Archive | September, 2014

A PSA From Your Friendly Merch Whore

21 Sep

Last night a woman approached my booth asking about the white ladies’ fitted shirt we offer with the red glittered logo on the front. The conversation went a little something like this:

WOMAN: I need an extra large in the white shirt.
ME: Unfortunately, I only have those in smalls and mediums right now.
WOMAN: Well, let me a see a medium, then. Maybe it’ll work.

Ladies. Gentlemen. In what world should any of us truly believe if we normally wear an extra large shirt that we could ever possibly fit into a medium – especially one that is fitted through the waist? I could understand thinking you might fit into a shirt that is one size smaller than your regular size, but two? C’mon. And don’t get offended when the person behind the counter has to tell you that a medium is not going to work for you if your normally wear an extra large. A great deal of my day is spent trying to be tactful about sizing because, it turns out, a lot of people are delusional about their size or too proud to buy a size that actually fits them because they don’t like the size that’s written on the tag, even though the person selling it to them has said that the shirts run a size small. No one has to see the tag but you, and if it offends you that greatly, tear it out, but please, don’t buy and wear shirts that are two sizes too small for your body. Thank you.

Hope springs eternal.

Hope springs eternal.

The Show Must Go On.

17 Sep

I know the quote. I’ve said it, even, but I’ve never hated the phrase, “The show must go on” more than I do tonight.

You see, tonight at about 7:30, my 92-year old Granny passed away and I’m 1,700 miles away from home selling t-shirts. I’ve been in this position before – I was on tour doing Junie B. Jones when my Grandpa passed away four years ago – and I feel just as helpless as I did back then. Add guilt to that, too. A lot of guilt. Guilt because I can’t simply drop everything and fly back home. I didn’t even know she was in the hospital until last night and before we’d even had a chance to try to figure out a Plan B for someone to manage Kinky Boots, she was gone.

I’m naturally very sad that my grandmother is gone, but even more than that, I’m sad that I can’t be home for my Dad. He and the rest of my family have apparently agreed that I shouldn’t try to come home for the funeral – they all know how difficult that would prove to be – but the idea of not being there overwhelms me with guilt. A person typically only gets four grandparents in their life and to miss her funeral seems so disrespectful. I will likely be the only grandchild not there – all so I can sell some t-shirts and shot glasses to people who have no idea how hard it is to smile through all of the feelings that I’m feeling right now.

My Granny – Ruth Helene Craig Bratton – wasn’t the warm and fuzzy kind of grandma you’d see on an ABC Family Christmas Special. She didn’t typically invite us kids over to play or take us to the zoo or the Ice Capades or to spend the night (though, to her credit, she and my Grandpa did take me to a cave in Indiana once, which is still a lovely memory). She didn’t bake cookies and read stories and she wasn’t overly affectionate – she wasn’t much of a hugger. But I knew that she loved me and my cousins. She may not have been very demonstrative with her affections, but I knew. Dad says she was a wonderful mother, but she was older when the grandkids came along. She was often ill, whether real or imagined, and so a lot of what I remember about her revolved around going to doctors and taking pills and having surgeries, but I also remember going to Granny and Grandpa’s mobile home (Grandpa apparently lost money on a house once and swore never to buy one again) and sitting at the bar, coloring in the coloring books that she kept for me and the other kids in the hall closet while her favorite Box Car Willie or Conway Twitty 8-track played. I remember the Swiss Miss hot cocoa she would make for me, summer or winter – it didn’t matter. I remember the bowl of sour ball, butterscotch and green peppermint hard candies, the seemingly hundreds of tubes of cherry Chap Stick she had on the table between their two recliners and the excitement I felt the few times I did spend the night with them because I knew the next morning I would get a big bowl of Smurfberry cereal (she herself had an affinity for Cap’n Crunch). I remember crossword puzzles and seek-and-finds and her false teeth popping out of her mouth and how important it was for her to get her hair done, regardless of how she was feeling. I still crave her beef and noodles recipe, even though she hadn’t made it in decades and I am sad that I never learned to make it myself. And you would never find a bigger fan of University of Louisville basketball on the planet. That’s the Granny I want to remember – not the sick, worn down woman I saw when I was home a few weeks ago who was just biding time til she got to see my Grandpa again.

Smurfberry Crunch cereal was always in the pantry at Granny and Grandpa's when I'd come spend the night.

Smurfberry Crunch cereal was always in the pantry at Granny and Grandpa’s when I’d come spend the night.

There’s a story my Mom tells about when Granny and Grandpa came to visit us in England back in the early 80’s. Granny went into a store and bought something with traveler’s cheques and when the girl behind the counter asked if they were sterling, Granny answered, in her very loud southern Indiana accent, “Lands’ sakes no, they ain’t stolen! I bought these in the U-nited States of America!” That was my Granny. I love her and I will miss her and I hope that she and my Grandpa are young and healthy and together again up in that mobile home park in the sky.

Me and my grandparents at their mobile home circa 1983.

Me and my grandparents at their mobile home circa 1983.

 

Just Be.

2 Sep

Viva Las Vegas!

Viva Las Vegas!

Here I am.

Here I am.

