When I toured with Holiday On Ice, I performed the same show 357 times. 357 times I did the same steps, to the same music, wearing the same thing. Sometimes I accidentally forgot a glove, accidentally messed up a step, or accidentally fell on my face, but for most of those 357 times, I did the same exact thing.
I got bored around show 85, so it was around show 123 that I reached out to a friend who had done a professional skating tour before and asked, “how did you survive?!”
Her response: you will leave tour realizing your resilience and you will make a few good friends along the way.
Fair enough, I thought when I read her email one wine inspired night. But by the next day I was in show 125 and not comforted at all by her insight.
I had made a couple good friends on tour, yes. Just a few. During my end-of-tour-evaluation our tour manager had noted that I had a close group of friends who I tended to stick with. Not really work evaluation related, I didn’t think, but it was a correct statement.
One of my good friends was a girl named Charlene and she and I were very different. She was French. She loved glitter and bright colors. She was very nice. It seemed that since the day we met she had offered again and again to do my show make-up for a day, and I had pushed back her invitation at least 125 times.
So in some very small French town, in which I knew no one, I agreed to let Charlene do my make-up for those day’s performances.
“No looking until I am done!,” she said giddily.
By the time I did look, there was nothing I could do. It was 30 minutes until show time, I had to go to our pre-show notes, and I looked like a very trashy raccoon impersonating a very fancy mermaid. Looking in the mirror, I assessed that I had, as a base, two large baby blue circles encompassing my eyes and then on top of that what seemed to be two pounds of silver glitter (but I don’t truly know because they do things in kilos over in France.)
When I walked in to my performance director’s office for notes, he gasped.
“Charlene did it,” I quickly explained.
“Oooh,” he softened. “You can’t change it much. You’ll break her heart.”
He began in with his notes for us from the previous night’s show, things like “the pinwheel wasn’t straight,” “you weren’t in your correct spotlight,” or “um, just keep doing those same steps” and as he spoke, a huge chunk of glitter fell from my raccoon eye and into my human eye. One eyeball started to tear.
“You okay?!,” my skating partner Brent whispered, alarmed.
I shook my head, “I am fine. Just some of this fucking glitter got in my eye.”
Then the 127th show began like it usually did. The same music played, not at all to my surprise, and I started doing the same steps, despite my trashy crying raccoon impersonating a fancy mermaid make-up.
However, as the show continued and I went to meet Brent backstage before our first solo, something seemed different. The backstage looked like every backstage in every city we had been to--dimly lit with just outlines of bodies, chairs, streamers of fabric, giraffe and blowfish costumes-- but Brent’s face looked different. I couldn’t figure it out and seeing the puzzled look on my face Brent said, “I had Jane do my make-up really quick!”
Just then our music began to play and we hurried to the ice for our separate entrances. I skated past our huge “underwater scene” fountain for the 127th time and when I met Brent on the downstage side of it for our first “moment” in our romantic routine, I saw just what was different about him. Brent was wearing the most beautiful, glittery, blue eye shadow. In that moment, he looked just like Liza Minnelli to me.
Anyone looking like Liza Minnelli who is not Liza Minnelli is pretty funny, but Brent looking like Liza Minnelli is even funnier. Brent is an accidental ice skater, and even more so an accidental show performer. He began ice skating because his grandmother forced him to and he joined Holiday On Ice because we were looking for an express train out of our competitive skating careers. Given the choice, Brent would rather be watching the Philadelphia Eagle’s, beer in hand. So, there is a much greater chance of finding some stray cheese wiz from a cheesesteak on Brent’s mug than finding some beautiful, glittery, blue eye shadow.
I couldn’t get the I-am-romantically-skating-with-Liza-Minnelli-thought out of my head during our four minute long routine. Every time I looked lovingly in Brent’s direction, I cracked up.
“Get your shit together,” Brent begged under his breath. Apparently I wasn’t the easiest person to pick up while laughing.
When we exited the ice and I successfully caught my breath, Brent explained to me that he thought I was crying earlier about my ugly make-up. He felt so bad that he had another girl in the show help him outdo my tragic look by piling his eyes with beautiful glittery blue eye shadow. He didn’t want me to be alone.
And although I hadn’t been crying about my make-up and actually trying to be a good friend, or at least not a bad one, myself, I couldn’t help but think of the email I received days earlier.
“You’ll make a few good friends along the way.”
I just never suspected my skating partner would be one of them.