I was so happy to be there. The traffic was terrible. But a patient North Indian driver managed to get me to the ABC studio in time to burst into the sound stage and move co-worker/friend/dressing roommate Eric LaJuan Summers and his microphone out of the way. To the utter delight of Katie Couric’s amiable staff, I enjoyed a quick lip sync for my life before finishing the tech rehearsal.
Of course these kinds of antics can only be funny when the other four actors portraying the Contours with you on stage every night are friends off stage too. The joke was tinged with even more irony since these friends understood that I was much more amped to meet Katie Couric than even Berry Gordy, the music producing legend that wrote our Broadway musical. My friends knew that before I did my first pirouette or developpe or jazz slide, I was writing movie reviews and teen profiles for a newspaper in Torrance, California back in high school.
So they did not look askance or point and jeer when our trip to the green room became a Dahl-esque chocolate factory journey for me, early hour notwithstanding. I was as happy about the sundry TV journalism treasures around as I was about the plush carpet I warmed up on.
My production stage manager went as far as to notice the copy of my book, which I’d taken out of my bag to sign, and insisted that Katie get it right away. Somehow, without a full conversation, she understood that it was dreadfully important, possibly more urgent even than performing on national television in my blue suit and pompadour wig.
Katie, after all, was royalty in this world I studied in long enough to get an undergrad degree. She helped The Today Show defeat Good Morning America in the 90’s, endured an on-air colonoscopy to increase cancer awareness at the turn of this century, and—more remarkable than any of it—held her face together during that infamous, astonishing Sarah Palin interview. Katie is one of my heroes indeed.
Little did I know, she would find something else to add to that list of hero-making feats. After a vicarious crash course in the mash potato (I’d taught her production assistant earlier), Katie came backstage seconds before our segment to makes sure she had it right. Sanguine and bubbly, with the familiarity of an old theatre pro, she asked, “Now how does this dance go?”
We were at ease showing her, even as she complained that this was not her talent.
Turns out she’s an actress as well as elite journalist.
During the segment, not only did she succeed at learning the step, she decided mashing potatoes was not enough. She french fried. She twisted. She jerked. Then she grabbed Eric’s hand and partnered herself into him.
I was elated. Me, a dancer gypsy with my novel, Katie a television titan with her smooth grooves - we were more alike than I knew.
And she hadn't finished. Next, a full twirling session much longer than her outro time commenced. The smile under that well-known blonde do grew fiendish as she took over the stage, the pumps wreaking havoc on the glossy floor. Eric handled it, partnering her into several dances that made me glad she had not been his competition at the Astaire Awards; fortunately he had won already and Katie is not in any Broadway shows. That we know of, anyway…
Tune in to Katie at 3:00 p.m. EST June 7 to see the airing of this show.