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Mark Me

The Monday Night Tease Adventure, Part Two.

One of the first things I decided was to present ‘The Naked Truth’ with a slightly new twist. Yes, i still wanted it to focus on self-esteem and giving up hateful words, but I also wanted to add in fear. The world has become a very scary place, and it’s so easy to listen to all the doom in the air and just despair of everything. So i was going to also ask them to write their fears on my skin. To let them go for a short time.

In truth, once I settled on this scary idea, I didn’t think too much about it. I trusted in my ability and focused on centering myself.

So I prepped, and practiced the magic I would open with, looked at flights and budgets and … and then everything changed. Quickly.

One afternoon in late August i got a text from Lili: “You busy?” So I gave her a call. “What’s Up?”

“Well … due to stuff I’m not going into right now, the show will be closing two weeks. i just gave the club owner two weeks notice and … the last show will be September 4th. Just wanted you to know.”

We talked and I tried to be supportive and the friend she needed right then. She wasn’t showing it, but I knew she was frantic, sad, and upset about this news. She said she was going to try to call some people in and give it the best she could. When we hung up, all I could think of was … I wonder if she still wants me in this and was being polite, because: She knows i have one of MY shows booked that night and airfare is going be outrageous this close to date and whatever else. On my hand, i wasn’t going to presume I still had a space. But I looked up flights, anyway. I did math (yeah, it was that serious.) and sent a note to the owner of the club I had booked in Charlotte. I called her back … and to my delight, she did still want me for the final spot of the final show. She offered weak protest about me cancelling my gig, but I could tell she was happy.

Have I mentioned that I’ve been underestimating my strengths, lately? The honor of this was not missed.

I kept the secret, for the most part. Lili dropped a few subtle hints over social media, and a few people understood. The event was going to sell out, regardless. The only person i really let anything slip to was my friend, Andrea. I let her know I’d be in town for the MNT show and, if she was interested, it might be a good idea to catch this show. I even offered her my comp, but she insisted on supporting the show and buying her own. So I told her the secret, but she had already guessed before my confirmation. Truthfully, it was comforting to know I’d have a friend in the audience. Eddie and Lili would be dealing with work and emotions of their own, so I was glad of this addition. Coming down from ‘The Naked Truth’ is rough, so friendship and care is coveted. She was able to get one of the last standing room tickets, so thank the universe for small blessings.

Megan was concerned that Monique might show up, or try to get in touch, but that honestly didn’t concern me. That boat has sailed.

I made little posters for FB, I kept my anxiety in check, made my travel plans, and I meditated over the event. I wanted to make a good statement, i wanted to be there for my friend’s last huzzah with her baby, I wanted to bask in an awesome show, but most of all, I wanted to entertain Them. Give Them my heart.

To Be Continued …

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… or Not to Be?

The Monday Night Tease Adventure, Part One.

Have you met my friend, Lili?  We met five years ago at the Magic Castle, when i gave her an elf boot. She was with her boyfriend, Eddie. It’s hard to tell a story about Lili without mentioning Eddie, because they have the kind of loving, amazing relationship I want to have when I don’t grow up. And while it may sound funny, this story is about Lili and her show. Lili, her show and me. One of the … nah, screw that … the single biggest honor a friend has ever bestowed on me.

Lili is raw talent and relentless truth. She loves to bring laughter to an audience, in a multitude of different styles. She’s an inspiration, she’s a no-nonsense confidant, and she’s a friend.

A really large door closed for Lili last Monday, September 4th: After 14 years and hundreds of shows, Monday Night Tease at the Three Clubs in Hollywood came to an end. This was Lili’s show, her heart and soul for many of those years. It started, basically, about a month ago, when Lili called.

“I’m going to shut it down”, she said “Enough is really enough. Maybe January or February, we’ll have a big blowout last show, bring back in some acts that I love and really go out of style.”  What could I say? I was really stunned. This was her baby, her job. “What will you do?”
“I don’t know!”, she replied, laughing kind of hysterically, “I just know that it’s time. Close this door and maybe bust out some windows.”

I grabbed my calendar. Looked at the dates at the beginning of the year. “I don’t want to throw my ego around,” I said, “but I would really like to be a part of that, if it’s possible. You don’t even have to put me on stage, I just want to be there for the last show.”

“I know that I want you on the stage, and I know what I want you to do. I’m thinking that the last show needs ‘The Naked Truth’. It says what i want to say. I want to tell you that I haven’t made any final decisions, but that’s not even true. I know that I want it to be done; I’m just really terrified to do it”

I was as comforting as I could be, but my head was in a whirlwind. Some things just seem so solid, but the last couple of years has shown me what that means and what it’s worth. I was flailing for the right things to say, but really, I thnk just being an ear was all she needed.

And we talked. I know we talked for two hours or more that time. I was sitting on my back porch looking out as the sun went down on my side of the country. Maybe this was the universe pulling all the puzzle pieces a little closer together.

