Monday, June 12, 2006
Alice Alyse is quite plainly a bombshell, a knockout: She's slim, leggy and gorgeous, with long, dark hair and a great set of cheekbones.
Also, she's stacked.
And that, she says, is why she's out of a job.
Alyse claims that her generous breast size got her fired from the cast of "Movin' Out," the Broadway show choreographed by Twyla Tharp to songs by Billy Joel. Alyse was an ensemble dancer in the national tour until her bra size "naturally increased" from a C cup to a D, according to her lawsuit against the production company. The growth spurt happened while she was on leave last year with an injured big toe; the 29-year-old says she neither gained weight nor got implants. When she returned to the show, she needed new bras sewn into her costumes, and for this, she alleges in her 42-page complaint, she was sexually harassed, verbally abused and wrongfully dismissed.
Let's leave aside, for the moment, questions about what other factors might have been behind Alyse's dismissal (which we can't really answer, because the show's management won't tell us its side) and whether a woman can continue to develop well past puberty. Musical theater is an entertainment outlet that routinely depicts women as sexpots, curvy dimwits and window dressing -- so if you believe Alyse's account, the hypocrisy is evident. Allegedly getting fired for the prudish-sounding sin of busting out of one's costume is even more surprising given that Tharp's all-dance spectacular bumps and grinds from start to finish. With Joel's rock-and-roll framing a Vietnam-era loss-of-innocence tale, the show rides on an orgy of go-go.
But the dance world doesn't necessarily view such firing decisions as hypocritical; they are merely business as usual. The Body Police enforce specifications that have nothing to do with the ability to perform. Some women have resorted to breast reduction to conform with the slim standards of ballet. Anastasia Volochkova, a leading ballerina at Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet, made headlines two years ago over a similar issue, when she was fired for being too fat (at a reported weight of 110 pounds). She sued for damages and was unsuccessful, though she did get her job back.
Alyse is fighting back with a $100 million lawsuit that names Tharp, the production stage manager and the show's producers among the defendants (though not Joel). And if the dollar amount weren't attention-getting enough, Alyse has hired onetime Washington gadfly Larry Klayman, a notoriously combative attorney who, judging from his record, relishes a scandal. Klayman, founder of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, became famous for suing the Clinton administration over numerous alleged coverups and conspiracies. More recently, he has taken on top Republicans, including Vice President Cheney, over his secretive energy task force.
Klayman, 54, who moved here a few years ago to run (unsuccessfully) for the U.S. Senate, now works in private practice and has focused his attention on Alyse's case. The dancer met him in a restaurant when she was out with a friend; she was on leave from "Movin' Out" with her injury, living with her mother. Later, Alyse says, when problems collecting workers' compensation got in the way of scheduling surgery, she called Klayman.
Alyse, a classically trained ballerina who left the San Francisco Ballet to try her luck in other forms of theater, calls her attorney "a blessing from God" -- the man who she believes will help her win justice for a wrong that she says baffles her to this day.
"I lost my job for reasons that weren't my dancing," she says. "When they hired me I wasn't flat-chested. I mean, a C means -- ya got boobs."
The producers have filed motions to dismiss the case or proceed through arbitration. Though none of them would comment for this article, Joel has weighed in. Shortly after Alyse filed suit in March, he told the New York Daily News: "Under no circumstances would I ever have anyone fired for having breasts that were too large."