Friday, March 30, 2012

Chapter 22 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free- Spirit Professional

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Being a clown sucked.  First off, there was no big head in which to hide.  I was out there for all to see, talking in a high-pitched, nasally voice doing my best to sound like a clown.  What the hell does a clown sound like anyway?  I should’ve done my homework and studied clown-speak, and clown-walk because in the first two minutes, it became very clear that I didn’t know what I was doing.

Nobody else noticed, of course.  Part of me wanted them to.  I wished Mom would put a stop to the madness and call me out.  “You’re a FRAUD!”  I wanted her to scream; snatching the balloons from me and sending me on my way.  But she didn’t.  All she did was clap her hands together with delight each time I let out a long, mouth-breathing laugh that sounded like a cross between the witch from The Wizard of Oz who gets crushed by a house and a buck-toothed, donkey riding down a hill on a bicycle with no brakes. 

It was exhausting – running around, trying to engage a bunch of four to seven year-olds who mostly wanted kick me and pull at my wig. 

“Ba-woons!  Ba-woons!” the birthday girl whined and I had to catch myself from giving her a dirty look.

According to the clock on the wall, I still had 25 minutes left to go.  Balloon animals were supposed to be the big finish; and at an estimated rate of fifteen minutes, I still had ten more to kill before getting to it.  Ten minutes may seem like nothing in real life, but when you’re dancing around like an idiot in a clown suit, it was an eternity.

“Why don’t we see if Olivia the clown is ready to make some balloon animals?” Mom said in that scary, sweet, persuasive voice only Mom’s knew how to conjure up.

Bitch.   It was my show.  I was in charge and the damn balloons weren’t supposed to come out just yet.  I wished Erin were still there, but handlers only stayed for the costumed character portion of the party.  I hated her too.  In fact, I hated them all; especially the little ones chanting in unison, “Ba-woons!  Ba-woons!” 

I finally knew why clowns were so creepy.  They were haters dressed up as happy, carefree people. 

I had no choice but to get to the balloon animals.  I sat down doing my best impression of jovial and within thirty seconds, the living room was filled with close to fifteen kids.  My hands were sweating and as I blew up the first skinny balloon, I began to panic.

Violet had taught me to make four different variations; a sword, a purse, a parrot and a poodle.  The trouble was, my nerves were messing with my head.  I couldn’t remember anything except how to make a sword.  I couldn’t just make swords for everyone! 

It was a disaster.  I did my best to make other things, but in the end, everything looked like a sword with a pimple.

“That doesn’t look like a poodle,” said one of the youngsters.

I just nodded and smiled muttering in my head something like, “It’s not, kid.  Who the hell cares anyway?  It’s a freakin’ balloon.  Now, go eat some cake.”

I had to get out of there and thankfully, it was finally over.  I was sure Mom would give me a talking to upon my departure.  As I changed into my street clothes, I prepared myself for the worst.  She was going freak out on me ranting about what a crappy clown I was.  Hell, I’d probably get fired too, but that didn’t matter.  For as long as I lived, I was never, EVER going to be a clown again.

“You were FANtastic!” she gushed as I stepped into the kitchen to say good-bye.  “Here’s the balance for the party and a little something for you.  Thank you!  THANK you,” she said, pumping my still-sweaty hand with gratitude.

I just stood there for a moment – dumbfounded and exhausted.  She was thanking me?  I just threw a bunch of balloons together and called them “animals” and she was giving me a tip? 

I mumbled a few niceties and got of there as quickly as I could, before she changed her mind.

Out on the street, I separated the money and saw that she’d given me a $100 tip.  ONE-hundred-DOLLARS!!!  Oh, the irony!  I tucked the money into my purse and dialed Violet.

“Liz! Hiiiiii!!! How’d it go?”

“It was great,” I lied, hoping she wouldn’t ask for any details.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays!

Thursday may be almost over, but the fun is just beginning!  Check out this week's "Crossing Over" at

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday is the NEW Thursday!

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There's a lot cookin' at the moment, so this week, Thirsty Thursday comes a day late.

Check out the latest insatallment of Crossing Over and read all about the big, first day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays!

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It's time for another installment of "Crossing Over" - my new column at

Be sure to scroll down for this week's HELP WANTED, where I take the freelance life to a whole new level.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chapter 21 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free- Spirit Professional

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Erin was an expert handler, walking me through the party, yelling commands like, “Birthday girl on your left,” and “Family dog near your feet,” as I danced around and waved for 45 minutes. Most of the children loved it, reaching out, touching my leg, grabbing my hand and poking at my stomach.

I couldn’t see a thing because Elmos’ eyes came up to my neck and all I kept thinking of was the kid who got stepped on as I peered down my nose, trying to get a look through Elmo’s eyes. It was strange being in that costume – the center of attention and so removed from it all. And Violet was right; It was CRAZY hot! By the time we were finished, I was soaked with sweat and could feel the heat permeating through Elmo’s head.

Erin kept checking to see if I was okay, but the problem was, she couldn’t really hear me. So, when I told her I needed to sit down, she responded with, “Let’s do a little Ring Around the Rosy.”

After the third time, I squeezed her hand really hard and practically screamed, “It’s too hot in here!”

“Everybody wave bye-bye to Elmo,” she sang, leading me quickly back to the kitchen. Erin was no bouncer, but she sure knew how to get me out of there quickly.

