I miss being young, but then again. It’s tough to be young.
I had been on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show twice in 1983. I was 23 years old. Jim McCawley the talent scout told me that Johnny wanted me back, but I had to do something really big. I had already used my best 6 minutes on my first appearance, and my B material on my second appearance. I had no more material. I let my brain just sit still for a while…and then, pop! Light bulb! I would sing on the balance beam! I’d never seen anyone do that before!
I hadn’t done my beam routine for five years, so I found a gym in Pasadena so that I could work out again, get my ‘tricks’ back. The coach was afraid I’d get injured and sue him, since 23 is way too old to be a gymnast, so McCawley went to the gym owner and made some kind of deal so that I could work out there.
My dad was a women’s gymnastic coach and my whole childhood was spent in a gym. I never wanted to go back. But, this was different. I had a goal – get back on Johnny Carson one more time.
I found a photo of my Dad doing a handstand on top of his 1949 car once and thought that was marvelous. Taking gymnastics out of the gym was interesting. Everyone expected to see a handstand on the beam by a Cathy Rigby or Olga Korbet in a leotard. No one expected to see a handstand on a tree trunk lying across a stream, or a handstand on top of a fire engine by someone in clothes.
On this Tonight Show appearance, I almost fell off the beam. It is four inches wide and though the show is taped a few hours before it is aired, they don’t do “do-overs.” I was riddled with adrenaline. Punk rock was the big thing at the time, and I thought the discipline of gymnastics was the exact opposite of punk. So, my costume was a mixture of punk and …the opposite.
The lyrics were taken from my frustrating life. I feel bad now that I said, “Good God.” I never take God’s name in vain. I was trying to think of something “bad” to say that wasn’t “bad.” I was channeling Mick Jagger or somebody wild. Originally, I had a list of racial slurs in a string to represent the concept of “hate.” I figured if you said all of them no one could get offended. I was trying to be “edgy.” But, NBC wouldn’t let me, so I had to change the words to “stupid, dumb, idiot, fell off the beam, you dumb airhead, pinko, jerko.” I guess ‘pinko’ was okay. That was back in the day when America still had a brain and shunned communism.
I felt obligated to let my “fire-eater” boyfriend play the piano even though Doc’s band had an excellent pianist of their own, Ross. In the final verse, the band joined in and what a rush! One of my favorite moments.