Don’t Cry for Me, Robinson, IL

I recently finished reading Patti LuPone’s memoir. I joke with my friends that I would like to scratch her name off the cover and replace it with mine.

When I was growing up, the Tony Awards was the most important night on television for me. My father always commanded the one television we had in the house. However, he knew not to mess with me on Tony night. He surrendered the television and would go to bed early in a huff. I had only seen plays at my hometown community theater (which later lead to me acting in them). This night was a big deal!

I almost shit my pants when I saw the company of Evita sing “A New Argentina” live on the awards ceremony in the spring of 1980. I was a freshman in high school and I vividly remember telling my mother, “I’m going to do that,” referring to the profession of theater. Mom didn’t even look up from her romance novel.

The day after the Tony’s, I bought the Broadway recording on 8-track tape, featuring Patti LuPone, at Pamida (Robinson, IL premiere discount store before Wal-Mart came to town). I was shocked that the store had it. I listened to it over and over … in order, of course. Evita is the only album I had on 8-track, LP, cassette tape, compact disc and on my ipod.

My memoir talks extensively about my years of doll playing to ease the pain of my existence. I had a blonde Barbie doll and lots of clothes at my disposal to do Eva Peron’s costume’s track. I would stop the record long enough to change my Barbie’s outfit and hairstyle for her next number, then continue my show.

I became Evita. Patti LuPone was my voice as Eva. I had only seen the number from the Tony’s, but I had imagined what the show’s blocking and choreography must have been like. The musical was on a continuous loop in my head. Even when I was at school and being bullied … I was still Eva Peron and my evil classmates were my political foes.

I eventually saw three different productions of Evita and the blocking and choreography in my head wasn’t far off from the real show. I have never done the show professionally. I am glad. I would hate to spoil the glamor and excitement of my fantasy.

Back in 1980, I was sure that Patti LuPone was the luckiest woman in the world. To do the show and get paid and get awards for doing it. She was an icon. As the Evita years have passed, I have followed every inch of her career, from Life Goes On to the Sunset Blvd mess, and of course, Gypsy. She is a legend and an inspiration … diva reputation and all. I read her memoir the day I got it in one sitting. I love her.

Of course, I talk about Ms. LuPone and Evita in my book. I had woven a few lines of the lyrics to “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” into the book, but sadly was advised to delete them for copyright reasons. (We thought we might get away with it under “fair use” since I didn’t use all the lyrics. But why chance it?)

I would be lying if didn’t confess that the Repertory Theater of My Bedroom closed Evita in 1982 to make way for Dreamgirls.

Barbie had to wear a fat suit to play Effie.

About Dennis

Dennis Milam Bensie’s poem “Eight Ball” was published in Greater National Society of Poets, Inc in 1980 when he was a freshman in high school. It was featured thirty years later in his memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men. His short stories, poetry and essays have been featured all over the web and in print. His second book, One Gay American, was chosen as a finalist in both the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Book Awards. His latest book Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature has been featured in Kolaj Magazine and was a part of Tribe Magazine’s “Anti-Shame Week”. The author has been a presenter at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans and at Montana’s very first gay pride festival.
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One Response to Don’t Cry for Me, Robinson, IL

  1. Eric says:

    Barbie had to wear a fat suit to play Effie? You continually find ways to suprise and delight me. High flying, adored doesn’t even begin to describe you.

    As I read and re-read the book and your blog, I find myself overwhelmed by your candor and the humility with which you tell your story. You are a force of nature.

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