The other day, playwright Roland Tec spent a couple hours sitting in the window of the Drama Book Shop on W. 40th, an experimental artistic endeavor that invited many authors to sit and compose in plain sight of passers by.
I went by on my way to my weekly Bingo event not only to cheer him on and also to give him a little bit of a hard time (because if you can't bug your best friend, life has no meaning. Of course I kid. Really. :))
Anyway, little did I know that Ro was 'in character' (as he writes in this blog post on his site Extra Criticum) and I very nearly pulled him out of it.. unintentionally.
It got me to wondering when there might have been other times - when someone I knew was in their own headspace and I just happened to encounter them and took their distraction for negligence.
I've certainly had times when I've been working producing or managing an event and I've encountered a friend who didn't know I was working. Late last year, I worked at a party thrown by Sirius for their new "Studio 54" radio station. I knew several of the guests (the invite list was nearly a who's who of New York gay nightlife) and found myself having to remind my friends (who wanted to pull me to the bar for a drink) that I couldn't. I was a little sad to realize that they thought that I'd intentionally wear a black shirt/black pants to a gala (but I guess I digress). :)
I guess it goes to show you that you never know what's going on with someone else... and it's up to us to be good communicaters (both ways) before leaping to a conclusion. I'm happy to Jump for Joy, but less excited about Jumping to Conclusions. :)
https://video.aol.com/video/curtains-up-on-katies-broadway-debut/2284749?icid=100214839x1211809794x1200712093 (Click here to see aol footage of the event I'm writing about below.. and hey I even have a cameo at the end.. enjoy!)
So as you all know, I occasionally will work for an events company here in New York that produces opening night parties for Broadway shows. I've also worked various charity events (the BidAWee and BuddyWalk events) and stuffed envelopes. Ah, the joy of New York living where everyone has two or three jobs. Sigh.
Over the past couple years I've met Olivia Newton John, Susan Lucci, Robin Strasser and seen a half dozen others including notoriously Marion Seldes. This past Thursday, it was time for me to meet Katie Holmes.
Now, I have to say here upfront that I've never been agog by Ms. Holmes. I never watched Dawson's Creek when she was on that save for a couple random episodes here and there. I thought it was a very nice show but not worth all the crazy hype surrounding it (much like the nuttiness going on with Gossip Girl - much ado about nothing).
And when she met and married Tom Cruise the whole jumping on the couch thing seemed very forced and ridiculous but apt I suppose given persistent gay rumors that have dogged Cruise's career. But even then, Holmes was a kind of cypher to me, a pretty girl who had lucked into a really good marriage but who was sort of .. well, not really there. I wondered - why were people so ga ga about her?
Well, I found out.
Last Thursday I worked the All My Sons opening night party. Sometimes we get paid in tickets to see the show and sometimes we actually get paid. We were actually getting paid which was good since the temp had dropped about 20 degrees from the time I'd left my apartment on the upper west side til the time I arrived at Espace on W. 42nd Street 45 minutes later. I certainly wasn't dressed to be out on the sidewalk taking tickets from partygoers but there I stood with five other guys, all of us shivering in our business suits trying our best not to let patrons hear our teeth chatter.
The show, a revival of the classic Arthur Miller play, stars Patrick Wilson, John Lithgow and Katie Holmes. As is usual for these types of big starred events, security is tight and there's a press area on the sidewalk where the stars walk through and get grilled by various media.
We were out there shivering slightly and Michael, the head of the events company, moved us around like chess pieces setting us first in two rows of three to take tickets and then later, up as a human blockade between the official press in the official tent on one side, and a group of fans? freelancers? held back behind a fence on the sidewalk on the other.
It was kind of a scary atmosphere because the general anxiety began reaching a fevered pitch as three policemen, various security guards, the five of us working the door (one had gone inside) and a number of party guests came and went all swirled about in anticipation of the moment when Holmes would break free from the official press and the freelance press would have a scant few seconds to get The Shot before she went inside to the venue. We were all a little worried because it had the feel that chaos could break out at any moment and when I caught a glimpse of the guns the policemen wore, I kind of got a little freaked out. Michael noticed this and leaned into us and said "if anything happens, don't be a hero, just get out of the way". I couldn't help but feel that the 'anything' meant gunfire. Anything is possible with crazy fans I suppose.
Patrick broke from the official press and slipped into the party and Katie and John moved steadily down the row of press. I could see her more clearly now, a mere slip of a woman, a girl really: pretty, petite, very graceful. I thought - Audrey Hepburn and was embarassed by the comparison.
