Monday, January 01, 2007

Life After The Hard Knock Life

First and foremost, HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYBODY!!!

I spent the Witching Hour watching a documentary here at home all by my lonesome... and although that started to bother me as I sat down at 11:35 p.m. and told my boyfriend TiVo to start playing this particular movie, I actually enjoyed myself immensely and certain ideas I have about New Year's Eve came around full circle.

Let me explain...

Mike emailed me last week and mentioned a particular new documentary that he and Andy had LOVED call LIFE AFTER TOMORROW. As the documentary's web site explains...

What do Sarah Jessica Parker, Alyssa Milano, and Molly Ringwald have in common? They all began their careers as child actresses appearing in the hit musical "Annie."

Life After Tomorrow is a personal journey of filmmaker and co-director, Julie Stevens, who played one of the orphans in the Broadway cast and National Tour. With partner, Gil Cates, Jr., the filmmakers spoke with over 40 women who played orphans in the show during its original run on Broadway, from 1977-1983. The film explores the life-changing repercussions of child performers in "Annie" as many orphan cast members revisit their experience in the show, their childhood, family support structure, what happened when they left the show and tried to resume a "normal" childhood, and what they are doing today.

Now, I immediately thought that this would be just like incredible song from FORBIDDEN BROADWAY where an adult woman in a red, curly wig and an Annie costume walks up to the mic with a cigarette and sings to the tune of TOMORROW...

I'm 30 years old
And I haven't worked since I played Annie
When I was 10

It's a really genius bit and true to the lyrics above, in this documentary, there is one woman near the end, when a bunch of the Annies and Orphans get together for a reunion (I know... ), who is wearing a little too much red ANNIE: THE MUSICAL merchandise all over her body and is more than a little happy to sing HARD KNOCK LIFE for the camera.

But for the most part, what I thought was going to waiver between melodrama and camp turned out to be thoughtful and touching and in some instances, a little more than telling about where our culture is going if we continue on this Reality Television - YouTube Celebrity - Time Magazine's Person of the Year is YOU mentality that we have in this country.

The Person of the Year is YOU?!?!? As Ms. Alanda Coon says, "This is some bullshit." But, back to my these former Annies...

These little girls in the Broadway show and on tour went from cattle call to instant celebrity and then, in most instances, back to oblivion (or as anyone else would call it "normal life") the minute a growth spurt hit and they were too tall to for the costume.

Sarah Jessica Parker talks about finally moving up in the ranks to play Annie and suddenly growing 4 inches and being terrified that she would lose the role she had worked so long to get over something she couldn't possibly control.

As one of the stage managers says in the documentary, "Once the stagehands started to get interested in the Orphans, it's was time for them (the Orphans) to move on to another job."

And the stories these women tell are sometimes pretty harsh.

There's Kristen Vigard who was the original Annie at the Goodspeed Opera House pre-Broadway tryout and was fired from the show before it transferred to Broadway. Having the director yell at her at such a young age made her completely shut down, which I would imagine made him yell at her more, which shut her down more so that eventually she was fired. An adult may or may not be able to handle the pressure of an asshole director, but can a child?

And there's stories of marriages that ended because one parent was on tour with their child and the other parent was at home, which of course makes the child blame themselves for their parents' divorce.

Or one girl's mother screamed at her and walked away. Then, the little girl took her headshot, put in on the floor and began to stomp on it yelling, "I hate you! I hate you!" because she was too tall.

Now, the cynic in me wants to say that dealing with the transition of normal life after major celebrity at at 10 and complaining about how hard it was is utterly ridiculous when you compare that to the incredible hardships faced by the men and woman now serving the U.S. in Iraq, but there's something very AMERICAN IDOL-y in all of this...

Using up real people like so much fast foot to be chewed up, swallowed down and flushed away without any thought or care because we're already hungry for "the next big thing."

We think we've come a long way from men fighting tigers or each other to the death in front of huge coliseums of people, but it's not a large step from where we are now to watching people being killed on television.

Hell, if we want to right now we can see video online of Saddam Hussein being hanged or Steve Irwin being pierced through the heart by a sting ray.

We've not come a long way, baby.

I'm probably taking it way more seriously than anyone else will, but here's where it comes full circle...

One of the Annie's being interviews was Allison Smith.

Here she is in her Annie costume singing at some random gig...

She went on to play Jane Curtin's daughter in another one of my favorite 80's sitcoms, KATE & ALLIE.

And KATE & ALLIE is the reason that I have a problem being alone on New Year's Eve.

The year I went to live with my father full time after my parents divorce, he went out on New Year's Eve and left me alone.

I know... boo hoo...

But I was content with my the new VCR we had just bought. Our first one... top loading... looked just as cool as this one...

And I was taping all of my favorite shows, including KATE & ALLIE.

And in that episode, Jane Curtain and Susan St. James are trying to figure out what to do for New Year's Eve and Jane Curtain said a line that hit me in the gut. She said...

"Let's face it. When you don't have anyone to kiss on New Year's Eve, you are the worst of all possible things - - unpopular."

And sitting alone at 13 years old in a crappy apartment with barely any furniture and a Christmas Tree with no stand, no lights, no ornaments leaning against a wall... father bought the tree on Christmas Eve, leaned it up against the wall and there it stayed until the Spring... no joke...

I promised myself then andn there that I wouldn't be alone on New Year's Eve ever again.

It was a very Scarlett O'Hara "As God as my witness, I'll never be hungry again" moment.

And yet last night, I was alone on New Year's Eve.

And you know, after years and years of trying to make the evening special because everyone and everything told me I should make it special, last night watching the girls from ANNIE was just right.

Isn't that the perfect segue into Andrea McArdle singing TOMORROW?

P.S. In searching around, I found a FABULOUS site dedicated these former Orphans and Annies called Check it out!


Anonymous said...


Did you eat your black eyed peas and collards like a good southern boy? MM MM Good!!

I'm going to be in town for a quick vistit on January 19-22 I fly to LA on the 22nd, hope we can try to get together one night for dinner. It was great seeing you at Christmas. I just sent you tons of pics of Randy's Superman Room, It puts my star trek room to shame (yes I know I am a geek)
Love Ya,

Stephen said...

Kristie - WOOHOO!!! I'm so glad you're coming back to Chicago! It was great to see you and Randy on Christmas Eve and guess what? My birthday is January 22 and SEUSSICAL opens on January 20, so hopefully we can work it out for you to come to our opening performance. I would love that.

No, I didn't have any black eyed peas like I should have but I did have enough champagne to float an armada. Does that count?