It started off innocently enough.
A friend of mine, who ran a dance troupe in California, texted me about my availability for a gig the following day.
The text read, “One of my follows had an emergency and had to pull out. Need you for a showcase in Vegas. Are you available?”
While I was busy prepping for LA Fashion Week, I was never opposed to a dance gig. It was a quick way to make extra money and I hadn’t been dancing in awhile. Plus I never got to dance with my LA peeps. So I looked at my calendar and after some quick rearranging, decided it was doable.
“What’s it for? Let’s lindyhop!” I texted back.
“We were invited to perform for AGT,” was his reply.
I shrugged, not knowing the acronym, but figuring it could be one of the many conventions or special event parties we had brewing about town. After all, Vegas hosts CES, NAB, NCB, IBS, NFR, PBR, MAGIC, IBM, NATO, ACMs, ACAs, MTV Music Awards, MMA Awards, plus a bunch of others I’m not familiar with. I thought it was just one of those I wasn’t familiar with.
I texted back an, “Okie dokie,” and we made plans for him to meet me that evening at a Miss Nevada appearance to go over choreography. In his words, “It was easy and quick and I’d pick it up fast.”
No need to worry, he said.
In hindsight, I should have asked just a FEW more questions. But I didn’t. #Fail
So he met me close to midnight down at the Tropicana for a special monthly event called STIFLER. Hosted by Stratosphere’s resident musical badass Frankie Moreno and his band, entertainers from all of the headlining shows gathered for a jam session. For someone who wants to get a taste of all the talent in Vegas (or spot one of its many resident celebrities) STIFLER was the place to be.
We posted up by the bar in the back. The crowd was up front around the stage so there was plenty of space for us to practice footwork and swingout.
I stretched nonchalantly. “Alright, so what’s the plan for tomorrow? Just some social dance with a little choreo? Who exactly is our client for AGT?”
My friend stared at me for a second. “AGT is the client… America’s Got Talent? They called us back to audition again.”
(Insert the moment here where Hilary flips the freak out… while simultaneously wanting to cry and pee her pants).
“We’re doing what tomorrow? As in 8 hours from now?!” My whole body started shaking. Suddenly this night went from laid back and awesome to panicked and dreadful. No-one around me seemed to notice or care.
We rehearsed choreography for all of an hour. He used cocktail napkins on the floor as markers for other imaginary dancers. Entertainers kept shooting me strange looks. I couldn’t answer any questions. I was shell shocked. My mind raced.
How did I NOT realize this was for America’s Got Talent? And didn’t he know I hadn’t danced in years? And what about these poor other six dancers who were auditioning with us? Were they okay with me just jumping in? What if I screwed this up for them?
And then I REALLY started panicking… Oh my God… Was this for the real judges tomorrow? Like Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Mel B. of THE SPICE GIRLS?
I looked at my phone. Almost 2 AM.
Was it too late to feign sick and back out now?
Before I could fake an injury, my friend said goodbye. He asked me to meet him at the studio a half-hour early so I could meet my dance partner and learn the aerials.
“Right. No biggie. See you a HALF HOUR before we go on,” I muttered.
I watched him walk away. Inside the Havana Room the crowd cheered for Earl Turner. I stared off in a daze, unable to move, unable to think about anything except HOW did I READ this OH SO WRONG?
My friend Roo, a singer in the group MO5AIC, found me floundering in the hallway. “What’s wrong with you?”
He walked me to my car as I verbally vomited up my recent realization. Then it dawned on me. “Wait- YOU auditioned for America’s Got Talent!”
I showed him the video of the choreography I had to learn. He hemmed and hawed. “That looks complicated. If you pull it off, that would be pretty awesome.”
I shot him a look. “An hour crash course does not make an America’s Got Talent quality dancer,” I snapped.
He patted my back. “Well, good luck with that.” And with that he left.
Why did everyone keep walking away at crucial points tonight?
I got in my car, nervously tapping my steering wheel as I drove home. How could I fix this? Who could replace me? Who could I talk to that could provide me some real insight on this situation? And most importantly, who was awake?
I called another dance friend from California, sighing with relief when he answered his phone.
Andrew could NOT stop laughing. “I’m sorry, Hilary, but of all the things you could have called me about at 3 in the morning, this never crossed my mind.”
I wasn’t amused. “Yeah, I’m hilarious. But what do I do? This is quite possibly the WORST assumption I’ve ever made.”
Andrew was quiet for a minute. “Well,” he started slowly, “Have you ever noticed that this only happens to you?”
I was ready to fire back a retort, but bit my tongue. “What do you mean?”
“Look, regardless of what happens in six hours, you’re going to have a great story. And isn’t that kind of what your life is about? Having adventures and living to tell about them?”
He had me there. But this didn’t quell the panic electrifying my body.
“You’ll be great,” he continued. “After all, you’re a disco ninja, pageant queen, USA Today writer, badass dancer…”
“I USED to be a good dancer,” I clarified. “THAT train left the station years ago.”
“You’ll be fine. Just pretend it’s like any other dance gig.”
“But it’s NOT,” I whined. “It’s America’s Got Talent!” I started to tear up. “I just wanted to make some extra money dancing at a convention.”
Andrew laughed again. “Just remember, it’s an adventure. Be careful and be safe. And don’t take it too seriously.”
“You don’t know me at all, do you?” I clipped.
Andrew wished me luck with a chuckle and said goodnight. I sat at the edge on my bed, chewing on my nails. I looked at my phone again. In less than five hours, I would be in front of a panel of judges auditioning for one of the nation’s most popular reality television shows.
I deemed my freakout valid. But still pointless. But still happening.
I went to bed, my body still shaking. My heartbeat had never sounded louder.
I don’t remember actually sleeping. But I do remember wondering what a good stroke of luck it would be if an asteroid struck the earth before 8 AM.
But my alarm clock sounded. And I sat up, realizing just how real this was all becoming.
Without any desire, want, or intention to, I was going to audition for America’s Got Talent today.