When I Decided I Wanted to Be in Show Business
When does it occur to someone that they want to be in showbusiness ? For me it happened in first grade during reading group. I don t know if they still do this in but the nuns used to separate kids into groups according to their reading ability and then give the groups the names of birds. The smartest group was called the Blue Jays and the middle group the Robins and the slow group was the Pigeons or Sparrows or something equally unflattering. I m sure the nuns thought putting someone in the Sparrows or Common Twits, or whatever the slow-group was called, was a form of tough-love that would motivate them to raise themselves up to Robin level.
Anyway, ten other Blue Jays and I were in front of the class taking turns reading aloud from the Run Spot Run series of novels. As Billy Ellis stood in front of me and read I got the brilliant idea that if I quietly pulled his chair out from under him, he would comically fall to the floor when he tried to sit back down. The resulting pratfall would produce gales of laughter and I would be a big hero for providing this moment of levity for the Blue Jays, the Robins and especially the Pigeons who were quite fond of simple, physical humor. But instead of harmlessly falling to the floor when he sat, Billy went crashing to the linoleum and clutched his back, writhing in pain.
Then something happened that changed my life forever. Everyone, furious for what I had done to poor innocent Billy, turned and glared at me. Sister Rosalais locked her terrifying gaze on me, her eyes popping out of her head in a Holy Rage. The whole class just riveted their attention on me. And that s when I knew that I wanted to be in show business. I felt bad about what happened to Billy. But right then I decided to find a way to make people focus their attention on me without having to physically hurt someone.
This moment was not just a turning point for me but I think Billy Ellis got the show business bug, as well. He is an executive producer of a big time T.V. show. Maybe my pulling his chair out from under him in first grade introduced us both to the warmth of the spotlight s glow. It s also probably fitting, today I m the one with the bad back.