December 25, 1999
To be honest, after Paris and Munich, it was very hard to be interested in these small German towns that by this point have all begun to look alike: increasing this similarity has been a constant cold drizzle that has followed the cast wherever we have gone making it dreary and uninviting outside. After Munich was a long drive up to Cloppenburg, where our hotel was situated on a very nice square, but the town was small and only reminded us of Nienburg (where we rehearsed). To entertain ourselves, Rob, Michael Danik, Brad and I ended up at the town swimming pool, which has a enormous enclosed waterslide that ran outside of the main building, only coming back inside to deposit us back into the pool - since it was entirely enclosed in clear plastic it was like flying above the landscape - where we got to watch the sunset. (This part of Germany is so far north that the sun sets around 4:15 at this time of the year, and doesn't rise until after 9:AM).
As they always do on tour, the cast has gotten the blahs. Injuries from the show have been mounting: a wave of new back injuries, which is strange for this show, since the only common injuries for this show usually are shin-splints. I think it has a lot more to do with stress, exhaustion, and the uncomfortable and unsupporting bus seats. Compounding the dissatisfaction of the cast is the lack of shows - hence the lack of money coming in. We had all figured out our incomes based on the exchange rate in June (when I signed the contract) and at 6 or more shows a week, and I'm making barely half of what I had figured. Since the European exchange rate continues to get worse, the size of our bills back home are growing quickly and all we can do is watch in horror, and hope the dollar weakens in value after the New Year. If not, I have a feeling there will be a number of people leaving the show after the new year - we're already losing one, and if things don't change she may be the beginning of the flood.
Where have we been in the last week? After Cloppenburg came Velbert and Recklinghausen, Eisleben (the only stop on the tour in the former East Germany - appropriately dreary), Goslar (a gorgeous medieval town which Disney modeled their town in Beauty and the Beast on), and then Flensburg for two days.To alleviate some of the tedium of the tour, we started a game of "Secret Santa" which gave many of us the only reason to leave the hotel in the rain, and something to think about.
Flensburg was a nice respite after a very long and complicated week on the road: the bus had several problems, frequently leaving us with little time to eat before the show, some bad hotels (no heat, etc). By the time we arrived, we were thrilled to be in a somewhat larger, but still beautiful northern port city. It is right on the Danish Border, and the shopping district is especially large since the Danes frequently day-trip here to escape the higher taxes back home. Interestingly, right across the harbor from our hotel was the Naval Academy, which was the final seat of the Third Reich and where the official surrender was signed.
We headed off to the Brewery once we got our bearings, and once we got there we realized that this is the German Brewhouse that opened up an outpost in Times Square. The food was excellent, as was the beer. We then walked around for a short while, exploring - and ran across the Red-Light street - it was obvious that the Monday Night shift was sitting in the windows: one larger woman sat knitting, her white hair pulled back in a bun wearing a leather bustier and not much else: something I hadn't expected to see, but I've seen a lot of unexpected things over here so I just enjoyed the humor of it. It was the beginning of a long and truly bizarre night. Around 9pm, we headed back to the hotel to change for dinner -- Brad had invited some people he had met in Husum to come for dinner at the restaurant next to the theater, and Rob, Betty Ann and I tagged along. It was a very nice Spanish restaurant and we were sitting in the middle of the room between the piano and several palm plants. It became obvious that the man from Husum was very interested in Brad, but after playing footsie with him, would then turn around and kiss his girlfriend (he also brought his sister). The sister and the girlfriend were watching this display, and beginning to wonder aloud to each other. While this was going on, the sister and the girlfriend conspired to get Brad away from the table, so they asked him to play the Piano and for us to sing. The waitstaff thought it would be fun, and turned down the music in the restaurant for us. BA got up first and sang a few numbers (including "Everybody's Girl" from STEEL PIER) and when she sat down, a handsome man about her age approached her and complimented her singing. Sensing possibilities, she invited the man to sit with us, but he informed her that his wife was at the next table. Gracefully, BA invited both of them to our table where we found out that they had both lived in Los Angeles for about two years, and enjoyed hearing American voices again in their small town. After a very nice conversation, we invited them both to the show the following evening - they did end up coming, but at that point they weren't sure if their sitter was available again, so we got their number and promised to call in the morning to see if they were still interested.
They sat with us for about an hour, during which time Rob and I also sang, and then we as a group switched to singing Christmas songs. We had ordered a bottle of wine to share when we got there, and once we started singing, decided to order another bottle and make a night of it. (Remember, we'd all had almost a liter of beer at the brewery not too long before). Well, as soon as we had poured the bottle between the three glasses, the waitstaff brought us another bottle on the house as a thank you for the entertainment - which we stared at unbelievingly: we couldn't possibly drink THAT much. Well, we did. And more - after the third bottle of wine was finished, a large table in the corner of the restaurant ordered another round for our whole table, and then later the gesture was repeated by another table.
