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1997. Los Angeles & New York.
Rehearsals. Harvard University. The Great Bell Toe Incident.
Tuesday, April 1, 1997
Miracle on 29th Street.
I can barely breathe.
No millionaire on earth in the grandest castle on the most beautiful private lake in the richest part of the world has what I have right now. Because no amount of money can buy it. And the amazing part is knowing that we have only just begun. The best part of it all lies ahead. But, just for the record, if anything should happen to me and I don't live another day, I don't want anyone saying, "Poor Steve, he should have been here for..."
No. Nothing can top the happiness in my heart right now.
Tonight, we assembled the cast of TLS for the first time to just sit and read through the script. Normally, this sort of thing is done in private, so the actors can get a feel for each other and so the author can fix any little things in the script that might have been left out or mistyped. It's, as Mike the Director put it, a "meet and greet." Very informal.
But, tonight, there were about 15 people in the "audience," including the designers, choreographer, Jim the Author, Jamie & Carl -- who sent a bowl of fruit, Amy our good luck charm & mascot (whose film "The Killing Club" was just accepted at Cannes), Andrew Miller the Artistic Director of the Currican, Marty Gasparian the Producer at the Currican, and I don't know who else. The cast, just meeting each other for the first time, sat on the stage area in a semi-circle and I was at the piano to sing the songs since no one else knew them.
But before we started reading, everyone gathered in the lobby and looked at the blueprints and drawings of the set by Eric Renschler, and press package I had assembled from articles already written about yours truly and this web page, etc. But underneath, I could see we were all nervous and excited.
Well, after filing in, Mike said a few words explaining that he had never done a first reading with an audience before and we proceeded. Now, I can't describe a performance. I can't describe how "good" an actor is. All I can tell you that as each laugh rolled by, the audience and actors all cracked up. As each dramatic moment created great silences, everyone in that room, including me, got completely caught up in the drama of THE LAST SESSION.
I started out singing each of the songs, but slowly, the actors themselves began to take over the singing. All but Bob who was playing Gideon, "my" role. Grace Garland (who used to be "Vera" on "All My Children" -- a waitress at Foxy's) started the ball rolling by killing us on Preacher and the Nurse, and Amy Coleman as Vicki -- who sounds like Janis Joplin -- also began singing. They didn't really know the songs and were shy at first (what with the audience and all), but soon nobody noticed any of the wrong notes. The spirit of TLS began taking over.
The high point of Act One was when Stephen Bienskie sang Going It Alone. He really knocked us out of our chairs with that sweet R&B voice of his. (He said afterward that during the audition when he heard Going It Alone, he couldn't believe his ears, that he would be singing such a "great" song.)
Soon, we were into Act Two and once again, we were all transfixed by these incredible actors doing that acting thing they do. But everyone was really wondering about Bob Stillman, Gideon. ("My" role.) What did his voice sound like? I mean, by now, everyone has heard me sing these songs, and I probably did him and any other Gideon a disservice by releasing the little bootleg CD, but I wasn't worried. I already knew he could sing. I was at his audition.
Well, finally we came to Connected, which I "made" him sing at that audition (when I stuck the sheet music in front of him and said, "SING!"). As we got to that point in the play, he looked over at me and nodded and I knew he wanted to give it a shot.
Well, if there are angels who sing, they learned how from Bob Stillman. He began singing Connected, which is probably the most personal song in the whole show for me.
The other actors. You could see their mouths drop and their eyes tear up. The audience. Silence. Stunned amazement.
And that's when everyone knew we were going to have one extraordinary, unsurpassable production. And I don't mean to take anything away from the other actors because they all have great voices, powerful, rich and expressive. But Bob's voice is singularly sweet. I keep saying "angelic," but that's the best word I can use. And he has these little jazzy bluesy riffs that dart about with a kind of artistry and precision very few singers in the entire world can do.
When he finished the song, we all just sat there stunned and amazed.
Folks, I hope I am conveying to you how thrilling this night was. I pray that you can understand what it means to a writer to hear his songs sung the way he always dreamed of hearing them. I mean, I know I pretend to be this great rock god singer and I'll always enjoy the constant adulation of the masses (LOL).
But, at that moment, I knew my songs, with this cast and that script by Jim Brochu would last forever. Somebody was doing them with all the heart and soul and skill they required. New people were breathing life into my little scribbles and madnesses.
If only I could put you, precious reader, into my shoes. If only I could truly make you feel what I feel as I write these words. I'm the richest man on earth right now. I have more life than I ever dreamed possible. I don't know what is preventing me from exploding right now.
And the most extraordinary thing of all is this: This Bonus Round has just begun.
Afterwards, I shot out to the lobby, downed my 3TC and d4T and we all went over to the Triple Crown and ate and drank and talked our heads off. We must have looked like madmen, we were all so excited. The actors praised each other. We praised them. We praised Jimmy's great book. They praised the songs and it was almost midnight before we wrested ourselves from the table.
Exhausted and filled with excited, nervous energy, I made myself stay awake so that I could take my 12:30 Crixivan and then I crawled into bed and immediately fell into a deep satisfying sleep.
I'll be in Boston for the next few days. I don't know if I'll access to a computer, but I'll take notes and report to you as often as I can. First, Harvard on Thursday, concert on Friday, songwriting workshop on Saturday. I hope they're ready for me, because I'm ready for them.
Wednesday, April 2, 1997
Busing to Boston.[I'm typing this on Thursday morning in the computer lab at the Harvard School for Public Health. I think that's the name of it. The roads outside are covered in snow. While we in Manhattan got a light fluffy postcard snow, here in Boston, they got 3 feet and it's all piled up in huge drifts along the sides of the roads. In the cab ride on the way here this morning -- I am staying in a hotel way the hell across town no where near any stores or no public transportation -- I saw so many cars buried in snow. I guess I just wasn't prepared for the amount of snow here.]
