Sunday, January 10, 2010


Heads up. This is not a blog post. This is a novella. So grab some tea and put on yer granny glasses, ya'll. Enjoy. Especially you, O'Malley.


I'm letting the CIVIL WAR song have some "simmer time", as my mom says.

Simmer time is that break your brain needs when it's about ready to explode from focusing on something for too long? As a teenager, my mom would catch me up late a night choreographing a number for the show choir or something like a possessed freak and she'd say, 'Oh no. it's 3am. no more. simmer time. go to bed. it will be better in the morning. time to simmer simmer simmer.'

So I'm moving onto another song.

A much easier song in some aspects and trickier in others.

I'm calling this THE ADOPTION SONG because well, cryptic as i can be sometimes, it's actually about adoption.

I came across this song almost two years ago when I was asked to perform at a fund-raiser for a foundation that dealt with children. Wanting to make sure that my material was not only appropriate but beneficial to their evening of fund raising, as the result of some Googling, I learned that this particular foundation not only had an entire program dedicated to adopting and adopted children, but also assistance for the mothers who were considering giving their child up for adoption as well.

I realized that in my vast collection of music, I had absolutely nothing appropriate in regards to adoption specifically and I thought it might be fun to see what was out there.

So, I googled 'adoption' and 'songs' and pretty quickly this song by Michael McLean came up all over the place. Of course, Michael McLean is a big old fancy pants writer for the Christian music scene, but I'd never heard of him because I grew up in the musical theatre/classical music gold fish bowl that is my life.

A couple clicks later, I found a demo-ish recording of this song and i absolutely fell in LOVE with it. To seal the deal, as if that was needed...I found the sheet music online- as an absolutely free download. I figured this was all so incredibly easy, that it was a sign from the Gods that I should perform this number.

I prepared an arrangement for the stand up bass and drum player that were going to accompany me and soon became so excited about it, I made it the set closer.


I don't know if any of you have ever done these 'fund-raiser/live auction' things? But usually, they're just a nightmare. I've done quite a few of them and every time no matter how much I hope that it will be different…it never is. See, when you perform at one of these things- your audience is like one huge socio-scientific-experiment. And anyone who believes America is without a 'caste system', has clearly never been to a charitable foundation's silent auction fund raiser.

It's like living an abridged version of DAVID COPPERFIELD during a 3 hour acid-trip while riding the tea cups at Disneyland.

Every time...

every fucking time...

you end up performing for an astonishingly bi-polar combination of incredibly rude, rich, snobby sons of bitches who could give two shits about the actual cause they're supporting and are only there to socialize and get a drunken tax write-off...

and the handful of incredibly generous, polite, kind, financially strapped activists who are the heart and soul behind the foundation itself (who are about to have a collective stroke by listening extra hard to you with their eeeyyyeeessss to make up for the saloon-like behavior of the former).

At least that's how I've learned to look at it, because it's really the only way I can get through these things anymore without just ending it all with a full bathtub and a defective easy-bake oven.

Well, that and the pay.


The pay.

I know.

Gross, right?

It feels offensive on some level just to write about getting paid for some sort of charity event. Because at a 'fund-raiser' to raise money for...children with AIDS, adoption, cancer, insert-very-worthy-cause-name-here...who, but a complete douche-o-rama would ever dare to even THINK of charging for their services.



I agree.

In my heart, I agree.

Every time before I go do one of these fund raisers, I agree.

Ask me after.....


One thing i should make clear my mind, I absolutely DIFFERENTIATE between a 'benefit' and a 'fund raiser'.

Actually, let me just look up the definitions in the dictionary for both 'fund raiser' and 'benefit' to see if there really IS a legitimate difference between the two...or if it's just another thing I've conveniently created in my head.

be right back.

or as the kids say..."BRB".


insert Jeopardy music






the difference between the two IS just in my head.




Allow me then, to explain...

To me a 'benefit' is when you personally know the people who are asking you, or you're involved with the cause itself, the barn's free so we're doing a show, kinda thing...anything that's associated with BCEFA (even if it is technically a 'silent auction')-

basically any event that does not make me want to end it all by jumping off a fucking bridge, in MY a 'benefit' and therefore not to be feared, like bedbugs or an unexplainable rash in your lady-garden.

And I do those for free.



