WEBSITE UPDATE–12-27-16–THE ROCKETTES AND TRUMP
The Rockettes made the news this week. Several times. First, Trump’s campaign announced that they were going to perform at the Inauguration, which didn’t totally surprise me, even though Trump has had a hard time getting performers to commit to the event. After all, the Rockettes performed at both of George W. Bush’s inaugurations.
But then several Rockettes announced that they didn’t want to perform but had been told they’d be fired if they didn’t, and that they were “embarrassed and disappointed” that they hadn’t had a say in the decision. As one put it, “the women I work with are intelligent and are full of love, and the decision of performing for a man that stands for everything we’re against is appalling…We will not be forced.”
At that point the Rockettes’ union chimed in with an e-mail that said, “Everyone is entitled to her own political beliefs, but there is no room for this in the workplace. If you are not full time, you do not have to sign up to do this work. If you are full time, you are obligated,” which led to headlines like, “The Rockettes Will Perform at Trump’s Inauguration, Whether They Like It Or Not”, and numerous tweets about how fitting it was for this particular inauguration that women were once again being forced to do something against their will with their bodies, and giving out the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of the union and the company for people to contact to register their disapproval.
At which point the company announced that it was all purely voluntary–“For a Rockette to be considered for an event, they must voluntarily sign up and are never told they have to perform at a particular event, including the inaugural. It is always their choice.”
But according to the New York Times, many of the women still felt under pressure “despite these assurances,” and union officials didn’t return any calls. Then on Friday evening, the union posted a statement on Facebook saying that it had reached an agreement with the Madison Square Garden Company (which owns the Rockettes) that would “allow all employees, even full-time dancers, to opt out of the inauguration” without repercussions. Still, other sources said that many of the Rockettes are still worried about their jobs if they refuse, so We Shall See.
But I was not at all surprised at the Rockettes’ refusing to perform or at their speaking out about it. The Rockettes have a proud history of speaking out and taking stands. I know this because I wrote a novella called “All About Emily,” the story of a robot who sees the Rockettes perform and decides she wants to be one, (well, I mean, what else would you want to be if you were a robot?) and in the process I did a ton of research on the Rockettes.
Most people don’t know this, but the Rockettes literally saved Radio City Music hall. In the late 1970’s it was due to be torn down because it was losing money and there was no longer an audience for the movies and live performances which it provided. A major campaign to save it had been launched, and everyone from New York’s mayor to the woman who owned the wrecking ball company which had been hired to demolish the building had protested its destruction and tried to convince the city to change its mind. Celebrities from Johnny Carson to John Belushi and Celeste Holme had begged for it to be saved. To no avail. The Rockefeller Corporation refused to change its mind, and the date for the building’s demolition was set. There’d even been a last, star-studded “memorial” performance in the building, and it looked like nothing could stand in the way of its destruction.
Enter the Rockettes. They took up positions all around Radio City Music Hall, dressed in their costumes and carrying clipboards, and began collecting signatures from passersby on a petition to save the historic building. This was in January, mind you. There is nothing more bone-chilling than the winds which blow through Manhattan’s concrete-and-steel canyons in the winter, especially when it’s snowing, and the Rockettes’ costumes consisted (and still consist) of leotards, fishnet stockings, and not much else.
But the Rockettes (all sixty of them, plus dozens of former and retired Rockettes) stood their ground, remaining there shivering in the cold till they had collected hundreds of thousands of signatures and had talked the city into restoring Radio City Music Hall instead of tearing it down. It’s now a beautifully refurbished Art Deco building and the host to dozens of events, rock concerts, and performances every year, including Cirque de Soleil and the famous Christmas Spectacular. Featuring the Rockettes.
It’s also one of the most famous–and most visited–tourist destinations in New York City, and is known as the “Showplace of the Nation.” Best of all, it’s been designated a New York City and a National Historic Landmark, which means it can’t be torn down. And the Rockettes are the ones who made that happen. Because they were willing to stand up for their principles.
And now, once again, they’re standing up and speaking out–this time against a man who’s bragged about sexually harassing women and indicated repeatedly that he has no respect for them. In his own words, “You have to treat ’em like shit.” Yea, Rockettes! You’re my heroes. You go, girls!
P.S. The e-mail address for Radio City Music Hall is feedbackradiocity@MSG.com
and the phone number for the American Guild of Variety Artists is 212-675-1003.
To e-mail the producers directly:
Make sure you tell them that if a Rockette does not wish to perform at the inauguration, she shouldn’t have to and there should not be repercussions.