“Do you wanna go up stage and dance?” Dan asked me.
“YEAHHHHHH!,” I shouted back instantly over the loud music, not thinking for a second what that actually meant.
“OK, wait here,” the large, muscular security guard said to me, as he corralled me towards the others.
It was a beautiful Friday night at the Waterfront and let’s just say your girl had been taking advantage of the open bar. Taking advantage of all the offerings, really. Dan’s company parties are known for being epic and include a concert with bands you’re shocked are in tiny Vermont. Coming from the non-profit world where we can’t even afford an extra roll of toilet paper, it’s part shocking, part exhilarating to see how the other half lives.
We spent the first part of the party mingling, rocking our “flashback” outfits, and seeing what other crazy things people had on. My favorite was this dude who was just straight up dressed like The Ultimate Warrior for no reason other than it’s the Ultimate Warrior and you don’t need a reason. We saw a woman dressed as Riff Raff, complete with braids and a tin foil mouth grill. We saw people wearing afro wigs and sequins. We saw men in mesh shirts, and some men with no shirts at all. We saw women in rainbow tutus and ponytails on the sides of their heads. These people took their parties seriously and for the first time in my costume career I almost felt under-dressed.
In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have started the night off with a Heady Topper, an 8%, 16 ounce beer known to knock lightweights like me on my ass. But what the hell. It was Friday night. I probably had 1/4 of a can left when I hopped in line to get one last free beer before open bar closed.
“Are you out of Heady Topper?” I asked the bartender.
“Yeah, sorry,”he replied.
“That’s OK. I’ll take a Corona, please.”
He looked at me like I had two heads.
“Do you want ONE…or do you want TWO?” he asked.
Unsure if this was a trick question or not, I hesitantly replied, “Two?”
“Smart girl,” he said as he handed over my two Coronas.
And then I was the girl at the party with three beers.
Morris Day and The Time (MDATT) were about to get started, so I took my three beers and what was left of my dignity, and followed Dan up to stage right. For those of you unfamiliar with MDATT, he was Prince’s band competition in the movie Purple Rain…and for those of you unfamiliar with Purple Rain, just turn on VH1 because they’ve played it about 1674 times since Prince died in April. MDATT are a really fun funk/soul band, who are full of attitude, style and extremely talented musicians. They keep it old school in all the best ways with synchronized dance moves and attire.
Morris himself was rocking a diamond rhinestone mauve suit, a gigantic diamond ring, and at least 3 million carat diamond watches ON BOTH WRISTS. He was everything my 3rd grade, bedazzle enthusiast’s heart could ever hope for and I couldn’t look away. I also couldn’t really feel my face.
So anyway, there we were–Dan with his N/A beer, me with my collection of empty cans and my buzz, and Morris with his diamonds–when Dan asked if I wanted to go up on stage and dance. And I stupidly agreed.
As I was being ushered by the security guard to the other dancers, I saw Dan stay behind.
“Wait, wait,” I said shouting to Dan over the loud music. “Aren’t YOU coming, too?”
He also looked at me like I had two heads.
“Haha, no way, babe,” Dan laughed and smiled. “Just you ladies.”
What the hell had just happened?! It was as if Dan and the security guard had made some sort secret agreement when I was being blinded by Morris’ bling. I instantly regretted my decision and considered bolting.
“Hiii! Are you Dan’s girlfriend?” some of the other girls asked me. “It’s so nice to meet you!!” They shook my hand and introduced themselves as they danced in place.
Fuck. They’re all so nice. I can’t leave now, I thought to myself.
“So anyone know what we’re doing?”I asked the rainbow tutus girls, trying all at once to both play it cool and desperately obtain information.
“I’m not really sure!” one of them smiled back at me, no fear whatsoever in her voice.
There’s still time to run, my brain said.
“I think they just want us to dance!” one of the other girls cheerfully replied.
She was trying to make me feel better, and I really appreciated that, but instead she inadvertently set off a chain of questions I knew I couldn’t ask aloud: How will I know when to go on stage? Is there a certain dance I’m supposed to do? Is there a certain move I should absolutely NOT do? Where am I supposed to stand? Will we all be spread out or assigned a spot? Are we dancing for just one song? Are we dancing for SEVERAL songs? Oh my god, what if we’re dancing up there for the rest of the night?! WHY aren’t the other girls nervous? WHY DID I AGREE TO DO THIS?
“Ok, ladies, follow me,” the guard said as he began to lead us backstage.
Just as I was about to have a panic attack, I instead starting feeling all of the positive effects my friend Alcohol is known for. You know, Alcohol, right? He’s the one who tells you that dancing on stage in front of 2,000 of your boyfriend’s coworkers is a GREAT idea. He tells you that you are A FABULOUS DANCER. He points out that YOU LOVE TO DANCE. And he reminds you that YOU TOOK ZUMBA CLASSES FOR 3 YEARS so OBVIOUSLY you are MORE THAN PREPARED FOR THIS MOMENT, and quite possibly, YOU SHOULD HAVE AUDITIONED FOR AMERICA’S GOT TALENT BY NOW.
Well shucks, Alcohol. I don’t know about that last one. But you’re right! I’m going to relax and have fun with this.
So that’s the mindset I had as I drunkenly went on stage with a dozen other girls to be MDATT’s back up dancers.
A band member I will refer to as Jamie Foxx casually ushered us to our various places on stage, as he danced and spun around. And before you say I’m just a white girl being racist, let me assure you, this guy is so much the splitting image of Jamie Foxx that I almost asked him if he was going to sit at the piano and cover a few tunes from Ray. But there wasn’t any time for questions because I was there to dance and act like I knew what I was doing.
Everything was going great (read: completely mediocre) and I was actually enjoying myself. I waved to Dan, I smiled for the cameras, and I shook, shook, shookmy salt shaker (whatever the hell that means).
You know how certain songs sound like they are about to end…? The last note of whatever instrument is dragging on…and people in the audience have started to clap…and the singer has his hands in the air like he’s waiting for that one final note to indicate, this song is over…yeah, all that was happening.
Morris had turned around to face the band and was standing directly in front of me. And like a cast member at the finale of a Saturday Night Live episode, I was overcome with emotion and the weight of our performance. See also: drunk. So I stretched my arms out to him, cocked my head to the side and conveyed through gestures, Heeyyy, did we all just kill it up here or WHAT?!
The look on his face can only be described as absolute terror.
Turns out the song wasn’t over! It was just one of those songs with a weird dip like November Rain. I had completely screwed up his routine.
Immediately Jamie Foxx came over to pull me off Morris and put me in my rightful place, with a look on his face that said Nobody touches Morris Day and all of his diamonds. I was mortified.
But that wasn’t even the worst part! Because the song wasn’t over, I HAD TO KEEP DANCING and act like nothing had happened. So I stayed up there, fake smiling, my face beet red, doing the 4 Zumba moves I could remember over and over again, acting as if hugging Morris had all been part of the plan.