In my mind, I was back in the principal’s office. This tiny older woman had called me out, pulled me into a hallway, stood there with hands on hips and thin, pursed lips and shook her head at me. “I’m sorry, but I just can’t let you onto the stage like that. You’re going to need to put on more clothes.”
“Which part of me, exactly, is offensive?”
“There’s just far too little covering you.”
“If you’re asking us to go out and get different wardrobes in the three hours between tech and the show, we’re going to need to know what you need covered.”
Her pursed lips curved. “Sweetie, frankly, you look uncomfortable out there.”
“What, I . . .”
“You’re not moving like someone who feels like they’re wearing enough clothes. So why don’t you cover whatever it is you need to cover?”
I turned bright red. “I feel fine. What do you want covered?”
She paused, looking me up and down. “I . . . suppose . . . maybe it’s this area . . .” she gestured awkwardly. “There’s too much . . . there’s too much skin . . . right around here.”
“Got it. Let’s head to Dorothy’s,” Sugar said.
It was December 31st. Outside it was sleeting, and the doors of the Boston Symphony Hall thudded behind us. “What did they expect when they hired a burlesque troupe dancing to Poker Face, anyway?”
Dorothy’s is a magical land of wigs, glitter and vinyl. We bought wide fishnets for my offending joints and also, as long as we were there, a pair of X-ray goggles. Sugar got a chainmail bra. We figured: what are they going to do, not let us on stage five minutes before the number? It’s not like we were planning on performing at Symphony Hall ever again.
Ra ra rararah!
“Where’s my main Gaga?” Amanda called into the infinite ceiling, the gilded balconies. I raised my hand and ran to the stage, where, incidentally, Neil Gaiman sat with a chainsaw. “Great. Okay. So, here’s what we’re doing: you’re going to be backstage covered in this blue sheet until the last song ends; as the applause dies down my postmodern feminist is going to lead you by the hand to this marked X, stage left. Then the song begins, I whip the sheet off, march you to the front with me, you know the rest.”
“Okey doke,” I said.
For the record, this entire evening I was 100% starstruck. That’s just the way I roll; I don’t give a shit about celebrities, their clothes, or their love lives (they got engaged that night!) . . . until they’re within twenty feet of me; at which point I inexplicably drool and say unwitty things to the utmost of my ability until they’re out of earshot. I hadn’t even known this New Year’s Eve show existed until two weeks before, when Sugar texted us. A few days later I came to a rehearsal and they put “Poker Face” on. “We’re all dressed as different Lady Gagas. Everyone starts off-stage. Main Gaga on first, until the chorus. Adrianne, you’re main Gaga.”
I am backstage, a blue sheet covering my head. Black pumps and fishnetted legs peek out the bottom (“what do you think?” I’d smiled at our principal ten minutes earlier. “. . . Perfect,” she’d stretch-smiled, wide-eyed). I am wearing a black bejeweled bikini, X-ray goggles, giant plastic earrings, black vinyl opera gloves, long platinum blonde wig. It is cold backstage. All the Gagas are shivering.
“Okay — now!” the postmodern feminist whispers, taking my hand. I focus on the dim wavering outline of the dark floor beneath my feet, and the stage door opens: we take baby steps to the front of an infinity of stage. “You’re all set,” she hushes, letting go. And for a moment I am standing here alone in the dark silence, timeless, anywhere.
Then, as trumpets, violins, clarinets play the opening notes of “Poker Face” the lights fade up: the sheet is ripped off of me and, as I brush wig strands out of my eyes, I see Symphony fucking Hall in front of me, glowing red in X-ray goggles and all applause and screams as Amanda marches me to center stage.
I want to hold ’em like they do in Texas plays!
(Common-sense caution for parents/employers/children: in this video I wear the outfit described above.)
For the record, also, I had once been under the impression that the line went “I’ll get him high, show him what I got” which I maintain is superior to “I’ll get him hot, show him what I got.” The rhyme is too easy, and besides, any number of halfway-clad halfway-attractive people can get you hot. But shiiiiit, a woman who can hook you up with illegal substances? Not just can. Will. Try and stop her. After that, she will present some of her select belongings/intangibles to you. (Her tone implies that you will like them).
It was January 1st, 2010, and we crashed out the doors of Symphony Hall. The streets are black and wet, and snowflakes shimmer down from a black and wet sky. A few blocks away is The Cloud Club: an artist coop where the after-party is being held. My love is somewhere in its labyrinth drinking, becoming increasingly merry. I thought: this moment, these few minutes of possibility and mystery of what the night could contain, would be the highlight of the evening: because what could possibly be better than the envisioned? I have a habit of predicting magic. I am doomed to perpetually hope for the surreal, the paradigm-shaking, the eternal, all from just another last call.
We enter The Cloud Club and pour champagne into mugs, climb the narrow staircase to the second floor. And there is a treehouse. Like, with a tree.
We charge into the middle of the floor and immediately my favorite kind of dance party begins: no one is self-conscious. Everyone is moving out of pure joy.
How do these things get started. I needed a place to sit down, I’d been dancing for too long in those shoes, climbed the tree too many times to be showered with condensation from the diamond-cut window over the leopard-print bed.
A friend had a girl on one leg, I asked if I could borrow the other.
Then — suddenly? The three of us were making out. Happy New Year!
Then — suddenly? There were more. How many more? I ask earnestly. One at first, but soon others. Then there was a pile. Then there were others leaning over the pile. Kisses, kisses, kisses. Over my head, my love turns to nuzzle another’s neck. Someone is grabbing my torso. A hand lands on my knee. “You’re leaving?” I cry to a friend. “Hold up, we haven’t made out yet!” I squirm out of our pile to kiss her, then pull unsuspecting strangers back in with me. Everyone smiling. Two feet away, Neil Gaiman is proposing to Amanda Palmer.
Outside, it snowed and snowed, infinite, timeless. The impossible treehouse stretched overhead. I would wake up new.