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Kicking It
By Suzie Plakson

As I wander back through all the could-have-beens of my so-far-not-so-brilliant career in showbiz, panning for that real Fool's Gold I first set out to seek in them thar hills...lo, those many years ago now, rose-colored glasses epoxied to my nose...and sifting through fields of passive-aggressive, exhaustive-depressive frustration, I do, yes, aha!, retrieve a speck, a sliver, and, now an all too rare again, a shining nugget of a moment, and -- not unlike the pot-bellied old quarterback reliving the perfect play of the homecoming game -- I give the battered, limping Pollyanna within me a little something to roll around in the palm of her hand, and smile back on:

It's 1987. I'm playing Maleficent, Mistress of All Evil, in the Disney Summer Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall. A rottenly written theme park transplant, spilling over with every conceivable Disney character ever invented or stolen, all played by terrific singer-dancers, a few kid-actors, me, and the one and only Radio City Music Hall Rockettes -- all shmushed into a manic, forty-five minute revue, 21 shows a week, like vaudeville.

Return to Oz is the movie they run along with us, that dazzler of a Disney flick that opens with little Dorothy getting electroshock treatment. Appalled mothers with wailing children run from the theatre in waves; I write to Michael Eisner, I implore him to pull this horror trip, to put in something tried-and-true like Dumbo, or Pinocchio, but oddly, he doesn't respond...

Now Radio City resents the hell out of Disney: Disney's relentlessly breathing down their necks like Radio City has no idea how to put on a show and behaving as if their beloved, historical home is just some really big rental space. Also, they've sent much abused, crappily built sets and costumes that the crew spends all its definitely unpaid extra time just to keep from being lethal.

The singer-dancers resent the hell out of Disney because they're hauling ass in used, smelly, hyper-heavy animal costumes and blowing their teensy paychecks at the chiropractors. The Rockettes resent the hell out of Disney because they're forced to wear mutant eight-foot Broom costumes in the Sorcerer's Apprentice. You never heard such curse words coming out of a broom.

Oh, yes, and me -- I resent the hell out of Disney because I'm green.

Yes, in some stupid stone manual, it had been carved, and probably misspelled, "All Evil Witches Must Be Green."

No matter that, in the city-block-long cavern that Radio City is, you can't see my face past the tenth row anyway -- that, by all accounts, being green, it's just a gray splotch -- no matter that the movie
Maleficent morphs through many a skin tone, no matter that I'm the only person trapped in the theatre in between shows, that I can't ever seem to get all the green off, so even when I'm not green, I look seasick.

And no matter that the rest of my getup already over-does the trick: I mean, I enter, rising from below the stage, evil-ly laughing -- pretty pathetically, I might add -- but there's thunder, there's lighting,
there's a pyrotechnic thing -- I got the big black horns, I got the big fuchsia-Elvis-collar attached to a black body suit, I got the over-the-elbow evening gloves with three-inch red nails on 'em, I got the massive black velvet cape, heavy as a goddamn fire curtain, and I also just happen to be wearing a nine-foot high motorized black velvet skirt -- driven expertly by a great guy named Nick...well, expertly, except for the rare, but interesting occasions when he falls asleep. Nicky and I, understandably, bond. But, really, the green's gotta go.

Now, one of the more angelic characters of the summer, Ken, happens to work for the other side. Ah, life is never simply good or evil, black or white, green or flesh tone, is it? Anyway, Ken is our company manager, the liaison guy, the bridge between these two warring American Institutions, and, as such, he's inscrutable, but he's been a Broadway stage manager for most of his life, so Ken gets what needs to be gotten; and he nobly, steadily goes to bat for me, eventually eroding the theretofore unalterable Green Witch Policy. Yes, I do believe that it's just as I begin to crack from cabin fever, and, on a dare, go, in full green face, to the Clinique counter at Saks Fifth Avenue to buy moisturizer, that Ken brings me news of my freedom from green, my freedom to join my pals at Woolworth's in between shows for chocolate cake and chocolate sundaes.

