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Confessions of a Showgirl: Mistletoes and cameltoes

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Maren Wade

I love this time of year. The crispness in the air, the smell of fire burning, Christmas songs playing everywhere, the suspense of who you’ll bump into under the mistletoe. But for a showgirl, one of the most exciting parts of holiday season is holiday pay. Yes, that’s right. While most people are planning their trips home to be with their families for Christmas, we selfless showgirls normally work through the holidays. True, at times, we get sentimental and want to celebrate like everyone else. But then, we remember we’re onstage, in the spotlight, and all our troubles melt away.

Some of the most lavish productions ever made were designed specifically for Christmas. I spoke to a showgirl who wishes to remain anonymous about her experience in one of the largest and most spectacular productions of all time. This show is known for its long-legged dancers who perform famous kick-lines in New York during the holiday season. I think they’re called something like the TV City Sockettes? Oh well, I can’t remember.

Anyway, the New York production had been so successful they decided to launch their first national tour. They spared no expense, even designing an exquisite nativity scene that featured real live camels. The camels traveled with the production throughout the country. They were incredible to watch onstage, but they turned out to be anything but professional.

The camels seemed to resent the Sockettes. Perhaps, they were envious of their long legs. But it was as if these animals went out of their way to make it difficult for the dancers. I’m not sure where they learned their manners (probably in some zoo), but they were never taught any theater etiquette. You would think it would go without saying, but it’s not okay to relieve yourself onstage and certainly not during an iconic kick-line.

These dancers practice soldier-like precision moves. I’m talking discipline on a Palace-Guard scale. They’re trained not to let anything get in the way of those kicks neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor camel dung. Yet through it all, they never stopped smiling!

The camels also had no desire to cooperate. They just wandered wherever they wanted with no regard for call times. If we showgirls did that, we would be fired. I remember one night in particular. Excuse me, I mean, Anonymous went on to tell me about one night in particular. (Sometimes, I just get so involved in writing these things.)

Anyway, show days always take it out of you. There’s nothing better than throwing back a few cocktails and relaxing after an intense day at the circus. Anonymous was in Cincinnati at a post-show dinner with the cast. She was just starting to unwind from her long day. She looked out the window and admired the snow falling in the distance. All was calm. All was bright. All was … all of a sudden, she saw a camel casually sauntering down the street. Was she hallucinating? This show was so intense it was already taking over her thoughts. Now it was messing with her eyes?! Maybe she was having an anxiety attack? Or maybe someone spiked her drink? Then, she saw a second camel sashaying behind the other. Maybe someone spiked both her drinks?

The good news was she wasn’t crazy! (At least not at that moment.) The camels somehow escaped from the arena and tiptoed a good four blocks before anyone spotted them. She, along with a few other cast members, took it upon themselves to walk the camels back to the arena. No one at the venue even realized they were gone!

The next year the production cut back on some expenses. The camels were on the chopping block. Oh, not literally! Sorry, I just meant they weren’t invited back.

Okay, I have a confession to make. There were no mistletoes in this story, “Mistletoes and Cameltoes.” But I just couldn’t resist using alliteration. Or do they call that an onomatopoeia? Or maybe I just like toes. No, that’s not it.

Well, anyway, Happy Holidays!

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