Tilefortlauderdale

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ballerina Billy

After 12 years of working as an art director for a tourism mag, William was replaced by an intern. The magazine had grown skinny and there just wasn’t enough to keep anyone on full-time and pay their health insurance and all that beneficial stuff.

William remembers when he started working there, how impressed he was … not just with the standard bennies like health insurance and tuition reimbursement, but there was a gym they could go to for free and all those fancy lunches out on the town, and the office with a view of down-freakin'-town! He was in heaven. But in recent years things had changed … scaling back they called it … not enough ads, not enough tourism, not enough people who could fork over the bucks to fly anywhere. Now William was jobless.

There was a time he worked really long hours and even got hefty bonus bucks for doing so. But William knew those days were over and that he was lucky just to have a job for as long as he did. It’s not that William didn’t try harder to be indispensable. He began diversifying, and doing other things to try to drum up business for the company in recent years. He started a travel blog, mostly about Broward, even tried helping the ad department organize special ads based on events that would bring people to town, get all the hotels involved, but many of his ideas got shot down. When they gave him an intern he thought they had big plans for him … now the intern had his job, only she got paid next to nothing to do it, and was damned happy to have that job.

William was tired anyway, tired of everything. He was ready to do something new anyway, so everyday he’d read the ads on Career Builder and Monster.com and all those sites. But when he put in the keywords “art director,” he’d mostly see ads for how to get paid for being extras in movies. Ditto for assistant art director, graphic designer, Web designer and other related titles. There were some jobs that one could afford to take if they lived at home … like with their parents. But most 38-year-old guys do not.

Finally he found an ad for a job he thought he might have a chance of getting if he played his cards right. It read: Valet Parker Needed. When he was little, he thought they were ballet parkers … and he never quite got why they called him that and was disappointed that they didn’t actually do ballet. One thought led to another, and he said whatever he needed to get the job.

Billy, as he is now known, works at Pinky’s Steaks. It’s not the most fancy schmantzy downtown restaurant yet lots of rich people who appreciate good local food and great service go there, and many of them ask for Billy by name. He wears a ballerina suit and slides behind the wheel of ridiculously overpriced cars every night, each time leaving a little card that says Ballerina Billy, Marketing Genius. Through his little card-dropping and schmoozing, he has been asked to work many a ritzy party where he gets tips galore and even more work.

Earlier this month, Billy was asked to perform at a big corporate holiday bash for a jeweler. The event featured a giant child’s jewelry box and when the lid was raised at the kickoff of the party, Billy rose up, like a little jewelry box ballerina and began slowly twirling, arms arched together high above his head. This is the stuff he dreamed about as a kid.

He was also hired by the local performing arts center to park cars during a whole week of special holiday performances of The Nutcracker. Billy earned some very big tips that night. Oddly, Billy is happier and more financially stable than he has ever been.

The tourism magazine, however, is not faring so well, so Billy’s pretty happy that he got fired. He’s since been offered some decent steady jobs, but they don’t pay like they once did, and Billy is doing far better on his own. He skips and twirls and does little pirouettes at his ballet parking job and it’s paying off for him big-time. Billy is just completely amazing in a way that tourism magazine William could never have been.

Billy always loved ballet as a child and his parents discouraged him from taking lessons. His dad said it was for sissies, and his mom just went along with his dad, and didn’t stand up for Billy’s right to ballet. As a result, Billy doesn’t have much dance experience. He’s not smooth like those ballerinas in the Nutcracker ballet or anything, but that is the beauty of Billy … that he realizes now that you don’t have to be smooth. You just gotta have guts.

Wherever he goes now, people kiss his hand, give him free drinks, have their pics taken with him. Ballerina Billy is a celebrity unlike any other. But what he’s most happy about is the way he’s inspired others to take seemingly meaningless work and twirl it into a dream-come-true. Recently he received thank you notes from a Disco-dancing dishwasher, an opera-singing taxi driver and a dry cleaner attendant who sticks funny little haikus in the pockets of her customer’s clothing. They’re all doing well, and seem very happy.

Billy’s new theory: You gotta do whatever you gotta do to pay the bills, but no one has to do exactly what’s expected. There’s way more to life than that. That’s what Awesome Billy says.

Billy’s at The Field on Griffin Road in Dania … He’s in the ladies’ room, the one closest to the door. It says Lasses on it. He went there to learn how to stepdance, maybe do an Irish jig or two, but when he got there he found out it was a Beatles tribute night, and a bunch of drunken company holiday party jolly types were all singing along, very, very badly. So he slipped into the Lasses room for a quiet moment, to collect his thoughts … Billy likes hanging out with the Lasses.

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