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Here’s a moderately known fact about me: I worked backstage at Beach Blanket Babylon for 3 years. I was the “costume mistress” which basically means I dressed and undressed the actors during all of their fast and fabulous costume changes. It was quite exciting to a 23 year old. I got to meet Sidney Poitier and Kathleen Turner, which I found very glamorous. And every night, I dressed and undressed all 10 cast members, including star Val Diamond, who is apparently retiring from the show after 30 glorious years.

My editor, Eve Batey asked for my thoughts on Val’s departure and really, mine are no different than everyone else’s. (I should point out that I completely forget what it said in that contract I signed when I left, so I shall tread carefully.)

But in an uncharacteristic twist, I have only glowing things to say about this former co-worker. Val and her husband, band leader Steve Salgo came to everyone’s parties, they gave me really great Christmas presents, they laughed at my jokes. What’s not to like?!?!

My favorite thing about Val was that she was able to cry on cue every night during one of her solos. It was pretty incredible and I never got tired of it. I once warned the cast that I’d be bringing my high school drama teacher backstage for a post-show tour. Everyone rolled their eyes and got the hell out of there, save for Val Diamond who stayed and chatted with this glowing gay for nearly an hour.

In my experience, Val was always a great sport, backed me up when I complained about shit and had incredible stories about her experiences in the business. I mean, she was in Nine Months. She gave me the serious lowdown on Hugh Grant.

There’s certainly just as much drama backstage as there is onstage, but my memories of working with (and yes, for) Val Diamond are fond. And every time I’ve seen her since my departure from Club Fugazi in 2003, she’s been awesome and warm. I wish I had some dicey, stagedoor smack to share, but I really don’t. (At least about Val. About some people no one’s ever heard of, don’t get me started.)

I certainly hope she doesn’t retire. Val Diamond is hilarious and incredibly talented. And I can only imagine the farewell show that’s in store for one lucky audience. Val’s been sporting those huge hats for literally, my entire lifetime. When she de-wigs for good, it’ll be historic.

So congratulations on 30 fabulous years, Val! I’m glad I could be there to share in 3 of them and wish you nothing but standing ovations.

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  • Richard Ciccarone

    I too used to work at Beach Blanket Babylon as their Assistant Stage Manager. Although my tenure there was brief, about 8 months, it was an experience I shall always remember. During my training Val was on vacation and my peers used to tell me how “particular” she was about a great many things and I was very nervous about her returning to the show considering one of my duties was to operate the SF hat she wore during the finale.

    When Val did return I recall being an absolute mess because I was terrified of missing my cue or hitting the wrong button. Sure enough, I was so terrified, I was late in bringing up the pyramid building on her hat, which is the highlight of the show.

    Upon exiting stage I told Val what had happened and she simply turned to me and said, “Honey, everyone knows what the San Francisco skyline looks like. Don’t worry. But if you miss it again, I’ll kill you.” And then she laughed. It is rare that a woman who has endured so much can still retain a sense of humor, forgiveness and class. She will be missed I’m sure.