I first performed this in my solo show, Dani Live! My Life In Leg Warmers, in May, 2003 in Los Angeles. It was first posted here, in April 2011. It has been refurbished for your listening pleasure, and is dedicated to Passover and Cher.
I invited Cher, Baruch Hashem, to my parent’s house last year for Pesach. It had been on my ‘to do’ list for quite some time, but well, you know how it is. Life just seems to get in the way, and shit is put off for yet another day. But I finally moved it to the top of my list.
I knew I was taking a chance, and there weren’t any guarantees. I didn’t know if she already had Seder plans. My invitation was last minute. I didn’t even consider that she might be too tuckered out from her first of several farewell tours. I tweeted her anyway.
She immediately tweeted back an enthusiastic ‘yes’ and a few other niceties, all under 140 characters. For those that don’t know, Cher is quite the social media maven. Thus began a conver-tweet-sation.
She wanted to know what color the Yarmulkes were that we were going to be wearing during the service, so she could color coordinate with her wig. The woman is always thinking production values. I told her that reformed Jews, which we were, didn’t usually wear Yarmulke’s. In fact, I told her that my family was so reformed we were practically Catholic. She tweeted back a laughing emoticon and LMFAO.
|Cher & Uncle George|
When the day arrived, Cher drove up on her beloved Harley Davidson. That’s my Uncle George in the red jacket, and his sons, my cousins, Damian and Jeff. They waited down the street from the house just in case she got lost.
I was surprised that Cher arrived solo, as she likes to take her sister, Georganne LePiere with her to social events. I did tweet her that she could extend the invitation to her son, Elijah Blue. She said that he was still mourning the break up of his band, Deadsy.
My dad took Cher’s leather gloves, and put them in the hall closet, with our coats. It had been a long trip, and Cher wanted to freshen up before dinner, so she excused herself and went to the restroom.
She emerged ten minutes later wearing, what can only be described as a Bob Mackie Yarmulke original. Sequins, glitter… It was a beanie masterpiece. I thought it looked more like a tricked out sailor’s hat, than a yarmulke, but it’s Cher, I was not about to split wig hairs.
|Yarmulke or sailor hat?|
We hung out in the family room until the eggs were hard boiled and my sister-in-law put the finishing touches on the Charoset. Cher really has the gift of gab. She regaled us with stories about the preparations for her new tour, her Lady Gaga duet and her charity, the Children’s Craniofacial Association. She really impressed my family with her knowledge of current events when she brought up a new report, claiming that there was flame retardant in mother’s breast milk.
My parents treated her like one of the family, more so than they did with any of the boyfriends that I brought home. They can be so judgmental. I know that my mother was biting her tongue, resisting the urge to tell Cher to put her hair up and get it off of her face. The woman is constantly riding my ass to do the same.
I didn’t know how long Cher was going to stay once dinner was over, so I took the opportunity to show her my Cher doll, that I’ve had since 1975. I think she was truly touched, because I saw a tear roll down her wrinkle-free face. The Cher doll was barefoot. I had lost her shoes, or my brother ate them (one or the other) oh, so many years ago.
Cher excused herself, again, to make a costume change. When she returned, she joined us at the dinner table, and we started reading from the Haggadah, or prayer book. We went around the table, taking turns reading passages, as we always do. When it came to Cher, her passage was heavy on the Rabbi names; Elazar Ben Azarya, Raban Gamliel, and it tripped her up. In all fairness, I’m sure she had never heard of the Rabbi’s, unless of course she had attended Pesach at her friend Bette Midler’s house. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to pry. Cher did her best and we left it at that.
A few pages later, I looked over at Cher, who was sitting next to Uncle George. I thought she looked a bit uneasy. George still hasn’t gotten the memo that those natural deodorants really don’t do shit, and I thought Cher was reacting. But then I realized that it wasn’t George at all, it was the multitude of glasses of wine we’re told to drink during the service. It can be unsettling to a non drinker, which Cher is. My family wouldn’t know since there aren’t any non drinkers in the whole lot.
I leaned in close, and assured Cher that, in no way, was she obligated to drink. Unfortunately, my mother didn’t buy any Manischewitz because there’s never been a need (even my 10 year old nephew drinks the real stuff). However, being the mensch that Cher is, she threw back that wine like one of the drunken sailors in her, “If I Can Turn Back Time” video.
