—Thursday, October 13, 2011—
It should have been a super fun and carefree Thursday.
Here was my agenda:
1. Sleep in.
2. Do some shopping.
3. Go to work.
4. Attend a Broadway premier.
5. Attend the after party of a Broadway premier.
This night was Broadway Date, and it wasn’t just any show, it was the premier of “The Mountaintop” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett. I wanted to look sharp for this!
I got dressed and went over wardrobe options while listening to Ben Fold’s a cappella album, which I felt conflicted about in a general sense. Once I was ready, I went into town to get a new tie and cufflinks for the evening’s festivities. I ended up at Zara and bought two different ties. I would have to decide when I left work which one I wanted to wear.
Work was perfectly normal by most accounts and was made somewhat better by the fact that I’d taken a half-day and because of the mounting excitement for my date that night. The whole Broadway experience seemed very fun to me, but I was also excited because I’d never met Betsy before.
This date came to me in the most fortuitous of ways. Out of the blue, I received an email from Betsy, who was friends with my Burlesque Date, Elyssa, asking if I’d want to go on a date with her. She told me that she had recently begun interning at a theater company and that she had access to several upcoming Broadway premiers, which would ideal for Broadway Date. Originally, I assumed that Broadway Date would be expensive as hell but someone was not only giving me free admission, but also providing the date! And to a red carpet premier with movie stars, nonetheless.
As the work day came to a close, I disappeared into the bathroom to get changed and to decide on a tie. After much debate, I chose the more classic of the two and patted myself on the back for a job well done.
As soon as I got down the elevator and out of my building, I saw that I had a missed call, a voicemail and two text messages from my roommate Pat, telling me to get in touch with him as soon as possible. I dialed his number as I made the turn onto 8th Avenue.
With consternation in his voice, he told me that our apartment had been broken into and our laptops stolen. He was with the police at the moment, trying to work out exactly what had happened.
Whoa. Hold on. Breathe. Was this real?
I had never had anything so callous happen to me. And I’d never lost a material item so important. Everything from the previous three years of my life was on that laptop and nowhere else. All my music, pictures and writings were lost, along with my massive soft-core porn collection.
Also, I was ashamed that the Ben Folds a cappella album I had been listening to was still open in iTunes. Those thieves would totally judge me! Ugh.
The theater was only three blocks away, so I couldn’t stay on the line very long. There was a part of me that felt like a real asshole. Having our apartment broken into and burglarized was unsettling and scary, and there I was, about to go on this kick-ass date, while Pat had to deal with all the bullshit on his own.
He’d probably go to bed having spent the whole night alone. I briefly fought with myself to determine what the best course of action was. Should I bail on Betsy to go drink with and comfort Pat, or would I stick to my guns and assume he was a big boy who could take care of himself?
Selfishly, I decided that I was too excited for the date and Betsy was probably looking forward to it too much to cancel on her now. It was just too eleventh hour. I was 20 seconds away from the red carpet and I didn’t want to be a date that bailed last second.
Honestly though, I had no idea which was the right thing to do, so judge me as you may.
So much for a carefree day.
I hung up with Pat and was a little distraught, but I knew that Betsy was there outside the theatre somewhere, looking for me, so I cleared my head and put it on a swivel.
It was a bit hectic there at first. There was the red carpet, leading to a tent for photographers to take pictures of all the celebrities making appearances that night. As I texted Betsy my location, I received a text from her. She said she was to the right of the entrance. Well, that was where I was standing, and I didn’t see her.
There was a woman talking loudly right in front of me, reuniting with friends or something, which distracted me and so I went over to the entrance, figuring that I must have been in the wrong place. When I couldn’t find Betsy there, I circled back to where I had been previously and once I approached from that other direction, I could see that the woman who was previously distracting me was Betsy herself.
She hugged me hello and I was introduced to a couple people she knew from college who she had run into. They took off immediately after meeting me, which was typical, leaving Betsy and I to greet each other more fully.