I took a bus into Boston today (Wednesday) after the train tickets they were sending didn't make it in time. But I found out the bus ride is actually 2 hours shorter than the train ride, so it was cool. Just before we left, I bought a sandwich at the Port Authority and ate it because I know there would be no food on the bus -- normally I avoid sandwiches because of fears about contamination, but I had no choice -- and I had to time the Crix. The only thing bad that happened was I got a leg cramp. Luckily, it was at the one stop we make just outside of Boston, so I was able to get out and walk it off.
Anyway, as we pulled into Boston, I was stunned at the amount of snow packed the sides of the streets. And it was cold. So, as I made my way down the walkway, a voice came from behind. "What's the difference between BMG and BMI?" Puzzled, I turned around and saw a very handsome white guy with long, long hair. Then I remembered that I was wearing the BMG backpack the Ronda gave me a year ago. So, I told him, "BMI collects royalties and pays them to the writers who work for BMG -- and any other publishing company, for that matter. So does ASCAP."
He told me he had just signed an artist deal with Sub Pop out of Seattle and that his name was Mike Flood. We walked along and chatted as I told him, "I am not a rock star but I play one on the internet." (My new favorite introductory phrase).
Anyway, I followed in instructions and grabbed a cab for my hotel in the outback, met up with Jarvis (who had come to the bus station on public transportation) and then we both went out for dinner. We used the hotel shuttle and went down to Harvard Square.
Now, this is my first time here. I had visited Boston a few times when the SS Galileo used to dock here, but it was for only an hour at a time, usually, except for when I was in the hospital here after my moped accident in Bermuda, but that's not really seeing Boston, either.
[time is short as I type this -- i have to meet jarvis in 15 minutes.]
I loved Harvard Square. He took me to the place where I'm doing the concert on Friday -- it's right there on the square -- but it was occupied by a class. So, we went for Chinese and talked a lot. It's very exciting being here. For two months, I've been running around telling everyone, "I'M SPEAKING AT HARVARD!" acting like a big shot -- "I'm not a big shot, but I play one on the internet." -- and enjoying every minute of it.
It's fun to talk to a Harvard TA. Jarvis is really smart and has the kind of education I always craved. I told him about a TV series in the 60s I saw when I was a kid that had a profound effect on me. It was called, "Hank" and it was about a guy whose family couldn't afford to send him to college, so he ran a food truck on campus and "dropped in" to classes surreptitiously. I just loved the idea that education was so priceless to him, he would do anything to get to go to a class.
Just as I was making a very strong point and feeling like the intellectual, I dumped a bowl of rice right into my lap and onto the floor. The rice was just sticky enough that it rolled out into the aisle, shedding rice along its path, like a miniature snowball. Naturally, my first instinct was to curl up and die, but instead it made me laugh. Why not?
Anyway, I made it back to the hotel and realized I hadn't bought any water to take with my Crix. The only bottled water in the room was some tiny bottle of spring water imported from Europe that cost $4.00 a bottle. And the hotel didn't have any cheap bottles of water (and, as I said, it seems to be miles from civilization) and Crix needs gallons of water because if you don't drink a lot of water with it, you will get kidney stones. So, I went down to the coke machines and bought ginger ale and orange drink, both of which I find vile and sticky, and tried to make do. (All the while remembering that there are people with HIV in this world who drink out of sewers).
I woke up just in time to take my Crix with the ginger ale and meet Jarvis -- twenty minutes late.) *sigh*
Thursday, April 3, 1997
Harvard, Andy Griffith, & Belynda Dunn.Jarvis and I got to the Harvard School of Public Health, I went right to the computer lab and wrote out some diary pages, and answered some email (after all, you guys come first to me.) :) Then, I went down to the cafeteria, but they were just closing the hot kitchen. So, I got a couple of cinnamon buns and sat down to eat. Just as I bit into the roll, I saw a lady walk in who I thought looked familiar. Then I realized who it was: Doris Kearns Goodwin, the historian who is frequently on the Jim Lehrer News Hour on PBS. That's when it really hit me:
I'm at Harvard.
For a kid from Buna, Texas who thought Jacksonville Baptist College in Jacksonville, Texas was a rarified atmosphere, I must admit that I suddenly felt like I should be sitting there with a piece of straw in my teeth pettin' my hound dog -- like Andy Griffith in "No Time For Sargeants." Then I saw a poster about the concert with a huge logo that said, "QUEER HARVARD." And I thought, "Well, if they didn't know I was queer before, then shore do know it now, by dingy."
Jarvis came and got me and we went up to the classroom. Immediately, I was intimidated beyond all reason. It's hard enough to speak in front of a group of "truly" educated people, but these were HARVARD students and a HARVARD professor. And I had no idea what I was going to say, or what I was supposed to say. Immediately, though, all my fears were vanquished when I met the other person on the panel, Belynda Dunn, who was featured in last month's POZ Magazine. She's this dynamic, gorgeous woman who, when she began to speak -- I made her go first -- put me absolutely at ease. She was able to, in five minutes, sum up about 30 years of her life and present a picture of life with AIDS, both factually and emotionally, and she did it while imparting huge amounts of love and inspiration.
After she finished, I leaned over to her and said, "Honey, I just gained 25 t-cells just listening to you talk."
Before all this though, the students, because this was their first session, introduced themselves. They were from places like Cameroon, Haiti, Indonesia, Bangla Desh, Taiwan, San Francisco. Some were doctors, some were social workers, one was a reporter; all of them were bright and all of them were listening to every word we spoke.