And more often than not, have a tremendous amount of fun doing it.

But when you’re dealing with a cold call from a random fund-raising gig? Or even worse, organizations and institutions that you think are safe (arts foundations themselves shockingly, are the worst)...basically, if their website ends in .org and it's not BCEFA…THAT my friends, is a "Fund Raiser" and you should proceed with extreme caution.

Because here's the deal.

You will be humiliated in some way shape or form on this gig.

And more often than not, you will be humiliated many different times and in many different ways, by many different people on this gig.

And any hope you might have of feeling like you're actually doing something philanthropic is quickly whipped out of you by the night's end when you realize that an escaped baboon from the zoo would have gotten the same exact respect that you did. Maybe more.

It is unavoidable.

Like tooth plaque.

Or sweatpants at K-mart.

Now as an actor...

humiliation is part of the job.

Sometimes, humiliation is the job so...

it's not even the ACTUAL humiliation that serves to erase any guilt from collecting a check at the end of the night.

I mean, please.

All of us have done dinner theatre.

All of us have driven a mini-van, only to get into costume in an elementary school classroom closet so that you can perform in a cafetorium.

WHICH IS FINE. As long as you know ahead of time no one's going to give a shit about's a totally different ball game, and one that we actors sign on for regularly.


At these 'fund-raiser/live-auction' things, you're always told and promised and sworn to that you will be treated with respect. And "of course" people will be listening to you and the "of course" the situation of the room will be conducive to you not feeling like you've just taken 800 steps back in your career, forcing you to reconsider whether you have any talent at all.

So, it's the bait and switch of these things that just really ends up chapping your ass. It's fine if you're billed as the background and end up getting treated as such. That's business as usual. BUT....if you're billed as a star-

with the understanding that everyone at that event has been told you're a star (regardless of whether you actually are one, or not)-

and then they STILL treat you like shit...

that is a humiliation you absolutely MUST get paid for.

No joke.

These people have absolutely no moral compass, and it applies to everyone.

I have heard people drunkenly YELLING to each other about a polo game DURING a poetry reading by James Earl Jones. I have seen people walk out, ROWDILY, like they were at a football game, while Renee Fleming was SINGING. I have witnessed a sloshy pinch and tickle at a table turn into a full out brawl while George Lucas was giving an acceptance speech.



Lucas, people.

I mean, you would at least think that George Lucas has enough money to garner some respect from these people but...nope. If you're up on that stage, in any kind of artistic're pretty much worthless.

And no one EVER calls them on it.

No one ever says, "Uhm.....excuse me, you rude mother you MIND? Mother Theresa's up here trying to SAY something about children with no spinal cords...." and it makes no sense at all to me because the true-hearted organizers are always mor-ti-fied.


You can see it in their eyes as you watch them inch closer and closer to the stage, as if to mentally wipe the egg-omelette-frittatta-quiche cassarole off of your face. They're eyes become apologetically wild as if to telepathically transmit to you that they're so sorry and can't believe it's happening either.

Maybe that's it.

Maybe, no one ever bitch-slaps these idiots because they truly can't believe that someone is ACTUALLY being rude to Renee Fleming. So they shut their eyes and wait to wake up...aannnyy mmiinnuuttee now.

Either that, or those people are so incredibly fucking rich that, yeah...apparently they can behave whatever they want and will never ever get punched in the face for it. Good God, that must mean that they're richer than George Lucas.

Holy shitballs.

I didn't think anyone was richer than George Lucas.

My entire world has just collapsed.



What the hell does ALL this shit about fund-raisers have to do with this song about adoption?

I'm getting to that...i promise.

This fund-raiser that I had planned to sing this song at was indeed, the usual exercise in humiliation.

But worse.

Because of weather, my first flight in (the night before) was cancelled. So after a lovely evening in the airport and about two classy hours in the complimentary hotel I was forced to fly in the day of. Which suuuucccckkkked. Not even so much for the travelling stress but more so for the endless panicked phone calls from my 'point person' for the event, who has already become completely unhinged.

