The Thrill of My First Broadway Show and the Agony of De Feet
Note to my Readers: I have not written a blog in a while due to working on getting my book completed and published. It will be ready in a few weeks so please look for The Very Best of the Hot Flashes Blog on Amazon! (Sorry for the commercial, there will be more to come I am sure!) And now, for my latest blog below which was inspired by a session of reminiscing about this special occasion with a friend:
I was just several weeks into my 16th birthday when a day arrived that was truly one of my dreams come true. I was going to my (only) second visit to NYC and there I would see the hottest young show on Broadway, “Hair,” with my steady boyfriend.
I was touched at his generosity in treating me to a day in the Big Apple, and an evening on the town. I felt very adult about the entire thing, though I was an inexperienced and still blossoming teen. (Details of this event written with the help of my diary and scrapbook that I still have from this era.)
The option for this wonderful experience was presented to me by my boyfriend, because he was a senior, and from the time of our beginning to date on, I spoke with enthusiasm and excitement about going to his senior prom. Going to a prom was something I had longed for since a friend of mine got invited while still only in ninth grade and had described to me as one of the best events in life! I had seen various proms in movies and decided that wearing a fancy dress, sporting a corsage, and dancing the night away with a dreamy boy, would be the absolute best night possible.
My boyfriend, however, was slightly anti-social and most of his crowd was not going to the prom. He thought it uncool. His justification was that his idol, John Fogerty, then of Creedence Clearwater Revival, would never be caught dead at a prom, and it was my boyfriend’s intention to emulate him. See proof of this below in a letter he wrote me, pulled from within my archives and saved to this day.
Being a ultra clever sort of boy, my boyfriend decided that my disappointment (as a junior) in not going to his senior prom could be dissolved if he dangled an ever bigger ticket in front of me. He said as an alternative, we would go to NYC, where his older sister resided, and we would see the hit Broadway show, “Hair.”
When presented that way, it was a no-brainer that I chose the Broadway show, and the thing is, my boyfriend knew that I would make that choice. (Besides, I still had my own senior prom to go to the very next year.)
I spent weeks saving up for a special and beautiful hot pants outfit and new high heeled shoes to wear for my special New York date day. Only one detail still had to be ironed out; his sister had to call my parents and talk them into allowing me to sleep at her apartment overnight in New York City. She told them we would be in separate bedrooms and would be strictly monitored, and so it was set. I was allowed to go and even sleep over in NYC!!
The day arrived, and my boyfriend neglected to tell me to bring a pair of sneakers or more comfortable shoes to wear for a lot of city walking and visiting sights. (I did not even think of it myself due to my inexperience with even considering a thing like a walking tour.) Without that advice, I just wore my new fancy outfit completed with high heels, and lightly packed pajamas, and another outfit for the next day. My boyfriend picked me up in his new car early that morning, and complimented how beautiful I looked. That was my point! Looking beautiful though, was the ultimate sacrifice, as I would learn later that day.
He parked the car in a lot when we arrived in New York, and since we had Matinee tickets for a 2 pm show, we immediately began touring the city. The excitement of seeing Times Square, and Fifth Avenue left me breathless, but as we continued and walked blocks and blocks and blocks in the city, my feet began throbbing with an excruciating pain I had never experienced. Blisters were forming. I was trying to be a brave soldier as we trudged on, but then I started complaining that I could not walk any further. My boyfriend, sometimes unreasonably stubborn, had no sympathy as he had a full walking tour agenda planned before we had to get to the theater.
The more we walked that day, the more I complained and complained. I should have just cried, or thrown off my brand new heels that would take a time or two in wearing to get “worn-in comfortable” but instead, I just withdrew, complained, and withstood the pain. (Stupid pride.)
We finally stopped for a bite near the theater and then went into the Biltmore Theater to see the show. I stopped in the ladies room to rinse off my feet. When I took my shoes off, I saw my feet were swollen, red, and had big blisters oozing pus everywhere. I cleaned up as best I could, and somehow pried the shoes back onto my swollen feet.
Note: I do not know why I did not let my boyfriend know the extent of my injuries, but I am sure it was because he would have thought I was stupid for wearing impractical dress shoes on a city outing. I was usually pretty passive in the early phases of this relationship and was NEVER a complainer, always cheerful. I let my boyfriend see a whole new side of me as I demanded to halt the tour.
When I returned to our wonderful seats in the Orchestra, row G, I took my shoes off for the remainder of the show to give my aching feet a rest. Finally at peace, I took a look around, and could not believe my luck at having such close up seats in an elegant Broadway theater, with the majestic curtain about to go up.
At that moment, I wasn’t just a barely sixteen year old child; I felt like a grown woman being escorted by a dashingly handsome, generous man to see a real Broadway show, and one that was the absolute hottest show for young audiences.
You have to know that I grew up watching Ed Sullivan where numbers from Broadway shows were re-enacted by cast members many times, and my family had tons of Broadway musical albums that we played on our living room stereo. So other than rock music, Broadway music was my other love.
This was a moment I dreamed about all of my life — the spectacle of a real Broadway performance. (I lived in Philly and had made one other visit to NYC as a young child with my maternal grandparents, where I went up to the top of the Empire State Building but did not remember much else.)
