with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: Rissa Miller

That Time I Auditioned For Carnival Cruise Lines

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here. I just felt like telling this story. No reason really. No wait, it may be because I am starting a business, and I was thinking about my life, and how now in times of feeling like I can’t do this, that I remember that I have always had the desire to step out and do things, even if they didn’t always turn out like I wanted.

So, in 1995, I was living in Miami with my parents. I was 24, and Leslie had already moved to York, PA, to write for a newspaper. I previously thought that I would be in grad school getting my Masters in Social Work, but started acting in the meantime, and realized that theater was where I wanted to be. It was a big realization, and at that particular moment, I think I had one more show lined up, but didn’t know what would happen beyond that, and my parents were moving to Arkansas, and I decided that it was time for me to stop following them, although following them to Miami turned out to be an amazing thing which led to my life’s calling in the arts, so that part was good. Anyhoo, I had been looking for jobs to keep me in FL, and nothing was turning up. And that’s when I saw an ad in the paper for Carnival Cruise Lines and their entertainment division.

I can't find a headshot from 1995, but this is one from 2001. Close enough. Cute.

I can’t find a headshot from 1995, but this is one from 2001. Close enough. Cute. Photo taken by Rissa Miller of Balance Photography.

I remember being really excited about the idea, because 1), I would be performing full time, 2) I would have somewhere to live for free because I would be on the boat. I also remember feeling a little scared because 1)That’s a big deal 2) Was I good enough to do this? There is a large entertainment community in Miami, and I knew that I would be up against a bunch of really good people. 3) I worried that I wasn’t skinny enough. If I was that size now, I would think I was skinny, because I was probably a size 10 but I worried that this would be an issue. But in the end, I was like “I’m doing this!”

So there were a few songs that they requested that we prepare. I can’t remember if there were more, but I know that we had to do “Get On Your Feet” by Gloria Estefan, and “Don’t Rain On My Parade” by Barbra Streisand, from the musical “Funny Girl”. I knew the Gloria song well, because it was everywhere on the radio, and also because she was Queen of Miami, and they would make you move if you didn’t bow down. But I didn’t know the Barbra song well, so I found a copy and I learned it. And I rented the movie. And I sang it. A LOT. Ask my poor mom. And I made the people at the theater I was working part-time at listen to me do it over an over. I mean, I knew that song now, y’all. It’s the perfect showstopper, but was also good motivation for me because I wasn’t letting anyone, including me,┬árain on this chance. I was marching my band out! I was beating my drum! Those are lines from the song. Look it up. Or checkout the video at the end of this post.

So, the day of the audition rolled around, and my mom drove me down to the Port of Miami, where the ship I was auditioning on was docked. I had my resume and picture in hand, and I walked into the theater where the judges were waiting. I don’t remember all of it, but I know that I went pretty easy through “Get On Your Feet”, with all of the 90’s gusto I had. The judges smiled. So far, so good. All that was left now was for me to get through “Don’t Rain Om My Parade”. ┬áThe backing track started, and there I went. And it was going really well. I felt good about it, and I could tell that the judges were feeling it, too. I saw them smile, and nod. Then 2 guys who already worked on the ship in shows walked by, and they stopped to watch and listen. And they were grooving, too. And I. Felt. Great. And I was almost to the end of the song, the very last like 4 measures of the whole thing, when I realized that the version that I had been listening to, the one I learned, changed keys at the end. How the heck ever, this version right here that I was singing to, did not. And I was so in the moment, so grooving like I had it, and I did NOT have it, because I missed the non-key change, and I soared…. to the wrong note. And I wasn’t present enough to change it, so I belted that wrong note with everything I had. I saw eyebrows raise, because they saw what happened. And they heard what happened. And they smiled, and thanked me for coming. And I didn’t get that particular job. But I got many more as the months and years went by. So that was okay.

If there is any lesson in this, besides it just being a good story, I guess that it’s being fearless, even if you mess up. And being present in what you are doing so that you can switch lanes, or notes. And it’s also knowing, and this I am sure of, that there is always another audition, another gig, another chance to get it right. Keep going.

And here is some inspiration from Barbra.


Sweet Midlife TV Girlfriend of the Day: Aunt Viv of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”

by SweetMidlife

Well, the first Aunt Viv.

