One day I looked at myself in the mirror and said, "You're fourteen years old and you're
gay. What are you going to do with your life?" By that time I was in Cardinal Hayes High School. There were three thousand boys there. I had no protection any more. No
homeroom where I could be charming and funny with the tough guys so they'd fight my battles for me. Like when I went to small schools. I liked school. But my grades got so bad. Even if I knew the answers to questions, I wouldn't raise my hand because I would be afraid they would laugh at me. They'd even whistle at me in the halls. It was awful … just awful. Finally, I went down to the Principal's office and said : "I'm a homosexual.” Well, it was a Catholic high school at around nineteen sixty-two and at the age of fifteen you just didn't say that. He said: "Would you like to see a psychologist?" And I did. And he said: "I think you're very well-adjusted for your age and I think you should quit school." So, I did. But I didn't really want to. I couldn't take it anymore. See, when I quit school, what I was doing was trying to find out who I was and how to be a man. You know, there are a lot of people in this world who don't know how to be men. And since then, I found out that I am one. I was looking for the wrong thing. I was trying to learn how to be butch. We were working the Apollo Theatre on a Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Street. Doing four shows a day with a movie. It was really tacky. The show was going to go to Chicago. My parents wanted to say goodbye and they were going to bring my luggage to the theatre after the show. Well, we were doing this oriental number and I looked like Anna May Wong. I had these two great big chrysanthemums on either side my head and a huge headdress with gold balls hanging all over it. I was going on for the finale and going down the stairs and who should I see standing by the stage door ... my parents. They got there too early. I freaked. I didn't know what to do. I thought to myself : "I know, I'll just walk quickly past them like all the others and they'll never recognize me." So I took a deep breath and started down the stairs and just as I passed my mother I heard her say :
"Oh, my God." Well... I died. But what could I do? I had to go on for the finale so I just
kept going. After the show I went back to my dressing room and after I'd finished
dressing and taking my makeup off, I went back down stairs. And there they were
standing in the middle of all these ... And all they said to me was please write, make sure you eat and take care of yourself. And just before my parents left, my father turned to the producer and said : "Take care of my son..."; That was the first time he ever called me that.
So, the day after I turned 18, I kissed the folks goodbye, got on a Trailways bus - and
headed for the big bad apple. Cause I wanted to be a Rockette. Oh, yeah, let's get one thing straight. See, I never heard about the Red Shoes, I never saw the Red Shoes, I didnt give a crap about the Red Shoes. I decided to be a Rockette because this girl in my home town -Louella Heiner - had actually gotten out and made it New York. And she was a Rockette. We'll, she came home one Christmas to visit, and they gave her a parade. A parade! I twirled a friggin' baton for 2 hours in the rain. Unfortunately though,
she got knocked up over Christmas. Merry Christmas - and never made it back to Radio City. That was my plan. New York, New York. Except I had one minor problem. See, I was ugly as sin. I was ugly, skinny, homely, unattractive and flat as a pancake. Get the picture? Anyway, I got off this bus in my little white shoes, my little white tights, little white dress, my little ugly face, and my long blonde hair - which was natural then. I looked like a friggin’ nurse! I had 87 dollars in my pocket and seven years of tap and acrobatics. I could do a hundred and eighty degree split and come up tapping the Morse Code. Well, with that kind of talent I figured the Mayor would be waiting for me at Port Authority. Wrong! I had to wait 6 months for an audition. Well, finally the big day came. I showed up at the Music Hall with my red patent leather tap shoes. And I did my little tap routine. And this man said to me: Can you do fankicks? - Well, sure I could do terrific fankicks. But they werent good enough. Of course, what he was trying to tell me was...it was the way I looked, not the fankicks. So I said: Screw you, Radio City and the Rockettes! I'm gonna make on Broadway!
Well, Broadway, same story. Every audition. I mean I'd dance rings around the other girls and find myself in the alley with the other rejects. But after a while I caught on. I mean I had eyes. I saw what they were hiring. I also swiped my dance card once after an audition. And on a scale of 10....they gave me for dance 10. For looks: 3.
No, no... moving right along, moving along... Let's see... Do you wanna know about all
the wonderful and exciting things that have happened to me 'in my life? , Or do you
want the truth? Well, to begin with, I come from this quasi-middle-upper or upper-middle class, family- type-home. I could never figure out which but it was real boring. I mean, we had money -but no taste. You know the kind of house -- Astroturf on the patio? Anyway my mother had a lot of card parties and was one of the foremost bridge cheaters in America. My father worked for this big corporation. They used to send him out into the field a lot -- to drink. Better, that than to find him lying on his office floor... But he was okay I was the strange one. Real, real strange. I used to love to give garage 'recitals. BIZARRE recitals. This one, time I was doing Frankenstein as a musicale and I spray-painted this kid silver -- all over. They had to rush him to the hospital. 'Cause he had that thing when your pores can’t breathe… He lived 'cause luckily I didn't paint the soles of his feet and... As I got older I kept getting stranger and stranger. I used to go down to this busy intersection near my house at rush hour and direct traffic. I just wanted to see if anybody'd notice me. That's when I started breaking into people's houses -- Oh, I didn't steal anything -- I'd just re-arrange their furniture. And ... School? You wanna hear about school? I went to P. S. Shit ... See, I was the kind of kid that was always getting slammed into lockers and -stuff like that. Not only by the students -- by the teachers too. Oh, and I hated sports, hated sports. And sports were very big. I mean, it was jock city, but I didn't make one team. See, I couldn't catch a ball if it had Elmer's Glue on it. And wouldn't my father have to be this big ex-football hero? He was SO humiliated, he didn't know what to tell his friends. So he told 'em all I had polio. On Father's Day I used to limp for him. And my mother kept saying: "If you don't stop setting your brother on fire, we're going to have to send you away." And I was always thinking up these spectacular ways how to kill myself. But then I realized -- to
commit suicide in Buffalo is redundant.
Four foot ten, that’s the story of my life. I remember when everybody was my size. Boy, that was great. But then everyone started moving up and – there I was, stuck at four foot ten. But I kept hoping and praying, I used to hang from a parallel bar by the hour, hoping I’d stretch just an inch more. ‘Cause I was into dancing then, and I was good. And I wanted so much to grow up to be a prima ballerina. Then I went out for ...
CHEERLEADER! And they told me: “No dice, you’ll get lost on the football field. The
pompoms are bigger than you.” I spent my whole childhood waiting to grow. But you
see, the only thing about me that grew was my desire. I was never gonna be Maria
Tallchief, I was just this peanut on pointe! That was my whole trip – my size. It still is.
God, my last show I was thirty-two and I played a fourteen-year-old brat. Yeah, and I’m thirty-two... But I don’t look it. And I shouldn’t knock it ‘cause I’ve always been able to work.
My real name is Sidney Kenneth Beckenstein. My Jewish name is Rochmel Lev Ben Yokov Meyer Beckenstein, and my professional name is Gregory Gardner. Very East Side, and I do not deny it. Born August 2, 1943. The worst thing in school was every time the teacher called on me ... I’d have to lean up against the desk like this. (He demonstrates) And the teacher would say: “Stand up straight!” “I can’t, I have a pain in my side.” “Stand up straight.” Or walking down the hall, you’d have to walk like this, with all your books stacked up in front of you. I mean, it didn’t go down for three years. And there was the time I was necking in the back seat with Sally Ketchum ... It was probably the first time I realized I was homosexual and I got so depressed because I thought being gay meant being a bum all the rest of my life and I said: “Gee I’ll never get to wear nice clothes... “ And I was really into clothes, I had this pair of powder blue and pink gabardine pants …
Oh, sure ... A rotten part in a so-so film – part ended up getting cut, thank God – I was a go-go dancer in a TV movie of the week. Let’s see – Oh, yeah – commercials, I almost got to squeeze a roll of toilet paper but I lost out in the finals. Isn’t that something? Seventeen years in the business and I end up flunking toilet paper squeezing? And I was a dancing Band-Aid – that was fun ... We had an earthquake ... And I got a terrific tan — Well, when you’re a woman of leisure, what else is there to do but get a bit wild and run around? Not to mention getting fat – and going crazy – Which is why I came back to New York and which is why I am here today, Zach, old dear ... Little pussy cat. I need a job. You can’t see me dancing in the chorus? Why not? Well, sure I need money. Who doesn’t? But I don’t need a handout. I need a job. I need a job and I don’t know any other way to say it. Do you want me to say it again? Fine, then we got that far. Look, I haven’t worked in two years, not really. There’s nothing left for me to do. So – I’m putting myself on the line. (She steps onto the Chorus Line) Yes, I’m putting myself on your line. I don’t want to wait on tables. And what I really don’t want is to teach other
people how to do what I should be doing myself. I’m not trying to go back – I’m trying to start over again, Zach. I’ll settle for that – starting over. I can do it again. You’re not even letting me try? Please, just give me a chance.