When I was a kid, my favorite part of the Seder dinner was reading the four questions, which are always read by the youngest at the table. I held that title for many years. I had no idea what I was reading but I didn’t care, as long as I was the center of attention. And then my nephews arrived. The lord giveth, and the lord taketh away.
My youngest nephew was all set to read, when my dad suggested that we give our half-breed guest the honor. I thought it was a lovely gesture. I searched Cher’s punim, trying to get a read on how this last minute casting had affected her. Her face was still. After a few seconds, Cher gently pushed her chair back and stood up. Traditionally, we stay seated and read, but it was clear that Cher had something else up her sleeveless dress.
She walked to the front of the dining room and presented my family with a gift I know I won’t soon forget. A private concert, singing an original reinterpretation of her 1974 smash hit single, Dark Lady, from the album of the same name, in honor of Passover.
PHARAOH’S SLAVES TRIED TO FLEE,
AND I CAN RELATE BECAUSE I LEFT SONNY.
MOSES SAID, ‘HEY, LISTEN BRO’,
DON’T YOU THINK IT’S TIME YOU LET ME PEOPLE GO?
THEY WANDERED AROUND FOR 40 YEARS,
WHY SHOULD THEY KVETCH, IT’S SHORTER THAN MY CAREER.
THEY ARRIVED IN THE PROMISED LAND,
MORE BURNT OUT THAN THE ALLMAN BROTHER’S BAND.
WHY IS THIS NIGHT SO DIFFERENT THAN THE ONES THAT CAME BEFORE?
WHY DO YOU DIP HERBS TWICE AND EAT ONLY MAROR?
WHY DO YOU SIT RECLINED AND EAT THIS FUNKY LOOKING BREAD?
IF IT WERE UP TO ME, I’D ORDER IN INSTEAD.
THE FOUR QUESTIONS THEY HAVE TO ASK,
BITTER HERBS? I WAS OVERLOOKED FOR MASK.
NO TIME TO LET BREAD RISE THEY HAD TO SHAKE A LEG,
IF THEY BELIEVED IN CHRIST THEY’D BE EATIN’ CHOCOLATE EGGS.
TEN PLAGUES DIDN’T GO THAT FAR,
BOILS AND FROGS, HE SHOULD’VE CURSED THEM WITH EPSTEIN BARR.
IN THE END THEY ALL RECLINE,
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL IT’S HOW I LAND JOBS ALL THE TIME.
WHY IS THIS NIGHT SO DIFFERENT THAN THE ONES THAT CAME BEFORE? WHY DO YOU DIP HERBS TWICE AND EAT ONLY MAROR?
WHY DO YOU SIT RECLINED AND EAT THIS FUNKY LOOKING BREAD?
IF IT WERE UP TO ME, I’D ORDER IN INSTEAD.
Speechless I know. A little pitchy and were those nerves shaking her voice? Who cares, it was a delightful surprise.
We settled back into the Seder and Cher joined my dad in lighting Yahrzeit candles, in memory of loved ones that had died. My Dad lit one for Nanny and Cher lit one for Sonny and her youth. He poured a glass of wine and opened the front door for the prophet Elijah. Cher started to say something about Deadsy, but my dad looked in her direction, “No, Dark Lady, not your Elijah.”
Dinner was officially over, and it was time to look for the Afikoman, which is sort of a Jewish hide and seek, using a piece of Matzot. Whoever finds it, gets a cash prize. When we were kids, it didn’t matter who found it, because everyone cashed out. After a few years of this, no one tried all that hard and it took the fun out of the whole game. Sort of like how it doesn’t matter that your kids soccer team sucks and places last in the tournament, trophy’s for all!
Cher wanted to play. She loves games. One of her favorite games is Wise and Otherwise. And she likes cash. I’m embarrassed to say it, but she was also drunk off her tattooed ass. No one seemed to mind if she participated, so she and my nephews scampered off to look for the big cracker.
A few minutes later, we heard a commotion coming from the basement. “No. Let it go. It’s mine. I found it.” I couldn’t tell who was screaming, but there was definitely a ruckus.
