Friday, June 19, 2009


The front curtain rose. The clapping was rhythmic. Someone yelled "Bravo!" From the balcony there was a deluge -- programs -- little white airplanes flying in, bombarding me as a uniformed usher appeared with a huge bouquet of long-stemmed roses from the management.

As he lay them at my feet there were catcalls, hisses, people yelled "Geyhen heim, go home." Others were yelling, "Brava, bravo!" With a nod, thanking them, I bent, took one rose from the bouquet, stood up straight, and looking at the audience, held the rose to my heart. The curtain came down again.

The curtain stayed down. Sound from the warring crowd faded. "Why did they boo?" I asked the Dresser who helped remove the caftan. She shrugged, and disappeared before I could ask her to unhook the hooks on my bodysuit.

I sent a smile to the Russian folk dancers in the wings, getting ready to go on next, but no one smiled back. Climbing the stairs up to my dressing room, I passed the Nigerians who were performing after the Russians. Engrossed in adjusting their costumes, they didn't even glance at me.

In my dressing room, I stuck the rose in my water glass. Twisting, wriggling myself out of the bodysuit, I heard the applause for the folk dancers on the loudspeakers ... one ... two... three ... four curtain calls, cheers. no boos, no bravos.

I ran a comb through my tangled hair. My chic gold lamé dress for the party, gold pumps, bronze net stockings were waiting. Vanderhoff, the head of the Festival, had personally invited me --"We shall toast you with champagne, Fraulein."

My big blue duffel bag was open. Travel things were laying in it. Elektra's costume, rug, makeup, practice clothes needed to be packed.

Someone knocked. "You have visitors," said Arty, the friendly young Brit -- he'd met me at the airport, chauffeured me to the hotel, and the theater.

The man and woman came in saying, "Bravo! We saw Elektra in New York -- it's fascinating choreography. You were excellent. Wonderful music!" The three of us made cheerful loud conversation as the loudspeakers broadcast the applause the Nigerians -- one, two ... four ... six ... eight curtain calls -- a roaring standing ovation.

The woman murmured something about Cologne audiences being Anti-Jewish. The man said, "I'm sure the critics will rave about your dancing."

I grabbed their words. "Did you notice anything ... I slipped a bit..." (I couldn't ask -- I was dying to ask -- did you see the JIGGLE?)

As they went out the door, they said, " You are wonderful! You remind us what dancing is all about, Miss Frankel."

Mulling over their good words, I did some of the packing, figuring Arty would help me with the rug after the party. Did my hair and makeup, donned my party finery, and clip-clopping in my high heels, I headed down the empty hallway to the Green Room.

Opening a door marked Grün Saal, it took a second to realize that I shouldn't have packed -- everyone was seated, eating, chatting. Where to sit? There was a vacant seat at the Russians table piled with coats. At Vanderhoff's full table, the Ballerina from England was clinking glasses with him.

There was a hush as I clip-clopped in my blazing gold outfit to the buffet. The waiters were busily removing empty dishes. There was no salad, no hot food left. I helped myself to three slices of Munster cheese, a handful of crackers, and black coffee. Stood there hoping someone would wave.

No one did.

I spied a chair near Arty and his friend Hans. Arty nodded as I sat. Hans was describing Fred and Ginger in an old movie he'd just seen. Starving, nibbling on a cracker, I saw Vanderoff stand up. Wrapping my food in a paper napkin, slipping it in my purse, I said, "Arty, my plane leaves at 1 a.m. I need your help. I'll be upstairs in my dressing room. See you in 20 minutes." And hurried over to Vanderhoff, who seemed to be kissing the Ballerina's cheek.

I waited. Finally tapped his shoulder, saying, "Thank you for your hospitality, and the beautiful bouquet of roses." ... No smile, not a flicker of response ...
"Thanks to your very professional crew, I enjoyed dancing on your stage -- I felt I danced well, but the audience's reaction surprised me."

Vanderhoff took out a handkerchief. Polishing his glasses, said, "We pride ourselves on the excellence of our staff." He put on the glasses, clicked his heels, saying "Viel glück. Auf Wiedersehen, Frau Frankel" And turned away.

The crowd in the doorway parted as if I were a leper as I went out. I ran down the hallway, raced up the stairs. feeling as if I were being consumed by fire.

I dumped out the rose, drank three glasses of water waiting for Arty. He didn't show up. Someone had piled the rug outside my dressing room door. It was heavy, hard to cram it into the duffle. Grim, sweating, in my gold dress, and net stockings minus the heels, I had to push, roll, and shove it down, down the three flights of stairs.

Out in the street with my bulging blue duffel bag, coat over my gold dress and sneakers, I attracted attention. A cab took me to the airport, where I changed clothes and managed to board my plane. When I (spur of the moment), stuffed the rose in my purse, I'd soaked the napkin covering my food. It was a six hour plane trip. I ate my soggy dinner and dozed, in between reviewing jiggles, white paper planes, boos, Geyhen heim, go home.

At Kennedy airport, after customs and porters, and rumpled Em was in a taxi, windows wide open, New York air swatting me in the face, I wept.
After a while the cabbie said, "You okay lady?"
"I'm glad, so glad to be home," I said.

JC made me grits, bacon and eggs, and buttered a first slice, a second and my third slice of toast. As I told him what happened, I realized I'd never know ... Was it the jiggle? The anti-Jewish thing, or the outrageous choreography?

I put the wilted bent rose in a glass of water with an aspirin. It never regained its stance. But I did. Hey, being booed is ... not fun ...

But weeping in a cab, glad so glad to be home, having the events of Cologne in your mind/body/soul -- it gives me gut power -- that's a triumph. That's something to brag about!

1 comment:

Carola said...

What a truly horrible experience! You must be really tough to have survived some of the experiences you had on the road.