In the life of a showgirl, being asked to participate in promotional events is common. We call them “promos,” and they’re an important part of our job because they help bring awareness to the show we are representing. Sometimes, they feel like chores. Other times, they can be thrilling experiences. I have had my fair share of promos in my career, but there’s one in particular that takes the cake.
It was the birthday party for a Fortune 500 CEO at a marquee hotel on the Strip, and the organizers had gone all out. Magicians, stilt walkers and dancers were hired, among numerous other novelty acts. My job was to pop out of the birthday cake.
Believe it or not, this was one of my lifelong dreams. It always looked so glamorous, the way they wheeled out that giant work of edible art into a full room of people. Then, surprise! Out popped a stunning, glittery showgirl for that very special birthday boy. Now, that stunning, glittery showgirl was finally going to be me! I couldn’t contain my excitement.
A main stage was constructed with a huge video screen. I was to pop out of the cake onstage right before the video presentation for the man of the hour.
The cake arrived at our rehearsal, and it looked even more resplendent than I could have ever imagined. It was the size of a Smart car. It even had a little smart seat inside for me to perch on. So smart!
My sugar high set in as I climbed into the cake from the top tier for the first time. I had never given much thought to what it would feel like to be enclosed in a cake, hunched in fetal position in a very tight and dark space. I couldn't quite place it, but somehow it felt like I had been there before. Birthday, fetal, hmm … Nope, still can't place it.
Worse than the tight confines or darkness, the party was outside in the midst of the scorching Vegas summer, so the cake’s interior was stiflingly hot, as well. I had seen cakes being baked before, but never from the inside out.
I practiced my pop out, as well as the birthday song. The rehearsal went smoothly except for one minor detail we hadn’t anticipated: Once inside the cake, I really couldn’t get out of it gracefully. It had no door or ladder. I was to be dead center onstage; I couldn’t step out of the cake in my mini dress, I’d risk flashing the audience. (In retrospect, it was Vegas, so that probably would have worked.)
We formulated a new plan: After I popped out and sang “Happy Birthday to You,” two of the crewmen would wheel the cake offstage so I could escape in privacy.
Showtime rolled around, and I shimmied into the cake and squatted on my little chair. They sealed me, and I tried not to move or sweat. Soon, they wheeled me onstage. I could hear the intro music start. I burst out of that cake with all the enthusiasm of a kid opening her presents on Christmas. I sang “Happy Birthday to You” as if it was my life-changing American Idol moment. I was the big hit! Everyone loved me! I basked in the glory of the applause from atop my sugary throne. I graciously blew kisses to my adoring fans. My dream had come true.
Then applause began to die down. “Alright fellas,” I thought to myself, “wheel me off the stage. I’m done with my performance. It’s time to cue the video.” I waited patiently, but still no sign of the crew. Finally, they began wheeling me away, but then … “Uh oh, there’s a problem with the video screen. They need to fix it. They’re leaving me at the side of the stage! The video is starting! I can’t just climb out of the cake now. I’ll be in front of the video that is playing!” My dreamy moment had turned into sheer humiliation. I slowly slinked back down into the cake. Had they forgotten about me?
The beautiful cake now felt like a sweltering dungeon. I twiddled my thumbs as the video continued, with no idea how long it might go on. I had no way of communicating; I was stuck in a sugar-frosted tomb, wondering if anyone would ever remember me.
Hours later (okay, it was probably 10 minutes), the video finished and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was finally going to get out of this f*cking cake! I sat up and peeked my head above the top tier to see if anyone was coming to rescue me. Then I heard the MC announce that it was time for speeches. I slowly sank back down into my seat of resignation. I wanted to cry. I was never getting out.
The speeches went on for what I was told was another half an hour. I must have passed out. I awoke to what looked like the hand of God guiding me to the light and out of my pastry prison.
After the rescue, I expected a long story from one of the crew. He had to have myriad reasons why they weren’t able to let me out sooner … “We forgot,” he said with a laugh.
I don’t see birthdays quite the same way anymore.
Follow Maren on Twitter @marenwade