Courtesy Michael Hollick
Thursday, July 22, 2010 | 9 a.m.
We first ask the question as obvious as the oil paint that turns Michael Hollick’s face into a mask of terror:
Was his baby traumatized?
“I know – I’ve been asked that,” Hollick said Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t think so. He had greater concerns on his plate.”
Such as, being born.
“And he hadn’t seen any other faces to that point, so there was nothing to compare it to,” Hollick continued. “I’ll say, he does have a flare for the dramatic. Maybe we’ll get him into the business early.”
Show business, to be specific, and Maxwell Ming “Ziggy” Hollick has already displayed acute dramatic timing. He was born Thursday night, seven weeks early. This would be like “The Lion King” raising the curtain while the actors are still being seated for makeup. And that’s where Hollick, who is an understudy for the Scar and Simba roles in the Disney production at Mandalay Bay, was actually seated when his wife, Angela, broke water.
Five hours – and one performance – later, Daddy was sprinting into the maternity ward, still wearing that Scar-y makeup, helping his wife deliver their first child.
“I got some looks, believe me,” he said. “I got some looks running through the Mandalay Bay parking lot. I got some looks when I was running through the emergency room entrance at the emergency room – the guy who checked me in looked at me like he’d seen a ghost. But when I got to the maternity ward, they were loving it.”
The night started routinely enough, with Hollick showing up to get into character and costume for his role that night as Scar. As the name implies, Scar is somewhat menacing, facially, and it takes 45 minutes to paint the actor portraying that figure appropriately.
As Michael was being made up, an unexpected event unfolded at his house while Angela was being given a prenatal massage: Her water broke. Michael had no idea, as he’d left his cell phone at his dressing table, a fair hike from the makeup chair. Keep in mind this was seven weeks before Max’s Sept. 4 due date.
Angela was hustled to St. Rose by her masseuse, and upon arrival called Michael. Nothing. So she called Tracy Hammon-Hodge, a good friend and the wife of “Lion King” cast member Corwyn Hodge (if his name is familiar, it might be because he was once a member of the trailblazing a cappella outfit Mosaic). Tracy called Corwyn, then high-tailed it to the hospital, and Corwyn scrambled to find Michael.
When he did, Corwyn asked, simply, “Have you talked to Angela.” By now, Michael was just about made up as Scar. He said, “No, why?”
“Because her water broke.”
Michael was unprepared for this news.
“I ran upstairs from the basement to the management office so I could call out. It was about 15 minutes before the curtain and they had put this costume on me that weighs 40 pounds,” he said. “I was pretty shaken.”
But Angela was calm, confident. She was fine, the baby was fine, and she and the medical staff agreed it would be a long night. He was told, in effect, the show must go on.
“We had taken our first birthing class the day before, and I knew it was a pretty long process from the water breaking through the contractions,” he said. “About five minutes before the show, I was thinking, ‘Am I going to do this?’ To not go on would be a huge production. They’d have to hold the house (delay the start of the show). I had to take a second by myself and just breathe.”
So Michael took the stage.
“I’ve never had a more challenging show in my life,” he said. “Keeping focus was challenging – you just try to forget what’s going on and play the role.”
Off-stage he was a nervous wreck. The updates were reassuring, Angela was feeling fine. It was not an emergency situation. But after being told the birth would not happen for at least 24 hours, the plan changed: Max was arriving tonight. Angela was experiencing “precipitous labor,” which meant that Max was on the fast track to opening night.
This information arrived in the second act, after intermission. Michael finished the show, then simply bolted.
“They wanted me to take the makeup off, but that takes about 20 minutes,” said Michael, who didn’t have a minute to spare. He arrived at 11 p.m., when Angela was four centimeters dilated. Ninety minutes later, they were parents.
“The doctor, George Chambers, immediately made us feel confident,” Michael said. “He explained everything. Everyone was so warm to us. It made a huge difference.”
Dr. Chambers did find time to jab at Michael-as-Scar with the request, “Don’t scare the baby.” When Angela needed help with her breathing, the doctor coached her to look into her husband’s eyes.
“I can’t!” she said, drawing laughter.
“She just rocked it,” Michael said, laughing again at the memory.
Angela and Max are still in the hospital, but both are doing fine. Max weighed 4 pounds, 4 ounces at birth and measured 18 inches – long and lean. He’s already feeding “like a madman” and seems to be flirting with the nurses. There has been no definitive reason for the early birth; it might well be due to a shift in barometric pressure. Angela was carrying low, and the day she went into labor was the first day the temperature reached the teens in Las Vegas. The Hollicks moved to Vegas from New York in March and this is their first summer in the desert.
“It could be a number of reasons. It’s just been an emotional rollercoaster, incredible anxiety with him being so early and being shaken by that, then being all right,” Michael said. “But I can’t say enough about the staff at the hospital, and the family we have with the ‘Lion King.’ We heard there was no sense of community in Las Vegas, but that hasn’t been our experience.”
It’ll be a grand moment when Max meets his aunts and uncles in the “Lion King” cast. He’ll not have seen them before, but we can expect he’ll recognize the faces.
Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnnyKats.