Some years ago - early to mid 1990s - I made my stage debut in Las Vegas. Seriously.
I have an uncle who lives in a suburb of Las Vegas proper and has for a very long time. When I was younger, my mom and I would go to his house for Thanksgiving every year. We became very predictable: Big beautiful dinner on Thursday, day-after shopping on Friday, and some sort of show on Saturday. Keep in mind, I'm talking about the old school shows, before the big production shows they have now. We also went to the off-beat shows because none of us wanted to pay for full price shows; we just wanted to go out together to a show. My uncle always liked to see groups from his youth. I remember we saw The Four Lads once, and we even saw Frank Sinatra, Jr. In the year of my debut, we decided to go see Sha Na Na. Laugh if you must but I'm not kidding; we thought it would be hysterical.
I grew up watching Sha Na Na on television. My father loved 50s music and he thought Sha Na Na did an okay job of covering some of his favorites. He cracked up at the silly costumes they wore, and used to tell me stories about "greasers" and "bobby soxers." We amused ourselves by trying to impersonate John "Bowzer" Bowman's ginormous mouth and incredibly deep voice. I have vivid images of my dad standing in our living room in jeans and a white tee, flexing his bicep and rotating his fist from front to back, opening his mouth as wide as he could. And then it was my turn. It was even funnier when I tried; I have a small mouth anyway, and I was just a little girl. He used to get so tickled. And then we would sing the weekly sign-off song: "Goodnight, Sweetheart, well it's time to go. Goodnight, Sweetheart, well it's time to go. I hate to leave but I really must go. Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight." He would laugh at my inability to carry a tune and tell me, "Poor baby, you inherited my singing voice."
Fast forward. My dad passed in 1991.
Fast forward to the Las Vegas show a few years later. There were four of us sitting at our little table. I was in the front, so I had the back of my chair to the table, leaving me with my back to my mother and my aunt and uncle. Sha Na Na was calling for volunteers from the audience to come up on stage. I did not know it at the time, but all three of those Judases were pointing at me behind my back, hoping they would pick me. And Donny did.
Donny was the greaser in rolled up jeans, converse sneakers, a striped shirt with cigarettes rolled in the sleeve, a duck's ass haircut, and sunglasses. He grabbed my hand and pulled me on stage. The other volunteers were young children, so I had a strong feeling this was going to be terribly humiliating. Luckily, I knew the chances of me seeing anyone I knew, especially at a Sha Na Na show, was slim to none so I decided to just enjoy the moment.
Basically, I had to hula hoop, do the limbo, and dance a couple of lindy steps in a "contest" with the other two contestants. I kicked those kids' asses, but it was rigged and I got robbed. Despite losing to a couple of snot-nosed kids (who, by the way, should NOT have been at a Las Vegas show on a Saturday night in the first place!), I must admit it was really fun. Donny was really cool and we laughed a lot. He was tickled to hear I had watched their TV show when I was a kid, though he said it made him feel old.
After a couple of obligatory bows and a wave to the crowd I returned to my table, parched and out of breath. My mother had the biggest smile on her face. After I sat down she leaned over and said, "Your dad would've really loved that."
You know what? She was right. My dad would've LOVED it!