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.