So, okay. Monday Night Tease is going away. She’s not passing it off anybody else because, in her words: it’s her baby, she doesn’t want to watch someone else run it. That’s so valid. The two have become synonymous. I’m not concerned about her next steps, though i know she is. I know Lily well enough to know that she’s got strengths and talents and drive and she will absolutely find the next thing and make it her own.

For now I’m left with: I’m going to be in the last show of Monday Night Tease. Getting Nekkid and offering my skin as a canvas for a very important event. Forgive me for the direction going to take on this right now, but the blog is in fact, all about me. I know there will be lots of stories from different perspectives about this, but this one is mine. The fact that I was asked to be in the last show of this tradition give me a huge burst of self-esteem. Lately I’ve been thinking about how much I’ve been underestimating myself. I’ve let other people, people that purport to love me, make me feel bad about myself. And on purpose, in order to keep me under some semblance of control. Discovering this made me sick, but here was at least a partial remedy, and a huge one. I am valued by my friend, who isn’t hiring me just because we’re friends, but because my act moves her. I must be worth something.

I’ve worked very hard to get here. Not just learning card tricks and magic, but learning the actual work behind the show. My act, my show moves people. It saves lives. I say that a lot, because sometimes I have to try to convince myself, but I’ve got letters and deep, intimate conversations where random strangers told me time and time again that what I’m doing has immense value in peoples lives. And so it seems it was with Lili. She’s been at this for a very long time and she knows quality, She knows potential, this was not just a fluke, or a favor for a friend. She would tell me straight up if I was not worthy of being in this show. So once she asked, I jumped at the chance. This was sincerely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Of course I agreed to keep it a secret until she decided to announce it herself. It’s her show, it’s her announcement. I gave her as much encouragement as I could, told her that I loved her, and I was right behind her whatever she decided. We said goodbye and hung up.

Shortly thereafter, I went and made some tea, came back to the back porch and watched the stars come out. If the show was going out, if my friend’s show was closing, indeed I was going to do my part to make sure that it was going to go out with joy and style.

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Renewal, Part Three: She

Arriving in LA on Sunday night I had dinner with Lili VonSchtupp and Funny Eddie, my best friends. I was so relieved to finally be with them that i must have babbled all night. We had Asian food and went on a pie quest, then I stayed the night at their house and spent the morning in a very long discussion with Lili about a million things. She had to focus on the Hollywood Burlesque Festival that week, so this was really our only chance to catch up. It was awesome, but far too short. I love these people. They are heart and soul to me.

May 22nd – 23rd, 2017

Monday I started my week at the Magic Castle in Hollywood, CA. My … 14th(?) engagement at that amazing establishment. I was greeted with ‘Welcome Home, Mr. Hannibal’ as I was ushered in the front door.

Yeah, welcome home, indeed. The old familiar sights, sounds and smells … here I am, once more. Home, showplace, playground. The happiness in that place, the magic .. I’m rambling. Four shows a night, late close-up. I love my work and I was especially ready after my long weekend at Beyond Brookledge.

Just before my first show, I was asked to help facilitate a proposal. This happens every so often and I was really happy to oblige. I had the couple seated at my table and … you can view the results here: The Proposal.

I stepped out into the main bar area, after. Pretty good crowd, especially for a Monday. There was a young woman called Monique there with some friends. Now, I’ve known Monique for a few years; she enjoys the Castle and she likes the Hannibal show, and so she’s often on my guest list when I’m in Hollywood. We’re casual friends. The group spotted me and said hello, they were in great spirits and really happy to be there. Who wouldn’t be. Monique asked if she could buy me a drink and I told her to surprise me. A few minutes later, the valet brought a tasty beverage back to my dressing room. Nice. Welcome home, right?

I make my living primarily by reading people. Little signs and body language broadcast how the act I’m doing is going over … when it’s time to do a move. So tell me: how did I miss the (now obvious) signs she was sending me?

I got a text from her, asking if I’d like to hang out after I was done for the night. A bite, or maybe a movie at home? I let her know how late I’d be getting out (around 1AM) but if she was still interested, sure.
I thought nothing of it. A friend wants to hang out a bit. Cool.
“Why don’t we meet at your apartment?” she suggested.
I thought nothing of it. My place is close to the Castle, so sure. Cool.
We met at my place and we drank some wine and watched part of ‘Chef’ and talked about … various topics. She touched my knee, my arm. She laughs easily and honestly. Her smile is almost always there, and genuine.
I thought nothing of it. This was pleasant. She’s interesting. Maybe I should ask her back to the Castle later this week, see if she’s interested in me. She’s really pretty and I really like her and maybe I have a chance of … romance? Cool?

