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Kiss of Life - Ann Margret
Ann Margret

Not that I was somebody. Let me clarify that. I was twenty years old, a young and not so rebellious man who walked out on his unsatisfying mail-clerk job after two years. Options to attend college were nonexistent. After a recent head-on auto accident when I died and came back to life in an emergency room, I wandered the streets, searched through newspaper want ads, applied for an unspecified amount of jobs for three months and was told an unspecified amount of times that I was unqualified for positions; I lacked the skills needed to alphabetize books on book shelves by title at the bookstore, I lacked experience writing names and addresses on envelopes for an ad agency, I needed wood sanding experience to work in a cabinet shop.

During one lucky minute when I was applying for one out of four six jobs with a hundred other applicants I got a position.

I’d guess I wasn’t brain dead after all.

Hired on the spot with six other hopefuls wasn’t bad. The operations manager at Circle Star Theater had to hire us. Opening night for the new theater was a week away. The manager was edgy and frustrated that he hadn’t hired personnel yet because they needed extensive training.

He assembled us inside the dimly lit theater. Nicely dressed and well-mannered the six of us fit the bill for responsible and dependable employees. We were the new ticket takers for the inside doors that led to the 3,743 seat theater in the round for plays. We would work four shows on weekends and four evening shows during the week. Our pay was two dollars a show and whatever tips we could squeeze from patrons.

He also needed thirty volunteer ushers to direct theater goers to their seats. He chose them from the other applicants. They knew they wouldn’t get paid but felt blessed for the option to see the ensuing plays and concerts for free.

Newly constructed and well-appointed inside, Circle Star Theater was operational and set to go. The theater in the round featured a rotating stage with 23 circular seating rows, the last row not further than 50 feet from the stage. The theatre's address was 2 Circle Star Way, San Carlos, California. Highly acclaimed plays would be presented over two week periods, plays that were financially successful on Broadway with exciting actors, some plays would feature admired Hollywood celebrities and Las Vegas performers, and when plays weren’t scheduled, concerts would fill-in on weekends.

I finally was somebody. I’d decided after four months of employment at Circle Star Theater that I had a fantastic job, met fantastic New York actors, fantastic Hollywood celebrities, fantastic famous singers and dancers, rock stars and their managers, booking agents, lighting technicians, sound directors, stage managers and I’d even engaged in after hour backstage parties and end of plays celebrations.

However, I couldn’t make a living as a ticket taker, but I’d gained some skills ripping tickets in half and telling people where to sit. After four months I’d finally acquired a nine-to-five job with a catering outfit that managed dinner parties for the likes of Shirley Temple. That was right up my alley. I was working in a live theater and now I got to cater to a real movie star.

Six months into working at Circle Star Theater, tearing thousands of tickets in half, I’d gained finger callouses. Directing people to the isle where they’d sit for two hours I’d gained confidence. Yet, on this specific performance I was astounded by my last customer to enter the theater.

My eyes were focused on the two tickets she handed me, I said, “Go six isles to your left right in front of the backstage entrance. An usher with show you to your seats.”

She stepped close to me and whispered. “Would you please seat us?”

I looked up and caught the beautiful gray/green eyes of the stunning Ann Margret, the gorgeous woman who starred in Bye Bye Birdie with Janet Leigh and Dick Van Dyke, Viva Las Vegas with Elvis Presley and The Cincinnati Kid with Steve McQueen, how was I going to refuse taking her to her seat?

Ann Margret had once been quoted saying, I always tried to be the perfect little girl. Always tried to have the perfect little manners. Never wanted to displease my parents, and so why would I refuse seating the beautiful Ann Margret? She always wanted to please her parents as I had.

She smelled sweet like Chanel #5 and was exposed in voluptuous splashes of red in a corset tight dress underneath her thickly swirled fiery hair. I nodded and licked my lips. Certainly saliva had to have dripped off my chin.

She closed my door to the theater while the other three ticket takers intently watched her. She put her arm through mine and her other arm through the arm of the man who escorted her. He had to be Roger Smith from the television detective series 77 Sunset Strip. He was the handsome Roger Smith. He was reserved without speaking. After all, he was married to Victoria Shaw, the Australian-born actress. So, why was he with the celebrated Ann Margret?

