See the pretty girl in the mirror there...Maria, 1961
What mirror, where? - Lissa, 2022
A few days ago, my friend and producing partner, Curtis, came for a visit from his home in Vegas. As we often do, we watched DVDs of shows we did over the years. But for the first time, I had a hard time relating to the woman on the screen. I felt miles apart from the robust and confident woman I was watching. It really shook me. And I realized I hadn't really "seen" myself in a long, long time.
Over the years, I have looked at myself in a vast array of mirrors. The Rear View view - driving in my orange Datsun, parking, then applying make up for the singing telegrams I did when I first moved to L.A. - starting out with a character I named Pickles... blond hair, cheesy corset etc. Pickles was sent everywhere... From Upland to Downey, from swank steak houses to a UPS sorting station, downtown, where I was sent to find Dave before his shift ended. Seduce him over the din of heavy machinery, and then sing him my version of Happy Birthday, while bouncing on his lap! Pickles was a sweet, if misunderstood, broad. A mix of Judy Holiday (look her up) and Marilyn Monroe. My opening lines to the hundreds of "Daves" I performed for were, "Dave. Don't you remember me!? It's Pickles, I used to work at a deli. You came in one day, and said, "Hey, I like the way you handle meat" and it only got better from there.
And there was Cindy and Mindy, two devoted fans, sent all over Los Angeles County, to force mostly reluctant recipients to enjoy their birthdays in front of coworkers or friends and family. Once, Hillary (Mindy to my Cindy) and I were sent to wish Sally Struthers a happy birthday. From her stylist. Who knew! Anyway, we literally had to chase her from room to room, while professing undying love, until we finally stopped and said, listen lady, someone paid us to be here so just stop running, shut up and listen and we will go on our merry way. Sheesh!
Then there was Lucky Malloy, my 1940's ode to Rita Hayworth I played in Club Diamond, a forties film noir comedy I wrote with Curtis. We performed that every where. Thousands of times. If we were lucky, performing in a casino for instance, I would have fabulous big theatrical mirrors to scrutinize myself in. But very often we would be booked by a corporation for an event, and I have found myself in a public bathroom, outside of the ballroom, putting on make up kneeling in front of a toilet bowl, with a mirror precariously balanced on the seat, while I struggle to put on false lashes. And I have watched said lashes floating in the toilet too. Along with the mirror.
Then of course, there was Cher. God knows I looked at myself for thousands of hours trying to transform into that woman. I often thought I ended up looking more like my mother, but I must have been doing something right. Cher was usually viewed in a magnifying mirror. I am amazed that I had the confidence to continue on with my life, let alone the gig I was getting ready for, after staring at my face magnified that big.
Now I find that I'm playing the role of a lifetime, and I didn't even have to audition for it! Of all the gigs I've wanted, hoped to book and didn't, I land the part of, "Woman Dying From ALS"!! And this role I'm playing requires no make up, no mirrors at all really. I haven't really seen myself in a mirror for about a year. I mean, I catch glimpses every day, but no closer than two or so feet away. So, I'm basically seeing myself in my mind's eye. Which I think is why this doesn't really feel 100% real to me. As a matter of fact, I sometimes feel like I'm OVER acting. I hear myself saying, tone down the struggle to get a breath. Next time you have more strength in your neck. I feel like this is a scene in a movie, and I am calling the shots. In this movie, I have control over my symptoms. I don't need to be HAVE to struggle for a breath. I still can move my hand, drink a glass of water, brush my hair. I am simply CHOOSING not to. Not at this moment, not this scene.
So I wonder how mirrors relate to me in what is clearly the last chapter of my life? Especially since I haven't seen myself in one, or really even wanted to. Then it hit me that I do see myself, every time I dream, I see myself riding Smokey bareback up Skyline Trail. I see myself getting up from the wheelchair, slowly realizing I can walk. Not surprised, just a little unsure, or actually walking on Hollywood Boulevard, and slowly letting the walk turn into a run until I'm flying past all the wig shops, lingerie stores and kebab huts. I even dreamt once that I was trying on jeans! Can you imagine, that what was a nightmare in real life, became a lovely dream!
So, this is where I live now. When I'm asleep, and lucky enough to dream, I see the Lissa who you know. I know. She's still here folks. Dream with me.