This 'point person' is always some terrifyingly, beyond tightly wound, socialite-ish woman, with negative body fat, shoulder length blonde hair, perfectly manicured nails and underneath all the porcupiney prickliness, has incredibly good intentions but is always in way too over her head to be anything but a bitch.


a fetus of an intern who is annoyingly and innocently ignorant of the dog-and-pony show about to happen and is also always in way too over her head to be anything but a dearth of information. Like a black hole where the only words spoken are "like", "uhm", and "i don't know".

My heart always goes out to these ladies...

at first.


I finally fly in.

I head straight the event site with all my crap because there's no time before the rehearsal with the band. The band that I had to write arrangements for (for free) even though I really tried to convince them just a piano would do.

I am greeted by 'the point person' (now known as 'the queen bee') because you immediately feel like you've just walked into an active bee-hive that's just sniffed an enormous collective line of coke.

There are the harried 'hellos', the double takes at my 'travel clothes' and the inevitable snarky remarks about my agent (who I am already mentally thanking for getting me my fee, as it is already clear that I will be earning every penny).

The band is always about 40 minutes late- which would be fine, except that's 40 more minutes that Queen Bee has to fucking freak out all over my shit. And put me to some manual labor, which runs from putting place cards at table settings, to moving heavy furniture because clearly, every actor looks like a maid or a moving man who's forgotten to wear their uniform.

It's our 'vibe', I guess.

The band arrives and non-chalantly takes another 30 minutes to set up, leaving us with 40 minutes total, to rehearse a 35 minute set. Also, they never got the charts I emailed, faxed and sent in the mail- because they never do-so I pull out all the copies of the charts from my bag because....I've done this before.

The rehearsal is always the best part of the day because the musos are in the same boat as you are and they're just relieved when you tell them,

"Fuck the charts if you want. As long as we start and end up in the same place, I'm good. let's just have a good time."


The Queen Bee has an issue one of my songs.

Becuase the Queen Bee ALWAYS has an issue with something that you've discussed at length via 8763409872-985072387623409873458762349578623495 emails, phone calls, faxes prior to you're even getting on the plane.

I bring out my book...because I've done this before, and let her pick something.

She picks something UNBELIEVABLY inappropriate to the event, but I just nod and say "ok", tell the band what key it's in and plan to wing it. The Queen Bee is always shocked and ironically never placated by this move, because it's almost as if she's pissed at me for taking AWAY something for her to be pissed at me about. Because really, she's been pissed at me from the very beginning when I made her go through my agent who insisted she pay me in the first place.

Not to mention, The Queen Bee always commands a hefty sum for whatever coordination title she's made up for herself, so I make it a rule to never really fall for the guilt trip here.

Band rehearsal is over.

And I now have about 3 hours to kill because they're finishing setting up the space, there's no one available to drive me to the hotel and I'm not going to get stuck paying for a cab both ways. Plus the downtown of this city is, as per usual...dead and dangerous so...there's nowhere to go really, and nothing to eat.

I figure I can at least take a nap somewhere in this building so I ask the Queen Bee where my 'dressing room' is-

that my agent negotiated in writing-

along with food.

and water.

and The Queen Bee looks at me in a spazzy kind of "what are you bothering me about now" kind of way.

I ask her again, where my dressing room is so I can at least put my bags somewhere and lie down.

She mentions something about a pass, and then sends me on a wild goose chase to find someone else who, I'm pretty sure, doesn't even exist. I figure, 'fuck it' and I start wandering the building. Of course, it's a building in the midst of construction so...there really is absolutely no place to go that I won't get white dust all over me...or nails up my ass.



I find a quiet corner in the ballroom and put a couple chairs together to take a nap.

In about 40 minutes I'm rousted vigorously by someone who thinks I'm there to cater.


'actor' = 'caterer'.

I explain who I am and the guy is nice enough to fix me a plate of what the catering company has just brought in for the event.

I take it, along with all my bags, like a homeless freak and once again scour the building for some place, any place to just sit away from the crazy Queen Bee and all the event preparations.

I go up on another floor and as I'm wandering around this floor that really looks post-apocolyptical, swear to God, I see a lone light down at the end of the floor.

It's......a bathroom.

And not only that...

it's a women's bathroom.


It's covered in white dust, like everything else but at this point I don't care.

I take out my gown and hang it up on a stall, lay my garment bag down on the floor, set my phone alarm and take a nap.

Next thing I know, I feel this poking in my side.

it's security.

he literally, thinks I'm homeless.

"Hey. You can't sleep here. You can't be in this building. You have to go."

I try to explain,

"No i'm here for the event. I'm...I'm....the entertainment....I...see? That's my gown...over there..."

he's not buying it.

"Listen, let me just call (The Queen Bee)...hold on..."

No answer. Of course, no answer- as she's probably buried beneath a pile of flourescent tulle to go along with the hideous decor downstairs or screaming at some poor waitress for breathing.

It's then, that I get a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

oh my God.

No WONDER this cop doesn't believe me.

I'm in my 'travelling clothes', my hair is all over the place, and i'm covered-

COVERED in white dust.

It also doesn't help that I'm wearing my favorite jacket of all time, a beaten up, worn down and admittedly filthy show jacket from when I did HOLLYWOOD ARMS in Chicago at the Goodman.

I look like, something from National Geographic.

He insists on 'escorting' me out of the building.

"No! Nononononoooo, i swear to God I belong here...."

"Where's your pass?"

"My what?"

"Your pass. Every vendor here has a pass, where's your pass."

"I. Oh shit...I never got a pass...."

next thing i know he is hoisting me up by my arm...

He at least lets me get my 'bags' together...

however, he makes me leave the dress.

Because obviously...that's not mine.

even more weirdly, he leaves it hanging there on the stall like...the rightful owner will surely be back soon to claim it. Up here. In Babylon 5. With an hour to the beginning of the benefit.

and it's a shame that I apparently left my shopping cart at the shelter...

of course, the more i scramble to get my stuff, the more Lord of the Flies I look. I start to literally, laugh- at the irony of it, which of course only serves to make me look MORE insane and next thing I know we're in the elevator and he's pressed the ground floor button.

But the event is on 2!, i think.

Of course, I think this to myself this but I don't actually say it out loud because..

i dont know.

I'm exhausted, and still thinking I might be starring in the punk'd version of The Blade Runner somewhere. So wordlessly, I claw at the elevator buttons to press 2. Thinking that if i can just get to the 2nd floor and find the Queen Bee, everything will be fine.

This, I realize as I do a really really bad idea as I've now moved from the Lord of the Flies costume shop to some serious Silence of the Lambs choreography.

He grabs my arm as in, Hey crazy...don't make me shoot you.

Next thing I know...

I'm out on the street.

In the freezing winter.

Locked out.

Of the event that I was supposed to be 'starring' in in....i look at my phone...T-minus 45 minutes.

Holy fuck.


what do i do?

I can wait for people to come to the event but...I look like someone who might actually mug them so....that won't work.

I can try to get the attention of anyone downstairs at a table but...

that cop is still standing there at the door.

As if he's reading my mind.


Oh my God, this is INSANE.

it's then that I remember, that I actually KNEW someone coming to this thing, as a guest.

it was my only way back in the building.

I called them on my phone and they answered! Praise Jesus!

After they stopped laughing.

Which took a long, long, long. LONG time.

They agreed to get there as early as possible in the hopes of getting me back in.

Again, I'm downtown and it's dead and dangerous.

I see a random 7-11 a couple blocks down and tell them I'll be waiting in there where it's warm but to please hurry as I not only have to sing now, in less than an hour but I have to somehow LOOK somewhat presentable which at this point...i would need a chisel and a blowtorch to do.

15 minutes later they pull up.

'GET ME IN THAT FUCKING BUILDING!', I scream as I jump in the backseat. We pull up to the event door, my friend gets out of the car with me and this husband goes to park the car. The security guard is no longer there, thank the Lord and we breeze over to the elevators, nod to the other event goers who clearly are not impressed with my red carpet look, and press #2.

Ahhhh, sweet sweet #2.

The elevator doors open and we walk up to the table set up to receive the guests. My friend grabbed my hand as if i was a princess and announced to the extremely shocked woman-in-charge-of-the-name-tags,

"I'm so-and-so and I'd like to introduce you to my date, and your star for the evening, Donna Lynne Champlin".


Just like that.


She paused in slight horror and as I pointed to the SIGN she was literally sitting next to with my big fat FACE on it I said,

"Look, it's a long story, can you please just get me back up to the 5th floor so i can get ready? And can I please have an escort? Like, for ever. Until I die?"

