I was lucky enough to go to an Arts and Foreign Language elementary school (mostly lucky because at a place like that, weird, artsy kids are celebrated instead of mocked). We had pageants, talent shows, awards shows and (you are welcome parents and teachers alike) live performances at many PTA meetings.
I don’t have to tell you that I was a celebrated star at many of these performances. The loudest kid always is. For one very special PTA meeting, my two best lady friends (Correy and Amber) and I decided to sing “Heal the World”. If you were around in 1993, you will remember the phenomenon that was this song. We were ready to express the depths of our eight year-old collective social consciousness and stir people to “make a better place for you and for me.”
This was my first foray into producing an act and it was already off to a promising start. Costuming was obviously our first issue: it was haute couture hand-puff-painted shirts or nothing. My dad provided us with old oxford shirts, which he convinced me we could turn backwards and would be just as good as t-shirts. We created neon-colored sensations, sleeves cut-off, naturally. We used a recording of Michael Jackson singing “Heal the World” copied from the radio onto an old tape. This was going to be the most mind-blowing concert anyone there had ever seen, I was sure of it. The production values alone were already phenomenal.
The night of the concert arrived. We were stoked. I was pretty sure I was going to get discovered and probably be a huge star as a direct result of this performance. We walk out onto the stage in our awesome giant, cut-off Oxford shirts stiff with the weight of their puff-painted planet earths. This was the moment.
In retrospect, we probably should have practiced. Maybe we should have also cued up the tape so that it wasn’t set to start on my dad singing some old James Taylor song. The three of us instantly forgot the words. I ran off stage left, crying into the arms of my drama teacher and leaving the other two girls standing awkwardly to finish out the act alone. I threw my shirt into the trash and demanded my parents take me home. You know, handling humiliation in my typical, low-key fashion.
Since that day, I’ve had good performances and bad performances. I have even dressed up as a mermaid and been wheeled around stage through dancing crustaceans (more on that another time). But none has taught me as much or left me as scarred as the “Heal the World” debacle.