The show Hair had great rock music in it, and the plot was about rebellion, drugs, sex, and counterculture, and for those reasons it was just about the coolest show any teen could aspire to see. I think it was the very first Broadway show to feature rock music. It even had some nudity in it. (Thinking back, I am still amazed that my strict parents allowed all this.) I kept my Playbill and it is pictured here. So are the tickets!
I remember enjoying the show, and especially the music, yet the plot of drugs, sex, rebellion, and counterculture was about as opposite as possible from my own personality and that of my super straight-laced boyfriend. Even if we couldn’t relate, we observed and took it all in, enjoying this “happening.” (To use a sixties term)
There was a slight damper on this because my boyfriend was still upset with me and was looking at me through new eyes as a “Complainer and Whiner” because of the shoes and my earlier painful experience walking. Instead of enjoying the day with me, I ruined it for him. He was a bit cold and not the warm affectionate guy he normally was, but that was the way he became when he was upset with me. Yet nothing could dampen my mood at being able to experience this day and this show.
Afterwards, I had a post Broadway show glow about me. I squeezed my shoes back on and we walked to the car to go to my boyfriend’s sister’s apartment. I felt so much gratitude at being able to experience this.,
The fun continued as we went to dinner at a very top and trendy Manhattan eatery called Once Upon a Stove with his sister and her date. The double date and dining in New York seemed over-the-top adult and refined.
We returned to the apartment and all stayed up late talking. I found band-aids in a medicine cabinet in the bathroom and closed most of my wounds. Then I slept in our separate quarters, and we had breakfast and left the city the next morning.
My feet eventually healed from the huge blisters, and when I recovered I was ultra careful from then on to treat my poor tootsies (feet) better, but I did suffer for fashion at times after this experience as well. Those were a great pair of shoes once they were broken in; they were just not a smart choice on the first day for miles of walking.
Ironically, I would have worn the same new shoes had we gone to the prom instead, and I would have had an ultra painful evening of dancing due to my being a slave to fashion. Memo to self from then on: Always break in the shoes in ADVANCE of a big event.
All in all though, it was an amazing and heady experience. I just knew many other Broadway shows were in my future, and that did come to pass.
And even to this day, I cannot hear a song from the show such as “Aquarius” “Hair” and not remember that thrilling experience that was fraught with foot pain (the agony of de feet) and some later emotional retribution from my boyfriend for a few weeks. Yes, he learned the reason for my halting his tour later on and eventually got over his disappointment in me. He really was a good guy.
BUT WAIT: Here though is an incredulous question mark for me- why we did not have NOT even ONE photo snapped of this event, outside the theater, our sights in NYC, nor of us on this entire weekend???? Not one. I wrote a blog previously about the rarity of photos in my formative and teenage years, the exact opposite of this current era of cell phone over-exposure. But why wasn’t that detail factored in on this special occasion? It’s just a bizarre factoid that kind of drives me crazy as I love photos and memories.
Though I made a point of my severe feet injuries for this blog, later on down the road in my mind and in my memories, the pain I felt, and the anger of my boyfriend hardly even registered when compared to the thrill of it all. All I was left with was gratitude that I had this experience. This remains one of the greatest memories of my teen life. Even without photos to remember it by, I am glad I hoarded all of my teen memorabilia in scrapbooks that remain in my possession to this day.
My first Broadway show was Fiddler on the Roof but I think I was too young to understand the thrill. I understand your thrill as just a teen to get your dream of seeing a Broadway show fulfilled though. Great read!
I love your writing because I can actually visualize this whole day by the way you wrote this up! I felt your pain! Cannot wait for the book!
Times were different.. and you said he was a bit shy I know when I was younger I used to take those cameras with me all the time and then when they had a throw-away cameras as they called them I would always have one with me no matter where I would go just thank God that didn’t have Facebook back then…. oh my God… then again I kind of wish they did have Facebook because I think we were a little bit more sensible then some of the kids now I know I was I was afraid of my parents… I never saw the show… but I’ve seen the movie ,at the movies, when we used to go to the movies, a few times thanks for sharing…and the shoes!!!!!! I can relate to that
Really enjoyed reading your story and looking forward to reading more!
This is a great story. I am surprised your mother didn’t suggest you wear comfortable shoes for walking around NY. As a 16 year old, never having been to NY, you wouldn’t have known that. I enjoyed your blog!
Great piece of writing! We came of age at such an interesting place in history, didn’t we! A empathize with the regrets over lack of photos and of course, the painful shoe issues!
My parents took my brother and I to see most shows on their pre-Broadway try-outs in Philly. I saw Mame with Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur – and got their autographs. I also saw Bye, Bye Birdie, The Sound of Music, Fiddler. Later in life I saw the pre-Broadway try-out of The Wiz. My parents always felt we had the best of both worlds – Broadway shows and Philly prices. I’ve been to several shows actually on Broadway, but I am just as happy seeing them in Philly.
I loved this… and I can relate about the shoes because I had a similar experience..standing up for 40 minutes during my son’s wedding and wondering if I might pass out from the pain!
Arlene. You are a gifted writer and you really made me experience what you were going through!
Thanks.. can’t wait for your book
It is amazing the abuse we women give to our feet in the name of foot fashion! My first show was The Rockettes- not Broadway but close! And a thrill too!
What a great recall of a momentous event! My parents took me to see Music Man, also a thrill! I guess it was the early sixties but I remember it vividly to this day.