One of my favorite gifts is a rather weighty and sizable prop plane ornament, given to me ten years ago by Joey M., a then nine-year-old fellow actor in New York’s Radio City Christmas Spectacular. He bestowed me with this memento as a final gift during our annual Secret Santa gift exchange. He gave it to me as a reminder of a specific moment in the show, but it has come to symbolize a greater gift I was given by him and so many others. One I try to share as often as possible.
Chapter 14: Christmas Is
The days after September 11, 2001, I sat riveted to the images of devastation on my television like the rest of the nation. The thought of flying across the country unnerved me, but when October 17 came, I boarded a plane at LAX with enough clothes to survive autumn in New York and Atlanta, and a December in Cleveland. En route to New York, I stopped in Orlando to drop off my dog, Jack, at my mother’s his a three-month vacation.
The following is an excerpt from Walking Tall: A Memoir About the Upside of Small and Other Stuff
I always thought the phrase “When God closes a door, He opens a window” was inaccurate. I understood the concept of good things coming out of bad circumstances, but the closed-door open-window adage irritated me because it implied either one thing or the other was happening: God was withdrawing opportunities or presenting opportunities.
In 1991, I saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for the first time and before the curtain came down on the performance I added the goal of someday performing on the great stage at Radio City Music Hall to my Bucket List. Eight years later, I auditioned for the show’s choreographer and director and pulled off what I knew was my best audition at the time and was rewarded with two contract offers, neither of which I could accept. Little did I know the opportunity to don elfwear and a baby bear ensemble with a matching bonnet (as well as Frosty the Snowman gear) would present itself again two years later, thanks to one of my other wildest dreams coming true.
If you’ve read Walking Tall: A Memoir About the Upside of Small and Other Stuff, you know the story of God summarily closing a door, but also knocking a wall down to grant me access to people, places, and experiences that otherwise would’ve never come my way. (And if you haven’t read Walking Tall yet, click the link above for info on where to purchase your copy and get caught up.)
For eleven consecutive years I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best people in live theater across the country and in New York (six years in touring companies of the Christmas Spectacular and five years in New York).
At the close of my fifth season in New York (2011), I wept bitterly in the stage left wings as I knew in every fiber of my being that that would be my last year sporting elfwear for Radio City, but graciously God gave me another season, a bonus season if you will—the Christmas of 2012. That was pretty awesome indeed. And when that twelfth season came to an end, I shed no tears. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and satisfaction for having been so richly blessed beyond my wildest dreams.
I think you know where I’m going with this . . .
So to dispel any conjecture, here goes. Plain and simple, I won’t be returning to the Music Hall this year. Calls went out yesterday and today and I was not offered a contract. Given the way I’ve seen God work in my life, I see this not as a snub of any sort, but as another instance of God closing a door. This time I suspect He’ll rip the proverbial roof off to present my next opportunity. So rest assured there’ll be no worrying or wringing of hands on my end.
With that said, I’d like to extend a heartfelt thanks to Linda Haberman for giving twelve unbelievably glorious Christmas seasons that will be forever etched in my memory. To all the singers, dancers, crew, front of house hosts, animal handlers, musicians, production people it’s been an honor to work with and for you—you freakin’ rocked my world in ways you don’t even know. You really have become a second family to me. And to the friends I’ve made in Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Minneapolis, Seattle, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston, and New York because of my involvement with the show, thank you for opening your hearts and extending your hospitality to me. You’ve all given me memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
To my friends who schlepped from as far as Honolulu and Amsterdam and points in between, thank you for deeming my small involvement in that little show at the Music Hall worthy of the your time, energy, and hard-earned dollars. This includes old Disney friends who had no idea I was even in the show until they saw me onstage, and everyone who ever asked for house tickets (yes, even those of you leisurely got me your ticket info). For me, seeing each of your radiant faces after a performance and parading you and yours around backstage made me feel like a king. Thank you for sharing your holidays, anniversaries, and once in a lifetime moments with me.
As you can see this isn’t about me. It’s about all of you and how you, each in your own way, have enriched my life. With what you’ve all given me, there’s no way on Earth I could be bitter about it coming to an end.
So what’s next? I’m not at liberty to give details at the moment, but there’s been some exponential movement going on with one of my screenplays. All I can say is who knows what God’s got up his sleeve.
Break a leg, 2013 Radio City Christmas Spectacular Cast and Crew like I know you will!
I only hope someone’s going to pick up the Scones Thursday mantle and do me proud.