As Belynda spoke frankly about how she contracted the virus from her fiance, how she plunged into drug abuse and then, finally, how she raised herself from poverty to become a vital and inspirational voice for People With AIDS, I was just overwhelmed. She told of inviting a bunch of African American people from conservative churches for a Sunday social complete with fried chicken. And how they were surprised to find out they were going to be addressed by People With AIDS. And how this simple act turned these churches, who until now were completely unaware of the disease, into bastions of ministry and support.
When it was my turn to speak, I just, well, what could I say? I put a diary up on the internet and wrote a musical. Truly, I felt so insignificant compared to this great lady.
But as I began to tell the story, and then as I told stories about people I've met and whose lives have touched mine, I began to realize, once again, the power of simply being yourself. I told of the many who have written who had not conact with PWAs and how they began to see the world in a new light. I told about Shawn Decker and Luke Chipperfield and other HIV pozzies and how we support each other even though we are continents away. I told of people like Linda George and Gabi, who were fighting homophobia, and how we had impacted each other. And I realized how each of us, even when we think we're only doing a tiny bit -- how all of it adds up.
By the time I finished my little "speech," Belynda leaned over to ME, this time and said, "You know, honey, we should take this act on the road!"
I think what really made me happy, as far as the class was concerned, was that I could tell from the questions that I was giving them significant information that only I, through my own unique experiences, could give. The professor told me afterwards that I had given him some great food for thought.
And they had given me a lot, too. Not the least of which was a lady named Belynda Dunn.
Friday, April 4, 1997
A Little Show In Harvard Square.I was so happy this morning because Jimmy came in from New York and we were having, not just a date, but a actual WEEKEND together! We met Jarvis and went to an Indian restaurant (where I stuffed myself with Chicken Tikka) and, afterward, picked up some extra socks and underwear (cause I didn't pack enough) and then met all my internet friends who had flown in just to see my show. Imagine flying in from Texas, Florida, Canada -- and driving in from Long Island, New Hampshire and god knows where else, to see a $5.00 show! (I'm not the Grateful Dead but I play them on them on the internet).
Well, the little Blacksmith House was packed that night. I had friends from PFLAG, my online poz support group, and others who came out and filled the room with good feelings and great big smiles.
The concert itself -- well, what I had done earlier today, was print out some pages from the diary, looking for stories to tell. At this point in my life, it is you, precious reader, who informs so much of what I do and what I am able to accomplish. I started by Connected, reading from the first day of this diary...
(By the way, I didn't even notice at the time, but March 24th was the one year anniversary of the Survival Site Diary. Time just has a way of flying by, doesn't it?)
...and the concert was pretty intense, frankly -- given how intense most of these songs are. All the way until finally Jimmy broke the tension with a smart remark which made everyone laugh -- and from there on in, we began having a great time together. I even printed out the lyrics to Friend Fire and had everyone sing along.
Funny Story From Jim:
When Jimmy began "harassing" me from the audience, there was a lady who was a bit taken aback. Jimmy told me later that just as she was getting a little upset, one of my readers, Charlene Wolff, leaned over and said, "Don't worry. That's his beloved Jim." BELOVED JIM!
Well, at the end of the show, the audience was on its feet applauding. I felt so embarrassed. I don't know why. I guess I'm still not used to being a rock god. I was so caught off guard, I kinda just fled from the stage. Not realizing I should have done an encore or something. Oh, well, I'll get better at this. I promise.
I also took the time to greet as many people as I could leaving the room. It was fun to meet so many who had been reading this diary page but who I had not met, nor even corresponded with! There was a whole group of women who said they read my page from their office! I just think that is so cool.
My favorite response is when people say how, in person, I'm just like I am here. I wonder if that means they think I'm a geek and a nerd in person, too.
Saturday, April 5, 1997
Lady in Black, Fish Tanks, & Napoleon's.This afternoon, I agreed to hold a songwriter workshop for the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. It was to give the local aspiring songwriters a chance to come into contact with someone from El Lay who knows the music business. Usually, to be perfectly frank, these workshops can be very tedious because, to be even more frank, I have never really found a great song in one of these -- and I have conducted hundreds of them.
The participants ranged from a guy who had written only four songs to a woman who had written many, including songs about HIV and safe sex (and who sang them in hospices and for school groups). I want, though, to tell you about one lady who was there. She was an older woman with white hair which was pulled up under a black velvet hat with an angled brim; and a long black coat. She was a very imposing figure.
In the workshop, I spoke for about an hour about the music business and then each participant played one song each, which I then "evaluated." When I do this, I try to not be critical about the songs, as in, "...this song sucks." It's more like suggestions on how to make the songs more effective, if anything; or where their songs might fit in the marketplace.
After we finished playing all the songs, the lady in black, whose name is Barbara Baig, respectfully asked if she could play another song. I hesitated because I didn't want to be unfair to the other songwriters. But she pressed me, and not wanting to be rude, I relented. The song was called, "With These Hands."
So, I put her cassette into the player, sat back and waiting for it to be over. Instead, I sat there -- hell, we *all* sat there -- and were stunned at the heart and craftsmanship. In fact, after the song ended, I sat there and deconstructed the song line by line after hearing through only once; that's how mature the song was.
Fish TanksJimmy and I had a bunch of friends fly in for the show in Boston. (My joke: You flew in from Texas, Florida, and Canada to see a $5 show?). Jarvis, our host, decided to take us to a restaurant in Boston. When we got there, the wait for a table was over an hour (and I had only just about that long to eat on my Crix schedule). So we went to another part of town. Another long wait. And... well, we basically got a tour of Boston going from restaurant to restaurant. Finally, Jarvis said, "Never mind these places. Let's go to Chinatown. I know very cheap place that's never too busy."
