My Experience with a Rockette - Mature Tales Vol. 1  

BlueEyedSoul65 52M
87 posts
8/25/2006 10:49 pm

Last Read:
5/23/2007 10:58 pm

My Experience with a Rockette - Mature Tales Vol. 1

"The only source of knowledge is experience."
Albert Einstein

I met Willetta in the summer of 97. My then wife and I had moved from my bachelor pad apartment and rented a house, owned by the same landlord, a couple of blocks away, just north of downtown Dallas.
I worked as a band director and in addition to the extra money I picked up playing with my band, would do maintenance and repair work in the summers for the apartment owner.
He called one day to see if I wanted to do some painting for a friend of his. An elderly lady that owned the large apartment complex across the street from our house.
He warned me that she could be somewhat cantankerous, but that she was a fascinating woman with quite a colorful background. Apparently she had not only been a Radio City Rockette during the 30's, but had also been engaged to a very young Frank Sinatra. He told me that if I did good work and she liked me, I would hear some fascinating stories.

"Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late." Benjamin Franklin

It was immediately apparent upon meeting her what a spitfire she was. Already well into her 80's, she carried herself with a poise and determination that belied her years. She quickly set me to work and went about her business. She ran every aspect of the complex herself and handled or oversaw everything.
A couple of days later, and after already being chastised for being too slow, she invited me to her apartment for a drink. I had greatly anticipated getting to talk with her a bit and jumped at the chance.
While I certainly didn't expect a glass of metamucil, I didn't expect of glass of champange either. But that was her usual drink of choice and I didn't complain, or refuse. It may sound like a backhanded compliment to say how lovely she was for her age, but she had definitely bore them well. One couldn't help but imagine what she had looked like in her Rockette days.

"Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art."
Eleanor Roosevelt

I didn't have to imagine for long. Sipping our champange, I was shown a wall of dozens of photographs from her show biz days. Signed pictures of stars of the stage, screen and music business. Stopping in front of a large portrait of a group of dancers, she asked me if I could pick her out. It really wasn't difficult. Rather than trying to examine for resemblence, I simply chose the woman that easily stood out from the rest in terms of physical beauty, and I was right.
She seemed quite impressed, but I never let on how I did it.
We sat around for an hour or so as I listened intently to her stories of those years. She told me about the Dorsey brothers, that Jimmy was as nice as Tommy was mean. She told me how she had broken her engagment to Frank to marry a cousin of Al Capone. She gave me her two cents about Ava Gardner, and that certainly wasn't a flattering opinion.
It was history come to life, told by one that had not only seen it, but played an active role.

"Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul." Samuel Ullman

I was fortunate enough to talk with her at length a couple more times after that. But eventually I did finish painting and never had such a prolonged chat with her again. I would see her from time to time across the street and exchange pleasantries, but I think she found more capable laborers for future work.
I did read that she died, around 2004 I believe. Another link to the past gone forever. Another book closed.
I felt fortunate to read what I could though. It was the type of experience that made me wonder how I'll look back on my own life someday. And hope I'll have as much to share.

"Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be. The last of life, for which the first was made."
Robert Browning


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