I was compelled to tell her she looked great, because she did, and I wasn’t a liar. In fact, I had one of those, “Damn, she looks hot,” moments, and I don’t even like to use the word “hot” because it sounds cheap. “Sexy” would probably be more accurate, but that sounds kind of dirty. Let’s stick with “she looked incredible.” The best part about getting dressed up all fancy is that everyone looks so good!
Betsy said that she liked my tie so I must have chosen the right one. I told her I bought it that morning for the premier and we laughed. Laughter, guys! Laughter! A minute later, I was introduced to one of Betsy’s fellow interns and said intern’s boyfriend. Her coworker told me, “Don’t blog about us,” and I informed her that I would probably ignore that request. See, I just did!
They left us for a bit and I talked to Betsy. She told me that we were not ticketed patrons, so we’d wait around until someone waved us in and then we’d probably stand in the back. She had run all around the city that day, prepping for the show. She had to assign everyone seats and then deliver gifts all over town. It sure sounded like there was a lot going on leading up to the premier.
Casually, I mentioned that my apartment had been burglarized. She was very sympathetic and couldn’t believe I had just found out, saying that I was very calm, considering the news I’d been given. Generally, I just didn’t think that freaking out would help anything.
I told Betsy that I lived in Astoria, assuring her that it was usually a safe place, and I asked where she lived, which turned out to be Jersey City. Fortunately, I was not a man who was afraid of Jersey City, as I used to have friends living in JC and I would hang out there a good amount. Plus, having lived in Hoboken, I was no stranger to the PATH. People gave Jersey City a bad rap, but that was usually because they had never been there. It had at least several redeeming qualities.
When she asked if I saw much theater, I was somewhat ashamed to say that I did not. I was on stage all the time, and I had friends who worked in the field, but I really didn’t catch many productions. The only shows I’d seen that year were “The Book of Mormon” and half of “Catch Me If You Can” (I went with my friend Katie and we both agreed at intermission that it wasn’t worth sticking around).
A woman came over to tell us that if we wanted to get in, we needed to wait inside by the doors. Okay, sure. The four of us waited inside the lobby, which was pretty cool, because that was where the celebs were located. Legendary singer Harry Belafonte walked by us. Betsy pointed out some more famous people but I didn’t know who they were. And whoa — Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats! I had a huge celebrity crush on her when I was in high school. It was sweet seeing her in person!
Then we were told to move outside. It was all very confusing. Men had been yelling that the curtains were going up for at least 15 minutes. I think they were just trying to convey a sense of urgency and also ensure that we didn’t take anything they said seriously.
We were in door limbo, being told to move in and then out, when finally someone in charge came over to us with tickets. There are not enough tickets for everyone in the group of interns (and dates) and for a minute I thought we might get the boot. But no, she said we could stand. Betsy and I walked in with the intern group and posted up right in the back, center stage. Oh hi, Justin Long, you look so cute.
There were so many celebrities there, which made sense considering the only two people in the show’s cast were movie stars, and although I recognized faces, I didn’t know many of their names. I’m always skeptical, when I see movie stars on Broadway. I assume they’re just doing it for the money and that it has little, if nothing, to do with a “return to the stage” as is so often claimed. I’m sure those two were being paid quite handsomely to do the production. Samuel L. Jackson could say it was because of his personal connection to Martin Luther King, Jr’s mission, but I’d only buy that had he been performing pro bono.
Within five minutes of standing in the back, we were offered two seats. We took them and found ourselves stage left, 10 or 15 rows back. Holy shit, they were great seats! They were great, free seats. It was incredible.
Moments later, the lights dimmed, the crowd hushed and the stage sprung to life. It was time to watch the damn thing.
For those unfamiliar with the production, “The Mountaintop” was a re-imagining of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s last night alive, as spent in his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee. Samuel L. Jackson starred as the legendary reverend with Angela Bassett playing opposite him as the young motel maid, Camae. It was funnier than I had expected, but not particularly enthralling. Although seemingly incongruous, the most powerful and most perplexing parts of the play came towards the end, as MLK Jr delivered his final monologue. The overall effect was a production that tried very hard to make a point, but wasn’t completely sure what that point was supposed to be.