As if entering the eye of the storm, at once the crowd (fans, police, security, others working with me) suddenly muted as Katie broke from the pack of reporters and came to stand just a foot or two away from me. I blushed. The cameras were right there. She was right there. And I have to admit, she was quite lovely. I think we all figured she'd go right in but then, one of the fan/freelancers behind us called out "Hey Katie, give us a picture".
And Katie turned. Her handlers visibly jarred. She walked towards me to get to the fans behind me. I froze. Michael grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me aside.. and Katie.. she slipped by me, poised, and girlish and smiling and blushing, turned to me and put her hand on my left shoulder and smiled broadly. The world ended and began in that instant. Her lips moved but all I heard was silence. I was stunned. And then she moved away, her handlers giving me a quick glance while Katie moved towards her fans that had been waiting for so long for her.
She let them take her picture and like a true star, took a few minutes to talk to them. Michael was stunned and the only thing I could think to say was "we're old friends". I have no idea what made me say that ... but she's one of those people who simply makes you feel as though you're old friends with her. Maybe that's what makes a star, a star.
She broke from the crowd and circled round the five of us standing there lined up gawking at her shimmying past the guy on the end (lets call him Steve because I can't remember his real name) but stopping to take his hand and saying "thank you for working this event". Steve froze too and she smiled and moved into the party space.
The effect on us was transformative. We kind of looked at each other and we laughed and shook our heads. The official and unofficial press broke up other than a few who lingered for the rest of the party hoping to get exclusive shots of her coming out. However, we were warm in the glow of the excitement of the moment, a friendly face and above all, a simple touch.
So last night I worked the Equus party.
How this works for those of you who have just joined us, is that there are promotion companies who'll pay you to work the opening party for a Broadway show (or event) by giving you a ticket or two to the show. It's a pretty cool idea and I've been able to see a bunch of shows that I wouldn't have been able to afford and in a couple cases would not have wanted to pay to see. (no names!)
Anyway, a couple weeks ago I got a ticket to see Equus. That's A ticket. Usually it's two so I invited the BF along with me and there we were waiting for the head of the company to hand us a couple of ticks.. he stopped, dropped one and went to the next person. I was horrified and embarassed about this, I must not have read the deal close enough and here I was with egg on my face.
So, rather than go alone (the thought of sending him home was wrenching) I looked into the crowd for another worker from the events company that might be in the same situation and want to take my ticket. I saw an older, elegantly dressed woman standing near us, she was with another woman and a man and they were dithering with their own tickets. I recognized the woman and got it into my head that it was one of the other people from the events company and that they were trying to figure out who was going to go and who was not going to go to the show. I thought "I'll offer them my ticket and they'll be happy and we'll just go grab dinner and all will be well"... and so I marched up to her and said "hey, how are you doing? Havent seen you in a long time, say, did Michael give you only one ticket too? Well ,here you can have mine and I'll work it out with Rich in the office".
All three of the people looked at me in horror. And it was then that I realized that none of these people were from the events company and I could only imagine who they could be and then they guy said to me in a voice that sounded somewhat helpful, desperate and condescending all at the same time, a weak shock of a voice that this nobody (uhm, me!) would dare approach them because after all, he said, 'this is Marion Seldes" and I looked at the tall elegant woman with wide eyes and was like (in my head) oh crap, it is.
There is no really great way to get out of these kinds of situations and ducking away in silence, shame but with a twitter of gutteral laughter at the sheer horror of it all (although, really, why horror?) and back to the BF where I squeeked out what had happened. Good guy that he is didn't guffaw in my face or roll his eyes, he just smiled and gently laughed and shrugged.
I however, felt horrible.
The BF ended up leaving and I went to the show for a fantastic dress rehearsal and that was the end of it. Or so I thought.
Last night the premiere party happened at Pier 60 and a few of us met outside the theatre where Equus is playing to herd people into big buses that'd take them to the party.
I was in the last of the four buses and once I arrived to the party, there wasn't much more for me to do so I stood outside with a few others and looked important (it's the only job that I have to do at times) while watching an endless parade of guests flow into the party. Towards the end of the flow when things had slowed down to a trickle, a group of people approached us, lead by Marion Seldes. My heart froze, my muscles tensed up... and as she walked through the line she said a bright smiled hello to all the tickettakers standing in front of me and whether she saw me or not, just before she got to me, she turned her head forward and walked directly into the venue. I was sparred an awkward moment, but I realized, ohmy God, I will literally never be able to face Marion Seldes ever again!