Men, if you want to raise your status at work, arrange to have three Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, in full feather, follow you to your desk.
“Hey, there are some women behind you,” said one trained observer Tuesday morning as three gorgeous Rockettes trailed me through the newsroom.
“Yeah, they won’t leave me alone,” I answered. “What can I say?”
The Rockettes — charming young women named Alyssa Epstein, Christina Hedrick and Lisa Matsuoka — twittered among themselves, perhaps not sure what to make of the newsroom wisenheimers.
When the publicist for Gaylord Opryland called earlier this month to ask if we’d like to interview some dancers with “A Country Christmas,” I pounced. The Nashville show, Nov. 14-Dec. 28, features the Rockettes for the seventh year in a row.
“Will they high-kick in the newsroom?” I asked the publicist. “I’ll need video.”
Certainly, came the response.
From that moment, I was on a mission. I had been looking for a proper subject for my first online video for timesfreepress.com. I’ve done video commentaries before, but this is the first time I’d actually shot a video that didn’t involve a kid’s soccer game or a toddler spewing yogurt.
I quickly spread word in the newsroom that my first video would be something grand, perhaps a Broadway-style musical featuring the fabulous Rockettes.
“Got your camera ready, Spielberg?” called a wise guy from the sports department as the dancers settled in for their interview.
When the Rockettes arrived at 8:30 a.m., I indeed had the camera fired up and ready to go. I had even moved a table in the newsroom to soak in natural light, and I had consulted our professional videographers about the proper angles to shoot the dancers.
If you’ve visited the newspaper’s Web site, you will notice there are two kinds of videos posted there. There are stylish pieces from our production video staff, and there are reporter videos, which, shall we say, are long on effort and short on artistry. I expected my first video would have that Blair Witch-style hyperventilating-in-the-woods-with-a-Panasonic look.
So I left no detail to chance. I made little place cards for the Rockettes so they would know where to sit. I studied the play/record functions of the video camera over and over.
I needn’t have worried. The Rockettes were pros. I asked each of them a question, and they turned to the camera and gave polished answers through dazzling smiles.
I asked Ms. Epstein about the extraordinary synchronicity required to be a Rockette.
“Every pinkie, arm and elbow has to be the same,” she said.
Ms. Hedrick, a former member of the Philadelphia 76ers dance team, noted that all the Rockettes are between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 10 inches and arrange themselves onstage to give the illusion that they are all the same height.
“It’s all about making sure you count the right number of kicks,” she said of performing as part of the group. “If you mess up, it’s pretty obvious.”
Ms. Matsuoka, a 10-year veteran of the Radio City Music Hall group, said earning a job as a Rockette is ultra competitive.
“Every year, hundreds of women go to the (regional) auditions,” she said. “Every year we have to prove our competence.”
As the Rockettes were preparing to dance, I moved the table to make room. A tripod shifted, and the camera crashed to the floor. My jaw fell open, and I uttered a silent scream, but a coworker hurried into the picture and nursed the camera back to life. No damage.
After the interview, I spent about a half-hour reviewing the tape and making notes for the video editors, breathing easier once I determined I hadn’t decapitated the Rockettes.
Later in the day, the video editors showed up at my desk with concerned faces.
“We’ve got a problem,” one of them said.
I felt my heart skip. “Not with the Rockettes video, you don’t,” I said. “Tell me you don’t have a problem with the Rockettes video.”
Turns out some other poor sucker in my department had snagged a bad videotape, and his video report for the day was ruined.
For an instant, I felt guilty for being relieved by someone else’s misfortune. But, hey, that’s show business, baby.
Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...