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Catch a Falling Star

Rachel Ginsberg

How do former child stars navigate life after the glitz and glitter is gone? As he took his bows, he knew it would be his last performance. He put down the mike that had become his best friend, high-fived the sound technician, put his nose into the heavy curtain with its magical theater smell, took in the last breath of backstage air, threw his costume into the pile, and waved a casual goodbye to the new, younger blood — knowing they were taking his place. He was a has-been. And he was just 14.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

For five years, AriHeinemanwas a celebrity. He was the linchpin of several boys’ choirs, sang at HASC concerts, was featured on kids’ tapes and was a star soloist with Miami Boys Choir. And then in the summer of 1989 he went the way of every teenager. His voice changed. “I knew it was the end,” Ari remembers of his last glitzy days in the limelight. He had a repertoire of about 15 memorable steady concert solos, sang Miami’s famous “AchasSha’alti” concert medley for a few years, and was a soloist on the Shabbos in Yerushalayim album. By the time he was 14, he’d traveled all over the world with Miami. “I was nervous because everyone was warning me, ‘Ari, what’s gonna be with your voice?’ ” Ari was one of the luckier ones. After three years of croaking through adolescence, his adult voice emerged, and it sounded pretty good. (“It was a real matanah,” says Ari, “because not everyone has such mazel.”) But no matter what comes later, once that cherubic prepubescent voice is gone, the curtain comes down. Every bochur, no matter how successful or talented, lives with his inevitable internal countdown. Where are they now, those singing sensations we adored as they pranced around the stage in perfectly choreographed moves, or listened to over and over again as their sweet soprano voices blended with ours in camp, in school, and at kumzitzes? On one level, the answer is simple: They grew up. But how does one become a regular adult when at age 10 or 11 he already tasted the thrill and glitz of stardom? “It was definitely a letdown,” Ari remembers. While his voice was in limbo, Ari relied on sports to perk himself up. Today Ari, 39, is still performing, but in a different venue. He’s a “meatologist” — he rules the meat department at the Monsey supermarket Rockland Kosher, where he creates and designs delectable hearty spreads, and lectures and advises his avid customers on myriad ways of preparing their Shabbos and Yom Tov fare. What do you need to become a meatologist? “You have to be a mumcheh in meat,” he says. “I have about 50 different marinades for customers going right now.” Ari’s impressive meat counter is his stage, and he keeps his customers entertained in an energetic flourish of service. There are no lights here, but he never forgot how to work a crowd.

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