But I did it. I did what you wanted, I pulled in – I cooled it – I danced like everybody else. You know, that’s your problem. Why? Because you took me out of the chorus in the first place? Does that make you feel like some kind of failure? Why did I leave?
already weeks before. You thought we were living together, but we weren’t. No, sharing
You’d left me the same apartment, maybe. No, I mean, in the real sense of the word – left. You left. Well, you were madly in love again...directing your first play. And you were in love with it and off in the only world that means anything to you.
Oh you were never going to be stuck. You were gonna make sure you did it all – direct,
choreograph – musicals, plays, movies ... I knew you loved work – but you really get off on it, don’t you? Oh, Zach, I didn’t mind not being part of your work. I loved you, I could have handled that. It was not being a part of your life that got to me. And not being able to keep up with you. Because that’s what you expected. I know you did. You were moving up and you wanted me to be right there with you. Well, I was a good dancer, but you wanted me to be a star. (pause)
What’s wrong with that? Why shouldn’t I be? Why shouldn’t I be the best I can be? God, good, better, best! – I hate it! How can you stand it? Are you gonna go from one show to the next rehearsing them all twenty-four hours a day for the rest of your life? You know, you’re not even doing it for yourself. You’re trying to prove something. Like I was – because I was doing it for you, to please you, to keep you – to get you back. But I don’t want to prove anything anymore. I want to do what I love so much as I can and as long as I can. But at least, now – I’m doing it for me. Who are you doing it for? (She pauses) I’m sorry, I have no right to judge. (Another pause) Why are we doing this? I mean, we must be over this by now, aren’t we? Good. Then don’t feel you owe me any favors. (She crosses to center) ... Just treat me like everybody else. Yes ... I’d be proud to be one of them. They’re wonderful. He’s special – she’s special. And Sheila, and Richie, andConnie. They’re all special. I’d be happy to be dancing in that line. Yes, I would ... and I’ll take chorus ... if you’ll take me.
I’m Sheila Bryant. Really Sara Rosemary Bryant, which I really hate. I was born August 8, 1946 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. And I’m going to be thirty real soon. And I’m real glad. What do you want to know about me first? Well ... I wanted to be a prima ballerina. (Grimacing at the spotlight) That light ... what color is that? Do you have anything softer? Well ... like I said, I wanted to be a ballerina. Because my mother was a ballerina – until my father made her give it up. My parents? My mother ... My mother was raised like a little nun. She couldn’t go out – she couldn’t even babysit. But she wanted to be a dancer and she had all these scholarships and all that. And when she got married my father made her give it up.
Isn’t this exciting? And then she had this daughter – me – and she made her what she wanted to be. And she was fabulous the way she did it ... Do you want to know how she did it? Oh, how she did it ... Well, first, she took me to see all the ballets. And then, she gave me her old toe shoes – which I used to run down the sidewalk in – on my toes – at five. And then I saw The Red Shoes –– and I wanted to be that lady, that
redhead. And then, when she saw I really had to dance, she said: “You can’t do it until
you’re eight.” Well by then, I was only six and I said “BUT I’VE GOT TO DANCE.” (To the Well ... Let’s face it ... My family scene was – ah ... not good!
My name is Judy Turner. My real name is Lana Turner. (Laughing at her
own joke) No, no, no, no, no – it’s always been Judy Turner. Born July 21, 1947. (She
starts backing up; RICHIE starts out, she stops him and goes on) Oh, I was born in El
Paso ... El Paso, Texas. And it was the first time I’d ever seen a dead body. But then when I was fifteen the most terrible thing happened. The Ted Mack Amateur Hour held auditions in St Louie and I didn’t hear about it ‘til after they’d gone and I nearly killed myself. Nearly killed myself! I tried to walk in front of a speeding streetcar and I remember noticing boys for the first time. Anyway, I remember practicing kissing with Leslie. She was my best girlfriend. Did any of you ever practice kissing with another girl ...so that when the time came you’d know how to? (Listens, then peeks) No? ... Oh my god.