We ran down to the basement. Cher was acting all meshungina. She was physically pushing my nephew up against the wall, her long and luxurious nails, digging into his little ten year old chest. She was trying to pry the matzot out of his snausage-like fingers. It was a scene alright. She was schvitzing, her mascara was running down her face, her beanie had fallen to the floor, and her wig was cockeyed on her head.
My older nephew tried to pull Cher off of his little brother, but she was going mental. My guess is that this is exactly why she doesn’t drink. Finally, Cher released my nephew. He started screaming, “Hasbeen! Vegas shlock! Lori Davis Infomercial Hawker!” That was a low blow, rude and uncalled for. After all, she was our guest. I shooed my nephews up the basement stairs.
The next thing I knew, Cher ran up to my dad, sucking wind, and planted herself firmly in front of him. She grabbed his arm, and dropped a handful of matzot crumbs into his hand and waited. Needless to say, we were all confused and disappointed. How could something so beautiful and right turn out to be so ugly and wrong.
I didn’t want to admit it, but the people of the town were right. She is a gypsy, tramp and thief. But my dad, forever the gentleman, was not about to break from tradition. He fished out a twenty dollar bill from his pants pocket and slapped it down in Cher’s waiting hand. “Shalom, Cher, Shalom.”
For a long time, two things remained constant in my life; Christopher Meloni (Law&Order, Oz) and dry skin. Why did handing Christopher Meloni a gym towel 20 years ago, when I worked at a gym where he was a member, lead to a lifelong connection that he knows nothing about? That towel was the beginning of a twenty-year one-sided romance.
When I met Christopher at that gym, a million years ago, he wasn’t the Christopher Meloni that he is today. Back then he was just another hot struggling actor. He’d come in almost every day and he flirted with me each and every time.
You could cut the sexual tension with a knife. There were many events, coincidences and incidents over the years, that linked us together. I believe the most significant one came when I was traveling around Europe, after leaving Los Angeles.
My friends always stayed vigilant when it came to CM sightings and how they might fit into my life. I received an e-mail at my hotel in Krakow, Poland, from a friend who told me that CM was starring in the play, A View From The Bridge, in Dublin, Ireland. So close. Dublin, Ireland here I come!
When I arrived in Dublin, I immediately took a bus to the theater, where a jolly lolly woman in the box office said that the show was sold out. Are you f’in kidding me? I came all the way from Krakow! She suggested I get to the theater at seven o’clock for last minute cancellations. Done jolly lolly.
I couldn’t meet Detective Stabler wearing my torn and tattered sneakers. I looked like a bag lady. It had been a long way to Tipperary. I found a cheap Irish department store, filled with drunks, their shattered dreams and synthetic blends. I bought a pair of inexpensive high-heeled plastic and rubber puke brown boots. They weren’t comfortable either.
I returned to the theater at 6:29p and sat my tight and tired ass on the cold concrete steps. I took out my tacky boots from my sassy backpack and began the footwear switch, when out of the corner of my eye, the man, the myth, the legend, Christopher Meloni, was heading towards me.
My face turned crimson and my palms began to sweat. The side zipper snagged my ratty athletic sock, and my foot hung limp from the boot like a flacid cock. I lowered my head and pretended to read my David Sedaris book, Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim.
What was I supposed to do, say hello, while pulling on my boots? Yes, because that’s what sane people do. Maybe I should’ve said, “Towel?” and waited for a reaction. I felt him glance over at me but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in a, ‘hey, who’s the hottie in the plastic boots’, kind of way. I wanted to scream, “I’m not a homeless person who likes theater!”
Christopher had his, ‘an actor prepares’, hat on and quickly disappeared into the theater. I kicked myself with my plastic boot for being such a pussy. I couldn’t let it end there so I decided to write him a note inviting him out for a drink after the show. Of course I’d explain our mutual connections so as not to scare him.
I ripped out a blank sheet of paper from the back of my book and started writing. The only thing that I can remember about the note was that I mentioned a friend of his, who was a friend of a friend of mine, who had died in 911. This was sure to endear myself to him.
