Five-year-old Spencer’s eyes sparkled proudly as he watched his mother sing and dance in the light of the brilliant stage lanterns. Standing backstage, he could watch all the entertainers, both the talented and the soon-to-be-forgotten hopefuls, leave their heart and soul with the audience. Most of them would never make it to the bigtime but that didn’t matter to Spencer. Right now he was watching his mother. She had already made it as a music hall entertainer because the audiences loved her.
Tonight, though, his mother’s performance lacked its normal sparkle. She seemed dizzy and her face had become frighteningly pale. Worse than that, she had huge beads of sweat pouring down her face. Sweat. Spencer’s mother was too professional for sweat. That’s why it came as no surprise to anyone, least of all to Spencer, when she fainted in the middle of her routine.
“What’s she doin’? She can’t faint yet.” The stage manager screamed so loud the audience gasped. “She has to finish… I’ll fire her… I’ll… I’ll…”
Spencer wanted to rush out to his mother’s side but he knew that would never be allowed during a performance. He looked around frantically to see who would help her. Nobody.
“Get somebody out there performing.” The horrible stage manager wouldn’t let up. “I don’t care who… just get somebody out there singin’ somethin’.”
Spencer felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up into the harsh eyes of the manager’s assistant. “Is that your mother, kid?”
“Kin you sing or dance or anythin’?”
“Well, I guess you the one gonna halfta finish for yo’ mama.” He pried Spencer’s hand from the curtain and gave him a push toward the center of the stage. “Sing somethin’. Sing for yo’ supper, child, ‘cuz yo’ mama sure ain’t doin’ it.”
Spencer found himself at the middle of the stage facing a packed house. He turned around to see his mother being pulled off stage. He was alone. A flood of thoughts rushed through his young mind in an instant. 'Mama could get fired. I gotta be the man of the family. They want me to sing.'
Not sure what was expected, he began to sing his mother’s song. The crowd began to quiet down a little so Spencer sang louder. The audience loved the boy’s determination. Before he had started his second verse coins began plopping on the stage all around him. Bolstered with confidence, the young lad began to dance like his mother had taught him. All the while, money kept showering. Abruptly, he stopped his little song and dance and looked out over the crowd.
“Folks,’ Spencer held his hands up for silence. “Folks, you keep on tossin’ money up here for me and Mama. I’m gonna’ stop singin’ for just a little bit so I can pick all these coins up. I promise when I’m done I’ll finish my Mama’s song.” He looked at the audience with huge, innocent eyes. “Okay?”
The audience burst into instant laughter and applause.
After Spencer finally finished singing and dancing he bowed like he’d seen others do. Then he ran offstage to a flurry of activity. The assistant manager turned him around and pushed him back onstage.
“Keep bowing until the stop clapping.” He said.
His mother had recovered from her fainting and watched her son from where normally he had watched her. The pride she had could not be hidden. That was her boy. At last, the audience applause subsided and Spencer got off for the last time. The stage manager grabbed Spencer’s hand enthusiastically.
“Well done, my boy, well done.” He bent down on one knee to look at Spencer eye to eye. “You got some talent, boy. You got a future in this business.”
As mother and son headed for the dressing room a press agent hollered one final question. “Hey, boy, what’s yer name?”
Spencer looked at his mama. She nodded approval.
“My name is Spencer. Charles Spencer Chaplin.” He looked into his mama’s loving eyes again and she looked at the press agent.
“Make it easy for the world to remember” she said confidently. “Just call him Charlie Chaplin.”
(This is the true story of how Charlie Chaplin, the world’s most famous silent screen star, got his start in show business.)
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