Theater lights were beginning to dim and the play would start in three minutes. At the top of the isle I gave Ann Margret’s tickets to the pretty teenage girl usher. Ann Margret hugged me, kissed me on the cheek and looked into my hungry eyes.

“What is your name?”

“Ben Campbell.”

Her smile was infectious. “Come see me during intermission I want to tell you something.” She rubbed my thigh, too close to you know where.

“Thank you,” I said, and watched the usher escort them down the carpeted aisle to their seats in the expensive area in the front row by the stage.

She was the biggest flirt I’d ever encountered and what did she have to tell me? Why did she rub my thigh? Why did she pick on me and not one of the other nice looking young ticket takers?

Forty five minutes into the play intermission started. Was I required to go see Ann Margret sitting in the front row by the stage? I’d asked my boss and he said that I couldn’t refuse. The actress, singer, dancer was a guest of the theater and I couldn’t refuse her request.

After bringing up the lights in the theater, opening the doors and watching patrons pile into the outer lobby where two snack bars were selling refreshments and a play program salesman pitched his ware, I stepped inside the theater and walked down the aisle near Ann Margret’s seat.

“There you are,” she said, and motioned for her escort to stand up from his seat next to her. He stood and drifted up the aisle toward the snack bar. “Sit.” Her effusive command stung my ears. “You are so cute. How old are you?”

I sat down on the seat sideways facing Ann Margret, thinking that her command was eccentric, but that was an existential oddity about celebrity.

“I’m twenty,” I said.

“Perfect,” she said, her twinkling eyes hypnotized me. “I want to sit on your lap.”

“Excuse me?”

“With your permission I’d like to sit on your lap.”

My body was turning into liquid. Dampness drifted across my forehead. My fingers were soggy. Embarrassed, I looked around to see if anyone was watching us. A few patrons locked their eyes on us and the theater GM stood atop the aisle. He waved his hand forward for me to continue.

“I’m just an employee,” I said.

“So you are,” she said. “I won’t hurt you. You’re so cute and I want to sit on your lap.”

Positioning my body to sit correctly in the seat instead of sideways, Ann Margret stood up, straightened her beautiful dress and lowered her bottom on my bony lap. After putting one arm around my neck she kissed me on the cheek again and listened to what I knew to be sniffing. Ann Margret smelled me.

“Thank you,” she said, stood up and sat back down in her seat. “That’s all, you can run along now.”

Her kiss of life was warm and wet and soft and I'd felt like a newborn baby. I stood up and panicked. “Thank you,” I said, “I think.”

 After intermission was over and the play started, in the lobby my co-employees grilled me with questions, wanting to know what my connection was with Ann Margret. The GM asked me how it felt to mingle with a movie star. I was only twenty years old I’d told them, how could I know what a big movie star was thinking? She didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask her. She just wanted to sit on my lap and smell me.

Smell you?

I nodded and he laughed.

Now that I think back on that event perhaps Ann Margret was preparing for a lap dance movie part.

After the play had ended I’d positioned beside the front door to say goodnight to the patrons and stood where I knew Ann Margret would see me upon exit. She and Roger Smith waited in their seats until the theater was clear of patrons. When they entered the lobby from the theater door the General Manager was with them as they strolled past me.

If she looked at me then I’d know I wasn’t just an object to her, just a kid drooling and fantasizing about her. If she didn’t look at me then I was a bust, just another cute creep she took advantage of.

She passed by me and at the last moment before she had to turn her head around to see me, our eyes made contact. Was that a wink? Was there a smile upon her moistened lips? Yes, that was a wink and a wet smile.

Ann Margret, who smelled sweet like Chanel #5 and was exposed in voluptuous splashes of red in a corset tight dress underneath her thickly swirled fiery hair, and was escorted by a married man to see a play at Circle Star Theater, really did like me. I felt objectified but not trivialized as an object.

Not that I was somebody. Let me clarify that. I was now a prize for Ann Margret.