Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Bad Can-Can Audition

I was living in Paris and decided to give up show business. I was actually relieved, which I took as a sign that I had overstayed my welcome in this miserable business. No more rejections, no more time wasted auditioning for things that I clearly was not right for. When I told my mother I had quit she sighed deeply and said, "Well thank God, Suz."

Two days after I quit a friend called me and said he wanted me to interview with his agent. I turned him down. He said his agency needed an American girl. He begged me to help them out and said it was only going to be a look-see so I could waltz in and out and get back to the business of quitting the business.

So I went. The agent told me that a French Cabaret up in Pigalle was looking for a blonde American girl to take over the lead of their Can-Can review. I told him that didn't sound like the type of job I was right for. I was a comedic actress and I didn't have a clue about how to do a review. The agent was so desperate for me to go he said that even if I got the job, he wouldn't take a commission. He begged me to help him out.

So I went to the audition.

I interviewed for about 10 minutes with the director and then he handed me some sheet music and said to have it ready for the audition, which was in 4 days. I started laughing and gave him back the sheet music.

"I don't sing."
"It says here on your resume that you and your sister had a band when you were in your teens."
"Well, we were young; it was dumb luck."
"But your resume also says that after that you both had another act, where you told jokes.....and sang." Who was this guy, the Resume Police?

"I don't sing but thank you for your time." I stood up to leave.
"So that's it? You're a quitter? Maybe you've heard our French expression, Qui ne risque rien n'a rien." (He who risks nothing has nothing)

I grabbed the sheet music out of his hand. I was many things, but I sure as hell wasn't a quitter. A fool, yes. A quitter, never.

The day of the audition I was hanging out with my friends in the Latin Quarter. They all knew I had the audition and one of them, Steve Plummer, urged me to have a glass of Calvados. Apple Brandy that can kill a horse. A very big horse. So I had one and then someone bought me another and then one more for the road and off I went in a taxi. My sister was meeting me outside the club so I wouldn't have to walk in by myself. The cab stopped, my sister opened my door and I fell out onto the pavement.

"Oh my God, are you all right?"
"Yessh, I'm fiiiiiiiiiiine."
"Jesus, are you drunk?"
"I sink shho."

We walked into the dark theater where 27 hopefuls sat waiting to sing Je Cherche Un Millionaire, a song made famous by French chanteuse Mistinguett in 1937. Hopefully she was still dead and not in the audience.

When it was my turn to go to the piano and pick out a key, my sister dragged me over because I was having serious issues with the concept of walking. The pianist asked me what key I sang in and I said to pick something he liked. He drew back as if he'd been struck by a baseball bat. Or my breath.

"Is she drunk?" He asked my sister. She nodded and I smiled and picked my way down the aisle and onto the stage.

Here's the deal with alcohol; it's no accident that karaoke is held in bars. I wailed on that song, beat out all the French girls and became the second American woman in French history to lead a can-can. The first was Josephine Baker and the one after me was Latoya Jackson.

The show lasted 7 months, 2 shows a night, 3 on the weekends, 7 days a week. It was the most exhausting job but my bosses were the Sicilian Mob so asking for a night off was out of the question. I never hit one correct note throughout the run of that show, probably because I was sober. The last night of the review, I was so relieved that the run was over that I sang all my songs on key. I could see the waiters out on the floor stop their service to stare at me. Afterwards, three of them came up to me and said, "Wow, you really can sing."

Trust me, I can't.

The waiters who thought I finally pulled it off:
End of chat.


  1. You know, I think this is even cooler than getting the last chocolate babka on Seinfeld. Start working on the screenplay.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. uh... "A book"
    I blame my dumbness on the fact that I had rabbit food for lunch.

  4. I'm loving these stories.

  5. What Bee said. You know it's true. A lot of people would.

  6. Can I just say about waiter on the far left--Oo La La?

  7. Traci, I've written the novel, much easier than an sp.

    bee, I was trying to help so I deleted the comment you had deleted and of course it was the wrong one. But thanks for the book comment that you made.

    Thanks Brody.

    Jami, I have no doubt that people would read it but I have to find a publisher first. Why doesn't life work backwards.

    jenn, someone is married, remember?

  8. I am a sucker for a good story, and this was a very good story!

    How about a sound clip to give life to the pictures now?

  9. Anonymous1:31 PM

    I had already heard that story from you personally, and I still LOVE IT! (You had forgotten to tell me about the teenaged band part...tee hee hee)...
    Martha Jane

  10. Wow! I wish I was in a teenage band! You're soo funny. I love your career stories.

  11. Oh, I LOVE these stories. That was a good one.

    OK. That might be the lamest comment ever. Still, though, that was a great read.

  12. Drinking Wild Irish Rose keeps me on key at all times. Or maybe I just think I am. Cheers!!

  13. That's an awesome story. Keep em coming.

  14. This may sound an odd request...I'm looking for the sheet musi for "Je cherche un millionaire" you audition song. Do you still have it or have any idea where I could find it? I've looked everywhere.

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