Once in the kitchen, I clawed at the clasps holding Elmo’s head on the jumpsuit like a claustrophobic astronaut. I was so hot, I couldn’t see straight and all I wanted was out of that damn head.

“I got it,” Erin soothed as she unhooked the clasps and lifted the head up and over mine.

“Ahhhhhhh,” I sighed.

“Drink this,” she said, handing me a fresh bottle of water.

As my body temperature began to recalibrate itself, I leaned against the kitchen counter and simply said, “Whoa.”

Erin laughed with a tinge of bitterness. “Why do you think I’m a handler? I couldn’t deal with all that shit.”

I nodded my head and wondered if I too, would end up being a handler after this party was over.

“That was GREAT!” the Mom squealed, bursting into the kitchen. “Afton looooooved it!”

“Awesome!” Erin said and though I barely knew her, I was beginning to see just how much she hated her job.

“We’re going to do cake and then we’ll be ready for Olivia the Clown!”

Ugh. I thought and almost said aloud. Why did I agree to be a clown?

Once Mom was gone, Erin leaned in close. “And whatever you do, don’t agree to be a clown again. It’s awful.”

Back in the bathroom, already exhausted from my sweaty Elmo experience, I smeared clown make-up on my face and felt suddenly depressed. What the hell was I doing? I wasn’t an actor! I was a singer and clowns don’t sing. In fact, I hated clowns; they were so……creepy.

But there was no going back. At least, not that day; I had balloon animals to make and little kids to entertain.

Another knock at the door from Erin, as I slid the red, clown wig onto my head.

“Okay,” I yelled, weakly.

Standing in front of the mirror, I was taken aback by how much I looked like a clown. I was creeping myself out! I looked at the clock on my cell phone, sitting on the vanity and whispered to myself, “45 minutes. That’s all. After that girl, you’ll never have to do this again.”

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays!

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It's Thursday and you know what that means - check out my column, "Crossing Over" at!

And.....if you missed it earlier in the week, scroll down to see what happens next at "Help Wanted:  Tales of a Free-Spirit Professional."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chapter 20 - HELP WANTED: Tales of a Free- Spirit Professional

Check back on Thursday for more "Crossing Over" from!

My first job at Focus on Fun was a birthday party on the Upper East Side.  The birthday girl was turning four and I was scheduled to spend 90 minutes entertaining her and all her friends.  It was a “Double the FUN” party which meant the children would get 45 minutes of Elmo and 45 minutes of Olivia the clown, balloon animals and all.   

At Violet’s urging, I’d practiced wearing the big, Elmo head at home prior to the party.  With no blinds in the living room, I’m sure I was quite a site for my neighbors to see –  walking around my apartment wearing as a life-sized
Sesame Street
character costume, waving and dancing for nobody in particular. 

“It gets hot in that costume, so make sure you wear leggings and a tank top – nothing more,” Violet had warned when I’d trudged up the stairs to retrieve the costume from her apartment.  “The head is heavier than you think and you can’t really see out of it.  But don’t worry; there will be a handler to help you.”

Having a handler sounded very glamorous and made me feel very professional as I pictured a bouncer-like guy maneuvering me through droves of admiring children all trying to get a piece of Elmo. 

“And don’t forget to practice your balloon animals,” she’d said, handing me a pack of at least a hundred skinny balloons to be blown up and wrestled into poodles, purses and swords.

As I gathered all of my party gear, I felt like I was going camping at Disney Land.  It was a lot to carry and I wondered how I’d get it all to and from my apartment to the Upper East Side. 

Elmo’s head turned out to be great for storage and on the day of the party, I stuffed everything into his head and then into a very large garbage bag.  As I lugged my gear onto subway from Battery Park City to the party, I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into.

When I arrived, the party was in full swing and at first glance, I figured there to be around 20 kids running around. 

“You can change in here,” the mom said, showing me to a small half-bathroom off the entrance way.  “Your handler is waiting in the kitchen, right this way.”

I followed her into the kitchen and met Erin who looked more like a helper than a handler.  She was barely five feet tall and I’d guess, around ninety pounds, soaking wet.  We said our hello’s as my visions of performance grandeur quickly faded into the distance.

“I’ll walk you around the room,” she said.  “The key is not to step on any of the children.”

She said it so matter-of-factly, I burst out laughing; thinking it was a joke.

But Erin wasn’t kidding.

“It’s no joke,” she said, smoothing her perky, blond ponytail.  “A couple of months ago, Adrian, the Cat-in-the-Hat guy, jumped up and down while he was dancing and stepped right on a two-year old, who happen to be crawling on the floor next to him.”

“Ohhhh….” I said, starting to sweat a little.  “So it’s…..dangerous?”

“Nah.  Not really.  Not with me here.”  She took a swig from her water bottle.  “Go get dressed and I’ll meet you at the door.  Just follow my lead and you’ll be fine.”

The bathroom was tiny and maneuvering around with the big head, clown gear and my own clothes was tricky.  It was also really hot in there.

“You ready?” Erin asked, knocking on the door.

As I zipped up the back of the furry, red jumpsuit and held Elmos’ head in my hand, I looked in the mirror and thought of the $120 I would be making from the party.

“Yep,” I said, putting his head over mine and fastening it to the jumpsuit.  “Ready.”

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thirsty Thursdays!

It's time for another installment of "Crossing Over," my weekly column over at

And...if you missed yesterday's HELP WANTED, scroll down to see what happens next!