City Island is located just off the Hutchinson River Parkway in the Bronx and it's one of New York's best kept secrets. Down the main avenue are restaurants and antique shops; on the waterfront are sailing schools and yacht clubs. Having been in the Navy, I always had a love for the water; so I did it on impulse that afternoon. I bought a sailboat and called her "Determination" which I thought was appropriate since I didn't know how to sail.
Soon though, I was tacking and jibing all around Long Island Sound, maneuvering between Execution Rocks and Rat Island or just leisurely single-handling the boat with just the genoa sail and circling Hart Island. When the confidence built, I took friends out for afternoons of sun and fun and one of those friends was Susan. She was a friend of Nancy and Bob, my two other new sailing companions. Throughout the lazy summers we sailed on weekends and at the end of the days we would sit on the veranda of a restaurant and watch the sun set while sipping a glass of wine.
Years passed by and careers demanded separation, but I always kept in touch with Susan, Bob and Nancy with perhaps, one or two phone calls a year and the proverbial Christmas card.
I hadn't seen Susan in about ten years but during one of our phone calls she told me that she was coming to town and invited me out to dinner.
She hadn't changed a bit and we laughed and reminisced about our sailing days. She asked what I was up to now and I told her all about Talkin' Broadway and my love of the theater. For some unknown reason, the theatre had never been a topic of discussion during all the years I had known her. Not one to need coaxing, I told her some amusing anecdotes about Broadway and she was always a good listener so we laughed a lot.
"That's so funny, John. I remember the time I called my mother in Brooklyn. I was just a young kid then, but she was so happy when I got my first Broadway show."
"What? You were in a Broadway show? I didn't know that."
"Oh sure, but it was way back and I had the time of my life. This was long before I was married. I was just this skinny little flat-chested actress auditioning for shows like Gypsy and West Side Story but I got nothing there. I did get a call back for Gypsy but West Side Story was too dance intensive for me."
"I didn't know you could sing and dance."
"When I was a kid growing up in Brooklyn my mother sent me to ballet and voice class every week, so I did have some experience, but mostly, I had guts."
"So, which show did you do?"
"Let me tell you about the audition. That was so much fun. There was this musical playing at the time and I wanted to be in it, so they were casting replacements for the end of the run and I decided to try out. I already told you I had no boobs, so I went to Bergdorf Goodmans and bought a great pair of falsies with terrific nipples."
"Susan!" I shrieked.
"Hey, I knew what they were hiring."
"That's a line from A Chorus Line, I think."
"Well, it's true. Then I went and bought this real tight red sweater to show off my new boobs. To complete my outfit, I borrowed my aunt's mink stole. So, I get to the theater and I'm called on stage and there I stood with this mink wrapped around my shoulders and I was asked to sing, so I picked a song from another show and sang just the end of it where it reaches the high notes so I could show my vocal ability. You know the song, oh what was the name of it?"
...la la la...There were bells... on a hill And I never heard them ringing... No, I never heard them at all. la la la l-a-a
"And, get this. At the last note I let the stole drop from my shoulders so they could see my other attributes."
"Til There Was You. Where's that from? The Music Man, no? This is too much. Did you get a call back?
"Wait. From down in the orchestra the director asks if I can dance and I tell him that I could. Rolling his eyes, he asked if I had any other attire and I had a black leotard with me so I changed into that, and pulled it up real tight. I mean, back then, it wasn't like it is today with revealing outfits, so I strutted out there all "T and A" if you know what I mean, and they hired me on the spot."
"Why have you never told me this? Which show?"
"You never asked. Bells Are Ringing."
"Wow, that's great. So you met Judy Holliday?"
"Oh yeah. Judy was a fabulous entertainer and she was really a very nice person. It's interesting that I know of three people from that show who died of cancer. So sad about Judy, she was truly wonderful. Anyhow, I did it for three months on Broadway and then we took it on the road. We traveled by train in those days, all across the country and boy, do I have some stories about that."
"I never knew you were that talented."
"I don't know about that. I think they hired me because I fit the costumes."
"Tell me more."
"Another time. Pay the check and let's go."
"Pay the check? But, you invited me."
"Hahaha, this lady may have worn falsies, and may have danced her tuchas off on Broadway, but you see these diamonds? I didn't get them by picking up checks."
"Susan, you're too much. I've got an idea."
She put her arm in mine as we strolled along the avenue. "What's that, sweetie?"
"Let's go sailing."