After seeing Hugh Jackman on Broadway in “The Music Man,” I was reminded how Susan Silver, one of the original writers of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” once wrote for us a piece nearly 20 years ago on her mad attraction for Mr. Jackman, and how she actually got up close and personal. And hilarious. — DPC
There we were on a Wednesday afternoon. And it’s just started to drizzle. But we don’t care. Hundreds of females of all ages, some wearing mini skirts, some on walkers are giggling anxiously outside the stage door of a Broadway theater. (On the age scale I am somewhere in between the minis and the appliances.) We are waiting, not for Godot, but for Hugh.
I’ve seen the Boy From Oz three times and it’s about to close. If I am ever to meet him, this is my last chance. And I do want to meet him. I know, it’s hokey, it’s corny. It’s almost pathetic. Okay, would be pathetic if I had unrealistic expectations of running off with him for an affair or even a quickie. No, I just want to meet him. He’s cute, he’s hot, he seems so sweet. And I’m bored with my life. As the miniskirts say … “duh.”
The other women are getting restless and worried, walkers are clanking. I motion to my friend Lil to follow me as I walk around the barrier. She hesitates. I gesture emphatically, come on … as I knock on the stagedoor. I know what I’m doing.
When I was maybe thirteen I waited, giggling anxiously, outside the backstage entrance to a Frankie Avalon concert in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with my girlfriend, Bonnie. She was on the school paper and had sent word back to Frankie that she wanted to interview him. And that’s all we wanted. Just to meet and talk to our idols. The word “Groupie” wasn’t known to us yet, innocent, wearing our poodle skirts and little sweaters with Peter Pan collars. (And, in my case at least, remaining innocent until way after college and I met the man I eventually married. I lost track of Bonnie but I bet she lost her virginity long before that.)
Okay. Yes. I still hold a grudge … lo these many decades later!! Because that night, the stage door opened and a scary looking bouncer-type told Bonnie that Mr. Avalon would see her. Her. Without a moment’s hesitation, she ran off after him without even asking about including me. When the door slammed, I guess you could say I lost another kind of innocence that night: Girlfriends will abandon you when men are involved, especially singers.
In the years that followed, I kept a silent promise to myself never to abandon a girlfriend for a man. Friday nights in high school were ‘Girls’ Night’ but if a guy asked us out, even last minute, the other girls would understand if we accepted. I never broke a date with the girls. But, from that moment on, I made sure to meet anyone famous I wanted to. All right, being in show business for years did help. Bonnie, eat your betraying, possibly slutty little heart out!
People who believe in serendipity can ‘create’ parking spaces. And somehow, without asking for it, I developed this more fun, uncanny ’talent.’ (I also got the knack of spotting famous people that other people didn’t recognize. A knack which has little marketability, unless you want to work for the National Enquirer … and I do not.) Inexplicably, Zelig-like, I am always at the right door, arriving the right moment, standing in the exact right part of the room He or She Famous Person will cross. At first I just accepted my “gift.” I did not abuse it, was never a stalker. No, I cherished it, celebrated it! Thus, the ability remains to this day refined, honed to perfection. A strange “gift” but mine own.
I am renowned among my friends for this ‘calling’ and have used it with unparalleled success at Democratic Conventions, movie premieres, and sporting events. I’ve met Senators, Governors, and Presidents, as candidates and elected. I’ve shaken hands and chatted up royalty. A King, a Prince, and an ex-Princess. I’ve complimented renowned opera tenors, ballet dancers, tap luminaries. I’ve schmoozed Academy Award winners, hoop stars, World Series ringholders, authors, poets, and as of late, TV reality show contestants, both gay and straight. (The two fat guys from Amazing Race were a hoot.) I’ve met The Donald, even though I didn’t want to.
Where most people stand shyly and whisper or point at celebrities or rush them boorishly with cameras or autograph requests, I never ask for either. I merely say hi or smile, and if they stop, I talk to them. I cannot think of a modest way to say it to you, but yes, I am attractive, tall though I think shrinking a bit, thin, though not as thin and of course you guessed it … blonde. But it’s probably not looks, it’s the “gift” that keeps giving.
95% of the famous were lovely. I will now name names of those who were not: Nathan Lane … really nasty and I don’t care that he is chronically depressed. So am I and it’s not an excuse to be rude to someone who only says “Hi, we have Garry Marshall in common.” And of course, it comes as no surprise, Rosie O’Donnell is the Queen of Nice-Not!! I sat next to her at a screening of a film Garry directed her in and she was really nasty. I met her again at a party and tried to give her a second chance. Nope, still nasty. Maybe on second thought, they just don’t like Garry. Naw … he’s a great guy.
“Where were we?”
