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[Confessions of a Showgirl]

Star-Mangled Banner: A showgirl nightmare

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Photo: Patrick Rivera
Maren Wade

For a singing showgirl, one of the songs you must have in your repertoire is “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Every sporting event has an anthem singer, and it’s always a great honor to be that singer. Every American shares the bond of knowing the words to this special song.

So what happens when you are a showgirl … from Canada?

It was a high-profile boxing match at one of the major casinos on the Strip. Kelly had only moved to Vegas from Toronto about a year earlier, and she was already starring in one of the most popular shows in Vegas when she was asked to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at this highly publicized boxing match. As a Canadian, this was a first for her.

Confession time: As a singer, it’s always nerve-wracking to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner.” There are so many horror stories of forgotten lyrics or messed up notes. It’s a rangy song. Lucky for Kelly, she was a great singer. Still, she was nervous.

She practiced over and over in the hours leading up to her performance. At sound check, she sang through the anthem exquisitely. She was feeling confident and ready for the real deal.

Anthem time came around. Kelly stepped into the ring with the two boxers and the announcer, waiting to begin. She hummed her starting note quietly under her breath, making sure she was in the right key.

Right then the unthinkable happened: She forgot the opening lyrics to the anthem! They were seconds away from announcing her name, and she couldn’t for the life of her remember how it started. She leaned into one of the boxers and asked, “Um, excuse me. Can you just give me the opening line of the anthem?” The boxer looked at her like he was ready to punch her, or maybe he was just getting into character.

Suddenly, the words came back to her. “Oh, say, can you see.” Phew. That was a close call. Her name was announced. The audience applauded. She indulged in a brief silence to center herself, found her key and then, she began.

“Alright, the key is perfect! Off to a great start,” she thought. She continued, “What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming?” It was going well. She was nailing those notes!

At about, “Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro' the perilous fight,” she realized that she was running out of words again. It felt like she had stepped outside of herself, watching the train wreck about to happen. She continued, “O'er the ramparts we watch'd, were so gallantly streaming?” By another stroke of luck (or adrenaline), the words came back to her again. “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
 o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” She finished strong! She did it!

The audience gave a spotty applause. Some were scratching their heads with puzzled looks on their faces. They knew something was missing, but they couldn’t quite place what it was. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that Kelly realized she had totally skipped the part about “the rockets red glare” and “the bombs bursting in air.”

The next day she was wandering about town and a man approached her. With a huge smile on his face, he asked, “Hey, weren’t you the anthem singer at the fight last night?” She let her guard down. She rationalized that perhaps leaving out some of the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” wasn’t that noticeable. She reveled in her first fan encounter. It was so exciting to be recognized. She stood up taller and answered, “Why, yes, that was me.”

“Have you learned the words yet?” the man asked.

Now, I know you’re dying to know if this story is about me. Well, you can rest assured it’s not because I’m not Canadian. (Okay, I have another confession to make, I actually am Canadian. I have dual citizenship. It’s a long story.)

For the record, I love maple syrup and the land of the free and the hooooooome of the brave.

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