So, off we went to Chinatown and went to a little place located in a basement just beneath a huge banner that read, "CALIFORNIA BEAUTY SCHOOL." *LOL* Well, we walked down and the first thing we saw was bright blue fishtanks with fish and lobsters. The dining room was filled with Chinese families. Moms, dads, teens, grandmas. All having a whale of a time. Our little group of eight was directed to a big table nearest the entrance. And, how can I say this? Although Jarvis is Asian, the rest of us were clearly not. And, taken as a whole, we were also clearly not, uh, heterosexual, either.
But, they didn't seem to mind. The menu items ranged from $5 to $7. Very nice. So we all ordered one dish each and a couple of appetizers, figuring we'd all share everything. Well, the first dish came out. It, by itself was nearly enough to feed us all. Then came out dish number two, number three, number four, and by this time, it was preposterous. There was enough food for a hundred people (it felt like) and we hadn't even gotten halfway through.
Stuffed to the gills, we decided to go to a piano bar called Napoleon's.
Napoleon'sNapoleon's, "A Gentleman's Piano Bar," which had a plaque of appreciation from the mayor for lasting 40 years, was this immaculately appointed mansion with several large rooms, including a dance floor upstairs. On the bottom floor, though, was a big room with a piano at the far end. Just behind the piano, on the wall, was a huge framed mirror. At the piano was a woman. Surrounding the piano was a teeming crowd of well-dressed men singing at the top of their lungs. Singing songs from "Chess" and "Les Miserables!" So sophisticated.
Well, we managed to worm our way close to the piano just as the pianist was going on break. Jimmy leaned over and told her who I was and about the musical. So, she invited me to play. Well, remember the story I told you about how loud the beach bar in California was? It was nothing. This room was at a fever pitch and there was no microphone. So, something wonderful happened.
I started to do Going It Alone. Noticing that no one could possibly hear me, I encouraged our group to sing along. So they did. It was beautiful. In fact, it was so beautiful, the people in the bar started to take notice and even tried to sing along, thinking it was a song they should know!
It was my first time to hear a song of mine sung by a big group standing around a piano -- and it sounded fantastic. But what I really loved were the looks on my friends' faces. I can't say this without sounding simpy, probably, but they looked like angels. It was transcendent. We were having what people in showbiz call "a moment."
Back at the hotel, I fell instantly into a deep, peaceful sleep.
Sunday, April 6, 1997
An Intimate Concert.Sunday's show, which was arranged at the last minute, was small. Or, rather, the audience was small. Turns out there was a big parade in town that blocked all the traffic. I got notes from people apologizing. Apparently, the only people who knew there was a parade were the people in the parade.
But it made for a great show. The Old Blacksmith House is over 200 years old. The room where I played was small and intimate. So, all of us who were there, just kinda bunched together and had a private little party of music and good feelings.
I felt bad, though, about one thing. Jarvis had invited three women from a convalescent home for people with bad health problems. At one point in my program, one of the ladies got up and left. A few minutes later, she signaled to the others and they all left.
Jarvis told me later that the one woman found my songs too intense. She just couldn't take them. The other two were having a wonderful time, though. But still, they followed her out.
I hate it when I upset people. I didn't try to make my songs too intense. I just told the truth with as much heart and humor as I could. *sigh*
Jimmy and I were able to get a ride home with our friend, Freddy, rather than take a bus or train. It was great fun. We laughed and told stories and before we knew it, we were in Manhattan. Then Jimmy and I said goodbye as Freddie dropped us off to our respective "cabins." It was great to have a weekend together. We both know it will end soon, this separation, and it's probably good for us to have a little space now and then, both being writers, but I miss having him around.
By the way, we are seriously contemplating moving here to New York. It's his hometown and it feels like theatre is the thing we do best. So, who knows? For me, though, it will be a complicated process because, unless and until I start actually earning a living, I'm at the mercy of state agencies when it comes to my medications and living expenses.
(And though TLS is getting good word of mouth, it's just one of hundreds of plays here in New York that go on every year. You might, in reading this, think of it as this "big thing," but you also have to remember that nobody -- I mean NOBODY -- here truly knows who we are. The internet is still another universe away from most people's consciousness. So, it's a little scary and it's exciting, too. No one reading this has any idea of what the future holds -- least of all me. Remember, last summer I didn't even think I'd be alive right now. But, in the Bonus Round, where you and I dwell, all things are possible.)
The transition is going to be another minefield of rules and regulations.
Again, I'm not complaining. Just laying out the facts. Luckily, there are organizations set up to help me with this. But the idea of trying to find an apartment here? Where the smallest of the small might cost a thousand bucks a month or more? ACH!
Monday, April 7, 1997
Rehearsing, Reading & Phoebe Tyler.Back here in Manhattan, we finally had our first music rehearsal. Michael Gaylord, who is doing the arrangements (for no pay, I might add), has outdone anything I could have imagined on my own. We started on Preacher and the Nurse. And between the four of the cast members who sing, they sounded like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
I played piano for the rehearsals while Bob Stillman, who is "Gideon," learned his vocal parts. Eventually, he will take over the piano. I enjoy this process, though it can get tedious. But it also wears me out. Now I remember why (aside from the fact that I can't "act" my way out of a paper bag) we cast someone besides me as Gideon. Each rehearsal leaves me drained. That's why I'm late posting these diary pages. I apologize to you all.
I'm probably just drained from the weekend. It was great fun, but it was also took a lot out of me. I barely woke up this morning in time to take my morning Crix. (Usually I'm up at the crack of dawn.) I also discovered that I left my Dapsone drug in Boston or lost it somewhere on the road, so I called my pharmacy in El Lay and asked them to send it out immediately.
