People are always asking me how I got started in show business. First I stage managed the musicals at our high school for two years with my good friend Jeff Stehly (more about that in another post!). Then at nineteen years old I stumbled into working in a costume shop owned by a classic theater character named Chuck Schulte.
One day shortly after I started working for Chuck, he asked me if I wanted to drive with him to Las Vegas to see the show he was running at the time. The show was Juliet Prowse at the Desert Inn. Coming from an all-boys Catholic high school in Anaheim, CA, I had never been to Las Vegas before, much less heard of Juliet Prowse. So of course I said “sure!” and off we went to Las Vegas.
That evening we pulled up to the loading dock at the Desert Inn and went into the backstage of the theater. We went straight to the backstage right wings where Chuck put on his headset to run the show and instructed me to stand off to the side and watch the show.
Like I said, I had never heard of Juliet Prowse before, so I didn’t know what to expect. As the show started I could tell from the wings that she was a majorly talented dancer/singer complete with a full cast of dancers and big orchestra on stage. And beautiful – she had legs that went on for days!
About ten minutes into the show Juliet runs off stage, comes right past me and says “oh, hello” and promptly goes into a full costume change right there next to me. I later learned that she was claustrophobic and hated quick change dressing rooms. She also figured that if you were backstage at a show, this was nothing you hadn’t seen before. And when I say a full costume change, I mean everything! There was nothing left to the imagination. I just stood there like a statue trying to pretend like this was no big deal. I think it was at that moment that I decided show business was for me.
Soon after that I became the stage manager for Juliet’s show for about the next six years. We played Vegas, Reno, Atlantic City and we toured to Johannesburg and Cape Town in South Africa, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide in Australia and we even played the Palladium in London! That was all such a GREAT time! She was the nicest person you would ever want to know, much less work for. During that time I made several great friends who I am still close with today.
I still get such a laugh out of the times we were playing at the Desert Inn and the show would start with a big, loud orchestra intro which led into a drum roll and then nineteen year-old me on a backstage microphone sounding like Joe Vegas saying “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Crystal Room at the Desert Inn is proud to present, Miss… Juliet… Prowse!!” I love show business!