Updated: Nov 21, 2019
By Elizabeth Gracen:
If you're just joining this adventure down the Yellow Brick Road to the Hollywood Bowl, please start at the very beginning
. . . it's the very best place to start. If you're well on your way on this journey . . . keep reading!
You Gotta Have Heart
And now, the incident of the strapless bra. Aside from purchasing a swimsuit, the next worse shopping experience you have to endure as a woman is purchasing a bra. If that bra happens to be strapless, well, friend, good luck. That Rent-the-Runway dress demanded one, so after my nail appointment and a failed attempt at Victoria’s Secret and Nordstrom, I finally ventured to good ‘ole Macy’s for the final score.
For some reason they’d moved the lingerie section to a very odd corner of the sky in this particular mall, so I sequestered myself away in a quiet dressing room with a stack of strapless numbers, tossing them into the discard pile as fast as you can say “tits up.” Nothing seemed to be working until I happened upon a simple bra—no frills, no thrills. This discovery treasure find coincided with the sudden arrival of someone in the dressing next to mine. And this is where it got interesting.
At first I thought it was only one woman. She had a raspy laugh and a well-lived-in voice—the kind of feisty broad energy that I’m always attracted to.
“Well, these old things. I told my husband that it’s the best I can do,” she laughed. “If he wants something else, then go for it. I told him, good luck," she snorted. "Do you know, I even had breast cancer? These girls have gone through a lot.”
“You look great,” said the salesperson with genuine warmth. “You just need another size, honey. We’ll find you something that looks terrific. Just give me a minute. I’ll be right back.”
Once the salesperson left, I heard the woman whisper.
“She’s gone now. Are you okay?”
“Sweetheart, all I know is that you have to finish something.”
Another voice emerged, younger, softer, much less confident and swimming in distress—and not just because she was shopping for a bra.
“I know. I know,” she whispered. “I’m just worried he’s going to take my baby.”
“Well, that’s just not going to happen. You’re going to get it together,” barked the older woman.
“You’ve taken it all, right?”
“You have, haven’t you? You told me you did,” insisted the older woman who was not going to let it drop.
“Did you tell me the truth?”
Finally . . . “I have one more,” whispered the young woman, followed by soft whimpers.
My guess is that they were talking about opioids, but I can’t be sure.
“Well, I’m not supposed to do this as a sponsor, but here,” softened the older woman.
It was obvious that she had moved in to hug the young woman. More crying.
The salesperson returned, and my clothes were back on. I wiped away a tear and tiptoed out of the dressing room with my strapless bra in hand and a heart check reminder to be ever so grateful for everything good in this life.
My Own Special Glenda
Last stop before the Bowl was Sephora for my makeup appointment. I’ve lived in LA, off and on, for a long time, so I’ve seen Hollywood Boulevard’s transformation from a dingy, stinky mess you would never consider walking down by yourself at night to a hopping, tourist-packed mess of a street you still might not want to walk alone at night. It’s just a lot cleaner and much busier to navigate. The nexus that makes up the Hollywood/Highland junction is a unique slice of hell, always jam packed with tourists, celebrity lookalikes beckoning for a paid photo op, and store after store of souvenirs, chocolates, and Disney paraphernalia. Beyond famous locales such as the El Capitan, Musso and Frank, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Egyptian Theatre, and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel is the Hollywood & Highland Center, a bustling, three-story maze of shops, food, and crazed tourists.
Upon my check-in, the Sephora associate caught her breath when she consulted the makeup appointment list and realized that I would be working with Miguel, the senior artist. Within minutes, Miguel strode toward me from the back of the store. There’s nothing quite as dazzling as a gorgeous, confident gay man in his prime, and Miguel was living proof. Who knows what goes on in the mind of such an artist upon first laying eyes on a customer, but regardless of what Miguel actually thought, he burned away my Bowl nerves with his cool confidence. We bonded quickly over the topic of "drag artists," and when I told him about my documentary film THE DAMNED DEAL about female impersonators in Arkansas who compete in pageants, he showed me a gorgeous photo of his own female persona creation, Mi Amore. What can I say? Two peas in a pod we were.
As other beautiful young male and female makeup artists with perfectly painted faces, eyelashes, and manicured brows for days paraded past our makeup station, they cooed in approval, batting their long lashes, their rhinestone eye embellishments shining in the late afternoon light. It’s hard not to feel pretty in such an environment.
I have no idea what the names or brands were of all the skincare products and cosmetics that Miguel applied to my face that afternoon, but I truly felt like I was on the beauty conveyor belt with a rub-rub here and a rub-rub there in the merry old land of Sephora that day. In fact, I requested Miguel the two days following for my pre-Bowl makeup that weekend. I always walked away with my confidence newly stuffed with fresh hay, my face polished to gleaming, my outlook rosy and ready for take those final steps on the yellow brick road to the Hollywood Bowl.
To Be Concluded . . .