Going Out on My Birthday
The day was January 4th, 1963. Normally, I would consider this the best day of the year since January 4th is my birthday. However, this particular birthday would be the one that I will NEVER forget.
It started out fun at first. That morning, I woke up bright and happy since I was now 17 years old. My mom made me her special star-shaped pancakes which she would normally cook for my birthday breakfast while daddy told me the story of the day I was born. Wouldn't it be funny if I were born at sea? It may have been a reality, if the cruise that he and mom took for their vacation didn't dock anywhere where there was a hospital nearby! It's a funny story, trust me.
Aside from my parents' usual birthday specialties, I figured that today would be an extra special birthday for me because since I was now a cast member of the 'Corny Collins Show', and had been responsible for the show becoming integrated, I figured that all my friends at WYZT would celebrate. I could clearly imagine everyone greeting me with a huge 'Happy Birthday' the second I arrive. Link would give me a kiss on the cheek and play a little tune he would be expected to write for his girlfriend on her birthday, Penny would give me the hug that she would never really receive on her birthday, and Motormouth Maybelle would probably give me something all sequin-studded that she and Seaweed picked out just for me. And hey, maybe Corny would let me co-host since it was my special day! Or maybe even make this day a special 'Tracy Day' on the show from now on!
That would be a GREAT way to celebrate, maybe a little TOO great…
I arrived at the station around 3-3:30, hung up my coat, and came onto the set where everyone was standing around doing nothing. I shouted hello to get everyone's attention, but when they turned to see me, I could tell by their faces that something wasn't right.
"What's wrong?" I asked, "Don't you guys know what day this is?" Link came up to me and put his hands on my shoulders. "I'm sorry, Li'l Darlin" he said with a tear running down his cheek. I couldn't believe what was going on. Here I was on my 17th birthday, and everyone's acting like someone died. I just had to know what happened! I ran up to Corny, who was the saddest out of everyone here. "Corny? What's going on?" Corny, who was stripped clear of his usual slick and semi-smug smile today, looked me in the eye and told me what would mar an otherwise wonderful day for me: "Tracy, I have some bad news. It turns out the 'Corny Collins Show' has been cancelled."
And there it was; the reason why everyone was so upset. It was the #1 program for me and my peers, Penny and I watched it religiously ever since we were 14. And everyone on the show put all of their energy into each taping; I even brought in extra dancers ever since 'Negro Day' was integrated with the rest of the show! And now all of that was coming to an end. Who could think of my birthday now when all of our dreams were being shattered like this??
"How can this be?! Why would they do this? Is it because of the integration? Is Mrs. Von Tussle behind this?" Motormouth came to my side, "No, no, dear. It's not because of you. You know that all shows on TV end sooner or later."
"AND, you should look before you speak 'little' missy!" a voice snapped behind me, it was Velma Von Tussle with her just-as-teary-eyed-as-everyone-else daughter, Amber. "Anyway" Velma began, "I'm nowhere near responsible for this. The network heads just felt that the show had a good run and that it was time to end it." I was a little skeptical of what she said. After all, she DID try to banish me from the show at first. "I know what you're thinking" reassured Motormouth, "but 'Miss Baltimore Crabs' is right. They told Corny that, who told Velma that, who told me that, and… well; now you know."
I guess she was right about it being time. I mean, imagine if we were doing this show for years and years? 40 or so years from now, we would all be either old people cranking our ancient hips to a bunch of out-dated songs and dances OR even dead! I went up to Penny, Seaweed, and Little Inez who were all huddled up singing the 'Corny Collins' theme under their breath like a mantra and gave them all a hug. Penny was the only one who hugged me back, at least PART of my fantasy came true. Penny was pretty broken up about the whole thing as well; it was up to me as her BFF to cheer her up.
"Don't worry Penny" I told her. "Everything is going to be fine." Penny just stifled a sob and whispered "But this show has been my life! You know what I have without it"… "You'll always have me as a friend." A smile began to grow on her face, and thus she gave me a second hug. Seeing that everyone else was still sad, I decided to go up to Corny's podium and address them all.
"Everybody listen!" I shouted, hoping to get their attention which was pretty easy since I was at the podium. "Yes, I know that today will be a day that will live in infamy for most of us, especially me. I know that the task of finding a way to cope with this will NOT be easy. But hear this: we can't let this stop the beat!" I noticed that some faces were beginning to take interest, must keep this going, Tracy! "We will always have all the wonderful memories that we have made doing this show. As long as we hold on to them so dearly, we won't need to still have Corny Collins on our TV sets in order for us to twist and shout!"
Seeing that everyone was now on the edge of their seats, I decided to wrap up this mother of a speech. "I say that we make today's last show one that NOBODY in Baltimore could forget! Who's with me?" Everyone cheered and raised their hands.
Once again, I was the heroine of the 'Corny Collins Show'. Even Velma and Amber were happy for me this time around! Link came up to me, wrapped his arms around me, and kissed me. "I'm still sorry that this is going to be the last show we may ever do together" I whispered in his ear. "But like you said" he whispered back, "we'll always have the memories, and we'll always be together no matter what." I had tears rolling down my cheeks when he said that, which he wiped off for me. "I don't want you to look all weepy when we sing the special birthday duet I wrote just for you!"
I was just about to scream with delight when Corny tapped me on the shoulder and ushered me to his usual hosting seat on the podium while Motormouth placed a stunning gold crown on my head. I was becoming all dizzy and confused by all this, "Is this all because I saved the day?" Corny just smiled like he normally does. "This MAY be the last show, but it IS your birthday! Right kids?" Everyone then shouted out at the top of their lungs "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TRACY TURNBLAD!!!"
Dreams DO come true after all! After the rain, there's always a rainbow to lighten up the day afterwards. "Now come on, everybody" I announced, "let's all go out with a bang on my birthday!"
What happened next? I'm leaving that up to you. After all, you can't stop the beat!
- This story is dedicated to all of the "Hairspray" fans who are sad to see it end its joyous 6-year run on Broadway, this story is for you. Hold on to all the happy memories you've made with Tracy and friends, and keep the beat alive!