But I’ve digressed. Here I am waiting to see Hugh Jackman. He has made a habit of doing comedy schtick with people who come to the show late, but I wouldn’t resort to anything as contrived as that to get his attention. I don’t have to, remember … I have the “gift.” Lil and I take our seats seventh row, right side. Good seats under most circumstances but not good enough to get Hugh’s eye from the stage. But I have no fear. The audience fills up and lo and behold there is an empty seat, fourth row on the aisle. I tell Lil if no one shows up, I’ll sit there for the first act and she can sit there the second. (Remember, I’m not Bonnie!) No one shows up.
When the second musical number starts and the ushers bring in the late comers, I see my chance, As Hugh has the lights turned up to nail them, I quietly slip into the still empty seat. He hasn’t noticed me, busy teasing two elderly women from New Jersey, but I’m not worried. My time will come. And it does, though not in the way I had anticipated. The “gift” arrives in many wrappings.
The rather unattractive woman sitting next to me turns and tells me to get out of the seat. I ask why? She says her friend is coming. I say where is said friend? She says none of your business, get out of the seat. (She says this about one inch from my face.) I offer, I’ll move the minute she gets here. She says GET OUT OF THE SEAT!! I, who am never intimidated, get intimidated. I have visions of the ushers dragging me out while Hugh is glaring at the interruption so I meekly get up and head back to my seat. Okay, I may have called her a bitch.
Hugh shouts out, “Where are you going?” The lights flash on me and I stand like the well known deer, caught, and say, “back to my seat.” He says, “how come?” I say with a slightly unappealing baby whine, “She made me.” He turns to the unattractive, hell … she was ugly, woman. “Why?” “Because my friend is coming and she’s eight month’s pregnant.” Game, set, match! I take my original seat. Hugh shrugs to me, “You were trying to get closer, right?” “Yes, to you,” I confess. He jokes that I can come up to his dressing room later. I say okay. Mission accomplished. Yeah!!! High-five with Lil.
After the standing ovations at the finale, she and I confidently walk out to the stage door where the aforementioned throngs stand penned behind the barricades. Les Miz it ain’t. I, however, have an invitation and so I knock on the door and it opens. I go in and tell the bruiser, I mean bouncer, that I was invited by Mr. Jackman. The bouncer could care less and tells me to stand outside behind the barricade and he will come and get me. I know that won’t happen so I do leave but linger outside the door and start a conversation with two sweaty stagehands who are blowing smoke in my face … literally, not metaphorically.
The door opens and I hear female screams that can only mean Hugh is coming out … (or orgasms, and in this case, possibly both.) I am, however, wedged behind the door with the stagehands, I seize the moment and sneak around, but the bouncer who takes his job very seriously yells at me …
”I TOLD YA STAY BEHIND THE BARRICADE!!”
I yell out to Hugh, “you told me to come back and say hi.” He thinks, remembers and then broadly smiles and says, “Hi, darling, wait a sec.” I glare triumphant at the bouncer who purposely steps between me and Hugh as he signs some autographs. Finally The Boy from Adorable looks up and reaches his hand out graciously to me and I step around to him.
I should have said something really cleverly seductive like “Young man, did you ever see the movie, The Graduate?” But I just mutter something about having seen the show three times and being a fan. He gives me a hug and … losing my cool, caught up in the moment … I may have actually said “I love you.” I then leave quickly so as not to confirm the bouncer’s opinion that I am a stalker. Women pat me on the back and cheer me and ask if I am a part of the show. I wonder if that is an insult or a compliment?
I was however, strangely, not as happy as I thought I’d be. It sure seemed like a good idea at the time. Now it felt like a stupid one. I had outwitted moronic security dolts, and outmaneuvered other crazed women waving posters and screaming, just to show a guy of 35 that I am essentially a middle-aged groupie!
What was I thinking? This behavior is sort of the emotional equivalent of dressing age inappropriately. (No mini skirts after 30, no stiletto’s after 40.) The Bible lectures “when I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, thought as a child. But now I must put away childish things.” Well, obviously, upon reflection, now I know … I must retire the “gift!” I sigh and try and fall asleep. But … toss and turn.
Wait a minute! (She bolts up!) Why throw the baby out with the bathwater? And other cliches! All the same skills could be used in searching for a relationship. Yes, from now on, no more wasted time on celebrity spottings. I will focus only on the real deal. I will use the talent I’ve been given to conduct my social life on a new level. You’ve heard from “your lips to God’s ears?” Well, I don’t even need that help anymore. I’ll just use the “gift” in my Search For Mr. Adequate. Stay tuned, folks, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
(One exception. I’ll never give up stilettos. I have really good legs. Oh, and if you hear that George Clooney is coming to New York, please let me know.)