On Friday I reteamed with my Hell's Belles writer, Bryan D. Leys and some of my HB castmates, Deborah Radloff and Omri Schein, for a recording of the new musical Argentina Rumpus. We were joined by the delightful Richard Binder who played my dear Mr. Freud in the staged reading of Vienna.
Now this would've seemed like an ideal reunion if it weren't for the fact that I caught the flu and nearly lost my voice. I was so distressed - I took every remedy possible but still couldn't kick the bug. Fortunately, Chip, the sound engineer, said that a lot of recording artists had been sick as well, and he gave me something to gargle with that seemed to help with the rest of the recording. So though I felt lower than low, I was pleased that the sound on the playback was pretty decent. They say you can sing through anything, and apparently, I did!
It made me think of the many times I've been sick and still had to "go on." When I was 14, I studied voice with Wynne Hammond, called "Winnie" by those closest to her. She had a bunch of wild stories about singing in the chorus for many films in the late 30s and 40s, her claim to fame being one of the chorus for The Wizard of Oz. She also had some amazing "close calls," losing various lead roles because of impending motherhood, which starlets just didn't do (publicly) back then, so she retired from Hollywood and became a music teacher in Palm Springs with her husband.
When I met her, her husband had passed away and she was teaching privately in Hemet. I joined her troupe, The Wynne Hammond Singers and toured about Southern CA with her and a bunch of young girls my age. We performed for all sorts of groups like women's luncheons in Palm Springs, cultural centers, what-have-you. And of course, Christmas was always big on the list! We'd travel all over the place, singing jazzy carols, and Winnie was great about making sure we all had solos. She even took me to San Bernadino and helped me get my first professional paid gig as an orphan in Annie at the Civic Light Opera.
Well, of course, it happens, you get sick and you still have to sing. I was in some competition of some sort and sick as a dog, but Winnie nursed me through and made me this special lemon juice drink that seemed to help me get through the performance.
I couldn't help thinking of her - and of all the artists - who've had to perform through illness. Gene Kelly famously performed Singing in the Rain with a major fever. Barbra Streisand was supposedly sick during the recording of her first Christmas album. You just do what you have to do and you do the best you can.