Christmas with MBHS (lessons in classism)

Disclaimer: The following story is an actual event, as all of the vignettes in the 'Clubdate Singer Speaks' series are. For 8 years, I was a member of one of the top Orchestras in the nation. Though it was an enjoyable time, it was also at times, quite painful. I took to writing initially to assuage my distress, and this is one of those times when the pen (or keyboard) proved to be a healing tool. I have considered publishing this series, and would appreciate your thoughts... The following occurred several years ago...
Please note that MBHS is an acronym for Major Black Hollywood Star. I have not put her name in because she is globally recognizable, and I do not want to get into any drama. But it is all true….

It began innocently enough. My friend LG called me one evening and asked if I’d be interested in going to sing at MBHS’s house for her Christmas party. We were going to be part of a 6 person a Capella group, singing traditional Gospel songs and Spirituals for MBHS, her friends, family and guests. I was very excited about the prospect, so needless to say I jumped at the chance. At the time, I was thinking only about what I considered to be the possibilities. The possibility of being ‘discovered’. The possibility of future business. The possibility of networking. After all, there had to be industry people there. I was bound to meet somebody.

As the event drew closer I got more details, and with the details came a creeping trepidation. First I found out that we were not going to rehearse. Then I found out that there was no set repertoire. Then I found out that the other singers really didn’t really sing Gospel music. Three very serious issues, and the event was only days away.

My trepidation grew into outright fear the day of the event, because I had a cold and had done a gig the night before. It had just about killed my voice. My normally sultry Baritone was gone, and in its place, a raspy growl. To complicate things, I couldn’t get too much volume either. I figured that I could deal with that because we would have microphones, so it wouldn’t be that bad.

Well, the day finally arrived. It was a cold, wet, dreary ugly day. LG came to pick me up, and off we went. The drive to (Gated community New York) was long, but because we were both excited, it went quickly.

We drove up to the gate, and the guard let us in, instructing us to park in the parking lot and wait. As it turned out, there was a van waiting. We quickly parked and ran to catch it. There were about 8 other people in the van, all visibly rich.

The van drove up a long winding road for what seemed to be 2 or 3 miles. Arriving at yet another gate, we were buzzed in. There before us was a beautiful mansion, with a full size merry-go-round in the front yard: and there on the front steps resplendent in white, was MBHS herself. Her arms spread wide, and smiling her famous smile, she welcomed us. Her joy was infectious, and we were all taken in by it. We all exited the van, and walked towards her, towards that smile. The smile almost made you forget how cold and dreary the day was. Though it had begun to rain, we hardly felt it, as we basked in the warmth of the smile.

As we all reached her, she greeted her guests warmly, then turned towards me. Still smiling she said “You’re one of the singers aren’t you honey?” With a Cheshire grin I proudly said ‘Yes I am’
The smile didn’t change as she said “Well, you need to go in over there”, pointing to her left. My gaze moved from the smile to her neck, her shoulder, down the beautiful white linen sleeve to the craggy finger, pointing at the 'Servants entrance’.
A wave of shame, embarrassment and shock washed over me, as I turned and headed to the little side door that opened to the basement. I didn’t turn around for fear that the others were laughing.

I guess it was presumptuousness on my part, to expect that I could walk in the front door of the woman’s house, but I didn’t know that I could not. After all, I see that all the time on my gigs. I am used to being treated poorly, experiencing the racism that comes with this line of work. But I thought that MBHS would treat me differently, because if anybody understands, she does. Or so I thought. I learned that day, that classism is just as potent a poison, and possibly more hurtful.
Needless to say, for me the day went downhill from there. We were told not to address the guests directly, and not to speak unless spoken to first. I was furious, but did my job. We all did. So well in fact, that we were the hit of the party. The guests loved us, and by the end of the party, MBHS came and thanked us for making her party a success. She took us into her kitchen, and served us some of the (now leftover) hors d'oeuvres. We even took pictures with her. The other singers were very happy, but I left that day, sicker than ever, feverish, achy and
sick of heart...


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