New York, Monday June 14
After two coffees, one latte, one espresso, and three bottles of water;
four avenues and forty (yes FORTY) streets; The doors finally stopped slamming
in my face at about 4:45 p.m., fifteen minutes before closing time. I had
found an agent willing to take me even with headshots that dated from four
years ago and a dismal resumé where my only claim to fame was being
in college theater and one short student film where I was the lead character
but spoke no lines (very Marcel Marceau-ish performance).
The only bad thing is that I have a strong suspicion that my new agent
Mrs. Braun, or should I say Fraulein Braun, has Eva for a first name. I
swear, when I walked into her office and found an octogenarian in a big
bouffant white wig, yelling "Ach soooooo" into the phone, I thought
I must be on Candid Camera. But it turns out I had definitely walked in
at the right time in the right place. As Fraulein Braun slammed the phone
down, she looked up and saw me standing there hesitatingly. "YOU!"
she exclaimed, pointing her bony index finger towards me, "YOU ARE
I started to smile and I tentatively held out my resumé but she
yanked it out of my hands and threw it aside.
-- "Sehr schon, sehr schon...Tell me, ARE YOU READY ? RIGHT NOW?"
She couldn't possibly be sending me for an audition right now! Could
-- "NEIN NEEEEIIIINNN!!! KEIN AUDTION...YOU MUST WORK...WORK!"
Still baffled, I watched her go into another room and come back with
a strange green and red outfit on a coat hanger. She shoved it in my arms
and screamed at me to go change. Scared that she was hiding German Shepherds
under her desk to jump at the throat of disobedient employees, I went to
the restroom and changed...only to discover this was a Christmas Elf costume.
But we were in June? What use could there be for a Christmas product at
this time? Of course I was thinking this must be for a television commercial
or even a film extra.
-- "NEIN NEIIIINNN...Vee just had dee cancellation for party...
PARTYYY... It is fur das birthday of die Kinder... Little kids you see...
They asked for Christmas Elf for the entertainment of the kids. Das dummkopf
Sylvia just got part on 'Days of Our Lives' and she cancelled on me! Tphhhh
(here she spat, actually spat on the ground!). Du must go there and entertain...
now GO GO!!! Schnell!..."
I stood there frozen. This was a nightmare. I wanted to be an actress,
do Shakespeare or Moliere, or even Terminator Three! How could I stoop so
low as to be a Clown at a Children's Party?
-- "Du get das DOUBLE PAY... Now GO! GOOOOO... SCHNELL SCHNELL!"
I was on my way to the subway, address in hand, two big floppy shoes
on each feet that curled up at the end and carried a little ringing bell.
My hat matched my shoes, ringing bells and all. Fortunately this is New
York where everyone is so jaded no one batted an eyelash at the sight of
a Giant Christmas Elf stepping in on the 6 line uptown. I just love this
City. Even I have become blase to a certain extent. I remember one evening
walking merrily back to my apartment on Broadway when I passed a half-dozen
men spread with their stomachs against the wall and two plain-clothes officer
holding a gun to them while awaiting back-up. I didn't even process what
I had seen until I was halfway down that block.
When I arrived at the apartment of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas on the Upper
East Side, the party was in full swing. Little Benjamin, who was celebrating
his fourth Birthday, had specifically requested a Christmas Elf even though
his birthday fell in June, go figure! Apparently though, I could not cut
a more terrifying figure because as soon as he saw me, he burst into tears.
As his nanny tried to comfort him (his mom and dad were away on holidays
leaving the nanny in charge...I mean, this was the Upper East Side!), I
could hear him say in between sniffles: "I... wanted... Barneyyyyy...
wwwaaaaahhhhhh." I took a deep breath and bent down to little Benji's
level, at which he proceeded to give me a great big slap across the face,
knocking my Christmas bonnet on the floor. This seemed to have a very positive
effect as he began to laugh quite uproariously, along with the rest of his
brat pack. Still stinging from the slap, I decided to exact revenge now
that I had gathered their attention.
-- "Woooowww... My FRIEND Barney SURE will be SAD to hear what happened
to his Poor Friend the CHRISTMAS ELF when he went to little Benji's birthday
The children instantly quieted down. I had used my best Shakespearan
King Lear thundering voice to make this announcement.
-- "You know Barney?" Benji asked apprehensively.
-- "Yes, I do!... And Barney told me this was a nice house with
a nice kid named Benji and if you guys were all nice to me, I could give
you THE BIG SECRET Barney has told me, his best friend the Christmas Elf.
But if you were mean to me, then I could turn you all into little frogs!"
To my utter amazement, the children gathered round and looked up at me.
Even Benji had quieted down his fists of fury and was waiting for more.
For the next couple of hours, all I can say is that years of baby-sitting
Nancy's kids and dealing with U.S. Immigration at work has given me an uncanny
ability for story-telling and making up stuff, anything to stall the other
party. So I was able to keep the kids in line with stories and games I would
completely make up as we would go along, such as "The Silent Game"
(where the most silent person wins a cup of pudding) and the blinking game
(basically a staring off contest where the loser is the one who blinks first).
Four year olds are amazingly easy to scare I found, and every time some
ruffian would try to get out of line, I only had to mention the B-word (Barney)
to get him to quiet down.
When the last of the nannies had come to pick up the little guests (this
being the Upper East Side and all), and Benji safely tucked away to sleep,
I sat in the kitchen with Geraldine the house nanny, and Jose the Butler,
and we poured ourselves each a much deserved JD on the rocks, courtesy of
the Douglas' bar. I hopped back home after I finally regained the feeling
in my feet. Once home, I took my first look at the contract I had hastily
signed with Fraulein Braun before she shoved me out the door my Elf shoes
Fee for my afternoon as an Elf in the confines of four-year old Hell:
One-Hundred and Twenty-Five Dollars.