Village People notwithstanding! Now, even though the early 1980’s were post-sexual-revolution, a person still had to balance freedom with safety.
When “BARNUM”, a Tony-Award Winning Circus Musical, opened its National Tour in New Orleans, I had never toured with a big show before and had little experience with the special challenges of managing expenses while on the road. When you tour with a show like this, the tour manager gives you a list of hotels and apartments that will be available in each city and you choose one a week or two ahead of moving to a new city.
Since we were going to be in NOLA for a month, I chose the hotel closest to the Sanger Theater. It was The Prince Conti, in the French Quarter, and though it was little run down at the time, it had a certain elegance and charm. The rooms were small, but were full of beautiful antiques, and the first morning Gretchen and I woke to find that a breakfast of croissants, butter and delicious chicory coffee would be brought to our room every day, on a silver platter. (with china service, plus a newspaper!) We were in hog heaven! When our run in NOLA was coming to an end, I received the list of accommodations for our 3 weeks in Washington, DC. Well, the only place I could afford (because I didn’t want to share a room) was asking for a two-week deposit upon booking. Although I was making good money with the show, I wasn’t going to be able to swing that deposit unless I spent a lot less for my last week’s hotel bill in NOLA
Gretchen had gone back to NYC, so I moved to the YMCA, where the daily rate was $19.95. However, I am compelled to say that THE VILLAGE PEOPLE WERE WRONG! First of all, “my room was SO small”. HOW SMALL WAS IT? I could wash my hands or answer the door without getting out of bed. REALLY!!! But there was one thing that made sitting in that tiny room very appealing, and that was what was going on outside of my room. Every time I left my room there were men standing in the halls. Just standing there. But what’s worse, and I am not making this up, there were also men standing in the communal shower. Just standing there. One guy had all his clothes on! Now, I had grown up in New York City, and I had seen a lot of unusual behavior in my life, but THIS I had not seen. Doubting that these were conscientious neighbors, making sure the halls and shower room were safe for us theater people, I showered at the theater from then on; and when entering or exiting my tiny room, I walked with eyes down and an obvious urgency.
The good thing is - I learned a lot about managing expenses that week, sitting in my coffin-sized room and trying not to let every sound in the corridor make me jump. The bad thing is - I have never been able to dance to that Village People song since then.