The New Year’s Eve Ball Is Acting Like a Diva and Refusing to Drop
December 31st 2018
“Baby Gwyneth, tell them I’m not doing it.”
Says the human-sized mirror ball, laid down on a Tiffany’s-blue ottoman, with pink plush pants that cover where legs would be. She is the Belle of the New Year. The Grand Event of the Last Night of the Year. The Dropping Diva. She is The Times Square Ball, as attests the sign on the door of the only private dressing room on the ground floor of 1 Times Square.
The only person with The Ball inside the velvety dressing room is her personal assistant. A very skinny long-haired androgynous teenager dressed in a shirt that says Gucci and a pair of sweatpants that say Supreme. The Ball refers to her assistant as “Baby Gwyneth,” even though his real name is Marc. But The Ball never cared to ask.
“Baby Gwyneth” unlocks the dressing room door, and by a gap large enough for only a phrase to come out, says: “She is not doing it.”
Michael Pira, head producer of the Times Square New Year’s celebration, who had been knocking on the door for five minutes while passing on the corridor, is taken aback by the words. In his mind, he is promising himself he will never do this again. For the last 20 years he has been promising himself he will not do this again, but this time he means it. At least he thinks he means it. This time the biggest star of the show is about to go on strike.
“She says she’s not doing it!,” Michael repeats out loud, looking back at someone. “What do you mean, not doing it?” asks his new intern, a young woman who tries to disguise her beauty by using prescription glasses that were her grandma’s and aren't prescribed by anyone, in order to be taken more seriously.
“What do you mean, not doing it?”, Michael Pira opens the door, left unlocked, and repeats towards the darkness the question, as if it was a brilliant finding, and not just the logical reply to the denial of a contract that had been signed 362 days ago.
“Sorry, Madame Ball is not feeling comfortable with the present circumstances,” says “Baby Gwyneth” whose only function in the room seems to be echoing every word of The Ball. “Baby Gwyneth” tries to push the door closed once again, but the unmanicured hands of the intern get in the way.
“We got her a dressing room, for Christ sakes. Five Nespresso machines! A private elevator. What is there not to be comfortable with?” asks the young intern with the passion of someone who is in her first internship, while she pushes the door open.
A high-pitched voice scratches the dark air like the ringing of a water finger running around the rim of a half-empty wine glass. “Too many tourists,” says the voice coming from the back of the candle-lit room. It’s The Ball.
“I beg your pardon?” asks the young intern (79% of the time someone says “I beg your pardon”, what is really meant is “up yours”. This is the case.)
“Too many tourists, honey. Not tourists, I mean. Those tourists that won’t go away… How do you call them?” asks The ball. The androgynous sidekick looks back at his boss and offers a question as a reply, voice trembling, as if his job depended on a right answer. And it does: “Li-li-like, Im-Immi-Immigrants?”
The Ball claps something invisible in the dim light in delight, making a noise of a shattering light bulb: “Yes! The ones that come, fall in love with America and won’t go away.”
“Baby Gwyneth” produces something round and red from The Ball’s knock-off nude Birkin bag. “Madame Ball even had planned a number for tonight. An epic number to celebrate America with dancing and singing and whatever,” says the personal assistant while he flails the item. The production intern has to fight her dropped jaw to ask: “Is that a Make America Great Again cap?”
“Like, yeah! This year’s show would be, like, true American. A pole dance with fireworks. I-co-nic! A 4th of July in December 31st. Literally, a 4th of July in December 31st,” says “Baby Gwyneth”, showing excitement for the first time in a very long time. His job is the worst.
The voice of the Mirrored Diva comes from the back of the room: “Too bad I’m not doing any more”.
The intern’s fists clench unconsciously, as she takes a step forward. She swipes “Baby Gwyneth” out of her way with the back of one hand. It’s proves to be easier than opening a shower curtain. She takes three steps into the dressing room and is engulfed by a scent that reminds her of a place of her childhood she can’t quite name.
The young intern is facing The Ball. Which is more like facing a million of shatters of the reflection of her own red and furious face. She finds within her the guts to do her boss’ job: “You are not using this cap. The contract determines clearly: no props whatsoever.”
“I’m not. I’m not using anything,” states The Ball calmly, “there won’t be a show.”
Now the young lady’s teeth are grinned. And her voice slips through them, like a growl: “There will be a show”.
The ball is looking up at the young woman when she says: “Who do you think you are, honey?”
“It doesn’t matter who I am. It matters who I work for: your boss”, replies an intern that would be looking calm and in control, if she wasn’t scarlet as a Red Delicious Apple.
The Ball seems really comfortable: “You are not my boss. New York City is my boss. It has been my family’s boss for a hundred years now. We’ve always been here. My grandmother dropped to the handclaps of the mafia. My mother would take the party from Times Square to Studio 54, honey. We own this. We are benchmark.”
The intern frowns for half a second until she understands what The Ball means, and corrects her: “I believe you mean landmark. You are a landmark”.
“Baby Gwyneth” enters in between the dialogue and covers his chest with a opened hand, is if the words had made a hole by his heart. “Excuse me? I think Madame Ball knows what she means! Like, literally, she knows the meaning of each and every word.”