Greetings from 30,000 feet, somewhere between St. Louis and Kansas City, MO. Today a lot of friends have been posting pictures on Facebook of their little people’s first days of school, which I find to be completely adorable and a little bit baffling. How have my friends gotten so old as to have school-aged children while I haven’t aged a day in 20 years? Perhaps it’s best not to try to answer that question…

The first day of school was always exciting for me. I was/am a nerd, so I always enjoyed school. I liked learning and I liked being around my friends and, since I wasn’t into sports of any sort, I was also glad to be inside in the air conditioning. I especially loved going shopping for school supplies. I mean, who didn’t love the smell of a brand new Trapper Keeper? Starting school – especially a new school – was always tough, though. Because I lived on the border of a school zone, half of my friends from middle school ended up going to a different high school than me, including my very best friend, Shaun, and I was terrified of having to make new friends. It was out of my comfort zone, and like most people, I didn’t like that.

Today is very much like a first day of school for me. I’m heading back to Las Vegas to start loading in and to open the 1st National Tour of Kinky Boots The Musical and I gotta tell ya, friends…even after doing this for nearly two years and opening 3 shows already in that time, this part never gets any easier for me. Coming into a company of people who have already been working with each other for a month or two in rehearsals can be incredibly intimidating. Learning names and faces, not to mention personalities, can be tricky. Add to that the uncertainty of the actual job – prices, sizes, the layout of the booths and storage hamper – and it can be quite overwhelming. Luckily my boss, David, and co-worker, Brendan, will be joining me tomorrow to help me get set up and to help break the ice with people in the company. I always work better with a wingman or two.

What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t like them? Will I spend the next 4 months eating, sightseeing and watching movies by myself? Will I meet my new best friend? My next mortal enemy?  Are these drag queens going to eat me alive? There are so many questions, friends. Questions with uncertain answers.

There’s a song in the show – the finale, actually – called “Just Be,” and the lyrics go a little something like this:

Just be who you wanna be.
Never let them tell you who you ought to be.
Just be with dignity.
Celebrate your life triumphantly.
You’ll see.
It’s beautiful.
Just be
Beautiful.

That’s the main message of this wonderful show, and that’s how I plan to go into this new adventure: by just being me. I look around at my life and my friends and that’s all the assurance that I need to know that I must be doing something right.

The Kinky Boots tour opens officially on Saturday night, August 6th, at the Smith Center in Las Vegas. Check out kinkybootsthemusical.com to find out when the tour is coming to a city near you!

Sara Bareilles, Kelly Osbourne, Josh Groban, Mario Batali, Martina Navratilova and James Earl Jones don their Kinky Boots in support of the "Just Be" Campaign

Sara Bareilles, Kelly Osbourne, Josh Groban, Mario Batali, Martina Navratilova and James Earl Jones don their Kinky Boots in support of the “Just Be” Campaign

 

 

Put Up or Shut Up, Pt. 2

1 Sep
DeQuina Moore: Singer, Actress, Dancer, Author and Amazing Human Being.

DeQuina Moore: Singer, Actress, Dancer, Author and Amazing Human Being.

I have to take a second to brag on my amazing friend, DeQuina Moore. Last week I challenged her to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and, rather than pour iced water on her head, she opted to make a donation to ALSA.org. Her friends and family, however, raised their voices in solidarity and finally convinced her to go ahead and make a video.

Even though I know she hated to do it, she finally did the ice bucket challenge tonight, but with her own twist. Rather than make it about ALS (remember, she already donated to them), she chose to bring awareness and donate to the Sickle Cell Disease Association in honor of some of her family members who suffer from the disease.

What is sickle cell disease? That’s a good question. To be honest, I didn’t really know a whole lot about it myself, but isn’t that the point of these videos…? To make people ask questions and do research and learn about these things? So here we go:

According to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s website, Sickle Cell Disease (sometimes called Sickle Cell Anemia) is an inherited blood disease that affects red blood cells. The cells mostly contain an abnormal type of hemoglobin that causes the red blood cells to become sickle-shaped, which makes it difficult for the blood cells to flow through small blood vessels. As we all know, if blood doesn’t get to our body tissue, that tissue doesn’t get oxygen and it becomes damaged.

Sickle cells have a lifespan that is about 1/10 that of normal, healthy blood cells. When those sickle cells are destroyed by the body, it leads to anemia, jaundice and the formation of gallstones. When the blood vessels become clogged or blocked by sickle cells, there can be lung damage, pain in the chest, arms, legs and abdomen, organ damage and it could lead to a stroke. Also, because of sickle cell-related damage to the spleen, the people who suffer from this disease – especially kids – are more prone to bacterial infections.

There are treatments to help with the symptoms, including blood transfusions (which can lead to other issues) that can help reduce the risk of stroke, but there currently is no cure for sickle cell disease.

It is estimated that 70,000 people in the United States suffer from sickle cell disease with approximately 1,000 cases in newborns each year. The life expectancy for patients with sickle cell disease is in the mid-40’s, which is apparently an improvement over what it used to be.

Contrary to popular belief, it does not only affect people of African descent. It is also present in Portuguese, Spanish, French Corsicans, Sardinians, Sicilians, mainland Italians, Greeks, Turks and Cypriots and also appears in Middle Eastern countries and Asia.

So now you – well, we – know. In support of DeQuina and her family, I have made a donation to the SCDAA and hope that you will consider doing the same. I know – a lot of people have been asking for charitable donations lately, but at least consider it and, if nothing else, take the time to educate yourself about this disease.

And, while you’re at it, check out DeQuina’s website. Listen to that glorious voice. Order her book, “Under His Watch: 100 Reasons to Re-Elect & Remember President Barack Obama.” Follow her on Twitter: @DeQuinaMoore. Enjoy this video, which she made out on the road with some of our Flashdance friends. She is one the most beautiful people I’ve ever known, inside and out. See if you don’t fall in love with her, too.