Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hot DOG! Sahlen's Invades Manhattan

Imagine my surprise when my Niagara Falls-born cousin and I walked up to a seemingly random vendor at the Ninth Avenue Food Festival...who was selling SAHLEN'S HOT DOGS!!!!

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I was shocked, I tell you. SHOCKED.

In case you are unfamiliar, I should tell you that Sahlen's hot dogs are:
1. The most delicious hot dogs in the history of the universe (and this is coming from a true hot dog connoisseur).
3. An upstate NY summer staple.

What makes Sahlen's hot dogs so delicious, you may ask? I'll tell you: they have a casing that tastes unbelievably spectacular when charred ever so gently on the grill.

And why did a random food stand sell them? The owner (let's call him "Red") lived in Buffalo! There he is at the grill in a sporty gingham shirt. Red said, "There's nothing like this around Manhattan, so I wanted to bring a little taste of Buffalo to town." Well, thank you for that, Red!

Here are some fascinating facts I learned from the Sahlen's website:
* The hot dogs are made from “Old Fashioned” smokehouse ham and turkey breast.
* They are available in 15 northeastern states.
* The company sponsors a professional race car team and a sports park that is home to the Western NY Flash women's soccer team.
* Sahlen’s has been producing premium quality meat products since 1869. (Apparently post-Civil War Americans liked to BBQ while rebuilding the country.)
* Every year, the average American consumes 60 hot dogs! (Not sure I buy this one, Mr. Joseph Sahlen!)

Not only was my perfectly grilled Sahlen's hot dog itself a delight, but Red came up with all sorts of fascinating hot dog combos. Forget the mustard and ketchup--get a BLT dog or a Journey Dog (any way you want it, that's the way you need it). I ended up eating a Baked Potato Dog, which was a hot dog in a giant chewy bun (I choose to believe it was a Wegmans bun) topped with sour cream, cheddar cheese, bacon, potato sticks, and chives. It was a masterpiece.

Sahlen's, and Red, I salute you both.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

She Works Hard for the Money

In honor of Donna Summer's passing, I'd like to share the video I made with the Spangles Dance Company several years ago. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Living the Dream? Or Smash-ing It?

Smash, that lovable/terrible/fascinating/aggravating show has brought a touch of NYC theater to the small screen in small towns across America. As a result, many people have asked me about the show’s content—What’s true? Is it realistic? Is there a Terrible Ellis in every production?

For these burning questions, and many more, I suggest checking,, and Sharon Wheatley's SMASH Fact or Fiction? on a regular basis. But for a day in the auditioning life of a small town girl (like Karen) who has been in the biz for a while (like Ivy) and who has made some questionable fashion choices (like Julia), read on…

I hate to break it to you, but the chances of a complete unknown getting an appointment to audition for the lead of the workshop of a new Broadway show are slim to none, even if you’re stunningly gorgeous and your voice is second to only grey-haired blues singer (and Teen Angel) Taylor Hicks.

Rather, you’d probably have a day like I just had: you do your hair and makeup, you pick out an outfit, and you schlep a three-ring binder full of songs you sing well and two pairs of dance shoes, and you arrive at a chorus call, where you sit on the floor like a kindergartener in a room full of 100-200 girls. When they call your name, you dutifully file into the room with a group of 20-30 girls, learn a dance on the spot in 30 minutes or less, and perform it in a smaller group of 3-5 while the casting director, choreographer, director, and various assistants whisper about your height, your hair color, your experience, your looks, your shoes…oh yeah, and your talent.

When everyone in the group of 20-30 has danced, the casting director calls names of the women that the creative team would like to stay to sing. Sometimes you can sense a pattern (all the girls are 5’ 6” and above), and sometimes it can seem completely random. And on very bad days, someone who looks exactly like you can get kept and you don’t. The girls who are asked to sing have to stick around until all 200-300 girls have danced, and then they file back into the dance room one by one and sing 16 bars (about 1-2 pages of sheet music) of a song of their choosing. After that, they are dismissed in a, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” sort of way. Meaning, the casting director might call you to come back again to dance or sing or even to read a scene—but if you don’t get a call, you don’t get a call. They don't call you to tell you the job went to someone else. You only know that you didn’t get a call when you read someone’s Facebook status that says: “Soooooo excited to get my dream role in Show X at Theater Z!!!!” Then, you immediately text your friends to meet you at the corner bar.