This evening, we did a staged reading of Jimmy's new play called "Father Jeremy." It's just a first draft, so we did it mainly so that Jimmy could hear it to see "where he is." One thing funny that happened was that Andrew Miller, the Artistic Director at the Currican, (who is in The Blue Man Group here in New York), was asked to read one of the parts.
Just before the reading, all the actors were arranged on the stage in chairs. Jimmy stepped up to introduce them to the audience and announce which part they were reading. When he introduced Andrew, though, and announced his part, Andrew's face went absolutely white. It seems Andrew had studied the wrong part. So, right there on the spot, he got into character and did a flawless reading of a part he hadn't even privately read through yet.
One of the nicest things was seeing our friend, Ruthie Warrick, who plays Phoebe Tyler on "All My Children." She's been through a lot, lately, and is recovering from some physical problems. Ruthie and Jimmy and I go back a long way -- back to when Jimmy "married" Donna and Benny on "All My Children."
AIDS IN THE NEWS:
We read in the Daily News that Magic Johnson's wife said the new drugs for AIDS were "from God." So, Jimmy said since the fundamentalists think God created AIDS to punish people for being gay, does this mean He now approves of us?
Wednesday, April 9, 1997
Meeting Marianne & Falwell's Crusade.I met this really cool, really beautiful woman named Marianne Macy who wrote a book about escort services and the sex trade. What she did was she went to every escort service and applied, found out what they wanted from all the girls, and then wrote a book about how they hired the girls. (She didn't "work," though. Just wanted to make that clear.)
We began talking and the thing we had in common was that she did many radio interviews talking about the subject. In the Bible Belt, though, she said she got the most interesting phone calls from listeners and was amazed at how tolerant and understanding people from that area ended up being.
This conversation led to talking about gay people and conservative Christians. She made the observation that most of the people who were particularly intolerant were actually really good people down deep inside once you got to know them. I made the point to her (the same one I've made here) that most conservative Christians *want* to act with love toward gay people, but have been misled egregiously by their leaders, particularly by the TV evangelists who see the pot of fund-raising gold in "the homosexual agenda."
Mike heard Tammy Faye Baker say on 'Geraldo' that the rumor of Jim Baker being gay was started by Jerry Falwell because "...Christians will forgive a heterosexual liaison but they'll never forgive someone being gay." Interesting, huh?
And speaking of Falwell, now that this whole "Ellen" thing is happening with Ellen coming out, Rev. Jerry is all over the tube. Between him and Patrick Buchanan, both of them major gay haters -- the pink fund-raising envelopes are gonna be flying like leaves in a fundamentalist tornado.
Well, enough of that. I got a lot of rest today. After the long weekend and then two days of rehearsals, I slept late this morning and then went home early. Oh, and the medication I lost along the way somewhere made it here today by overnight delivery, so that was really cool.
Thursday, April 10, 1997
Institutional Icebox.It was **cold** today. I got up a little early because I wanted to consult with one of the agencies here about AID services. I got on the 6 train, went down to 14th Street, changed to the L and got off at 6th Avenue. I walked one block in the wrong direction -- "Why are the numbers going up instead of down?" -- and found the address.
Entering the building, I saw the most depressing room I have ever seen. It was cavernous and seemed to be filled with smoke, though no one was smoking. The empty walls were painted some sick shade of pink or something and I guess they have a lot of different social services there, because there were so many different kinds of people, waiting in chairs lining the walls in three different big empty rooms.
There was absolutely nothing in the way of instructions. Nothing indicating where one should go. I just got this sick feeling in my stomach and left. I looked in my backpack and saw that I had a phone number I could call. So, I walked a block, found a phone, and tried to dial, but it was not working. (And it was really cold.) I tried the phone next to it and it was also broken.
So I walked another half block and found a working phone, called the number I had and was told I needed to bring "proof" that I had AIDS. So, then I realized if I had called this number from the apartment, I could have avoided this whole trip into DepressionVille. So, standing there freezing my ass off, I called my doctor in California to get them to fax me my proof. But his assistant said he might not be in the office until Monday. So I called Bobby, who's minding our apartment in El Lay and tried to guide him to the place where I kept that stuff.
Hopefully, by the end of the day, I'll have my proof.
After all this, I made it down to the Currican for our music rehearsal (which was fantastic, thankfully.) And right now I'm sitting in the office using their computer to write this diary page. Cool, huh? Oh, very cool stuff: Jimmy got some comp tickets for us to go see "Titanic, The Musical" which is about to open on Broadway. They had to delay the first two preview performances last week because they couldn't get the ship to sink.
We also found out that the musical is costing two million more dollars than the original Titanic itself. Fun, huh? Also, do you remember when I "reviewed" two other shows earlier in our NY trip -- and how much I hated them? They finally opened to unanimously bad reviews. And all the advance word on some of the other new shows opening this month have been equally bad.
Shawn Decker update:
Shawn is back from Brazil and he and Mariana have completely fallen in love. In person, this time. Now we're going to have to suffer all the post-Brazil blues. So, go run his counter up and make him happy.
Friday, April 11, 1997
Getting To Know Bob.BUT FIRST!:
One of the coolest guys who hangs around the Currican is Jeffrey. Last night after I wrote the Thursday entry, he and I and his girlfriend, Tatiana, hung out here while I did email and stuff. What a trip this girl is! I have to say that I really like heterosexuals even though I know there are some gay folks who absolutely don't. I just find you all endlessly fascinating.
