“Pippin” is being revived on Broadway. I saw the original production. John Rubenstein. The Bob Fosse choreography. The original ending. Humor that ran from the sublime to the ridiculous. Unfortunately, Ben Vereen had the night off. I was taking creative writing as my English requirement that year and we needed to write a play. In order to learn storytelling through the use of dialogue, and how to compose the writing, our teacher felt we would benefit from seeing a Broadway show. The class wholeheartedly agreed we needed a road trip – in the interest of education. We nixed the idea of “Streetcar” (heavy, boring and we already knew the story: “Stell-laaaa“), and Mrs. M. suspected the Board of Ed would nix “Equus” because of the nudity, so we eagerly decided a musical comedy was just the ticket.
We set a precedent. Either no matinees were available or tickets weren’t, so we went to an evening performance. The Board of Ed grudgingly agreed to the after hours trip. Mrs. M. kept reminding us that we had to dress and act properly. At the time theater goers still ‘dressed up’. She didn’t want us to embarrass her. No worries. We knew there wouldn’t be popcorn. And we could hold our noses up in the air just as easily as the rest of the audience. We were going to the ‘the-a-tre’.
Years later, in the days of suits and stilettos, I worked in an office located in the theatre district. Before Times Square turned Japanese. I wasn’t in the industry, nor was the company. It was merely where our division was headquartered. It did provide occasion to see Broadway stars and other actors during our business day. Sometimes we’d lunch at a nearby restaurant. At one lunch, I recognized an actress who had been in a long-running sitcom. She was appearing in one of the theater shows and lunching before her matinée performance. One of my colleagues noticed I had noticed someone at another table. He looked over. “Oh yeah! I remember her. Are you going to ask for her autograph?” Heck no. She was eating. It would be rude to interrupt her lunch.
Another day that I spied Mr. Former Dramatic Action Series turned Soap Star drinking by himself at the bar – same restaurant. He kept looking over at our table. I have no idea why. Perhaps he thought we were producers or agents wining, dining, brokering deals, being dressed in suits and stilettos and he was slumming, hoping someone would offer him a role more commensurate with his résumé. We were drinking, after all, since we obviously were not appearing onstage after lunch. Every time I turned to speak with my other colleague, I could see Mr. Soap in the background, staring at us. I felt bad for him. Drinking alone. It had been years since he was a lead in a recurring series – under a different name – but still recognizable by face. When we were leaving I was tempted to approach him, write my name on a napkin and say “Have your people call my people.“ But that would have been cruel.
On the street, recognizing famed actors was different. Nancy Kulp, who played Jane Hathaway on the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ was just thrilled to be recognized and would sign autographs, even if it wasn’t because of any of her Broadway performances. A gracious lady. At that time, sometimes there were people hawking promotional packages of cigarettes on the street, and one of my colleagues stopped for one, when she heard a voice behind her say “I’ll give you a kiss if you don’t take the cigarettes.” When she turned around, she found it was Tony Randall and she got flustered. She was getting the butts for her mother, really. “Oh look. I made her blush. Just for that, I’ll give you a kiss.“ And he did kiss her on the cheek. It was all she could talk about for the rest of the week.
But then there was Mr. Pop Star/Former Teen Idol appearing on Broadway, who refused to stop and sign autographs for his waiting fans after a performance, who nearly knocked me over to get into his waiting limo as I was walking past on my way to the Port Authority. Well, excuuuse me for being in the way of your limo. He ignored me as well as his fans. Kevin probably would have apologized before getting in his limo. And signed autographs. Linda probably would have had an entourage escorting her safely to her limo. But, hey, my copy of “Heart Like a Wheel” never got returned to me back in college.
Wednesday was matinée day back then and we would all leave the office a few minutes early so that the suburbanites wouldn’t take our seats on the bus. One Wednesday during renovation when our departing platform was temporarily reassigned, our dispatcher misdirected a group of suburbanites. One of the regulars told him what he had done wasn’t very nice since they had the right platform. “You want to get a seat on your regular bus, right? Well, now you’ll have one. You’re welcome.”