The young intern takes a deep breath not to utter the words that would fit this situation. And, with a lung full of air, she recognizes the scent that dominates the place: Victoria’s Secret champagne and strawberry. But there is a stench of old alcohol on the side.
“Are you drunk?” she confronts the star, looking over “Baby Gwyneth”'s diminutive body.
“No!”, “Baby Gwyneth” intercedes: “She only had five Buds. It takes her at least sev…” but “Gwyneth’s” phrase is cut short by The Ball.
“Will you fetch me a face mask, Baby Gwynethyyy?”
The intern shakes her head, regretting touching that wasp nest of a subject. And goes back to the what really matters: “Ok, never mind the booze. The contract. Let’s discuss the contract. We’ve honored our part of the contract. It’s all here: facemasks with chlorophyll from Antartica. Thermal water from the seas of Belgium. You are doing your gig.”
The production team had to come up with fake labels and brands for nonexistent items The Ball had demanded, and now were lying unused in the italian marble dresser.
Well, you want me to follow the contract?” asks The Ball, holding a tome of 43 stapled pages.
“Yes. That is all we ask of you,” says the young intern.
The Ball smiles: “The contract says I have to perform. It does not state what kind of performance. So I’ll go...” Sigh of relief. Michael Pera’s sweat glands stop working for a split second. Until The Ball finishes her sentence: “...but I won’t dance. I won’t sing. My very own existence will be a gift to all of you. Very much like Mariah Carey --oh, we had such a ball last year, if only she was here now.”
The intern is not going down without a fight. She has been trained to handle tantrums: “Well, she’s not. But you are.”
The Ball can’t bother to be interrupted. Not now. “But noooo, the big star of the night are this Korean pop fivesome. Five beautiful short-haired girls who aren’t even American.”
The five Korean guys from k-pop sensation band Five Guys are on the backstage, so not nearly close enough to listen the dressing room talk. But they wouldn’t anyway: they are gathered around their manager. It seems like a fast food restaurant is suing them for misuse of a trademark. The manager, who is also promising himself he will never do this (create a band from scratch and exploit it until the members hit puberty) again, explains his solution to the group, in Korean.
“Today we will present ourselves with a new name. A name that has never been used. A name that is lawsuitfree: The Fab Five”.
Back in the dressing room, Michael Pira is unaware of the legal obstacles faced by the Korean pop posse. He will have to deal with it eventually.
But now he is too busy degrading himself: Michael Pira is on his knees, by the ottoman, steaming up The Ball’s face with spluttered compliments.
“You’re the reason all this people are here,” Michael points to the TV, that showcases hundreds of thousands of tourists, and five New Yorkers that wait for the countdown. The Ball smiles. He believes he is heading in the right direction: “You are HUGE,” Michael whispers in her ear.
Her smile is flattened to a straight line, like the heart monitor of someone who just died: “Are you calling me big?”
Michael’s sweat glands go back to work full power: “No… I mean, yes! But not that type of big”.
“Can you believe Page Six?”, “Six feet in diameter they wrote. Six feet. Fake news. Shame!”
“You’re in perfect shape, come on”
The intern, is still standing up, straight behind her boss, and has had enough: “Aaaah, enough! You’re a mirror ball! All you have to do is drop!”
“All I have to… How dare you?! Who are yo… Michael, who is she?”
The ball rotates her face towards Michael.
“Uh-oh, someone’s getting fired,” hisses “Gwyneth,” grinning.
“She is our new intern...” dramatic pause, “...Katrina Vanderbilt Cooper”
“As in Cooper, Cooper?! As in Cooper, Anderson Cooper, Cooper?” The Ball’s voice is even more high-pitched.
“Yes, I’m his niece, and I do recognize that my life has offered privileges in getting here, but that does not invalidate my whole experience and effor…” Katrina is interrupted by The Ball.
“Shush! I am not talking to you, who-are-yooper?!”
Anderson Cooper shows up in the screen: “The thrill is real. Everyone here in Times Square is waiting for the ball to drop. All America is anxious for the ball.”
The Ball looks at Katrina, looks at Anderson Cooper, looks at Katrina once more, and smiles: “Ah, well. Since everyone loves me and your family asked so politely.”
The Ball is carried by her personal assistant through the corridor that takes to her private elevator, and where all of the other people who work on the show have to protect themselves from the biting cold, when they get two minutes off. “Baby Gwyneth” pants her way through Anderson Cooper, who is celebrating his last commercial break of the night attacking a chia and fig bar.
“Hello, dear. I hope to see you in Gloria’s house for the Sunday luncheon,” says The Ball, blowing Anderson Cooper a kiss. Anderson Cooper does not stop chewing when his name is uttered and his niece looks at him, aghast. He is friends with that despicable creature! Anderson Cooper turns to Katrina and winks at her, with a firm politeness of the well-born.
“It’s who you know, darling,” Anderson Cooper teaches his niece.
The elevator doors shut. The square structure hoists the round diva 141 feet up in the air. Michael Pira, Katrina Vanderbilt Cooper, “Baby Gwyneth” and Anderson Cooper all look up. Each one of them will drop a tear in a second. The ball grabs the pole, and a pink plush pair of pants slides in the wind.