Let me stop. Yeah. There’s a happy, affectionate, intelligent woman in my apartment at 2AM, and there because SHE asked ME … and I’m wondering if she MIGHT be interested in me enough to meet up later for a dinner date at work. How can I be SO bright and SO dim at the same time?

Finally, she recognized (thank God, who knows how long I might have remained oblivious) that I just wasn’t getting it, so she told me flat out. “Listen, I think you’re really beautiful, and I’ve been physically attracted to you for a really long time and … I’d like to stay the night, if you’d like that, too. Nothing has to happen, I’d just really like to keep talking and fall asleep together.”

I still came close to not understanding. My brain just didn’t process …
Look, for a few years I’ve been shown by several people I really cared about that I’m just not that physically attractive to them. Verbally, casually … and I get it. My girth does not lend itself to the typical Western social norm of ‘attractiveness’. Plus: I’ve been through some big storms, lately. Sex has been used against me as a weapon and as a punishment. I had completely convinced myself that … in a purely sexual sense, that that part of my life was over.

And she put her hand on my face and she looked into my eyes and I saw real desire. She wasn’t acting. More, she was leaning in to kiss me.
There was a spark I haven’t felt in a very long time, and we were kissing honestly, deeply … and I let myself relax into the moment. That also hasn’t happened in a very long time. She was warm and soft. I could smell her skin, and lightly, her cologne and a vague hint of whiskey. Her kiss tasted of wine and a sweetness I don’t have words for.

She stayed.

She stayed well into the next day, until she had to leave: her family was coming into town, and she had some prior commitments. I watched her ride away and wondered in my betraying brain if I’d ever see her again.

I busied myself about my week. The Castle rocked every night and I was in my element, taking the people on my magical 20 minute journeys. I had a giant of the industry compliment me publicly on how I handled a particularly tough crowd. (Read: drunk) I was loving every minute of it.

I had an extended day with my friend Lindsay, who is nearing her one year wedding anniversary and happier than I’ve seen her in awhile. Lots of conversation, lots of jokes back and forth, lots of catching up. We had dinner at the Castle (with a rainbow of Macarons for dessert!) and watched Murray Sawchuck’s show (dazzling, but I was disappointed he didn’t do his signature CD act) then off I went to work while L enjoyed the rest of the artists.

Wednesday I joined my friend Andrea Marie for food in Hollywood. We eased our way past the colorful people on Hollywood blvd and to our chosen restaurant … which was closed while they shot a show on the street it was on. Welcome to LA. We Ubered (it’s a verb, too) over to Toi and had a splendid Thai dinner among the sights. Seriously, check it out sometime. Again, stories of Faire (AM is a Rennie, too), catching up and an all around great evening. I could get used to this city, you know? Afterward we headed over to the Castle where she met up with some friends and I did my ‘job’.

My LA friends really have a way of bringing my joy to the surface, and I treasure them all.

And Monique, you ask?

We had ourselves a nice, though brief, romance. We talked. We shared. Talking on the phone, texting back and forth. We made plans for part of the weekend, and we hoped for more time together. As it turns out, because of Memorial day, I had an extra day on the apartment, and so we had our first actual date. (May 29th) I took her to 25 degrees for my traditional Orange Whip and truffle fries, then to the final night of the Hollywood Burlesque Festival. Lili had asked me to do a number in the final show, so here we were. My friends: Monique is an absolute delight. She understands my passion for my work and my humor. She literally spreads joy everywhere, and her laugh is never far away. Beautiful, sophisticated, yet not afraid to be vulnerable and honest with me. It was a great date.

For my act, Lili wanted ‘Bookends’ (the elf boot story) I wasn’t sure it was the proper thing to close a burlesque festival, but I trust Lili so of course, that’s what I did. My last act of magic in my whirlwind two weeks in Cali, and it went over huge. Laughter, tears, people’s hearts were moved, and the woman who was there with me was looking on with adoration.

We went back to my place for the final night, and talked into the wee hours, and loved, and held each other.
The next day we soberly said ‘Farewell’ and parted. There’s a whole country between us.

But we communicate every day. And when she knows I’m going through rough experiences, which of course I still am, she calls and gives me her time. She heals my hurts. She posts her affection for me publicly on her social media. She tells her friends about me. She makes art for and about me. She’s still interested, and I finally understood. We don’t (as the saying goes) ‘complete’ each other:

“Two beautiful, whole people. Two people who worship love and sow joy. Two complete people with beautiful scars that fit together … beautifully.”

We are making plans to be together soon, in North Carolina, so she can see Christopher’s hometown. Did I mention she likes Christopher a little better than Hannibal? Seriously. We aren’t labeled: For now we are simply taking it as it comes and patiently enjoying each other. As it should be.

My friends and fans have noticed that I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. I’m wearing it proudly, and it’s easing the journey.

So, there you are. Renewal in three parts. My twelve days in California renewed my purpose, my heart, and my motivation.

I feel beautiful, again.

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