So maybe I'm a bit more puritanical than your average college freshman, but I never imagined I'd find a cherished holiday tradition grossly offensive.
When my family passed up a quaint suburban Thanksgiving near Boston to spend the weekend with me in New York, I took them to Radio City Music Hall expecting wholesome family fun. What I got was a skin show. It turns out that the annual "Christmas Spectacular," starring those world-famous Rockettes, "fills your heart with holiday cheer" and your mind with dirty thoughts.
Of the nine scenes performed in the show, only one presented the dancers adequately clothed to meet common standards of decency. This was the scene, mind you, that featured the swaddled baby Jesus. I suppose the producer didn't think Mary had a good enough bod to look hot in a leotard.
The very first scene had the dancers prancing around the stage in supershort fluorescent miniskirts, cleavage spilling out of their one-size-too-small spandex tops. From what I gathered, these women were meant to be playing reporters, not hookers.
I was surprised the children in the audience didn't break out into a chorus of "I see London, I see France, I see the Rockettes' underpants!" Maybe they were too busy wondering why their fathers were open-mouthed and drooling.
Meanwhile, all the male dancers were garbed in turtleneck sweaters, long black pants, knit scarves, hats and mittens. What, no eye candy for us girls? The so-called spectacular plugs itself as "a family event that grown-ups can share with children" -- and the bunch of dirty old men in the audience.
The sight of it sickened me: Nearly every male audience member's jaw was slack. Their pupils were dilated, their gazes transfixed. All were utterly mesmerized by the 100 synchronized bare legs -- which looked like they came straight out of the Nair "short shorts" commercial.
It was clear the men were far more engrossed by the spectacle than were their children, who seemed more attentive to their $5 buckets of popcorn than to the action onstage. The young man in front of me was literally teetering, wide-eyed, on the edge of his seat. I could swear I heard the kid panting. The teenage boys in the audience no longer will have to head to the seedy corner store for a dirty magazine; they can just keep the playbill under their mattress.
The Rockettes gave a whole new meaning to "ho ho ho" when they entered wearing nothing more than sleeveless leotards, complete with fuzzy trim atop plunging necklines and strappy stilettos to boot. They paraded around in their underwear amid a wintry scene of snow banks, flurries and icicles.
I couldn't help thinking their outerwear was a bit impractical. With all that exposed skin, there would've been a lot of frostbite to treat, and I can't imagine they'd look nearly as sexy with blue toes and fingers.
The men in the scene, of course, looked like they were ready for a trek into the Antarctic, not to mention that their sole purpose for being onstage was to ogle at the half-naked Rockettes strutting their stuff like misguided Vegas showgirls.
Another aspect of the show I found deeply disturbing was Santa's role as a pimp daddy. In one of the last scenes, Santa readied his leggy reindeer to carry him into the night, lashing out at them with a whip and commanding them onward. Santa Claus as a sadomasochist?
Earlier in the show, Santa, accompanied by his troop of adult midgets dressed in pointy shoes and jingle bells (isn't there some league against elf exploitation?), belted out a spirited rendition of "Santa's Gonna Rock."
He wasn't nearly as smooth as Nat King Cole, but this guy still had moves. Just as I was deliberating whether to walk out, I caught Santa out of the corner of my eye doing an Elvis-like pelvis thrust. Puzzled and rather distraught, I remained in my seat. I had just seen Santa, my childhood idol, bump and grind. And had I actually heard him correctly: "Santa's gonna shake his pole?"
I listened to the next verse with astute concentration. Sure enough, Santa was shakin' his pole in front of all those innocent young children. If I were Mrs. Claus, I'd file for divorce and sue that overweight chump for every last toy in the workshop!
Howard Collins, the spectacular's executive producer, notes, "The nine scenes are all rich in culture, history and tradition." And he's got a point, if he's talking about the culture, history and tradition of Amsterdam's legalized prostitution. The ticket holders in the front row might as well have paid for a lap dance.
The Radio City spectacular's claiming to be a "heartwarming holiday show for the whole family" is like Hooters advertising itself as a "family restaurant" -- patrons don't go there for the food, they go there for the flesh. If you're looking to take your children out for some wholesome holiday fun, opt for "Barney on Ice." You can bet the big purple dinosaur will at least keep his clothes on.