My grandmother was an extraordinary human being. She was a feisty, smart, extremely talented and lovely woman who, as she related to me, grew up with all the disadvantages of privilege. Pretty much everything was provided for her from cradle to grave, she said. But in her twenties, in the nineteen twenties, she rebelled.
She had graduated from a private college in New York State and contrary to all expectations of her, decided to move to the city to audition for the Siegfield Follies. She was going to be a Broadway show girl!
So she moved to Manhattan and began a rigorous training regime leading up to a series of auditions for the most illustrious Broadway company of the day. As the story goes, she couldn’t get an audition at first because she was a complete unknown. So she crashed the second in charge producer’s office and insisted on a try out. He asked her to lift her skirt so he could see “the full extent” of her legs, and upon being duly impressed signed her up for the next audition!
She was fabulous! She danced and sang and charmed her way right up to the final audition. But before this final and decisive test, the producer asked to see her again in his office. He said that she had all the makings of a Broadway performer… the looks, the moves, the wit, the voice, the talent…everything, except for the one most important ingredient of all. She asked what on earth that could be. He told her frankly – “You are not hungry enough for this! Those other girls out there are hungry, some of them desperate to get this job. Because of that they have put their whole lives on the line to be here and you can feel the difference. Do you know why? Because their hearts are in it all the way!
For this reason she was turned away.
Alas, the direction of her life was not to be a Broadway showgirl, but to marry a Scottish businessman, settle down and raise three children.
Nevertheless, she did have the humility and humanity to graciously accept the producer’s words, knowing in her heart it was true. But from then on she told this story as an encouragement and council to anyone she felt needed to hear it.
I can still hear her gentle but firm voice asking me on more than a few occasions –
“Is your heart in it?”