
I was so proud. I'd taught her everything I knew, she'd kicked it
up a notch and she was talented enough to frighten our parents into
thinking she was dead.
And now, years and years and years later, our mother was bawling
because Kelly made the finals for American Idol.
didn't seem to mind that the American Idol news was overshadowing
her own birthday. But then, Susy is an Occupational Therapist. Maybe
if Kelly was in the finals for the American Occupational Therapist
Idol contest Susy might have some issues. Maybe if Kelly was
ten or even eleven years younger than Susy, and looked like her
younger, more model-ish, far more attractive twin, so much so that
whenever Susy saw Kelly she had to think "That's what I would
look like if I went on Extreme Makeover," maybe then
Susy might have some mixed emotions.
I was in high school, my parents nearly made me turn down a role
at the world-renowned Kennedy Center because they needed our second
car to drive six-year-old Kelly to ballet class. When I got my first
sitcom development deal my father told me not to quit my receptionist
job because I'd lose my health insurance. When I got into the Aspen
Comedy Festival, my parents said, "Bring a coat." When
I got my second sitcom development deal, my mother said "Don't
get too excited, remember what happened the first time, when you
were stuck without the health insurance? " When my HBO special
aired, my father called to say that it was "neat to see you
on TV," and also that he caught Kathy Griffin's HBO show, and
it was just "hilarious, Sarah, don't you think she's hilarious?!
now my mother was bawling because Randy liked Kelly's rendition
of "Black Velvet." Susy said that Paula Abdul smiled at
Kelly, and said, "You're going to Hollywood." I couldn't
wait to tell Kelly that that is not how people get to Hollywood.
They get to Hollywood by hard work, and paying dues, and years and
years and years of equity waiver theatre and low budget films. And
they don't call it "Hollywood," they call it "LA."
phone rang again. It'd better be Kelly because I had years of advice
was our other sister, Lynn. "Can you believe it, she's going
to Hollywood! It's freaking me out, she's going to Hollywood, and
Paula Abdul said so!"
I took a breath. "Well I knew she would. That's why I made
her audition. And please don't call it that, 'Hollywood.' We don't
say it like that."
"What do you say? 'California'"?
Lynn, we don't say anything, but we never say 'Hollywood.' We just
try to pretend like we haven't been here for very long. Like how
people lie about their age."
would lie about their age?"
was so naïve, and so tickled by Kelly's news. But then again,
Lynn's not a singer. She's a Charity Benefit Organizer. Maybe if
Kelly had just made it onto the American Charity Benefit Organizer
Idol show, maybe her glee might be colored with some feelings
of self-loathing and pending doom.
to ask, "So, when is Kelly coming to
She doesn't know anything. They didn't say a thing about plans.
And they made those poor kids wait in a room for ten hours with
no food or water. One guy was late to his own wedding. And during
the first round, they had to wait outside all night and Kelly was
only wearing a tube top! Did you hear that Mom was so happy she
I heard. I heard. It was clear that our mother had tears of pride
and joy and that my protégé had called everybody in
the family but me. And I'm the singer, the one with advice, the
one who lives in LA.
Kelly called me.
So I made it."
knew you would. Aren't you glad I encouraged you to audition? What
did they say? "
said I was really, really pretty, and then Simon said I was good
live, but he didn't know about me being a recording artist."
Simon. He's just mean, that Simon."
wasn't mean. You should hear what he said to some people. He said
I was pretty."
Kelly. You're going to win it. You're going to win American Idol"!
I think they have, like, 250 kids going to Hollywood, so I'm not
gonna stress about it."
going to "stress" about it either, but her nonchalance
was disturbing. "No. You're going to be an American Idol. And
please stop calling it 'Hollywood.'"
just when I was about to share my wisdom about the paying the dues,
and the equity waiver theatre, Kelly stopped me cold with some real
insight of her own.
learned some stuff from this whole American Idol experience.
I think the main thing, before I go to Hollywood, is to buy lots
and lots of cute outfits."
clearly had a better understanding of Hollywood than I did.
Sarah, guess what? Mom was crying. Whatever. Like she was the one
waiting in the cold with no clothes on. I gotta go meet my friends
at Taco Cabana. I haven't eaten in three weeks."
hung up and I thought about how great this will be. I imagined Kelly
making the final four, she'd come and sit in with me and the Sarah
Stanley Band at the Cinema Bar in Culver City, and Entertainment
Tonight would come shoot it, and Kelly would thank her mentor/sister
and also God for making her fame and fortune possible. I'd write
her some special songs, and they'd become huge hits with her entire
generation. The American Idol fans in 'Hollywood' would hold
up signs saying "We Love Kelly Stanley" and Simon would
tell her that he was wrong about the whole "recording thing,"
that she can and will do it all. Paula Abdul would add that Kelly
is just like Janis Joplin, but really, really pretty. Our family
would sit in the American Idol greenroom and watch Kelly
kick the shit out of Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield,"
and all of us would be bawling. And after years and years and years
of paying my dues and equity waiver theatre, I would finally know
why I was put on this Earth. I'm Kelly's Lorna Luft. I'm Betty Clooney.
Latoya Jackson. I'm Barbara Streisand's sister, and who knew Barbara
Streisand had a sister? She has a sister, she does. Her name is
Roslyn Kind and she's been singing and acting in LA for years and
years and years.
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