When I walked into the theater, I handed my note to jolly lolly in the box office and asked her to give it to Mr. Meloni. She looked up at me, then down at the folded paper, and then back up at me. I knew that as soon as I walked away she’d read it, pee her pants, and pitch it in the trash. I wasn’t naive.
After an hour waiting in line, I got a ticket. My seat was in the very last row. The blokes sitting next to me informed me that I should thank their friend Rory whose seat I was sitting in. At the last minute, Rory had to fly to Croatia on business. Thank you, Rory and God Bless You.
Was I really going to wait by the stage door? I deluded myself into thinking that Christopher got my note. But what if he did get my note, and decided to leave through the back door? What if he didn’t get my note, and I saw him outside? Would I tell him about the note? What if he started running down the street? Would I run after him? That would be scary. For both of us.
It was the summer of taking chances. I waited outside the theater, and pretended to call someone on my cell phone. I didn’t want to look like a fan. What the hell was I doing? I immediately abandoned ship as soon as I came to my senses and put plastic boots to pavement and walked to the bus stop. The boots did nothing for my remaining bunion. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times; nothing says old Jew like a bunion.
I continued looking over my shoulder to see if I could catch a glimpse of Christopher leaving the theater. As I passed hotel after hotel, I felt like a streetwalker on the job.
What if Christopher was expecting me? That teeny tiny glimmer of hope loomed large in my teeny tiny brain. I couldn’t live without knowing, so I hobbled back to the theater. As I approached, I saw only darkness.
I turned around, again, and limped back to the bus stop. I definitely looked like a hooker. I stopped into one of the hotels and tried to pick up a few Euros. Ireland isn’t cheap you know.
I know that at the young age of 45, it would be virtually impossible to become an Olympic figure skater. I get it.
However, every now and again I think about those things that still might be possible. These things surely come from my delusional mind and they hang out deep in my naive, immature, and denial place. I get it.
It wasn’t too long ago that I still believed that I could become a professional dancer. It had always been a dream.
I used to take the train into Manhattan, from Westchester, for dance class every weekend. As soon as I stepped off the train, I thought I was a dancer. I walked around the city with my feet turned out in first position, which hurt like a mother f’er, especially since I wasn’t actually a dancer, but it looked authentic. I wore leg warmers, carried a dance bag down to my knees, and took up smoking, because all dancers smoked. I pulled my hair back so tight I couldn’t blink, and I jazz walked down Broadway dreaming of becoming a Fosse dancer.
It’s unfair that self help books, and Oprah, all say it’s never too late and that if you can dream it, you can be it. Isn’t that false advertising?
I always believed that all it took was drive, passion and money. But several years ago I had my doubts. What if I was wrong? What if it was too late? I decided to seek the advice of a professional.
Dear Mr. Ben Vereen:
I am not in my early 20’s. But I’ve taken ballet, tap and jazz on and off, mainly off, since I was 7. I won a Best Actress in a Musical award for “Chicago” and Best Dancer in a Musical award for “Working” at Stagedoor Manor, Theater Performing Arts Center, in Loch Sheldrake, New York in 1981. I never entered a dance contest but I watched “Dance Fever” religiously from 1979 to 1985. I recently took a hip hop class, but after 15 minutes I ran out crying because I couldn’t pop and lock like the 13 year olds. I started taking Jazz class again. It’s every Saturday morning and the teacher is a former “Solid Gold” dancer. I’m so excited. I’ve missed the last few months of class but I plan to get back to it really soon. Since I’ve been back on the scene, I’ve realized that dance isn’t just a part of my life, it is my life. I’m a dancer. A dancer dances and I must dance.
My friend Jamie compliments me all the time, and that makes me want it even more. I’m determined to make my dream a reality. My technique isn’t that strong. Yet. I’m pretty slow in learning combinations and I still don’t know what a port de bras is. But being in Jazz class and seeing the movie, “Chicago”, twice, I think it’s all coming back to me.
I have bunions, bad knees and a stiff neck. Otherwise I’m in great shape. Just the other night I was able to spread eagle over my boyfriend’s head.
Anyway, what’s your advice on getting started in the dance profession at my advanced age. Is it too late? Thanks and keep on dancing, love, Dani.
I’m still waiting for an answer.