My friend Henry M. wrote this gentle lament after reading my May column about my calm cruise to Mexico: “No card playing and drinking straight tequila til drunk then stealing a lifeboat and invading a winery … being caught by the police and thrown into a Mexican jail? … I anxiously await the next chapter… .”
And so, despite my lack of Mexican desperado antics, and without the necessary spice of a lifeboat theft, I will round out my recent sailing with a few more words about what I did experience. And how it reminded me how lucky I am to be a Californian now, and not a New Yorker, where I barely had time to breathe, much less relax in a sunny deck chair.
Granted, I am retired, so life looks quite different all the way around from when I was harnessed into the daily slog of a hard-working New York show business career. And this would no doubt be true no matter where I’d be living. But California, San Francisco, my “entrance stage left” to a new life on the Left Coast? All these have added to my understanding that where you live does matter. And my cruise to Mexico last month with my friend Leba pointed this true thing up to me: find your ocean, your place to relax and breathe; find your particular deck chair.
With or without the free ice cream on Deck 14.
Though I did love those ice cream cones, yes, indeed I did.
Another thing I loved were the several shows I saw in the Princess Theatre and other venues on board. Each one sparkled like a jewel, with innumerable costume changes (that’s lot of laundry for their wardrobe mistress) and unfailing smiles, no matter how rugged the seas were beneath their dancing feet. We sat in the audience for an all-white tribute to Motown, another tribute to the music of the ’40s and ’50s (though we noticed most of the songs were from the ’60s), and an especially wonderful evening entitled Born to Dance, wherein the entire history of Broadway choreography was capsulized into a neat and extremely shiny hour. The ship’s performing company was cast with a number of particularly fine dancers, so Born to Dance had an authenticity that gave the show an extra heft.
And the deep, sweet sincerity of all the performers as they strove to give us old cruisers their best and brightest took me back to one particular show — an old melodrama turned into a musical, The Drunkard, which I performed at the Meadowbrook Theatre outside Detroit. I had contracted a really virulent flu bug, but because we had no understudies, the show of course had to go on, so I did, too. Stage managers placed big tin buckets both stage right and stage left, and as I whirled offstage from one energetic dance to another, I’d bend over the buckets and let it rip! I completed the show with very little left in my body, including a desire to continue living. My skin was a pale green by the end of the performance.
So as I watched the energetic cruise ship performers work so hard to entertain us, I felt akin to them, and admired their every effort.
And I was glad to be in the audience, not on the stage — which brings me to the point of this month’s column:
No matter how much you feel like throwing up, the show must go on.
I am glad I took that cruise because it helped to restore a certain perspective I’d lost over the past few years: No matter how rough the seas, the point is to keep dancing and have the buckets ready!
Because you will inevitably need those buckets.
Am I making too much of a metaphor for life from the short week I spent on board a cruise ship? Yes, probably, I am. But, what good is life without metaphor? Without metaphor, it would all just be nuts and bolts. And boring.
I applaud the show biz kids on board all the cruise ships on all the seas. I’ve several friends who have made a great living “working the ships,” and in so doing, they have seen the world, compliments of Princess, Celebrity, Cunard and other employers of dancers and singers worldwide. It’s not Broadway, but it is indeed a very broad way to view the world and glorify it. I totally applaud and praise those wonderful (and often seasick?) performers, and with all the energy of my show-biz career behind me, I send them my love and respect.
Which doesn’t necessarily mean I am soon to take another cruise. But if I do, I shall see all the shows on board, maybe even more than once, and I will yell and scream and applaud the “kids in the chorus line,” who on board a ship, can be stars in their own right.
They shine like jewels of the sea.