Oh, no – me? Well, ah ... Oh. God – I don’t know where to begin. Oh – Ah, well,
everybody says that when I was little every time they put on the radio, I’d just
get up and start dancing. And, ah ... Oh, this man came around to my house – selling … ah, lessons. Oh, and he was a terrific salesman – I’ll never forget it – he put me up
against this television set – it was one of those great big square things – and then he
turned me around, picked up my foot and touched it to the back of my head and said:
“This little girl could be a star.” Well, I don’t know if it was the look on my face – or the
fact that I wouldn’t let go of his leg But my mother saw how much it meant to me. I
mean, I watched everything on television that had dancing on it – Especially - oh, God – every Sunday, it was, ah ... ah ...Ed Sullivan – every Sunday – like church. And, ah ... oh, dear, what was I talking about? It was – oh, right – Ed Sullivan. (Steps back downstage) I’m sorry. It’s just – I’m really nervous. But anyway, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to, like, be all those people in the movies. Only it’s funny, I never wanted to be Ann Miller ... I wanted to be – Doris Day. Except I had this little ah ... problem.
My real name is Don Kerr. Ah – Kansas City, Kansas. October 20, 1949. The summer I turned fifteen, I lied about my age so I could join AGVA – you know, the night club union, ‘cause I could make sixty dollars a week working these strip joints
outside of Kansas City. I worked this one club for about eight weeks straight and I really became friendly with this stripper. Her name was Lola Latores and her dynamic, twin forty-fours. Well, she really took to me. I mean, we did share the only dressing room, and she did a lot of dressing ... Anyway, she used to come and pick me up and drive me to work nights.
Well, the neighbors would all be hanging outside their windows, and she’d drive up in
her big pink Cadillac convertible and smile. And I’d come tripping out of the house in my little tuxedo and my tap shoes in my hand and we’d drive off down the block with her long, flaming red hair just blowing in the wind. Well, when the guys on the block saw Lola, they all wanted to know what the story was, and I told them about this big hot romance we were having, but actually she was going with this other guy.
Maggie Winslow ... sometimes known as Margaret, Margie, Peggy ... all of the above.
Whatever, it’s real and I was born in San Mateo, California on a Thursday evening at
10:40pm, August 17, 1950. I don’t know what they were for or against really, except
each other. I mean I was born to save their marriage but when my father came to pick
my mother up at the hospital he said, “Well, I thought this was going to help. But I guess it’s not ...” A few months later, he left. Anyway, I did have a fantastic fantasy life. I used to dance around the living room with my arms up like this. My fantasy was that I was an Indian Chief ... And he’d say to me, “Maggie, do you wanna dance?” And I’d say, “Daddy,I would love to dance.”
I’m Mike Costa – it used to be Costafalone. Born in Trenton, New Jersey, July 9, 1951, which makes me twenty-four.What do you wanna know? (Fidgets)
Ah, I can’t think of a thing. Why did I start dancing? Oh – because my sister did. I come from this big Italian family. My grandmother was always hanging out the window,
leaning on a little pillow. ‘Cause that’s what Italian grandmothers do – hang out
windows. I was the last of twelve ... I was an accident. (The group laughs) I was. That’s
what my sister told me ... Oh ... That was the sister, Rosalie – she was the one who
started taking dance lessons. My mother would take her every Saturday, she used to
take me along. I liked going. I was four. And I’d sit there all perky and I'm watchin' Sis Go pitterpat. Said, "I can do that!”
My name is Diana Morales. And I didn’t change it ‘cause I figured
ethnic was in. Six-ten-forty-eight. You got that? And I was born on a Hollywood bed in
the Bronx. Go on – what? Oh, oh, you wanna know how tall I am? The color of my
eyes? Or how many shows I’ve done? I just gave you my picture and resume, everything you wanna know is right there. Tell you what’s not on it? Like what? Talk about – what? The Bronx? What’s to tell about the Bronx? It’s uptown and to the right. What did I do there? In the Bronx? Mostly wait to get out. What made me start dancing? Who knows? I have rhythm – I’m Puerto Rican. I always jumped around and danced. Hey, do you want to know if I can act? Gimme a scene to read, I’ll act, I’ll perform. But I can’t just talk. Please, I’m too nervous? Look, I really don’t mind talking ... but I just can’t be the first ... please.
Before we do any more dancing – and we will be dancing some more – let me explain
something. I’m looking for a strong dancing chorus. I need people that look terrific
together – and that can work together as a group. But there are some small parts that
have to be played by the dancers I hire. Now, I have your pictures and resumes, I know what shows you’ve been in – but that’s not gonna help me. And I don’t want to give you just a few lines to read. I think it would be better if I knew something about you – about your personalities. So, I’m going to ask you some questions. I want to hear you talk. Treat it like an interview. I don’t want you to think you have to perform. I just want to hear you talk and be ourselves. And everybody just relax – as much as you can.