Now, Disney happens to have this other written-in-stone policy that I laugh at and mildly ponder the effects of, but don't mind much, and that's this: "Evil Characters Don't Get Curtain Calls." Mice, dogs, ducks, humans, yes -- witches, no. Okay, whatever.

So, during the curtain call finale, I climb down the ladder from my skirt, I hang out with Nicky and the crew, I watch from the wings, and I try to never miss the one truly sensational thrill of the show: the vast Radio City Music Hall Orchestra climbs a few tantalizing keys, breaks into a fantastically Broadway-ized version of -- okay, "Zip-idee-doo-dah" -- but --

-- in all their silver-sequined, silver tap-shoed glory, in the undisputed mother of all kick lines, those Rockettes rise majestically up out of the floor and well, I usually tear up a little... and somehow, I can't help but begin to dream that, maybe, some day, somehow, maybe I could, nahhh -- but, aw, gee, maybe, just once, just one show, wouldn't it be swell if I could -- nahhh, everybody'd just say no, and it's too conceited too ask for, nahhh...but it sure is nice to dream, anyway, waiting in the wings.

I then get a small, but significant gift from the gods, which comes, as they so often do, disguised as a slap in the face. Never -- especially if you're afraid to want too much, or to aim too big -- never underestimate the motivational value of a direct insult:

The perfectly moronic bearer of this little divine awakening has the distinction of being one of the first truly monumental schmucks of my career. The program says he's our producer, but he's Disney Quality Control. In his powder blue suits and shiny print shirts and huge aviator glasses and sprayed comb over, he shows up to cluelessly scrutinize and otherwise fuck with all elements of the show, to make fascistically sure no one is being photographed without their animal heads on, to give performance notes with his astonishing artistic acumen, and to leave, in his ignorant, assholic wake, a sea of cursing, spitting red faces and five suicidal stage managers. His name is Dennis, and he is a poisonous pimple on the ass of our planet.

So, between his last haunting and this one, I've added three tiny dim-witted new lines that have been handed down through the Disney hierarchy to Ken, and then, to me.

Dennis comes up to me after the show and says, with a smile, but he's serious:

"Are you drunk?"

And -- always so absolutely On It when someone fires such a toxic Stupid-Bullet into my head, I fire back, on a dime, and I say,

"-- uh...what...?"

"Those lines you said," he says, "have you been drinking? Are you drunk?"

Well, I'm so shocked and so furious, that, of course, I laugh. And then, insanely, I explain, completely reasonably. Oh, sure, please, of course, I would love to have done the movie version -- slowly I turn, and I say, "How I get through twenty-one shows a week of this warmed-over, pureed shit WITHOUT DRINKING is a fucking MIRACLE, and you should get down on your pathetic combed-over powder blue stupid fucking knees and kiss my -- "

-- but, no. I digest the inanity, and my system, instead of taking the usual rageful nap, converts this poison into fuel -- to turn a wisp of a daydream into a deliciously wicked scheme, like every good witch oughta:

Fuck Policy. I was gonna kick policy's ass but good. And I was gonna be wearing a pair of silver tap shoes to kick it with.

I state my plan to Nick: On the very last show, when all the Disney brass is there -- fuck 'em -- I would take my goddamned well-deserved 21-show-a-week evil-ass curtain call, and I would put an exclamation point on the end of that sentence by kicking in the goddamn center of line with the goddamn Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, goddamnit. Nick is ecstatic. He figures they'll dock my pay, which scares the hell out of me, I need the dough, and this is the first real paying gig I've landed in all these years -- but he tells me not to worry -- if they do, the guys'll chip in and pay my salary themselves. Course I'd never let 'em, but it gives me guts to hear. He tells me I need to go to the Head Rockette Lady and ask permission.

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