Leslie here, y’all! Happy Friday! I’ve been in a lot of hotels lately, and have been doing a lot of channel flipping – I don’t have my DVR full of wedding programing and true crime shows about the murders and such to fall back on, so I’m open to whatever’s on. And what’s on is a lot of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” the late ’80’s-90s sitcom featuring then jaunty young rapper/future Hollywood big shot Will Smith as a Philly kid sent to live with his rich relatives in Bel-Air, Ca. I loved the show when it was on, and have become fond of its loud Cross Colours-esque, hat and blazer, big gold brooch-happy fashions. I may or may not relate. Those photos have been destroyed, so don’t even bother searching.

Anyhow, the star of the show was, apparently Will and his fresh fish out of water hijinks. But my favorite character, besides Jeffrey the droll butler, was Aunt Viv, the sister of Will’s mom, who’d moved from West Philly to California, having moved all up. There was a little Clair Huxtable to her – she was grounded but classy, with a little more snob appeal than Clare but with an air of being able to drag some skank across a room by her hair if she got in her face, if she really needed to.

I liked her because she reminded me a little of my mom, another classy woman who could get real, real fast, if tested. I also liked her…and I apologize if this sounds weird…her non-cookie cutter looks. Janet Hubert, the actress who originally played Aunt Viv, was a rarity on TV – an ethnic woman over 25 with a starring, non best-friend role, who got to be her fabulous, gorgeous self without cougar jokes, or a preponderance of hot flash jokes, or jokes you would probably see on “Hot In Cleveland.”

(I admit to having never seen that show, because the idea of hot women like Wendy Mallick and Valerie Bertinelli having to act as if their sexuality is freakish makes me want to punch someone in the head. I haven’t decided who yet. I will be in touch. But the commercials say it all. Any fans of it, let me know what I’m missing.)

She was also a dark-skinned black woman, something rarely seen in such a prominent role before or since, who luxuriated in her awesomeness. She wasn’t angsty or dissatisfied outside of the usual sitcom hi-jinks – she knew she was beautiful. She knew her husband adored her, and that her kids did, too. There was a great episode where Aunt Viv decided to audition for a dance part, even though she hadn’t danced since becoming a wife and a mother. She loved her life, but she wanted to feel that it wasn’t too late to be as strong and sexy and fierce as she used to be. She wound up not even taking the role – killing it on the audition and making some snotty young girls recognize was even better. Now that I’m her age, I want to be that awesome. Sometimes, I think I am! I wish there were more women like her on TV right now, whose smarts or professional proficiency doesn’t have to be undercut by being a complete mess personally. (KErry Washington’s Olivia Pope on “Scandal” – Snap out of it, girl.)

Hubert was eventually replaced with Daphne Maxwell-Reid, another beautiful non teeny-boppy actress, who just wasn’t the same. She was pretty. But she wasn’t fierce. Apparently, Hubert does not have good memories of her time on the show, or good feelings about Will Smith – she says he was a diva who got her fired, and two decades later she’s still way, way bitter about it.

I’m sorry for that – it seems a shame to carry that bitterness around with you for so long, and I wonder if it’s impeded her being able to just move on. I want her to know, if she’s out there, that at least one former teen girl appreciated her, that her being on that show made a difference because I am now a 40-something woman who sometimes needs reminding of her fierceness. I hope I can be Aunt Viv. And I want her to know, somewhere, that it made a difference that she was, too.

Today’s Bride (over) 35 of the Day: Leslie Streeter Zervitz!

by SweetMidlife

Part of what we want to do here at Bride At 35 is to show, in words and in pretty pretty pictures, what being an older bride can look like. And for Leslie, who got married February 28, two months shy of of her 39th birthday, that looked like a pretty day in Palm Beach, Florida, where she was 20 pounds heavier than she wanted to be and, in some pictures, wearing Ugly Cry Face.

However, she married the man of her dreams, Scott Zervitz, who she met in high school and found again on Facebook, in front of a collection of friends and family of every type (black, white, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, agnostic,atheist, young, old, medium-old, well-moisturized and ashy.)

And it’s still her favorite day. Here is what it looked like, in photos by Nathaniel Corn and Nerissa Miller, our official photographers, and other friends and family. Enjoy and see the possibilities!

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