Jeffrey is this tall, good-looking guy with long black hair and Tatiana is this little fireball of a person. Both of them work at the Hard Rock Cafe. Tatiana told us of her one visit to a hetero sex club where there were women leading men around on dog leashes. I offered to lead them both around on dog leashes but they declined my offer.
I had a great time today -- got to rest a lot. You see, in THE LAST SESSION, there is a fantasy number which involves choreography, and today was the day the choreographer arrived. I was arrived late because I had a couple of errands to run and by the time I got there, the three cast members involved in the movement were already working. Bob Stillman ("Gideon"), was in the lobby because Gideon stays at the piano and plays for the others.
So, for the first time in this whole process, I got to spend time with Bob just sittin' and chattin'. Since he is from New York, he was intensely curious about Baptists and Texas and AIDS. He also told me about his career.WEIRD TLS COINCIDENCE:Bob also is a songwriter and at one point considered a career as a pop artist.
Last year, when we were first thinking about casting for the role of Gideon, the actor we had in mind was Brian Stokes Mitchell, who is now in "Ragtime," which is headed for Broadway. When I told Bob about this, he said, "You're kidding..." Turns out he played opposite Brian in that Broadway production of "Kiss of the Spider Woman."2ND WEIRD TLS COINCIDENCE:After he and I spoke, the rest of the cast burst from the room for lunch. Now, I hope I'm not speaking out of turn here, but our cast consists mainly of actor/singers who have experience in moving, but who are not dancers with a capital D. When they came back from lunch, they were so excited to show us their choreography.
When Bob was in El Lay in the cast of "Grand Hotel," he was approached by John Schneider who was going to develop him as a rock artist and get him a record deal. The first place he brought him was Bob-A-Lew Music and Ronda, where I am Creative Consultant! (He said Ronda wouldn't remember him...)
They had forgotten every single step -- leaving the rest of us laughing hysterically out loud (but not making fun, of course). One thing that's really nice is how much the members of the cast love each other. They're even asking for additional rehearsal time. Oh, and guess what? On Saturday afternoon, Jimmy and I are going to go see "Titanic: The Musical!"
I'll tell you all about it.
Saturday, April 12, 1997
Titanic, Tyler & Rain.It's very late at night and I'm sitting at Mike the Director's laptop computer in the living room. Next to me, Chuckie the Composer (of "Men: The Musical," which was warmly received but closed because it was in a gay theatre and all the characters were heterosexuals), is sitting as his keyboard wearing headphones and playing a completely soundless (to me) piano. Chuckie is always composing.
I just came back from "Titanic, the musical" after having dropped off a copy of Book One of this diary (and Book Threeto Bob. The diary is a good source of what goes through the mind of a person who is really feeling sick. When I pulled out the book, he said, "Wow! That's big! Is that it?" I said, "That's two thirds of it."
We had a great talk. He said this was his first off-off-Broadway show in a long time. I mean just a a month or so ago, he was working in an Andrew Lloyd Webber show, "Whistle Down the Wind," before it closed in Washington DC. And he's worked with Hal Prince and Maury Yestin and all the great writers and producers of our generation. For him to suddenly just be asked to jump into a tiny little off-off-Broadway production in two days, yes or no, must have been shocking and mindblowing for him.
I just consider us very lucky to have someone so talented. And the rest of the cast is just as good, by the way. After I briefed him on the book, we went out and walked Tyler, his dog -- a beautiful golden retriever -- down 72nd street over to Columbus Ave. (where I used to live) and up to 86th. Then I got on a bus and transfered at 96th.
Oh, and "Titanic." Well, um. I think it didn't have all the sets ready yet. Titanic was one of the most opulent ships in history. Cut crystal in every room, elaborately detailed wooden ballrooms and gorgeous chandeliers. For the main dining room in first class, the set was a white sheet with portholes in it. And this is a 10 million dollar production! Well, after all, we were only seeing a preview. So, who knows? But if that's the final set, I think they're going to be in trouble.
Maury Yestin's music was elegant and gorgeous, though, as always. To simulate the ship sinking they had these elevated rooms on stage surrounded by black and they kept angling more and more as the second act progressed.
I'll let you know how the critics receive it.
Oh, and speaking of critics, I did not win Homesteader of the Year at Geocities. It's okay, though. Some guy from Spain won. It was enough for me that I was recognized as "Most Educational." I was honored to be considered.
Sunday, April 13, 1997
"...and bells on my toes."Please don't be alarmed, but I have had a terrible accident. My big toe was crushed by a 100 lb. brass bell today and I have been in the Emergency Room for about four hours while they anesthetized it, x-rayed it, and then doctored it by ripping off the toenail and putting it back on. I'm angry and sad and frustrated at this unlucky turn of events. And I'm not allowed to walk for at least 48 hours. And I'm in pain.
It started out as such a lovely day, too. Jimmy and I met in the Village to go walking around. I was scheduled to go to the 5 & 10 No Exaggeration club as the headliner in a fundraiser for The River Fund. It was about 4 PM when we got there for sound check. Good thing, too, because their PA system is antiquated (to say the least), and the piano is this little upright. We even got the owner to get out his big ladder and focus a light on me. So, it took some time but all was going well.
After my sound check I went to the pay phone to call Mike the Director and check in. Just below the pay phone was this gorgeous brass bell off a ship or something. What I didn't know was that it was precariously balanced on a little antique table (the whole bar is full of antiques for sale).
I turned at one point and must have brushed up against the table, because the bell came crashing to the floor landing squarely on my big toe. I screamed in horror, saying, "No no no no no, please no" not knowing what was in store for me. Poor Mike (on the phone) said he heard this horrible crash, me screaming, and then a crowd of people all talking and yelling.
