Maybelle had forbidden Corny to participate in the march, fearing that he would lose his place on the show if Velma found out, and so he spent the afternoon and evening pacing in the back apartment of her store, chain-smoking, and compulsively changing the channels looking for coverage of the march. It didn't help that Little Inez sat in the corner sniffling as she waited to hear word of her mother and brother. Her grandmother sat in the corner, knitting placidly, and Corny wondered how the woman could be so calm.
Upon hearing of Tracey's flight and the arrests, they feared the worst, but a few hours later the record shop's door opened, and a slightly bedraggled Maybelle walked in. Inez immediately rushed to hug her mother, with Corny following not far behind. After their bail was posted, Seaweed and his friends had dropped her off and then run off on unknown shenanigans.
Corny had offered to spend the night, but Maybelle sent him home, insisting that he needed rest before the big show tomorrow. Corny tried to protest that he would feel more rested by holding her in his arms, but she was insistent. Later, when he found out what Seaweed had been up to, Corny wondered if she wasn't secretly protecting his job again.
Corny walked through the crowd of primping kids and adjusted his very shiny suit jacket a little self-consciously. He noticed some of Maybelle's kids lurking around the edges of the studio - far more of them than he expected, and a little glimmer of realization began to form. They were up to something, and after last night, he suspected that Tracey was somehow involved. It was truly one of his brightest moments, choosing that girl for the show. He had recognized her dance moves as something that Seaweed had been practicing, and he hoped that she could help him bridge the gap between the two casts on his show.
The moment that she wished for more Negro Days Corny knew he had chosen well, but it would probably take until the end of today to see if his gamble would pay off. As Corny moved to his pre-show position, he saw Velma glad-handing the crowd. Somehow, he thought, those agents had no idea what kind of show they were really about to get.
His opening song went off without a hitch, if one discounted the small amount of pushing that seemed to accompany every dance Amber was in. When he made his introductions, he saw her movement out of the corner of his eye, but he didn't bother to check his blocking. He thought he had already taught the limelight-loving girl to stick to her assigned mark, but it appeared that the lesson would need a little reinforcement. The other girls in the group had done much worse to her in practices and performances when the elder Von Tussle wasn't around.
The girls were dancing as best they could, though he could see that some had already given up hope of winning as the tally continued to rise only for Amber. He had begun to suspect last year that Velma was cheating somehow, as the twins had put in a quite frankly amazing performance and received not a single call, but he couldn't prove anything. This year looked to be another grand slam for the spoiled brat, and Corny couldn't help but roll his eyes as she made a blatant play for the male vote - clearly following in her mother's heel prints.
He couldn't resist laying into her a little when it came time to announce her win, and so he stuck to the vague script he had worked out when it was assumed that Tracey would be in the running. He had been hoping in the back of his mind that his wildcard girl would manage to perform her dance, but it seemed that the police guard was keeping her at bay.
"It is my obligation to announce, that Amber Von Tussel-"
"Is about to get out-danced." He recognized the voice, but not the hard, smug, tone of it; t seemed that Tracy had grown up a bit in the last few days.
Corny didn't bother to hide his amusement as he announced "Tracy Turnblad!" and hustled Betsy offstage before ducking back on to sit at his desk. The clothes she wore were in the newest style that Corny had begun to see in the bigger cities, and he again suspected Maybelle of conspiring with the girl.
He was only a little surprised when Link joined in on the dance; up until only a few weeks ago the boy had appeared to be completely ensnared in the Von Tussle trap, but he had apparently matured as well. Corny couldn't make out what words the duo shared, but as Link headed off the stage, Corny felt hope begin to swell.
As Link pulled Little Inez from Maybelle's protective arms and onto the dance floor, Corny felt a little lump swell in his throat, to the point where it actually took him a moment to announce her name. "Little Miss Inez Stubbs!" he called out, not bothering to hide his joy.
Today, on his show, the unthinkable had happened. And as Seaweed and his cute blonde friend danced into camera range Corny felt his smile growing ever wider than he thought possible.
Blacks and whites were dancing together.
On his show.
And of course they were Maybelle's kids, at first, which felt like fate, and he knew that she must be bursting with pride, though he couldn't dare to glance over at her, knowing that it would rupture what composure he had left. As the song drew to a close, Corny glanced over at Betsy, who was holding a new official envelope. He quickly walked out in front of the camera and exchanged a palm slap with Seaweed.
"And now the moment you've all been craving for. As you know, we've kept the lines open until the last minute, and those lines've been burning up our switchboard. Never in the history of this pageant has there been such a surge of late voting."
Or such a direct interference in Velma's cheating, he thought as he saw both Von Tussles edging closer in his peripheral vision.
"Baltimore, you've picked a winner. And the new Miss Hairspray is…"
He had to re-read the card to make sure that he wasn't hallucinating, but there it was written in Betsey's familiar handwriting.
Corny barely heard Amber's shriek over the sound of the audience and the roaring in his own ears. Baltimore had actually done it. This wasn't a cheat or a plant - this was the true voice of his callers. Baltimore wanted an integrated show.
As most of the Negro Day kids rushed onto the stage, Corny was torn between hugging Tracey and Link, kissing the proudly shouting Maybelle, or flipping off Velma, but the tiny calm part of his brain reminded him that they were still live. He easily defeated Velma's attempted interference - he knew that she never expected him to have actually read the contract. And he had one more bombshell for her. Corny smirked as her turned to face Inez.
"Well this also makes you the lead dancer on The Corny Collins Show. Ladies and Gentlemen, The Corny Collins Show is now and forever officially integrated!"
Corny didn't find out about Velma's confession and subsequent firing until later, but even seeing the hateful blonde get her comeuppance was only a minor thrill in this day. As Corny called for any remaining dancers to come to the stage, he saw a woman who had to be Tracey's mother approaching. Deciding to let her have a moment, he stayed at his desk and watched as even more kids streamed onto the stage. They'd have to deal with the over-abundance of dancers on the show tomorrow, but for today they all just danced together. As Mrs. Turnblad and the girls ran back off stage, Corny made his move.
Brushing off Velma, he marched over to his lover. This moment was more her victory than his, and he had been saving this moment for her. "Maybelle, let's go. This is your time."
Tomorrow they'd work out dancer criteria, and co-hosting issues, but for now, Corny just watched Maybelle dance at the head of their group of kids. And as she turned over the stage to them and joined him at his desk, it was all Corny could do to keep his hands off her. Instead they danced together for a too-short minute, and then Betsey was leading Little Inez over.
Corney crowned the girl who was like a daughter to him, while Maybelle looked ready to burst from pride. In this moment, with those he loved, surrounded by music, and dancing, and social upheaval, Corny knew this was his paradise.