Saturday, February 16, 2008
I heard this story through the TV grapevine. I embellished the narrative a bit.
This happened to a woman executive for a large cable network. Let’s call her Dawn. She had a male secretary. Let’s call him Eric. Dawn assumed they had a good working relationship, though she couldn’t be sure. She and Eric had no contact with each other outside of their jobs.
Dawn knew Eric was gay, which was no big deal. Gays and lesbians have always been part of the television industry. All Dawn cared about was that Eric worked hard, because she worked hard.
One afternoon, Dawn was having lunch with a few of her fellow executives, when the creative director, let’s call him John, pulled her aside.
“Have you ever been to Ziegfeld’s?” John asked.
“I’ve never even heard of it,” Dawn said. “Is it a nightclub?”
“Well, sort of,” John said. “I was there last night. You must go there tonight. I’ll email you the address.”
“I don’t know,” Dawn said. “We’re about to launch a new show and I’ve been working non-stop. I don’t have time to go to a nightclub.”
“Make time,” John said. “I insist that you go there tonight. You have to go, you just have to.”
Dawn was taken aback by how adamant John was that she go to Ziegfeld’s. That night, she took a cab to the club. She had considered asking a friend to go with her, but for some reason felt that maybe this was something she had to do on her own. Once inside, she noticed all the small tables surrounding a large stage, the predominant gay crowd, and the men dressed as slutty women. That’s when Dawn realized that Ziegfeld’s was a drag bar. Dawn had been to a few drag shows and had enjoyed the campiness and overblown representation of femininity.
She found a table in a dark corner that was close to the stage, ordered a gin and tonic, and settled in for the show. She still wasn’t sure why John had insisted she come tonight. Perhaps he felt she was in desperate need to unwind from all the pressure she had been under at work and a good campy drag show would do the trick.
After sitting through a Cher, a Madonna, a Liza Minelli, and what looked like a cross between a Las Vegas Showgirl and Cruella De Vil, Dawn finally discovered why John had insisted she go to Ziegfeld’s that night.
The stage lights dimmed in preparation for the next performer. The opening electronic beats to the Donna Summer song “She Works Hard For The Money” blared from the sound system.
“Okay girlfriends,” said the announcer, “coming up next is a business girl who’s wants to give you the business. Give a big round of applause for DAWN!!!!”
The spotlight came on and Dawn was shocked to see herself walk out onto the stage and start lip-synching to Donna Summer’s tribute to all the overworked, underpaid women of the world. Dawn gulped down her gin and tonic and took a closer look. She quickly realized that the drag queen on stage wearing a dark red pants suit, white silk blouse, platinum blonde wig, and garish makeup was her secretary Eric, who had apparently decided that mimicking Cher was nowhere near as exciting as mimicking his boss.
Odd thoughts raced through Dawn’s head.
I never realized I wore red so often. Who is he kidding? I would never wear those shoes. And I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that much eyeliner. Can I sue him for defamation of character? Should I let him know just how fired he is tonight or should I wait until tomorrow? Do I really move like that? I hate this song. It could be worse. He could have chosen Dolly Parton’s “Nine to Five.”
The audience rewarded Eric’s performance with a standing ovation.
That’s just great, Dawn thought. I’m a gay icon.
The next day, Dawn asked Eric to join her in her office for a private meeting.
“Eric,” Dawn said, “You’re doing a great job. I like to think we have a good working relationship. Would you agree?”
“Oh yes,” Eric said. “I’ve enjoyed working for you.”
“I’m glad to hear that, but here’s the thing, Eric. I saw your show last night at Ziegfeld’s.”
“Yes, I did. Now what you do in outside of the office is your business. However, you do understand that you can’t do me in your show?”
“I meant it as a tribute.”
“That’s not the point, Eric. I mean, I wouldn’t fire you for doing it, but I would consider legal action.”
Dawn wasn’t sure she could actually sue Eric for impersonating her, but she figured Eric didn’t know if she could either.
“Well, I also do a pretty good Hillary Clinton while lip-synching to Pat Benatar’s ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’.”
“Good idea, Eric. Stick with the classics.”