Today I saw a car driving through a parking lot with a decal on the window advertising Mary Kay products. For some reason, that triggered a humorous memory from my younger days. No, I never sold nor used the products, but I once attended one of their conventions on awards night.
When I was working at the Austin State School, a friend of mine at the school suggested we go to auditions at Center Stage for a musical they were producing. He said, “Maybe we can get in the chorus. It’ll be fun.” Keep in mind that I had a degree in music, and had been a choir director for some years, so I could sing. We went, but I didn’t get in the chorus – I got the leading role in Finnian’s Rainbow.
Wow! What a trip! I loved the spotlight and the audience response. It was addictive. I was hooked. I continued performing in musical comedies for several years. One day I was talking with some friends with whom I had performed, and the possibility of starting our own musical group was broached. So, we gave birth to Union Scale, a group of five performers (two gals, two guys, and a pianist) “Performing the Great Songs of Stage and Screen.”
Even though the double meaning of the name was special to us, we later changed the name to Broadway Express. The change became necessary due to the fact that a lot of our gigs were for corporate gatherings, and corporate folks don’t like unions.
But I digress.
We thought we were pretty good, both as individuals and as a group. We had a nice repertoire and some fairly good choreography. Our very first gig was for the awards night of the Mary Kay convention being held in Austin. The format was such that we were to perform a couple of songs, wait back stage while some awards were presented, come back on stage for several more numbers, wait back stage, etc.
If you are not familiar with the Mary Kay program, let me briefly fill you in. The company was founded by Mary Kay Ash in 1963. The program is a multi-level marketing structure where an individual can build a small empire by recruiting other folks, mostly women, to sell the products under their name. Some women make very good money. The ultimate award at a certain level is a pink Cadillac. Not too shabby. So, if you see a lady driving around in a pink Cadillac, you can bet she has sold a lot of rouge and lipstick.
The convention consisted of several days filled with inspiring speakers and seminars, with the intent to spur the sales people to greater and greater heights. By the time the awards ceremony happened, the participants were flying high. After we had performed our opening number, the applause and shouting were so great, I wondered if someone really famous and important had stepped on stage, but it was just us. Suddenly we were flying high.
As we were waiting backstage after our first segment, we were congratulating ourselves on being the hottest group since Manhattan Transfer. That is, until the first award was announced. Again the thunderous applause erupted. One lady tripped as she climbed the steps to the stage, and again the applause was deafening. Obviously these folks were ready to offer accolades to anyone and everyone, no matter what. It really bordered on ridiculous.
Our balloon didn’t exactly burst, but it certainly was deflated some. We went on with the show, as professionals do, but our spirits were somewhat lower. Actually we became quite popular on the convention circuit and enjoyed several years of success. But on that one night, for a few minutes, we were convinced that Mary Kay loved us.
Another great story and a wonderful peek into your past. I love it when people pull back the curtain. More connections, brother.
Thanks. I love to look behind the curtain myself from time to time.
It is a wonderful thing to be appreciated or loved unconditionally. But if there are no other standards of measurement, how can one be inspired to greater heights? For example, we would have no Olympics, or if we did, everyone would get a gold medal. Why then make the extra effort?
Texas audiences are known to be extremely generous. I know that whatever happens on stage, the audience will usually give a standing ovation, and maybe even a dramatic and lengthy one. Those of us who feel disingenuous handing out indiscriminate ovations and remain seated are viewed as insensitive and unappreciative, even though we are clapping hard.
When we pursue a calling, we value most the responses from those who want to see us succeed, and therefore, improve.
I could not help but draw a connection to your anecdote of the beginner wanting to start from scratch in a class that was clearly identified for advanced students’ wanting to further improve their skills. One wonders if she truly understood or “appreciated” the difference in skill levels.
Thanks for the comment.
Thanks for your look back. It was a nice tale. Do you guys ever get back together for “reunion” concerts or just for the fun of it, or has each gone his or her merry way?
As far as I know, the other folks still live in Austin, but I live in the DFW area. So, to answer your question, no we have never gotten back together for any event. Even though I was basically the founder of the group, when I moved from Austin, due to business reasons, I was replaced. It was not a pleasant event. Thanks for your inquiry.
Maybe you should establish a new group in the DFW area. Or maybe you already have.
I did try another group in the DFW area many years ago, but it didn’t last. It’s like the old saying, “You can never go home.” It just never was the same. Now I’m too old and lazy to try again.