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Years and Years and Years
By Sarah Stanley

In November I got a call from my sister, Susy, regarding our other sister's latest accomplishment -- Kelly made the finals, and our mother was so happy that she was bawling.

I was thrilled that our baby sister Kelly made the finals of American Idol. It was I, in fact, who had forced her to audition, even though she thought it was cheesy, and a Kelly from Texas had already won the thing. And even though I'm a singer too, I had no problem with the possibility of my much, much younger, more glamorous sister becoming an instant superstar. In fact, maybe my years and years and years of struggling and experience might somehow help my young sister-friend find some short cuts on this rocky road of the business they call "show."

As a teen, it was my pleasure to have a four year old following me around -- my own little built-in-by-birth-order fan. While our other sisters kind of enjoyed my puppet theatre showcases and time-to-learn-every-word-to-the-Funny Girl-soundtrack time, only Kelly participated with inspired commitment in the drama-geek improv games that I forced upon my young siblings in order to avoid the reality that I was babysitting them. For free.

I remember when Kelly, age five, fell down the stairs, and didn't move. Finally, after our tearful father called an ambulance, Kelly jumped up, took a bow and said, "That was my impression of a dead baby bird!" I was so proud. I'd taught her everything I knew, she'd kicked it up a notch and she was talented enough to frighten our parents into thinking she was dead.

And now, years and years and years later, our mother was bawling because Kelly made the finals for American Idol.

Susy didn't seem to mind that the American Idol news was overshadowing her own birthday. But then, Susy is an Occupational Therapist. Maybe if Kelly was in the finals for the American Occupational Therapist Idol contest Susy might have some issues. Maybe if Kelly was ten or even eleven years younger than Susy, and looked like her younger, more model-ish, far more attractive twin, so much so that whenever Susy saw Kelly she had to think "That's what I would look like if I went on Extreme Makeover," maybe then Susy might have some mixed emotions.

When I was in high school, my parents nearly made me turn down a role at the world-renowned Kennedy Center because they needed our second car to drive six-year-old Kelly to ballet class. When I got my first sitcom development deal my father told me not to quit my receptionist job because I'd lose my health insurance. When I got into the Aspen Comedy Festival, my parents said, "Bring a coat." When I got my second sitcom development deal, my mother said "Don't get too excited, remember what happened the first time, when you were stuck without the health insurance? " When my HBO special aired, my father called to say that it was "neat to see you on TV," and also that he caught Kathy Griffin's HBO show, and it was just "hilarious, Sarah, don't you think she's hilarious?! "

So now my mother was bawling because Randy liked Kelly's rendition of "Black Velvet." Susy said that Paula Abdul smiled at Kelly, and said, "You're going to Hollywood." I couldn't wait to tell Kelly that that is not how people get to Hollywood. They get to Hollywood by hard work, and paying dues, and years and years and years of equity waiver theatre and low budget films. And they don't call it "Hollywood," they call it "LA."

My phone rang again. It'd better be Kelly because I had years of advice to give.

It was our other sister, Lynn. "Can you believe it, she's going to Hollywood! It's freaking me out, she's going to Hollywood, and Paula Abdul said so!"

I took a breath. "Well I knew she would. That's why I made her audition. And please don't call it that, 'Hollywood.' We don't say it like that."

"What do you say? 'California'"?

"Well, Lynn, we don't say anything, but we never say 'Hollywood.' We just try to pretend like we haven't been here for very long. Like how people lie about their age."

"Who would lie about their age?"

Lynn was so naïve, and so tickled by Kelly's news. But then again, Lynn's not a singer. She's a Charity Benefit Organizer. Maybe if Kelly had just made it onto the American Charity Benefit Organizer Idol show, maybe her glee might be colored with some feelings of self-loathing and pending doom.

I had to ask, "So, when is Kelly coming to… uh, here?"

"Oh. She doesn't know anything. They didn't say a thing about plans. And they made those poor kids wait in a room for ten hours with no food or water. One guy was late to his own wedding. And during the first round, they had to wait outside all night and Kelly was only wearing a tube top! Did you hear that Mom was so happy she was bawling?"

Yes, I heard. I heard. It was clear that our mother had tears of pride and joy and that my protégé had called everybody in the family but me. And I'm the singer, the one with advice, the one who lives in LA.

Finally Kelly called me.

"Hey. So I made it."

"I knew you would. Aren't you glad I encouraged you to audition? What did they say? "

"They said I was really, really pretty, and then Simon said I was good live, but he didn't know about me being a recording artist."

"Fuck Simon. He's just mean, that Simon."

"He wasn't mean. You should hear what he said to some people. He said I was pretty."

"Exactly, Kelly. You're going to win it. You're going to win American Idol"!

"Well, I think they have, like, 250 kids going to Hollywood, so I'm not gonna stress about it."

I wasn't going to "stress" about it either, but her nonchalance was disturbing. "No. You're going to be an American Idol. And please stop calling it 'Hollywood.'"

And just when I was about to share my wisdom about the paying the dues, and the equity waiver theatre, Kelly stopped me cold with some real insight of her own.

"I've learned some stuff from this whole American Idol experience. I think the main thing, before I go to Hollywood, is to buy lots and lots of cute outfits."

Kelly clearly had a better understanding of Hollywood than I did.

"And Sarah, guess what? Mom was crying. Whatever. Like she was the one waiting in the cold with no clothes on. I gotta go meet my friends at Taco Cabana. I haven't eaten in three weeks."

We hung up and I thought about how great this will be. I imagined Kelly making the final four, she'd come and sit in with me and the Sarah Stanley Band at the Cinema Bar in Culver City, and Entertainment Tonight would come shoot it, and Kelly would thank her mentor/sister and also God for making her fame and fortune possible. I'd write her some special songs, and they'd become huge hits with her entire generation. The American Idol fans in 'Hollywood' would hold up signs saying "We Love Kelly Stanley" and Simon would tell her that he was wrong about the whole "recording thing," that she can and will do it all. Paula Abdul would add that Kelly is just like Janis Joplin, but really, really pretty. Our family would sit in the American Idol greenroom and watch Kelly kick the shit out of Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield," and all of us would be bawling. And after years and years and years of paying my dues and equity waiver theatre, I would finally know why I was put on this Earth. I'm Kelly's Lorna Luft. I'm Betty Clooney. Latoya Jackson. I'm Barbara Streisand's sister, and who knew Barbara Streisand had a sister? She has a sister, she does. Her name is Roslyn Kind and she's been singing and acting in LA for years and years and years.

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