Hit Parade Comes to Billingsley High

Southern Bell costume for Billingsley High Beta Club Skit

Southern Bell costume for Billingsley High Beta Club Skit

When I was in second grade Betty, my middle sister, rewarded me for helping her with the dishes by taking me to see Royal Wedding, a movie starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell.  Of course with stars like those two, the movie, sprinkled with song and dance routines, fired my imagination, set my feet to tapping and voice to warbling when reaching for the high notes that Jane sang so beautifully.  In junior high, this movie became the source for many of our skits.

In seventh grade, I spent a weekend with my other sister, Mary, who had one of those new fangled appliances called television.  I only remember one show we watched – The Hit Parade.

Oh! My God!  My compass finally found true north.  My body itched all over to sing and dance on stage.  When I got back home, I didn’t walk or run through the house – I danced.  I danced up the steps, across the porch and circled the inside of the house.

Poor Mama, she did double duty on her knees praying for my soul.  I figured it could only help my performance.

I couldn’t wait to get to school and tell the girls.

I managed to get the sheet music to Cross Over The Bridge.  The skit, totally copied  from the Hit Parade, was performed as a scene in a courtroom – all male.

We girls never let a little thing like gender get in the way of a good song and dance routine.  Martha, Deloise, Marjorie, Minnie and I dressed up as men and did the skit for three or four teachers, whose expressions, afterwards, ranged from martyrdom to startlement.

Later that year, the school put on their first talent contest.  Ah-hh, for me the world had become perfect.  I was going on stage and this time with a real audience, but no teacher picked us to be in their class productions.  No-oo problem.  We chose a song from Royal Wedding.  I borrowed the record from Betty, and another girl borrowed a potable record player.  We got down to business.

This being a nighttime show for the whole community, we had to be at our professional best.  I’d lip synch Fred Astaire while Martha danced Jane Powell’s part of a Latin seductress.  Margorie, Minnie, Net, Deloise, Bobby and Louise played Latin course girls wearing loud colored, swirlly skirts and flowers in their hair.

The night came.  I stepped on stage in my brother James’ dress marine coat, white slacks with red, crepe paper stripes and Daddy’s Panama hat. (see photo below)  The hat was a must since Fred sang, I Left My Hat in Haiti –  I guess he’d found the thing though, since he wore it in the skit.

The chorus was in place ready to start twirling.

The curtain pulled, revealing a packed auditorium.  I was elated.

However, the record player took a powder and made no sound.

No Problem.  I walked around stage, with lips moving.  Martha and the girls glided around, swirling those skirts like everything was exactly the way we had planned it.  This proved confusing enough to the audience, to get us some pity applause.

Afterwards, Daddy laughed long, tears running down his face, loving the whole event, telling us how gutsy we were to carry on the show as we did, rather than falling apart when the equipment didn’t work.

Having learned our lesson, we promised one another we’d always pretest equipment. Then, we got down to the business of planning our next foray “onto the boards”.

I was practicing how to act, stand and project masculinity for the skit.

I was practicing how to act, stand and project masculinity for the skit.

September 10, 2012 · Carolyn · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Billingsley High School, Family

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