I think back to when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. (I am now 57). I ask myself...
“DAMN WHAT WAS I THINKING!!?
I was striving for fame back in those earlier years, for some reason. I was almost obsessed with the idea of my name on a marquee — fame, fortune and all that goes with it. I see now that I was chasing the totally wrong things in my life but hey, we live and learn right?
It could be that I was chasing my parents’ dream. Not mine.
You know how your parents try to live vicariously through you at times?
I think mine did.
I think they both craved attention and because I was was talented, they got attention they might’ve been seeking. It might’ve made them seem to be ‘good parents’...more ‘worthy parents’?
Because I was young, naive and stupid...(?) I got caught up in the fame game. The I ‘gotta BE SOMEONE! phase? I was also pretty competitive and inwardly self driven.
I might’ve gotten that trait from my dad, who was a champion athlete.
FINALLY ACHIEVED MY DREAM
I finally did achieve my dream, or what I thought was my dream, in 1996.
I was offered the starring role in a huge production show called Beyond Belief impersonating Barbra Streisand. It was larger than any Vegas show I had ever been in. Larger than the show Legends in Concert on the Vegas strip I was in previously. It was at a swank resort called The Palace of the Lost City Resort in Sun City, South Africa.
WOOHOO. My hard work and efforts paid off!! — I thought.
I remember the day my agent Hal Belfer called. He couldn’t contain his excitement.
’Hey kiddo. You got the STARRING role!! The finale in the show!!”
He was sooo proud.
For some reason I was terrified.
IRONY IS PRETTY IRONIC SOMETIMES
The irony was that starring in this show was supposed to be the pinnacle of success in my music career but instead it was what took me down.
I finally got my own dressing room which was sort of a big deal. It meant I had ‘arrived!?’ I was used to sharing dressing rooms with other performers but now I had one to myself which WAS nice I must admit.
No more warming up my voice (with these god awful musical scales!) while someone else was staring down my throat or over my shoulder. I could walk around naked or with a towel around me ALONE. That part I admit was niiiiice.
I remember the first day at dress rehearsal. I was shaky and frightened, but wasn’t sure why.
I felt total fear being thrust into the limelight maybe.
I remember at one of the first cast meetings I had a relentless coughing fit. It was awful! You know the kind of cough that just will NOT STOP! No matter WHAT??
I had never coughed that much in my life — non stop hacking!!
My husband at the time was at the meeting. He shook his head and threw a disgusted evil glance at me — as if to say “STOP EMBARRASSING YOURSELF AND — ME!! You look RIDICULOUS!“!”
I know my uncontrollable coughing fit made him mad but, I could NOT stop coughing!
I remember excusing myself from the meeting. I walked to the bathroom down the hall coughing all the way. I’m sure the group could hear my coughs. I was imagining them smirking and shaking their heads with disbelief. Here’s the star vocalist of our show sounds like a croaking frog?? I sure hope she doesn’t ruin the show for us all!!
Looking back on that memory it was painful even after 25 years.
I think it was a psychological ‘reaction’ to the stress and pressure of the whole damn thing. The fact that everyone was now counting on ME to be the ‘finale’ of the show, and the pressure of it, might’ve brought out that violent reaction. The psychological pain led to this physical reaction of the violent coughing.
Mind/Body connection? I think so.
I do know it was all downhill from there.
This show was not what I thought it would be.
Fame was not what I thought it would be.
I was always longing to throw my wig and long fake fingernails off, grab my guitar and play my own music. Sing my own songs.
It was 9 months of sheer anxiety at this gig while my husband was punching, choking and berating me, before and after some shows. It became a living hell.
One night we had a serious brawl before showtime. He called me an MFC!! the precise moment before I was to walk out on stage. This is a known no no in theater! To try to trip someone up before their entrance is …not cool.
I tried to hide my misery from my cast members through the entirety of this 9 month gig. They might’ve thought I was acting ‘crazy’ and weird.
Yea I was weird because I was holding all this SHIT IN!
Another irony is that I sang some positive happy songs in the show like Happy Days are Here Again and Somewhere — There’s a Place for Us.
blah blah… (The money was nice though. It was the largest salary I’d ever received to sing a mere 12 minute set.)
But, having to do interviews, cameras in my face, feeling pressure to sign autographs after the show, to sing perfectly every night, to look thin on stage, to be charming night after night was just NOT the life for me.
I realize now that I felt way too much pressure.
Through my recent therapy over the years since, I’ve discovered so much about myself.
My therapist joked, “Maybe you are/were allergic to PRESSURE!?”
hmm. That could be it!
TURNING DOWN THE EXTRA MONEY
I was a bit of the black sheep in the show too. Well, not a bit , but a LOT.
I was the only cast member who declined to go out after the show to sign autographs with the audience. I had no desire to do that! I was an introvert. It bugged me.
Honestly, I wanted to get the hell OUTTA THERE every night after the show ended — hurriedly take off my makeup wig and high heels and — BAIL!!
All the cast members were offered extra money for each autograph … it was tempting. They gave us 50cents, I think, per autograph to take pictures, smile and pose with audience members after each show.
To be honest, I wasn’t into mingling. I also wasn’t interested in ‘acting’ like I was good at it.
I knew I wasn’t.
I also just couldn’t bring myself to act like I was happy being there or to act like I was happy being Streisand.
For some reason the whole thing irked me.
It was because it wasn’t real and ‘authentic’.
I live for authenticity.
I know this now.
We all know famous celebrities who had a large amount of fame but were not fulfilled by it.
John Belushi to
and many many child stars.
So, the ‘drug’ of fame didn’t serve them well either. It didn’t make them ultimately happy or peaceful.
Fame really does hurt some people. Some people are just not meant to be thrust into the limelight.
I now know that I was one of them. I’m grateful for writing about my life now. Writing about all of this helps me heal and brings me to new peace.
It has been over 20 years.
It is crystal clear now that even though I had my taste of fame it was never ever the life for me.
THANKS FOR READING!
Here’s a poem I wrote after retiring from the music business from my book Catch a Poem by the Tale:
HEY MISS! MISS-UNDERSTOOD
She was walking on the beach in Cape Town
When a man screamed out from a window sill
“Hey miss! My name is Joe.”
She yelled “Hey I don’t know you
You’ve made a big mistake!”
He said “Aren’t you that singer?”
That impersonator? Fake?
She just kept right on walking
No desire now to talk
Her only thought was leaving
She turned at the next block.
He followed behind screaming loud
“But I WANT to be your friend!”
She had no desire to be that girl
Can’t it please just end?
She hoped no one would notice
She longed to leave the past
But here’s this guy behind her
On her heels and trailing fast.
“Hey MISS!” he screamed more forceful,
Yeah Miss, Miss Understood.
An amusing innuendo
tucked her head inside her hood.
Miss, Miss Understood
Could be her brand new name?
She felt no one could ever get
that she was done with fame.
Michelle Monet has published 5 non-fiction books including 4 ‘Poetic Memoirs’. Her upcoming Memoir will be about her life in show business including her surviving domestic violence, panic disorder and a dependency on prescribed medication. It will be a story of redemption and healing.
She is also writing a Broadway Musical show based on her life story. Stay tuned.
Contact me at: email@example.com