Immediately I'm up on the 5th myself the fastest whore's bath in history...the white dust is just everywhere so I dunk my head in the sink and 'slick' down my hair which now had a very undistinguished sort of malaise-y color to it. Now that I don't look like a homeless person any more, I send my escort back downstairs to find the Queen Bee and let her know that I'm going to be ready in a matter of minutes.

As she runs down the hall, I throw on my gown, which is still hanging there on the stall. Spray down my wet hair, tell myself I look "New York Chic" and grab my phone.

It's exactly 7:30pm and I've got no minutes to spare...

i get to the elevators....

they're taking forever...

probably lots of late comers to the event...


STAIRS! I run to the stairs...

WITH all my shit again because Lord knows I'm not leaving anything up here...

Run down the stair to the 2nd floor.


oh come on....

you KNEW that was coming.

of course.



I'm in heels, and a gown and carrying two huge fucking bags-

SCREW going back upstairs.

I just start banging on the door, for JESUS.


Finally, a very terrified looking waiter opens the door.

I race to the event area...

Queen Bee is OUT OF HER MIND now.

"I've been looking EVERYWHERE for you!!!! Where have you BEEN??!!!"

obviously, she didn't look everywhere... slurpee, anyone?

"Yes, well...if you'll SEE I called you like 98727846234098234 times..."

"Well! That's fine. You're here NOW."

"Yeah, ok so...I'm opening this sucker, right? Let's go."

"Well that's what I needed to tell you. We've moved your set."

"You. what?"

"We moved your set."

"To. Where."

"You'll be following the silent auction now."

"Ohhhhhh Jeeesssuussss. Noooooooo..."

You see, at these fund raisers, where you are in the evening has a huge effect on the humiliation factor. Because I've done these before, my agent had negotiated that my set be BEFORE the silent auction. This is vital because AFTER the silent auction, everyone is drunk, belligerent and leaving. Noisily.

"But....I'm HERE now's only haven't even started yet...I'm only 5 minutes late....I can do the set right now..."

Her eyes instantly bug out and she screams,



"Fine. Perfect. How much longer is that then."

"Another two hours."

"Another TWO hours???!!!"

She looks at me with murderous glassy eyeballs....and I toy with the idea of screaming right back at HER with the details of my evening up until now, but realize that she might...indeed....kill me.

"Awesome. Where's the bar."

Finally, two and a half hours and three glasses of white wine later, they introduce me.

I stroll up and shout my introduction over the din. No one can hear me. No one cares.

oohhhhh fuck them, i thought.

I do my next song which is of course, very quiet and intimate and I can't even hear the band behind me so...I'm pretty sure no one out there can hear me. And even though the first two tables are once again stacked with the real, good-hearted worker bees of this foundation, I still thought,

fuckety fuck fuck mc fuckersons FUCK them. I just don't care.

I go through the next 3 songs, over the yelling and the loud laughing and the glasses breaking....and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere...

I got really really really angry.

Because it was time to sing THE ADOPTION SONG.

And all of a sudden....I cared.

And all of a sudden...I really really cared a lot.

I had gotten used to them being rude to me...I had expected them to be rude to me but, I hadn't thought about how I would feel when they were rude to my favorite new song. I was about to put this really amazingly wonderful and powerful song in front of this firing squad and I immediately became fiercely protective of it. And I realized that part of why I loved this song was that it absolutely perfect for this really wonderful charity for adopted kids. And what about this one woman in the front who looked like Betty White. This obviously gentle soul who has been so overly-attentive to my whole set. She obviously, belongs to this honorable foundation in some personal way.

I barely heard the band start the intro into THE ADOPTION SONG because inside my brain, this one woman's life flashed before my eyes. In 16 bars, I imagined every possible way she might be connected to this foundation. She's a foster mom. She's adopted herself. She gave up a child for adoption. In 16 bars, all of these possibilities of how this woman came to be here, tonight, sitting right in front of me at this event...

and then, the sound of those fucking nutbar BASTARDS over there came CRASHING down on my daydream. Those yam sackers by the the the auction the...what the that a TV on over there?....with some football GAME ON??!!!!!!

That was it.

I became livid.

But strangely, not for me.

For this song.

And for her.

All of a sudden, the humiliation wasn't mine was this song's humiliation. It was this cause's humiliation. It was this woman's humiliation. It was this woman's story's humiliation.

