“Look Zoë! It’s Santa!”
I hoisted my daughter up over my head and put her on my shoulders so she could see over the people’s heads in front of us. I held on to her legs tightly because as soon as St. Nick came close I knew she’d be jumping up and down.
I was right.
“Daddy!” Zoë shouted, pointing at the float Santa Claus was riding on.
I chuckled. “Have you been good this year?” I asked her. Zoë nodded excitedly.
“I wish Mommy was here to see the parade,” she confided.
I patted her leg, “me too, kiddo, but Mommy has to help Grammy with the turkey.”
I looked up at the small girl sitting on my shoulders. She was nodding but she didn’t take her eyes off Santa, not even as the float went around the island in the middle of the road and continued down Broadway. “How many days till Christmas, Daddy?” Zoë asked as I picked her up off my shoulders and placed her on the ground on her own two feet.
I took her hand because the crowd was about to start leaving all at the same time and I didn’t want to lose her. “About thirty days,” I responded. We moved with the crowd towards a staircase which lead up into the hotel we were standing in front of. The area was blocked off for hotel visitors only but I was lucky enough to know the doormen very well. I had stayed in that same hotel since I was fourteen years old, and continued to stay in it whenever my family took trips to Manhattan and didn’t want to be bothered to go home that same night. My daughter and I were given permission watch the parade in front of the hotel, the doormen and I joked that it was “valued customer privileges.”
I lead Zoë towards the stairs to thank my friends for letting us stand there. “I wanna see the big tree,” Zoë begged as we walked. “When is it coming?”
I smiled. “You remember the Rockefeller tree?”
My daughter nodded enthusiastically. “It’s pretty! We went last year.” Dang, that girl had a GOOD memory, Clare often joked that it must’ve come from me. I had a knack for remembering faces and minor events that no one else would remember. That gift came in handy with my job, the fans liked it when I remembered them.
“Tell you what,” I said, stopping at the top of the stairs and leaning down to her eye level. “We will go when they light it for the first time, OK? Daddy will get us good spots.”
“Just me and you?” She asked taking a piece of my hair and twirling it around her finger.
“Have someone special you want to invite?” Zoë nodded not looking up. “Who?”
“My friend Chrissy.”
I laughed and picked her up. “I’ll get a pass for Chrissy too, OK?”
“Thanks, Daddy.” She hugged my neck tightly. She kissed my cheek.
I was just about to go inside the hotel to talk to the employees when I heard an unfamiliar voice behind me. “Mr. Hanson?”
“Yes?” I said, turning. There was a man standing on the stairs holding a briefcase in his right hand. He was wearing a wool overcoat and thin black rimmed glasses. He looked like a business man from Wall Street, very out of place within the overflow of bubbly tourists who had flocked to Manhattan for the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“My name is Michael Jerichs.” He reached into the inside of his coat and produced a business card from his pocket. He handed it to me. “Mr. Hanson, have you ever considered a career on Broadway?”
“What do you mean?” I eyed him suspiciously but took the card from his hand. He was smiling at me, a business sort-of standardized smile. I placed Zoë on the ground and held her hand tightly as I flipped over the card. “Michael Jerichs,” it read, “President of the Broadway Actors Guild.” His office number was on the front and handwritten on the back was what I presumed to be his home telephone number.
“I mean this, Mr. Hanson,” he said taking a step closer towards my daughter and me, “the lights, the stage, the standing ovations.” He was grinning. “Acting, Mr. Hanson, acting on some of the most famous stages in the world.”
“Acting,” I repeated examining the card once again.
“Actually,” the man said taking off his glasses and wiping them with a handkerchief. “I must confess to you Mr. Hanson that we have been watching you for quite some time now.” He put his glasses back on. “I am sure you are aware that many times celebrities are asked if they would like to join a company.”
I nodded, “I am aware of that, yes.”
“There is a part opening up next year, May of next year to be specific, a lead role that could use someone like you.”
I had to admit that I was vaguely interested in the offer set before me. The thought of delivering preset lines from a semi-slanted stage was never very appealing to me, but as the wiry man spoke, his words hit me in the strangest way: I actually started considering what he spoke about.
“What is this role?” I asked, much to my own surprise.
“Only the best for you, Mr. Hanson,” he said quickly. “The title role in the play ‘The Phantom Of The Opera’, Broadway’s now longest running musical ever.”
I did all that I could to keep my mouth from dropping. He wanted ME to play the Phantom!?! “What an offer-” I said.
“Will you accept?”
I was taken back. “Well,” I started, “is there any way I could think about this. Talk it over with my wife, we’re having twins in January, and my brothers and I have another CD coming out-”
“Of course you can!” The man said enthusiastically. He patted my arm. “Take all the time you need! You have months to decide!” He paused. “We’re just going to have to hear from you before February because we have to promote your arrival time.” He smiled. “That is if you accept of course.”
“Of course,” I agreed. I pocketed the business card and stole a glance at Zoë. She was holding on to my leg tightly, hiding her small body behind me, only her face appeared once in awhile, her bright blue eyes starring at the man most likely wondering why he had interrupted her day out alone with her father.
“My home phone number is on the back of the card,” the man continued pointing towards the pocket in which I had put his card.
I nodded and took a step backward with Zoë’s hand still holding on to my pants tightly. “It was nice to meet you,” I said, shaking hands with Mr. Jerichs.
“Call me anytime,” he insisted.
“I will,” I promised, trying not to let my uneasiness show. “Happy thanksgiving.” I turned, pulled Zoë back up into my chest, and walked into the hotel, glancing back only once to catch site of the wiry man walking away, a look of satisfaction on his face.
I walked up to the front desk of the hotel but my mind was far away from the events at present. My mind was on the future... on the stage. I laughed to myself. I had only played the Phantom on Halloween. Sure it was my favorite costume but did I have what it took to play the role on Broadway?
I shook the thought from my head. Me? On Broadway! Hah! Yeah right! Where did anyone ever get an idea like that! But still... I was asked to play him so the idea must’ve come from somewhere.
“Daddy?” Zoë was looking across at me strangely. “Where did you go?”
I smiled reassuringly at her. “I was just thinking,” I told her. I touched her cheek lightly. “What would you think about Daddy being in a music play?”
Zoë thought for a second and then nodded. “I think Daddy would do good in a play.”
I glanced out of the glass doors which were at the entrance of the hotel. “I wonder,” I mumbled aloud. People were everywhere outside of the hotel, trying to get out of the crowd but trying in vain. The whole crowd was trying to get out of the crowd. It reminded me of how my fans used to swarm the outside of the hotel, not coming in because they respected our space, but walking around outside waiting, sometimes impatiently, for my brothers and I to emerge from it’s doors.
“Harry, what do you think about me doing Broadway?” I asked the doorman who had just walked in from outside the glass doors.
He walked up to my daughter and I, giving Zoë a high five and then answering my question, “someone asked you to do Broadway?” with yet another question.
I nodded. “Could you imagine seeing my face on a billboard in Times Square!” I exclaimed with a laugh. I shook my head. “Not for me.” No, not for me at all.