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John Carroll Headshot

How to Succeed in (Show)Business: Paying Your Bills While Chasing the Dream

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Not too long ago, I was on national television dancing bare-breasted behind a rather large-and-in-charge drag queen who answers to the name of a meat product. The very next day, there I was again, moving up the ladder of success, this time dancing back-up to a dog. No reader, that is not a dig at that one Kardashian sister (yes, that one!), I mean an actual four-legged friend. Oh, the life of a celebrity. I mean, I don't know how Tom Cruise handles it!

You see, sometimes in between my more "prestigious" performing jobs, I have to do gigs that are somewhat lower on the ego totem pole. Much lower. One week, I'll be walking red carpets in Dubai, the next, I'll be cleaning dirty carpets in Detroit. But hey, that's show biz folks!

Before my junior year at Juilliard, I got a summer job dancing at Disney World to help pay for tuition. While my cutthroat classmates were spending their summers doing very highbrow, "she-she-fu-fu" ballet and modern dance programs, I headed down south to slave away for the mouse.

I was a performer in the MGM theme parks watered down version of Beauty and the Beast. I wore candy stripped tights, a gigantic chefs hat and twirled around a ginormous 5-foot spoon, wearing heavy, fire retardant costumes in an outdoor theater during 100-degree heat while a dancing candlestick gesticulated fiercely around me.

My first day on the job, I got to watch the show from the audience. I sat in anxiety-ridden fear thinking about how I was heading back to the big "J" in two months to compete with classmates who were no doubt defying the laws of dance and here I was, hocking my wares outdoors for the almighty dollar like a dance prostitute. Just when I was about to burst into tears, one of the performers lost control of his humongous spoon. It flew out of his hands, into the audience and landed on top of a girl in a wheelchair. Nothing says, "Happiest place on earth" like being bludgeoned by life size cutlery.

I also worked as a dancer in the Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular where we churned out holiday cheer multiple times a day for the huddled masses. Oh, the joy of a corporate Christmas!

The true spectacle however, is "The Living Nativity," where 36 Rockettes, 16 ensemble dancers and flocks of sheep, camels and donkeys all fill the stage to reenact the birth of Christ. You know, something simple, low-key and historically accurate.

Inevitably during the scene, one of the animals would walk their cloven hooves across that famous stage and drop a deuce, right in the middle of Handle's "Messiah." Now, I'm not sure what kind of industrial strength, radioactive feed these animals were given, but a bowel movement from one of those barnyard beasts could be seen from outer space.

At least one show a day, without fail, I'd be on stage watching in a titillating combination of happiness and horror as a bunch of Rockettes (women who are trained within an inch of their long, leggy, showgirl lives to be poised and regal) would have to lift up their bejeweled nativity gowns and literally leap over a freshly laid mountain of steaming feces on their way to present Frankincense and Myrrh to little baby Jesus. And to think, they left that part out of "The Greatest Story Ever Told"!

Not all of my "in-between gigs" have been performing. While recovering from an injury I got dancing for a well-known modern dance company, I had to take a job working for a clothing store on Fifth Avenue. I'm not sure which is more cutthroat, prison life, or working retail on commission. There was more backstabbing in that store than on a blind date with Jeffrey Dahmer.

One day when I was folding denim, a co-worker (who was an underling just like me, but up for a promotion) comes over and informs me that I was folding the denim all wrong. She then throws all the jeans I had worked on folding for over an hour to the floor and proceeds to tell me how "stupid" I was and how I "obviously can't follow directions."

Now, I pride myself on a strong work ethic and approach everything I do with 100 percent of my energy -- even folding denim. (If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you.) So for her to get up in my face and yell at me like I had just drowned a litter of kittens made me want to put 100 percent of my energy into shoving her head up her baby-maker. However, being a good Christian woman, I decided against it.

After belittling me for quite sometime, she finally says, "If you are not going to fold the denim correctly, don't waste your time or mine!" and storms off.

I stopped working at the store shortly thereafter to dance for a relatively unknown choreographer named Twyla Tharp (Anyone?... Anyone? ...Bueller?). A few months later, I found out the very same girl who tried to defecate on my spirit (oh, I'm just going to name names... LISA!!!) had been escorted out of the store in handcuffs by the police for credit card fraud. Do you think they have denim for her to fold in the big house?

I also bartended in my underwear, but then again, who the hell hasn't?

The bar I worked at had a dance floor and was very noisy. Even with my hearing aid, the background noise made it impossible for me to hear anyone. One time a guy came up to my bar and said, "The party's over." Personally, I thought he was being a little dramatic, but it was a gay bar, so who was I to judge? I asked him if he'd like a glass of water, thinking maybe he was drunk. Again he says, "The party's over." "OK," I said, "How about a Coke-a-Cola?" At this point he's getting a little agitated and keeps repeating, "The party's over." Now, I am admittedly the world's worst bartender. I don't know nothin' 'bout birthing no babies -- nor about alcohol. So, I'm running through my mental Rolodex of drink names that sound familiar. Alcoholic drinks usually have fun, peppy names like Sex on the Beach, Fuzzy Navel or Red-Headed Slut. "The Party's Over" sounds more like a code name for Rohypnol.

Finally, I jumped onto the bar and put my good ear up to his mouth only to hear him say, "Bacardi and soda." Ah, yes. "The party's over" or "Bacardi and soda." Needless to say, I did not get a tip.

In today's financial climate, there is no room for ego. When the rent is due, child, the rent is due. I, like so many other people am willing to do whatever it takes to get my bills paid in full, on time while never asking for a hand out. I guess you could say I am a proud member of the 47 percent.

I recently saw a tweet from a well-known Broadway performer. She wrote, "I have a job interview tomorrow for a temp job packaging human breast milk. I also have a Tony award."

Breast milk, huh? Do you think they're still hiring?