Well, I grabbed my shoe and sock and tore them off and saw that my toe was completely crushed, and that blood was coming from underneath the nail all around the edge of it. My heart sank. I mean, here I am in New York living out the fantasy of a lifetime, everything is going my way, life is so great, and now I'm looking at a potential major disaster.
I don't mean to be whining or complaining here, but when you got AIDS and when you don't have much of a functioning immune system, the last thing you want to see is any cause for potential infection. Frankly, it scared the living shit out of me.
But mostly it hurt. Big time. I was screaming and yelling and I was totally helpless to do anything about it. When I realized I was screaming, I tried to stop. But I literally couldn't not stop screaming. I jammed my hand into my mouth to muffle the sound, but to no avail. Finally, I did get it under control, but I was hurting. Badly.
The bar owner, Bob, came running out with an ice bucket filled with ice and water. I plunged my bloody toe into the ice water (full of bacteria?), told him I had AIDS and that I was scared to death. I honestly tried to keep my head about me, but the pain was blinding. Bob saw that I was trying to keep myself under control, and he told me to just let it out. But, I didn't care about screaming. I just wanted to rewind the clock and go back to the time before the bell hit my toe. We started to call an ambulance, but I thought that would take too much time. Best to just hail a cab and get me to an Emergency Room.
An Emergency Room. Again. How much of the past four years have I spent in hospitals. Too much. And I know what happens in Emergency Rooms. You wait. You fill out forms. You wait some more. And all the while you're screaming your head off. At least, that's what they did to me when I had the kidney stone last year.
Anyway, I get in the cab. I'm out of my mind in pain. There's a little traffic jam. Minutes pass. We've wrapped some ice in napkins, the only thing alleviating the horror. The napkins fall apart and the ice falls onto the floorboard. The cabbie wants to know what just spilled. We assure him it's just ice. Time slows down. It hurts so much I almost vomit.
Jimmy's trying to help. He keeps telling me what a great diary page this is going to be and offers titles like, "Bell, Foot and Scandal." I tell him this is not favorite way to make interesting diary pages.
Finally, we arrive at St. Vincent's. Jimmy is just beside himself, saying he wished it were him and not me. I can't walk. I don't know how I got inside. But the nurse at the window ushers me right in and starts me on my way to getting some help. I make a brief stop at the window to tell them who I am and Jimmy fills out my forms for me.
In the Emergency Room, I'm attended to by Susan, a Physician's Assistant -- "Be sure to tell them I'm the Physician's Assistant and not the doctor," She tells me later after I inform her I'm going to make her the star of "Bell, Foot and Scandal." Anyway, she tells me she can numb the pain but she'll have to inject me. I say, "Fine."
Of all the torture devices on this planet, of all the pain I've felt, nothing tops that needle going into the joint of my big toe. I started hyper ventilating and screaming again. She kept saying, "Slow down your breathing. It should stop hurting soon. Slow down!" My mind was a maze of pain and horror. I knew it would be over, but ohmygawd it just seemed to take so long.
Finally, blessed warm numbness began to flow into my toe and for the first time in over a half hour, I began to relax and find some relief. They gave me a tetanus shot -- "Good for five years!" -- Jimmy was allowed in. For ten minutes. After they chased him out, I made friends with another guy who was sitting there. Turns out he's a writer and dancer with Judy Tenuta, the comedienne.
Well, to make a long story short -- too late! -- they x-rayed me and told me I have a fracture in the bone just under the toe nail. Then they took me to a room, ripped my toe nail off, cut it up and put it back on. (They were checking for possible lacerations in the nail bed.) Then they wrapped it up, gave me some Tylenol 4 with codeine, and sent me out the door with a cane and instructions to stay in bed for 48 hours with my toe elevated. And to have a doctor take the bandage off after that to see if it's going to heal properly.
And now I am in bed with my toe elevated. The anesthesia is fading, so my toe is beginning to throb again. And there's one thing I do know for a fact. Tomorrow will be hell. I am going to be in so much pain, I don't even want to think about it.
Oh, one other thing I did. After I got out of the hospital, I went back to the fundraising event, cane and all, hobbled onstage, and sang three songs for them. (At the sound check just before the bell hit my toe, Michael the Producer told me I was the headliner as the headliner for this. They had even asked me to sing twice.
Jimmy said I was a hero. Of course, by then, he had been sitting in bars around the corner for 50 minutes out of each hour. He leaped up to the stage, grabbed a microphone, and announced like I was a professional wrestler coming into the ring with an amazing new gimmick. The cane!
Pure, real life drama. As I walked to the back room, there were people all lined up along the bar and they were hugging me and helping me walk. It was so Barbara Stanwyck. Dickie Bell would have been so proud. along the bar lined with a row of antique gumball machines, Well, I don't know about that, but it was certainly dramatic!
After I sang, they jumped to their feet and applauded. Down front, Durga, the guy who I had met last week, was in tears. In fact, most of the people there were in tears as I reminded them from the stage how important it really is to reach out and to touch people who are alone and sick. I said how much I appreciated that The River Fund went into old folks homes and childrens hospitals with toys and balloons; and how important it is to give people hope and joy and light.
And I told them how I attribute my recovery and life to how deeply my friends loved me and gave to me. And how much my online friends have touched me and cared for me.
Anyway, I have bitched and complained now to Jimmy and Carl and Mike. My heart is rich and full even though I am upset and in pain. I'm angry that the club was so negligent in where they put that bell. Imagine if it had happened to an elderly person. They'd have lost their toe completely!
And now I've complained and moaned and cried to you about it. But, truly, I'm just heartsick that I'm hobbled and crippled, even if it's for just a little while. And what a time for it to have happened, when I want to be rejoicing and happy and running around!
