Stairway to the Stars
Molly Dooley, daughter of Polly Dooley
My name is Molly Dooley. Perhaps you remember my Ma, Polly Dooley, the famed Follies Showgirl, one of a dozen who slept their way to fame and fortune in the ’20s. Ma told me she was born in Paris, on the altar of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Raised in a convent known as The Mother of All Mothers, it was there she learned how to style tricks. It does sound like a clichéd tale, does it not? Of course I have no proof that she was actually born in Paris, and being that there are many cities and towns bearing that name, for all I know, it could have been Paris, Illinois.
I prefer to think otherwise.
Anyway, Ma taught me the Showgirl craft, and by age 16 I was strutting beneath a load of feathers and spangles. By age 20, my feet had had it. By 30, the knees began to go. Thirty-nine came round, my load grew ever heavier, and Marcello refused my repeated pleas for bunion surgery.
The thing I miss about being up here forever is the lack of mirrors. Even the most wizened of us (to date there are 600 retirees, with a new one expected at any moment) still apply makeup; you know, stuff like Max Factor #2, which transforms like nothing else and is favored by hip undertakers everywhere. It’s tough applying eyelashes and beauty spots (mine is on the left side of my mouth) and lipstick (Revlon’s Cherries In The Snow) without the aid of a mirror. I help my best friend fix her face, and she mine, but frankly, many of the retirees froth when called upon to make their sister Showgirls look hot. Or almost hot. Or at least not dead.
Word has reached us (we can hear orgiastic revelry far below if we put our good ear to the cracks in the floor) that Marcello has expanded his harem with ever younger flesh – younger meaning no one over 40 is allowed to prowl his premises. And though he clearly sees himself as a magnificent muffin par excellence (who would tell him otherwise?), everyone knows he too wears Max Factor #2, and now and then his “hair” reveals itself to be something resembling a small dead muskrat better left on the bedside table. While Marcello does have his original white and wolfish teeth and is still strong enough to crack a leather whip hither and yon, his Viagra moon is on the wane. I smile at the thought.
Perhaps in the future Marcello will join us up here. What fun we’ll have tearing him limb from limb. Slowly.
Up here on floor #13, we’re wondering what the term “cougar” means. Just because we’re retired Showgirls doesn’t mean we’re stupid enough to think it has anything to do with a four-legged large feline found in the jungles. Lotta claims “cougar” means anyone over 40 who chases firm, ripe, lusciously young, hairy-chested muffins; you know, like those Chip & Dale dudes. Is that right? Did you know that Brad Pitt was once a Chip & Dale-style dude at the University of Missouri? Just thought that needed mentioning – he danced in the nude. Imagine that.
So, does this cougar word work in reverse? Are geezers who chase young Showgirls are treated with equal disrespect? “Comb-over Cocks” works for me. How about you? Be honest.
Whatever. Marcello was a huge hit in Italian cinema in the Way Back, when folks flocked to each and every flick with him in them. Things changed, of course, as he aged, not gracefully like a hunk of parmesan or a fine old Chianti, but clumsily, with evermore plastic surgery, so that in the end (the end is near) he looked like a stuffed bass wearing sunglasses.
The day he sent me up here, he was sporting an immaculate white linen suit (a vintage Armani!), and of course, his signature square-rimmed black eyeglasses. I clung to his leg, breaking off five fake nails while begging him to let me stay downstairs just one more day, time enough to sing one more song and strut one more strut.
It was midnight, and in a few seconds I would be 40 and finished. Marcello kept a strict record of birthdates, and woe to those who tried to fool him with Ultra Max Factor #2 mixed carefully with concrete. He’s a sly fox, that one.
Teetering and tottering, screaming and sobbing, up I went, mascara streaming down the ruffles and ridges in my withering cheeks.
Lotta says I’ll settle down in another year or so. Meanwhile, the retirees (at least those who can still kick a mean leg) have formed a dance club; we’re working on a Rockette routine, since we have several dozen retired Rockettes up here.
The good news: yesterday, Lotta noticed that when the light is just right, the water in the basins beside each of our beds (we sleep dormitory-style) is almost as good as a genuine mirror when it comes to reflecting qualities.
We see no need to reveal our discovery to our roomies. Up here, it’s every broad for herself.