It's Mortifying Moments time again! As I was explaining the concept of this week's column to actor Alan Campbell, I used an example from a past article on the same subject. I told him a screamingly funny story about Karen Mason shooting the feathers off her sleeve with a pistol--instead of shooting the actor she was playing opposite in Sunset Boulevard. I pride myself on being quite the little storyteller, and was gearing up for the big laugh when I heard absolute silence on the other end of the line. Mr. Campbell, ever the gentleman, waited a beat and said, "Jim, I am the actor she was shooting." No undone fly, goofed line, or unexpected pratfall could compare to the mortification I felt. And to Alan, all I can say is, "I knew that."
WHAT WAS YOUR MOST MORTIFYING MOMENT ON STAGE?
Currently appearing in Avow at the Century Center Theater
One night, while I was doing Sunset Boulevard, an electrician's dog just wandered onto the stage. Someone tried to grab for him, but of course the dog freaked out and sprinted all the way across the stage while Judy Kuhn and I were singing our big love duet, "Too Much in Love to Care." I guess some people in the audience thought it was a rather odd choice! Let's say it was a bit distracting. We kept right on singing, though. Also in Sunset, I had a very quick change on stage. It was choreographed within an inch of its life, and it normally went perfectly. I was surrounded by actors hiding the change, but one night, they opened up to show me bending over with my pants around my ankles. So they just closed back around me so I could finish dressing. It worked perfectly 1,200 times, but that one time really stays with you. Another horrifying moment happened in that show...although it's not my story. One night, Glenn Close came out to sing to that stuffed monkey, and there was no monkey. She ended up singing the song, looking absolutely livid, to ME! It's funny, though. Some of the greatest applause and audience reactions came when we had technical problems. People love being reminded that they're seeing live theater. That's when the magic happens.
Currently appearing in Avow
I was playing the Tony Curtis role in Some Like It Hot at Harrah's in Atlantic City. By the way, I make the ugliest woman in history, and I am about 6'8'' in hair and heels. I looked like some hideous reject from Hairspray. One change had me getting into female drag in 30 seconds, which meant the dress, boobs, eyelashes, blush, lipstick, wig, jewelry, and shoes. I had four people helping me, and we had it down. I had to change back and forth so many times, though, that I kind of forgot who I was one night. I went off stage to get into my guy suit and forgot to take off all the girl makeup. (Luckily, I had the presence of mind to take my boobs out.) So I go out to do the scene, looking like some kind of Toni Tennille impersonator and having no idea why the girl playing Sugar could not keep it together and was giggling.
Currently appearing in Avow
I've been so lucky in my career, and haven't had too many terrible moments on stage. I have fainted on stage twice, though, which was pretty embarrassing. The first time was at the Desert Inn in the '60s. Another time, I was singing outdoors when a bug flew right down my throat. It made me absolutely sick and I fainted right there. It was really horrible--and I felt so badly for the audience! It put them in a very uncomfortable position. They thought they might have had something to do with it, or that maybe it was permanent!
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