A singing chorus call works in much the same way—you gather in a room of 200-300 ladies, except this time, you’re sitting on the floor in a party dress and heels. You line up in a group of 20, and you file into the audition room one by one to sing 16 bars of your choosing. The creative team (which is sometimes represented by a casting director’s assistant’s intern and the theater producer’s coffee boy) writes cryptic notes about you on your resume as you sing. Sometimes they’re on their phones. Or the computer. Or eating lunch. Your job is to ignore all that and sing pretty. When you’re done singing, you often just get a, “Thank you,” and you walk out of the room. Sometimes they’ll ask you to sing a second song, sometimes they’ll call you back to dance, and sometimes they won’t call you at all. I dragged my sister to a singing chorus call when she came to visit, and her analysis is as follows: “People wore unusual outfits and tons of bright lipstick. You had to wait around forever and were only in there for two minutes. Some people seemed genuinely excited, some pretended, and some were too old to be there.”

And this is what we go through on a daily basis. Sometimes multiple times a day. To top it all off, booking a theater job isn’t like booking a regular job—chances are that the job you did all the above work to get will last for less than three months. Then you’re back to the drawing board.

I seem to have painted a very bleak picture today (probably because I have the post-audition blues, a very common side effect of this lifestyle), but I must say that the upside of this business is huge. HUGE. You never know when you may get a phone call that will change your life. For example, on my very worst financial day ever (the one and only time I had to ask my parents to help me pay my health insurance), I got a call that I had booked my very biggest show ever—The Radio City Christmas Spectacular—a show that would solve my financial problems for what turned into four years! And you’re always just one audition away from that all-important phone call—just inches away from the carrot dangling in front of you. You get addicted to the feeling of success being just around the corner.


That darn carrot is tricky to grab. In a (very) recent fit of exasperation, I asked a friend, “Why do we torture ourselves?!?!” She hit the nail on the head, pure and simple: “For the clapping.”

Any questions about show business or Smash? Ask away!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Blame It On the Rain

Ugh. I get SO annoyed when it rains in Manhattan. It's just miserable. Miserable. MI. SER. A. BLE. So miserable, in fact, that I apparently feel the need to break down the word in syllables.

It's miserable anytime it rains anywhere in the world, but usually you just run from your house to your car and from your car to your office. Sure it's annoying to cart around an umbrella, but you're generally unscathed save for some splashes on the toes of your shoes and a little rain hair. In Manhattan, however, you are fully exposed to the elements for a much longer length of time. Chances are you'll have a ten-minute walk to the subway or a wait for the bus, and then you'll have to walk from your drop-off point, too. Unless you're Blair Waldorf and can hop in a private car 24/7 to visit your bf's hipster loft in Brooklyn. But I digress.

Here are just a few of the multitude of reasons NYC rain really dampens my spirits:

* Umbrellas. No one knows how to use them. If you think Manhattan sidewalk etiquette is bad, it gets ten times worse once pedestrians start wielding weapons in their untrained hands. Expect to have your eye poked out at least once a day.

* Umbrellas 2.0. You never have one when you need it. You may have bought eight different $5 umbrellas from the umbrella vendors who seem to pop out of the sewer grates every time it starts to sprinkle, and three of those umbrellas may have even survived their two-use average, but you will not have any of those umbrellas when it starts raining. Even if you brought an umbrella with you every single other day that week. You know the day God rested and you decided to rest your paranoia about being caught in the rain without an umbrella so you decided to leave your umbrella at home? It'll rain that day.

* Puddles. Lots of them. Big ones. HUGE. I'm not talking about your typical little puddles that make you look really cute as you daintily hop over them. I'm talking giant, deep, river-like puddles that extend ten feet on each side of the corner and five feet into the street--puddles that are too big for you to jump over even if you get a running start. It's almost as if plate tectonics caused a sinkhole to develop just to ruin your new Tahari leather flats. Who cares if you got them on sale at TJ Maxx for $39.99? They're still awesome name-brand shoes that you were planning to keep for years since their style is so classic and timeless. You were not planning on having them (and your feet, for that matter) completely covered with water that may have collected from the rain or from run-off or from the backed-up sewer. This is why you can never buy nice things. Don't believe me? Check out this article about a puddle on 33rd Street: "The oily green-tinged water stretches at least thirty feet long and is several inches deep, overflowing onto the sidewalk where it mixes with garbage and cigarette butts and accosts locals with its putrid smell."

