BEHIND THE STORY...
Let's start at the beginning. No details. Just an overview. A slice of life, my life, Evie's roots. I started performing professionally at the age of fourteen. I have the pictures to prove it. (See left) Don't laugh. My grandma dressed me. I think that flowered pant suit was her idea of hip and what did I know? I was a geek. But I got the gig. Singing with a trio in a Holiday Inn lounge every weekend. They paid me $25.00 a night. That's fifty bucks a weekend for a fourteen/fifteen year old! Great money (way back then). But I was more intrigued with the performance rush than the steady paycheck. I'd always loved to sing... but performing... on stage... the sound of applause... Heaven.
I performed in hotel lounges (Holiday Inns) and private clubs (Moose, Elks...) almost every weekend throughout my teens. At seventeen, the day after I graduated high school, I 'went on the road'. Musician lingo for traveling from city to city, state to state, in vans and cars, from lounge to nightclub, living in hotel after hotel. I sang with Top 40 dance bands, performing six nights a week, 48 weeks a year for eight years. I was a true road warrior. I even helped load in and out equipment. I preferred being regarded as one of the guys rather than the chick singer (read: Diva). I started off leading my own five-piece band and eventually joined a seven-piece show band. Pictured right is a promo pic from about 20 years ago. The band JUSTUS. Dig those costumes. Spandex-city. Hee! But trust me, they were 'in' at the time. The man I'm leaning against is my now brother-in-law, John Ciotta. (Special note: John now headlines on cruise ship show rooms and helped me with research regarding Evie's cruise). That handsome guy on my left/your right (dark hair/moustache), is my now husband Steve (still as sexy today sans the moustache).
I loved that lifestyle for a good long while. What an amazing way to see the country! I was making a living doing what I was born to do--sing--and I never had to make my bed. Ah, yes. Daily housekeeping service. But I eventually burned out and longed to call somewhere home. Atlantic City was the perfect choice. Instead of hopping state-to-state, I could hop from casino-to-casino.
Steve and I settled in AC in 1986. We worked pretty steadily in the casino lounges. We worked with some amazing musicians. We made lifelong friends in the entertainment/casino industry. But we also endured many career ups and downs. At one point I couldn't sing steadily enough so I branched out, working as a character actress and dance motivator. I have led a very colorful life. Multitudes of wacky stories that always seem to bleed into my writing. (Note the visual slices of my life over the years as a singer, actress, and emcee in the Atlantic City casinos.)
In 1994, my creative passion veered toward writing, but I still performed for a living for several more years. It's what I knew, what I was good at. Only as I neared 40, the gigs became harder and harder to land. I started working as an assistant for two different entertainment agents--hence truly learning both sides of the business. In 2001, an entertainment manager from one of the casinos called the office looking for performers to meet and greet patrons in the lobby (in costume), goodwill ambassadors who would occasionally emcees sweepstakes and slot tournaments. I listened thinking, you're describing everything I do and do well and you know this because you've known me for years and you've seen me in action. Why aren't you offering me the job?
He said, "You know. Someone like you, only younger."
In that moment, I knew my days as a working performer in Atlantic City were severely numbered. I channeled my hurt and frustration into my writing. And hence Evie Parish was born. Although many of her insecurities, disappointments and experiences mirror my own, she took on a wacky, vivid life of her own. As you read her tales, note some of the details are rooted in reality and some are figments of my overactive imagination. Oh, and please know I no longer fret over being looked over in favor of 'younger' talent. It was great thirty year ride, but like Evie, I've moved on to new adventures!