My 15 Minutes of Fame Revisited

Barbara Morris

Barbara Morris

At age 60 I was a contestant in a Ms. Senior America competition. I knew my chances of winning were slim because among other deficits, I do not sing, dance, twirl a baton or recite poetry. When I shared my shortcomings with the pageant director, she suggested I take acting lessons to acquire some stage presence. She said we would think of something that would qualify as talent.

So I signed up for acting lessons. Once a week for two hours I emoted with teen-agers, body builders, back¬up singers, a variety of wannabe models, comedians and actors. All of them were helpful and supportive of each other’s goals.

I shared with the class that I was a contestant in a beauty pageant but I didn’t think I could pull it off because I have no discernible talent. A perky, overwhelmingly self-confident classmate, a backup singer for  Andy Williams suggested I lip sync to Cher’s rendition of “If I Could Turn Back Time” which I had never heard. “You’ll be totally fabulous, Hon,” she assured me with an engaging Hollywood affectation. “Just get yourself a garter belt and some fishnet hose and you’ll have it made.”

I had no idea what she was talking about until I saw Cher’s video in which she sings and dances just about totally naked before a shipload of happy sailors. There was no way I was going to prance around in next to nothing, but the song was catchy. I thought I could figure out something that would work. It took about 3 months to learn the words and the raucous, discordant (to my ears) “melody.”

The next step was to choreograph it, which I tried to do with the help of a dance teacher. She knew just the right moves to make, but I couldn’t get them. I finally had to create my own routine with my two left feet.

Next challenge: What does one wear besides skin? I fashioned an outfit I felt would capture the essence of Cher but would not land me in the pokey for indecent exposure. I made a pilgrimage to a thrift shop and found most everything I needed: black leather shorts, a lace body suit and, junk jewelry.

A trip to the mall produced fishnet hose and black boots. It was a challenge to find chains to sling around my hips; but an old dog leash worked out perfectly. A wig was easy to find. Wow, did I look great! I thought when Cher is my age she should look so good.

The big day arrived and I was ready. Incredibly untalented and tacky, but ready. I couldn’t wait until singer Tony Martin, the featured attraction, finished his gig and the talent segment got under way.

Lights! Camera! Action! As the music swelled, I heard my name announced and I fearlessly skipped out onto the stage and flung myself into my act. I lip-synced the words, danced, pranced, peeled off some of the junk jewelry, and tossed it to an appreciative audience. Whistles! Applause! You could touch the energy! I knew immediately I had missed my life’s work.

No, I wasn’t destined to be a stripper, just a wailing diva – if only I could sing. But lack of vocal talent doesn’t seem to be a deterrent anymore. Some very successful super stars make their living screaming and writhing in apparent agony. If they can do it I could do it too.

How did it turn out? I was first runner up and convinced it was my talent that catapulted me to that lofty position. Or was it? Alas, no talent scouts hounded (or even approached) me. But so what. It was great fun. My husband was thrilled. He ran up on the stage, in tears, hugged me and told me how proud he was.

The purpose of this silly but true story is to encourage you to go for your 15 minutes of fame. Who knows, yours may last longer than 15 minutes — much longer. You will never know what you are capable of accomplishing until you try. It doesn’t have to be entertainment. Perhaps your goals are more lofty. You may be worthy of recognition for a physical or intellectual achievement. Whatever your unfulfilled dream, do not allow it to be dormant any longer. Do what you have to do to bring it to life. I promise, you will be glad you did.


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