The review of Desert Cabaret in the morning paper was a sign that I had landed. I was home. I slowly read the words, which filled me with pride: “The lead stole the show, his sparkle lit the night."
Desert Cabaret is now showing in ‘the biggest little city in the world'; Reno. I moved here because I answered a call. I grew up in Chester, a small town in the Sierra Nevadas. I never fit in at school and besides mom, my only ‘friends’ were the school nurse and an English teacher from freshman year.
The day after high school graduation my mom found me lying in bed. I was depressed and staring through the window without much thought; my leg was hurting more than usual.
“You should try Reno,” she said. Mom knew I would never be happy in Chester. The smart kids were off to college and the stout ones had jobs in the lumber mills; I was neither of these.
I rolled over, “Why Reno?”
She bounced out and came back to my room with a crisp newspaper. “Look at this terrific ad,” she chirped, “it’s asking for ‘actors of every make’, that’s you.”
A new casino had taken out a full-page color ad in the local paper. The newest card house was to focus on ‘Vegas style shows’. The call asked for everything from actors and singers to comedians and dancers. I sat up straight and read the entire ad; trying Reno seemed plausible.
Throughout high school, mom had always urged me to audition for all school plays. The lead was never mine, however and I blamed it on my limp. I was cast in endless minor roles: the keystone cop, the odd-uncle, the little brother. They were small parts, but I always transformed them into memorable moments on-stage-- small moments that made us both proud.
Mom drove me to Reno to audition. I could not drive, because we did not yet have a car fit for my leg. When we reached the city, she pulled off the freeway and into a sea of crawling cars. The slow traffic and ticking clock required me to walk the last few blocks to the casino. I emerged from the car at the nearest curb and like a tumbleweed, walked with gusts of wind toward my destination. As I neared the entrance, I felt suddenly at home and began to walk a little straighter. Young men and women gathered on the sidewalk leading toward the entryway. I saw many familiar faces, but yet none known.
I dazzled on stage and found the lead. Did the director notice my limp? I wondered just once.
Reno is now my home. My first floor apartment is where I sleep and eat and the casino theater is my living room. I re-read the review as I pulled on my knee-sleeve and prepared my leg for the day. I didn’t need to send the article to my mom, she knew without reading that I was in the right place. Reno called and she helped me answer.