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Kicking It
By Suzie Plakson

Such a quiet, old-fashioned Lady of lady she was, who used to be a Rockette herself, of course, and who'd had such a wearying summer so far.

I knock on her office door, I almost curtsy, I tell her my wish. She asks me how, what would I look like, so I lay out the plan: Bottom half, I'm a Rockette -- flesh-tone stockings, silver taps -- top half, I'm Maleficent -- fuchsia-Elvis-collared black body-suit, long-nailed evening gloves, big black horns -- after Mickey comes running out of the Disney castle archway, takes his now penultimate bow, then I appear in the castle arch, work it, then walk on downstage, joining the Rockettes as they rise from the floor, then kick and rise with them, Rockette good-bye wave, curtain down.

The Head Rockette Lady smiles softly, and moves the stapler from one pile of paper to the other. And she's only worried they'll dock my pay. I tell her it doesn't matter, and I almost believe it. She gives me the nod, and sends me to ask the gals, but I must be sure to approach the core Rockettes, the alpha Rockettes -- the Rockettes as old and wizened as, why, as I am now.

And the old MGM movie springs to life: I knock on the door and I stick my head into a dressing room full of sequins and cigarette smoke and raucous laughter, and I respectfully propose the plan to these all-time-great dames, and they scream and laugh and say yes instantly, and they decide that Jeannie, the tallest Rockette, the one in the center, would teach me the tricks of the trade.

One last hoop to go through or around: I didn't want Ken to get his ass kicked by Disney, after he'd been my hero -- do I tell him, do I not, do I tell him, do I not, I tear my hair, I take my chances, I go to his office, I confess my dream, I tell how it'll all go down, I wait for the verdict. He listens -- not a single muscle moving in his face -- and he says, right away, like I'd asked him the time, "What I don't know anything about, I don't know anything about. Bye."

And I'm off like a shot, to buy tights and tap shoes. Those in the know agree not to tell the singer-dancers, we want no chance of a leak.

Jeannie the Rockette has the patience of Job as I make her rehearse with me 6,247 times. Not that there's so much to learn, but, there's this weird little back-step, cross, up-into-the-kick thing that if the right was where the left oughta be, or the left was where the right oughta be, well --

-- it's what would either springboard me into perfect synchrony with the most famous synchronized kick line in history, or what could lead to, sure -- Almost Unfathomable Disaster. I'm lying in bed at night in the grinding jaws of a monster anxiety: I'm going to be the only person who isn't a star to ever kick in the center of the line with the actual Rockettes -- and without a group rehearsal!! And every once in a while, I'm still fucking up the weird little back step! I can see the headline, over and over: "STUPID KLUTZ-WOMAN PULLS DOWN ENTIRE LINE OF THE LEGENDARY ROCKETTES FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE HISTORY OF RADIO CITY --"

-- there would be sprained ankles, torn ligaments, dislocated disks, endless concussions, and yes, of course, a death -- we were, after all, on a stage that was continuing to rise as we were kicking -- I could hear the skull crack, I could see the bloody sequined turquoise-velvet bellboy-cap flying slo-mo into the blackness of the orchestra pit --dream, schmeam!! What was I thinking?!?

Well, Time taps inexorably on, and it's the last day, the last show. Instead of my black tights and sneakers, I've got on nude tights and tap shoes. I run down to the basement, climb up the ladder and get into my skirt without anybody seeing me, and I sit there, alone, underneath the stage, in the bowels of Radio City, my big black horns in the pipes, praying.

The show goes almost smoothly, except for one exceptionally alarming hiccup: because of the taps, I slip inside my skirt, kick Nick in the head, and almost fall in -- but, unfazed, Nick tells a now frantically apologizing and freaking out me, "Suzie, don't worry about it -- you can't slip now -- y'already got it out of the way!" God bless good old St. Nick.

So, it's time, it's now, it's Curtain Call!: I'm behind the Disney Castle on one side of the arch, my dancer-buddies in their character costumes waiting to take their last bows on the other, the soft white light from the stage shining onto the floor between us -- we're all blowing kisses and yelling, "I love you! You're the best!", and, thank God, only on his way through the arch, only the guy who plays Goofy thinks to ask, "Wait -- why are you wearing those shoes? " -- and then Donald ducks out, leaving me alone with Mickey Mouse --

-- and maybe it was because this girl who played Mickey never spoke when she was in costume, I know, I know, but with her, it was about craft -- but somehow, in that moment, I'm suddenly on this higher vibrational plateau, and I'm looking over at the actual Mickey Mouse and he's looking over at me, and he slumps, so sadly, and he wipes a tear, and he puts his hands to his heart, then out to me, and then, with a wave and a leap into the light, he's gone -- and just as I can feel my heart break clean in two --

-- "Suzie!!!" -- I'm in that great movie again, there's Jeannie on the other side of the stage, waving and screaming, "I'll see ya out there, Suzie!! You're gonna be great!!" and just as I'm wondering how the hell she's gonna make it back into the line on time, I hear my cue, and I think I'm gonna die, and I step into the archway, and my moment begins --

-- I step into this surprisingly blazing, blinding white light, this profound Calm washes over me -- and I work the arch, and I work the arch, so what if I'm wearing big black horns, I'm a Ziegfeld Girl! -- and there's this symphony of screams, and laughter, and "oh my gods!", and applause and whistles from the wings and the stage and the catwalks, I can't even hear the audience, and I float forward and I melt into line with those Rockettes and we kick and kick and kick and I am indeed at one with the Universe, and we come to a perfect peaceful stasis, we do our Rockette good-bye wave, the mighty curtain falls, and I am swarmed by screaming Rockettes -- and I feel just like Miss America.

Turns out that the white light had been so very blinding because Nick had fixed it so that all of Radio City's twelve spotlights had been shining on me at once.

Turns out they didn't dock my pay after all. I figured that must've been Ken again.

And it also turns out, that, about a year later, Ken died of AIDS.

And when I heard that he'd become an official angel, I thought of our conversation at the party, on that last hilarious, victorious night:

"So Ken," I say, "tell me, honestly -- I mean, I know I had one of the most pathetic evil laughs on record. Surely, there were far, far scarier evil laughers."

And he says, "Yeah -- there was one woman in particular. But I didn't like her. And you know what? Life's too short."

So, with this perfect morsel of pay dirt, oh, sure, there's a slight sliver of satisfaction that it was also a bit of grit in the eye of the group-soul corporate creature, sure --

-- but now, what shines through as the authentic gold of the piece, is that rare heavenly harmony of comedy, music, and a choir of huge-hearted people, a loving, electrifying touch of the mother lode that always seems beyond our grasp, but is, in truth, always within our reach. And I remind myself, that --every once in a true blue moon -- that, too, is showbiz.

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