If you can get a beautiful young woman to take you to see “The Mountaintop” for free, I highly recommend it. Otherwise, go see We Bought A Zoo.
The play ended and there was a standing ovation with gratuitous amounts of flowers because it was opening night and the actors on stage were famous. The director, Kenny Leon, and playwright, Katori Hall, both came out from backstage. There were more flowers. Okay, we get it. Sammy Jackson was the last to exit after a long celebration of mediocre stage acting.
Filing out with everyone else, we said hi to old friends along the way. Hey Star Jones! Hi Al Roker! Daaaamn, Gina from Martin, you look great!
We needed to walk over to Betsy’s office a block or two away so she could get her things. As we walked there, we talked about the play. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone but I’m pretty sure Martin Luther King Jr was in space at the end. That theory got a decent laugh out of Betsy, and thank God, because I didn’t really have anything too intellectual to say when it came to theater and she was a dramaturge for crying out loud. We ran into a couple co-workers at the office, but then we were off towards a club for the after party.
On our way, we talked more about the “The Mountaintop” and I remembered that I had also seen a production of “Peter and Wendy” that year, which had been done almost entirely with puppets. Why was this worth mentioning at this point in the date? I really couldn’t tell you, but I think I was mostly interested in not looking like a total theatre idiot.
We were nearing 11th Avenue when I asked Betsy why she had wanted to go out with me. After all, she had contacted me, she had set this up and all night she had been leading the charge.
As it turned out, Betsy was trying new things and attempting to be more adventurous since moving to NYC only two months prior. When her friend Elyssa suggested that she go out with me, telling her she’d had a good time herself, she just thought, “why not?” Betsy thought it would be adventurous and fun and I totally agreed with her. I’ll take “why not?” any day of the week. I feel like it’s a great way to live life sometimes.
The club was all the way over on 42nd Street, past 11th Avenue, near where I had recently seen a musical called “F*cking Hipsters”, which had been part of a musical theater festival. This was yet another play that I’d seen that year which I’d forgotten to tell Betsy about. As it turned out, Betsy had friends who did music for a couple shows in the same festival and she said they were all terrible, so I didn’t feel bad ripping into the poorly written musical about an indie band from Brooklyn. I was pointing out how terrible the plot was by the time we approached ESPACE, the large club playing host to the after party.
“Now this looks like an after party!” — Someone from a shitty sitcom.
Betsy handed the large man at the door our fancy little black tickets and we entered the club. As we walked in, I could sense the fanfare. There was actually a row of photographers lined up and one of those walls with the play’s logo tiled across it, where celebrities get their pictures taken. For some reason they were not waving us over. I didn’t get it. We looked fantastic.
Whatever. Fuck the paparazzi. (R.I.P. Princess Diana.)
We left her bag at the coat check and then went towards the drinks and food, because really, that was the best reason to attend an after party if you’re not famous and getting hand jobs in the coat room.
The line for pasta extended past a small cocktail table where Betsy’s friends, who I am not allowed to blog about, were standing and eating. Betsy set her things down and we got in line. You might not believe me, but the pasta station had at least three different kinds of pasta, and they all looked so good! We hung back to wait for a new tray of pumpkin ravioli and then we went for drinks. Waiting in line, we discussed mixed beverages and Betsy ordered a Long Island iced tea, which I’d never had, and I ordered a gin & tonic.
The pastas were delicious and I’d sampled all three before we were even back to the table. We devoured the rest of our small plates upon our return.
The four or five of us around the table talked about the play a bit and about the entire scene around us. Who was there? Who might not have made it? And of course, the food was an important topic of conversation.
However, the majority of the chatter consisted of the women talking about work. It reminded me a lot of my then company’s holiday party except I was on the other side of things, listening to people talk about their work and me having no idea to what they were referring. I felt bad for any date I’d ever brought to a holiday party, though I must say, it didn’t bother me to stand and listen to them since the theater business was considerably more interesting than the investment technology industry, which was what we talked about at our parties.
Betsy took off her heels after only a minute or two of standing at the table. She couldn’t have cared less about what was proper and did it with an air of refined confidence.