* Rain boots. Rain boots seem like the obvious solution to the puddle problem, right? Wrong. It is extremely difficult to find a pair of rain boots that will not spring a leak within the first ten wearings. And even if your rain boots are not holey, you're still wearing rain boots. This means that each time you lift your foot, it weighs an extra two pounds. And you don't exactly look chic. You either have to carry a second pair of shoes to change into once you get to work or keep them on all day and look like a moron when the rain has cleared up and you're walking home from work in the bright sunshine still wearing your clunky rain boots. 

* Cabs. Don't even try to hail one. They're all full. Save yourself some heartache and pretend that cabs are dead to you.

* Rain hair. It's bad. Really bad. Every rainy morning, like this morning, I curl or straighten or scrunch my hair, thinking, "Thank goodness I got that new hairspray that combats humidity." Or, "I'll just put some scrunch spray in my hair and let it dry naturally. It'll save me oodles of time and I'll end up looking like Kate Hudson." Or, "Good thing I washed my hair yesterday. The oil buildup will combat flyaways." It doesn't work. None of it works. I hate to break it to you, but there is NO HOPE for your hair on rainy days. None. You end up looking like Richard Simmons no matter how many ways you try to prevent it. The second you step outside--and I mean the very second--your hair is down for the count. Save yourself some time and effort. Throw your hair in a ponytail and use the 30 minutes you would have needed to fix your hair and use it to watch last night's episode of "Khloe & Lamar." It's a much better use of your time.

* Crowded buses. Since no one wants to walk, the normally manageable buses, which are usually inhabited by the old and infirm, are packed to the gills. This causes all of the windows to steam up, which, if you're standing (as you inevitably are) has the unfortunate side effect of blurring your field of vision and increasing the possibility that you'll miss your stop because you can't see it coming. Steamy buses also do nothing for your hair.

* Subway entrances and exits. What would you do if you walked up a staircase and into a rainstorm? You'd want to open your umbrella as soon as possible, right? Well, so would I. And so would the twenty people around us. The problem is that not everyone can open their umbrellas the second they hit the open air. It's physics. Which I am extremely knowledgeable about. As hordes of people exit the subway staircase, all trying to open their umbrellas in sync (as if they were *NSYNC performing their awesome rendition of "Bye Bye Bye" from the groundbreaking album No Strings Attached), hordes of people are entering the subway staircase, none of whom want to put down their umbrellas a second before they have to. And when they close their umbrellas, you and the subway exiters often get splashed from the rain sitting on top of the umbrellas as they snap shut. It's a lose-lose. You get soaked both ways.

* Wet seats. I know you probably want to get your wet umbrella as far away from you as possible when you finally sit down on the subway or bus. But guess what? When you put your wet umbrella on the seat, it leaves a nice little puddle of water behind, meaning that seat cannot be sat in for hours. Or at least until a Good Samaritan wipes it off. Or a Moron like me doesn't notice and sits down anyway, unknowingly sopping up the puddle with her pants.

* Being splashed by speeding cars. You know those scenes in the movies when the heroine is in a bad mood, or a good mood, or a super rush, and then a car zooms through a puddle, drenching her from head to toe? That happens in real life, too. According to my very scientific meteorological study, it happens in Manhattan 98% of the time. Usually when you're on your way to work or an audition. It never happens when you're bumming around in your old clothes and look like a mess anyway.

* Hidden buildings. It's really creepy to see fog or clouds obscuring the tops of buildings. I mean, I know they're still there. I'm not two. But seeing cut-off buildings makes me feel claustrophobic. Like the sky is falling Chicken Little-style and may eventually squash me. Here's a pic of the Empire State Building that I took this morning on Fifth Avenue. If I were a computer genius (or even as computer savvy as a seventh-grader), I would include an arrow to point to the spot in the middle of this image where the building should be. But since I'm only as computer savvy as a third-grader, you'll just have to do the legwork to figure it out.

* That lovely rain sound. Manhattan even robs us of the soothing sound of rain drumming on the roof, which is often the only perk of a rainy day. Even on the top floor of a building, you generally can't hear the rain. Unless you happen to hear it splashing on your air conditioner. Which just reminds me that I can't hear it pelting the roof. Which makes me sad.

Wow. I've been complaining about the rain for so long that the sun has come out again. But don't worry--it's supposed to rain again later this week.