“A Bawdy Night at Tahoe” by Carolyn T. Johnson

This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Travel.”

Something about a truck driver wearing red sequins just didn’t compute. Could my eyes be playing tricks on me? I wondered to myself, trying to make sense of what was happening.

It all started out as an innocent family weekend trip with my husband, stepson and daughter-in-law. What better place to indulge in a little skiing, gambling and dining than in Lake Tahoe, where the lights stay on all night long? Rumor had it they pumped pure oxygen into the casinos to enhance that wide-awake feeling.

The first day of our trip, the skiing conditions were perfect—sunny, with just enough powder to leave a wake. That night at dinner we feasted on filet mignon, lobster tails and several bottles of California’s finest. I cautioned my young daughter-in-law about the revue we were scheduled to attend later that evening.

“I’m not sure if you know what you are in for. I remember my virgin voyage to Nevada years ago. I bought a ticket for a show thinking it was all about the dancing and headdresses. I nearly fell out of my chair when the first pair of mammaries popped up on the stage,” I shared with her. “But in no time, the scenery was brimming with leggy women wearing nothing but head feathers, G-strings and teeny tiny party hats to cover what the law wouldn’t allow.”

I felt good about giving my daughter-in-law fair warning as we moseyed on over to the Horizon Theater to check out Gypsy Rose Lee and the Divas of the Carnival Cabaret. We settled into our reserved front row seats in the cozy arena. The waitress brought our cocktails right away, and then Gypsy sashayed out from behind the velvet curtain. She wore a long, red, sequined, spaghetti-strapped evening gown, with a sparkly gold and crimson hat and matching gold lamé wrap. She was kind of pretty in a matriarchal way, as long as you didn’t look too close. Tons of black eyeliner caked her eyelids that struggled to support her bevy of false lashes. Heavy rouge emphasized her sharp cheekbones and set off her ruby-red lips.

She grabbed the microphone to welcome everyone to the show, but when she spoke, her voice belted out like a New Jersey truck driver who’d just given up smoking. She was, as she so proudly proceeded to confess, a transvestite. So much for the warning.

During the evening, Gypsy welcomed her cast of lookalike stars onto the stage, one by one. They all sang very convincing renditions of hit songs, looking and sounding close to the real thing, even though they were not women by birth. Dolly Parton practically burst out of her skin-tight turquoise dress with each breath. Diana Ross sang while decadently dragging her white fur along behind her. Barbara Eden’s getup flashed back to an old I Dream of Jeannie rerun. Marilyn Monroe wore her infamous V-neck, blow-my-skirt-up dress. Selena strutted her Tejano self around, looking vampy in her big silver hoops. Whitney Houston beamed like her early happy gospel singer self, and even Bette Midler looked convincing with her blond locks.

All the performers were so into character that we sang right along with them to most of the songs. Dolly even bounced out into the audience and buried my husband’s shiny pate in her man-boob cleavage. I threw my hands in the air swaying to the Motown tune when Diana’s perfectly manicured hand reached out to touch mine. They were having so much fun that they volunteered to stick around for photos with us afterward.

What I first thought was a fiasco ended up being a fantastic burlesque show. Maybe it was because we weren’t expecting chicks-with-sticks, or maybe because they were really talented entertainers. But nonetheless, on this trip, we had a ball . . . no pun intended.

Travel 250_rgbCarolyn T. Johnson, a freelance writer from Houston, Texas writes from the heart, the hurt, the heavenly and sometimes the hilarious. Her work can be found in the Houston Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman newspapers, as well as Not Your Mother’s Books, Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies and e-zines.

Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Travel.” The book features 58 travel stories from around the world. Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/108SSFD) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/1tAGDZF).

To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.