Now, I didn’t want to jump the gun, but I thought it could be love. Betsy was right up my alley: Confident, sexy, intelligent and personable as hell. She made conversation a breeze while being straightforward and humorous the whole time. I felt an immediate comfort and an attraction that only grew as the night went on.
There were other people floating to and from our table, all associated with Betsy’s workplace. The repartee was great, the company fun and the scene exciting. As I looked out over the crowd, I could see just how glitzy the whole thing really was. My camera phone couldn’t do it justice.
I’d been wondering how many drinks it would take to get the Broadway crowd dancing and it turned out to be lower than I thought. There were already folks out there cutting a rug!
The women went in search of some more food and I was left with some guy who I am not allowed to talk about. We talked about some things I won’t mention and we may or may not have got along well. When the women returned, the men (myself included) left to forage for meat at the hot turkey table. When we returned with our bounty, Betsy and I shared food off of our two little plates.
Everyone seemed to leave us alone after this point. As other people arrived to the table, Betsy’s friends became increasingly distracted, so Betsy more or less just chatted with me. We ate, talked and then decided to get another drink. I stuck with gin & tonic, but Betsy moved on to a tequila sunrise, something else I’d never tried. I had a sip of hers and it was actually pretty tasty.
Betsy and her friend eventually vanished to get their hands on some dessert. They had these cool little tarts, molded into spoon-shaped cookies, as well as other delectable delights. They were all quite delicious. As we finished with dessert, a number of friends took off for the dance floor but we stayed behind.
Once we were alone, we sat down at a real table with real chairs. Betsy and I talked for a long while and I was able to see all the hints of her personality shine through. A more complete picture of Betsy was coming together and she did not disappoint. Everything I had assumed about how thoughtful and honest she might be was spot on. I felt like I was actually connecting with her. We talked about love and relationships and so many things seemed to line up.
I’ve long believed that there is no one single person out there for each of us. In fact, I think that’s a fairly depressing belief to uphold. If that were really the case, every failed relationship would be a catastrophic disappointment. I like to think that there are at least a few hundred “the ones” spread throughout the world. It keeps me hopeful. It puts things in perspective when relationships end and allows me to move on. Some relationships are more difficult to recover from than others, but the knowledge that there is someone else waiting for me somewhere always helps. I know that if I put myself out there enough, it’s not too hard to find someone to connect with, whether for a single night or years on end.
Already, I could tell that Betsy was probably one of those people. She felt like a solid connection.
It seemed that our philosophies were comparable. Betsy, like me, was hopeful and confident despite not having it all figured out. Just having someone seated across from me who felt similarly was comforting. I wasn’t feeling much pressure before that point, but I was completely at ease then.
A friend came over to inform us that we had to dance. Betsy told her that we’d be along in a few minutes, knowing full well that we were not going anywhere. Eventually, we found ourselves holding hands. It was not much longer before we shared our first kiss. Our second followed soon behind.
Betsy told me that she was experiencing her first real period of being single and she had been trying to enjoy it. There was an aspect of not having to worry about a serious relationship that was really nice. I could relate, as I was going through the same phase myself.
Finally, we were discovered by Betsy’s manager, who sat with us for a while, chatting about theater topics and eventually, OHD. She asked me if I ever fell for anyone, or if it was difficult to resist sometimes. In response, I told her she wasn’t allowed to ask me that in front of my date, who was one of those very people. It was like this woman showed up and said, “Isn’t it hard to go out with Betsy tonight and not want to see her again? Answer now!” Yes, lady. It was. Thanks for making sure we all knew it.
It was getting late and it was time to go. On our way out, Betsy’s friends were taking pictures on the red carpet, so we jumped right in. It was perfect! We took photos, which were incredibly cute, and we continued on our way.
At the first intersection away from the club, we kissed again and I decided to make the walk down to Herald Square with her. It was a bit of a hike, but both of our trains were there, so it wasn’t completely senseless.
Considering the late morning, partial work day, apartment break in, Broadway premier and captivating date, it had been a roller coast of a day. A nice long walk to the train, hand in hand, was a wonderfully serene way to bring it to a close.