A Great Lady of the Stage

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Ben-Andy Hein:

Of course I "knew" Lois Carmen D'Nominator for many years before I actually met her. We all did. We were the new kids on the block, lately come to the party and eager to see all the sights and learn the ropes. There she was, up on the stage, bigger than life, funnier than anyone one actually knew in real life, prettier than all the others too. It wasn't until I made my debutas a lowly convention hostess [LCLA! '99] that our paths chanced to cross. Oh no, not ON stage. She limited herself to the glamorous world of the HTQ and a simple girl like me could never have trod those boards. No, I met her backstage or rather in a rather spacious bathroom with bad lighting nearby.

My very talented make-up artiste, Lita Rosen, was fussing on my make up in the dim back stage light in the bowels of the Bonaventure Hotel's Los Angeles Room. Really, she's such a miracle worker, I don't know how she managed to get my eyebrows on straight with the conditions she had to work under. I of course was delayed by other pressing commitments [I was busier in those days, you see] and we had less than an HOUR for her to make me up to perfection for my big appearance at the convention banquet which was proceeding on just the other side of the temporary stage. It had taken twice as long to get me ready for the photo shoot that led to the large cut outs of me and my side kick, Oprah [who's such a simple girl and quite apparently willing to go before the cameras almost au naturale as I think she barely brushed on some powder to reduce the shine and perhaps a little lip gloss. Pretty girls are sooooooo lucky!]. We had barely half that much time, but sometimes you have to go with what you have.

Anyway, once I was made up to Lita's satisfaction, I made a quick trip to the loo to put on my frock and who should come in but Lois. She was dressed in "mannish" clothes, but I certainly recognized her. I thought, "She must be taking a page from Katherine Hepburn and either trying to set a style trend or to avoid being recognized by the paparazzi." She did have on some dazzling ear bobs. It was a FORMAL banquet you see. The lighting wasn't the best in the head either. Florescent bulbs make me look just awful and quite gray. Well, Lois took one look at me and said, "Honey, you cannot go out looking like that! Let me help you." I looked in the mirror to see what could possibly be wrong. No stains on my crushed velvet royal purple dress. My pearls, though faux would certainly be fine at the distance they were going to be viewed by the crowd and would pick up the Super Trooper [Jr] light perfectly. And yes, my wrist bangles were simply strands of faceted, silvered bead necklaces wound around my limbs. Shoes? Well, black DOES goes with everything and it wasn't like I was going to be kicking up my heels out there. My red nerf ball falsies could have used some lace to make them look more like a Victoria's Secret Bra. but my long, lank, lifeless, stringy blond hair would mostly distract from them as well as cover them somewhat.

"Your face, dearie," she said patiently. "We don't have time to pluck your eyebrows and I'm in no mood for the crying anyway, but you'd look less like death warmed over if you had about 3 times more rouge on. Perhaps your people don't want to call attention to the redness of you nose so that is why they applied the foundation with a trowel. But I'll be damned if I'm going to let you go out there in the WRONG SHADE OF LIPSTICK!" [I mostly was in a daze because she thought *I *had "people"!] And with those gracious words, she opened her fashionable evening clutch [covered in black jet beads that might have even been real], grabbed out half a dozen golden tubes of lipstick and began squinting, er peering, um CON-sidering the labels. Finally, she chose one called "Fire Engine" and applied it to my face rather like a mother washing up her errant son for church. "That will just have to do. Let me see your teeth. Oops." but that was fixed by a couple of sheets of TP she quickly obtained. "Now, don't smile until you go out there. Keep your mouth relaxed and your teeth wet so more doesn't stick. Make us proud of you."

And with that, she swept out of the baño and back to her table. I think she even forgot to pee. I had no time left to rehearse the perfect speech my ghostwriter, David Kalmansohn, had written and I'm afraid I botched it rather badly. But I felt pretty, dammit. I'd been given the Lois Carmen seal of approval and it just didn't get better than that. I took a deep breath [well, as deep as I could since the dress didn't allow me to completely fill my lungs, really only about 1/4], and sailed out into the light, nearly right on time. And you know, history was made that night. You see, by only two degrees of separation, Lois Carmen D'Nominator kissed the handsome and dashing caller Vic Ceder since he accepted my challenge that night, came right up on stage and planted a wet one on me. I know that Debbie has yet to forgive me. I hope that Lois realized what had happened when it did. I don't think I ever told her about it and if she was off getting a cocktail or deep in conversation with one of her adoring fans [or realized she still needed to pee], she might have missed the whole thing. But I firmly believe, that but for the gracious loan of Fire Engine lipstick, regally applied, these lips would have never crossed paths with El Hunky Vic.

Having done it once, it became easier to arrange for it to happen again, of course. At my dress retirement party in Feb 2000, I got dipped and fully kissed on the lips at the North Hollywood Masonic Lodge by none other than Michael Kellogg, who was my intended target on that first fateful night, but he was nowhere to be seen. Lois would have been proud of me, I know. But I don't remember what shade of lipstick I wore the 2nd time "it happened", because Lois wasn't there to make me feel pretty. I hope that I can carry on in her fine example and someday help some other poor struggling convention hostess or even a hat check girl, struggling street mime or barmaid with her facial allure. It won't be easy. I don't keep nearly the range of shades on hand that Lois obviously toted around with her habitually, only trying to do good and help others have the confidence to do the things that ought to be done. Perhaps if I get to SLC in 2014, I'll sit in a kissing booth in Temple Square and give away free kisses to anyone who looks like they could use a lift in honor of the 15th anniversary of that kind, generous, motherly, loving act. I think I'll wear Fire Engine in her memory.

I'll miss her.

Uma Winfrey Convention Hostess, ret, LCLA! '99