All of this, of course, left us very drunk, which provided the backdrop for the bizarre turn the evening was about to take on. The couple sitting with us informed us that they were there with a party (the large table in the corner that would later send us another round) which was their Monday night Salsa dance class, and as the evening got a little more raucous, they started to tango dance around us while our table was singing "Big Spender". Not too long after that, the couple had to go home to relieve their babysitter, but the rest of their table stayed. When they left, two men who had been sitting at the bar swooped down and lost no time in trying to hit on Betty Ann, who was not interested in the least, but was drunk enough to enjoy the display of drunken German machismo. Sometime during this time period, the local cast of "THE MERRY WIDOW" came in and the star of that show got up and sang a number of gorgeous soprano arias from that show - only making brad repeat bars when she needed to go back to her table to ash her cigarette. At some point, another woman rose from the theater table and sang "Over The Rainbow" in German. All the while, the tango dancers continued, the Girlfriend and the Sister watched the Man from Husum flirt with Brad, The two Germans were making fools of themselves for BA's expense, and the wine kept flowing. Rob and I seemed to be the only ones not involved in some bizarre aspect of the evening, and we caught each other's eyes now and again, and would burst out laughing - If this happened in a movie, we would have never believed it. We finally all left around 2 in the morning and, predictably, slept very late.
The next day most of us went our separate ways to do our Christmas shopping, and BA found a dress for New Years (She had at some point or another dragged nearly everyone in the cast looking with her - and had been doing this for a month, so by the time she finally found it we were all relieved). I found a few gifts for my secret Santa at the 99 pfenning store, and bought a pair of winter boots (my other boots had finally worn out after two years and it was getting and staying very cold). That night at the theater, once we got there we were informed that despite the large stage, none of our set would fit in through the tiny loading dock door, so we would be unable to do several of the numbers, and all of the scenes would be done with no scenery, just a few chairs and tables (and the ever-present rock-show lighting). It was sort of a letdown, especially for those whose numbers had been cut, but fortunately the best part of the show is the Ballet in the second act, which uses nothing but a bare stage anyway was left intact. After the show, we met the couple whom we had met in the restaurant the night before, and went back to the same restaurant for a light meal. The waiter was a little nervous when we walked in, but we assured him that we would not be staying long or singing loudly this evening.
The following day we drove to Bielefeld, where we would be spending Christmas. We found a Mexican restaurant near our hotel, and were thrilled to find that the food also tasted like Mexican food (unlike much of the Mexican food elsewhere in Germany), and that the margaritas were half off that night. We had an early dinner, and then retired to our hotel where we had arranged to play a game of Celebrities to pass the evening. The hotel was very gracious in giving us the conference room for free, and it was a lot of fun. Everyone made fools of themselves --Watching Christine Nevins crawling on the floor as "lassie" and Tim (the oldest man on the tour) doing Ester Williams was well worth the time we spent. The next day was the 23rd, which is the last shopping day before Christmas over here (Christmas is celebrated on the 24th here, and is an evening affair), and the department stores were predictably packed, but still much more civilized than Macys could ever be at any time in December. I have mentioned to many that it has hardly felt like Christmas because we haven't had the huge media blitz of ads, Kathy Lee TV Specials, and other events to drum it into our heads that Christmas was here. We bought a few bottles of wine for our Christmas dinner the next day and a few silly items for our "dog party", but generally, since there was no one here to really shop for, and shipping anything back to the states was impractical and exorbitantly expensive, we didn't feel any of the usual Christmas panic, and just enjoyed the street life with the outdoor food stands, and talked to a number of local people at the Gluwein Stalls - it seemed as if the entire town was out enjoying themselves that evening. A number of younger people invited us to a party being held on Christmas day in the town that didn't start until midnight and would last until sunrise.
On the 24th, most of us rested again, until about 6:00 when a few pre-parties started in people's rooms. Patrick and Michael had bought a Christmas tree, and decorated it with ornaments they had brought from home, and had decorated their hotel room and invited the cast over for a drink before dinner. The dinner itself was a large buffet that the company had given us as a present - we only had to supply our own drinks, and most of us had brought wine from the day before. Tim got up and gave a toast to all of our loved ones and families back in the States, which brought a number of people to tears, but it seemed that this was what was needed for everyone to let go of what couldn't be this year, and freed us to enjoy the rest of the evening.
After dinner our "Secret Santas" who had been leaving little gifts on our bus seats and outside our hotel room doors revealed themselves. I had been giving presents to Patrick Clayton, who had been my secret Santa on the St. Louis tour, and found out that I had been getting little gifts from our dance captain - when I had been positive that it was someone else entirely. After that, the "dog-party" game began. Everyone had been instructed to bring one or more silly gifts wrapped up, and we rolled dice to see who got what. After this first round, we unwrapped the gifts and the next round was giving and taking the presents, all dictated by the dice. Among the more popular gifts were x-rated playing cards (there was a set of each gender), a long fleece hat, a pink fluffy pillow and a beer stein from Munich. The more unpopular gifts included shampoo from the hotel in Basel, a book on how to make boxes, and a head of cabbage. The evening was more fun that most of us had expected, and was a pleasant way to spend Christmas away from home.
It is now Christmas day, and I am about to leave to do the show. I wish all of you a happy holiday season, and a wonderful New Year. We have another show here tomorrow, two more small towns in the south of Germany, and then we go to Geneva for three days leading up to New Year's Eve. The day after we have a week off, and I had originally tried to find a ticket back to the States, but there was nothing even remotely affordable, so instead I will spend my vacation in Brad's apartment on the south coast of Spain, with Brad, Rob and Betty Ann. Nothing but rest and relaxation for a week, and I'm looking forward to leaving Germany and winter behind for a little while.
Seasons Greetings, and Happy New Year to you all,