And that was it.

I'd had it.

I wave off the band yell really, REALLY loudly over the mike a la Bridget Jones,


and for the first time in the history of fund raisers around the world...

there was absolute silence.




didn't know what to do.

i didn't actually think they'd be quiet.

they're never quiet.



i quickly gather myself.

"Yeah. Uhm...thanks. Listen. Well, don't have to listen to ME, ironically...and that's cool. It really is. Because this event is not about me. It's about adoption. And it's about kids. And it's about the people here who really give a damn about where that money that you just put down for some spa weekend somewhere GOES so....please. I have one song left. And. I really think you should listen to IT. It's about adoption. Which is....why we're all supposed to be here. And I really think at least these nice people here in front will really dig it so. If you could just....keep it down over there so they can actually listen to the song, I guess? That would be awesome. Thanks."

and i looked at my sweet little Betty White in the front.

and she winked at me.

And then we kissed.


we didn't kiss.

i'm joking.

then I told the band to start again.

And i sang this song.


What would make this story perfect is if I told you that by the power of this song alone the whole place was silent, and you could hear a pin drop, and everyone was moved to tears....



not so much.

those jagoffs at the bar were a little quieter, but not by much honestly.

however, this sweet looking lady in the front row.

she was able to hear every word of these glorious lyrics.

and I didn't have to strain, or overplay it.

I was just allowed to sing the song as it should be sung.

Simply, plaintively and honestly.

and she cried.

in fact, her whole table was crying.

make that...both tables.

of foundation people.




by this song.

I finished the set to a little more than a smattering of applause- which when you consider over 3/4rs of the room wasn't even aware that I was even singing in the first place- wasn't all that bad.

It was time to escape.


Run for the HIILLLSSSS.

before the Queen Bee could come find me and tear me a new one for telling her rich guests to shut the fuck up.

I raced to my ash covered pile of bags that I'd stashed behind a random abandoned bar at the far end of the room and practically french kissed the bass player when he offered to drive me to the hotel. I replaced my heels with my sneakers, put my jacket on and headed out the door...

when the lady from the front row came up to me.

still in tears.

"Where did you get I can't believe I've never heard it. In all my years of working in this field..."

I reached into my backpack and handed her the sheet music.

"Here. It's by Michael McLean. You can have it. Please. Take it."

"Thank you."

"No problem, i have it on my computer at home..."

"No. I mean, thank you for....standing up for us. For the foundation. For what we do."

"Oh.....well.........sure. I know. Of course. You're welcome."

"You know. It's crazy but, I haven't really cried like that in 20 years when I...gave baby for adoption."

"Oh. Wow. Well. Yes...i can imagine..."

"Is there a recording of it?"

"Well, there's a recording, kinda, online...."

out of the corner of my eye i see the bassist gesturing to me like a manic cowboy waving down a rodeo clown...i try to give him an 'I'm coming' high sign without being rude to Betty...and oh dear god, there's the Queen Bee....headed straight for me....must go must RUN...

"No. I there a recording of you singing it?"

"Oh God no. I mean. No. i don't have a"

"Promise me, you will record this song on your first album." and then she pressed her card in my hand and said, "and please, please send it to me."

"Oh...well. I'm sure there ARE wonderful recordings out there...of other people singing this song...i mean, it could be years before i ever..."

"No. I want to hear YOU sing it. Because I want to remember...."

"uhm...i really have to..."

"....the night someone actually told those RICH SNOBBY MOTHER FUCKERS TO SHUT. the HELL. UP. FOR ONCE! JESUS CHRIST I HATE THEM. But I love their money."

in that moment, everything evaporated but me and my sweet Betty White.

Queen Bee, the bassist, everything.


We became one.

and then.

we kissed.

no we didn't.

i'm joking.



And how fucking AWESOME did that whole night turn out to be?

I felt so CLEAN!

So.....genuinely PHILANTHROPIC!

Obviously, after that- I had no choice but to hand her the check for my fee that the Queen Bee had shoved in my drunken, sweaty hand at some point that evening.

I mean.

NO choice.


Because unbeknownst to me this 'fund raiser' ended up being a 'benefit' after all.

and i do those for free.



*this post is dedicated to K.O.