I should shut up now. The toe is starting to throb and hurt and I'm getting to where I can't think straight. I'll be okay. Really. I've been through much worse than this. But, man, I wish I could wake up and start this day over again. I really do.
Monday, April 14, 1997
"Is This The Same Steve S.?"Sometimes you need friends to comfort you and sometimes you need friends to slap you around a little and tell you to get over yourself. I just got a note from a friend of mine who goes by the name of Beau Burnside III when he's writing stuff. I just know him as my friend, Jerry. Back last summer, just after the "last minute rescue" which saved my life, Jerry used to write me every day. He became TLS's biggest fan. He made posters and told everyone to support us.
At the staged reading at the Zephyr Theatre -- the one that got us the workshop which has led us here -- he came in with flowers and a crutch ("...as in 'break a leg'"). And all during that time, he himself was going through a medical nightmare and in constant pain.
Right now he's in a hospital in El Lay completely alone, going through going through some kind of horrific surgery. But if he has any organs in working condition, no one knows which ones they might be. He is still in constant pain and has been for a very long time. Long time as in years.
His situation is somewhat detailed at http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/1344/update.html. (He mentions LAST SESSION on this page as his source of inspiration.) Anyway, after reading about my toe, he sent me this note:I just read your 'bell' entry and wonder if this is the same guy I knew, maybe New York is getting to him - - I am sitting here in some real pain waiting till 6 am when they will take me to the operating room for the prep and curtian at 6:45 am. The pain they can give me shots for but the real pain is being alone......there will be no one there when I leave and no one when I wake up .......I will be alone.....not because I don't have friends and those that love me, and want to be there to help but for the last 15 years they have been there, they held there other half's, not once but sometime two and three times and they just can't be there one more time. Some of those who did come to visit me, had a real hard time just coming into the building, and being on the floor only made it worse. Could I ask they to do it just "One More Time", could I ask they to open up the pain, "Just One More, Time" could I ask them to be "Just One More, Time".....could I???? that is why I am alone.Now, "Beau," is just as big a drama queen as I am, as you can tell, but his pain is real and he is NOT one to carry on for people to feel sorry for him. Not at all.
His note reminded me of something that happened about two and half years ago. I had been in UCLA County Hospital for two weeks with microspiridial diarrhea. It was very serious. The only reason I was able to get out was because I learned to inject myself three times a day in the stomach with Somatistatin. It barely made the diarrhea go away, but it did help enough that I could go home.
I was home lying in bed -- it was early October -- feeling WAY WAY sorry for myself, weak as a kitten, when my friend Dennis called. Now, truly, I was pitifully ill and completely an emotional wreck. Here's what Dennis said to me:"Ah, come on, ya big baby. Shut up and get out of bed and go do something. It's disgusting the way you just lie around feeling sorry for yourself. Who wants to hear all this?"Well, first I got really pissed that he "couldn't see" just how sick I truly was. And then I started laughing. Laughing my ass off. I started laughing at how pitiful I was. Laughing that he would so unexpectedly start berating me. Laughing because I was still alive.
The very next day I dragged myself out of bed and forced myself to start some kind of activity so that I could come back and get the focus off of me and onto recovery. Doctors can give you medication but they can't make you want to get well. They cannot force your body to fix itself. There is a point in every sickness where it becomes your task to get out of the gutter and start dancing for pennies.
Jerry, my friend, I don't know if they'll let you bring your little laptop into the ICU, but if they can I just want to thank you for reminding me that it was only my toe. That I am the luckiest, human being on this planet. That there are people who would gladly trade their lives to be where I am.
I mean, honestly. I am in a beautiful bedroom. I am being tended by two very wonderful friends who would do just about anything for me. I have Jimmy, who would go to hell and back for me. I have five of the greatest actors I've ever met who are rehearsing and singing my songs. I am alive.
But that was yesterday. It is not "now."
I'm thinking of you, Jerry. Please know that my thoughts and wishes and prayers are with you as you go through another horrible surgery. I guess I really need you, my friend, if only to remind me that I have nothing, NOTHING to be complaining about.
(And here I thought I'd earned some really cool sympathy and puppy pawing. Oh well...) Thanks, Jerry, my friend. I truly needed a kick in the pants. ONWARD WITH THE BONUS ROUND!
Tuesday, April 15, 1997
"Ask Not For Whom the Bell Toes..."This came from my "friends," Blythe and Dan:Question: Whats Steve's new occupation as of 4-13-97?My brother David made up that toe truck joke when he was 7 years old. I think maybe you two have too much time on your hands.
Answer: A Bell Hop!!
Did you hear?.... Steve Schalchlin just got himself in a real toe-jam.
Question: What's Steve's favorite restaurant?
Answer: Taco Bell
Question: Whats Steve's favorite food?
Answer: Mashed pota-toe
Question: What is the first thing you do when you mash your toe with a bell and need to go to the Dr?
Answer: You call a toe truck!!!
My friend Pati sent me this poem:Eeny, meenie, miney, moThis came from Julie A. -- edited slightly:
Catch Steve Schalchlin by the toe
If he hollers let him go
to sing his song of pain and woe!It's exactly because things have been going so well lately that breaking your toe put you in a major funk. You have been climbing upward since last year, knowing that every aspect of life (health, career, etc) have been getting better. To throw your own phrase back at you, you thought you knew who/what the enemy was. And to wind up in the emergency room due to a totally unrelated piece of bad luck just doesn't seem fair...This came from Stephen Bienskie, who plays "Buddy" in the current NY production. He's the only cast member who is on the net, so far.
...My niece and a couple of her friends from Brandeis went to hear you sing in Cambridge. She was very impressed, is hoping that TLS runs long enough in June for her to get back home for the summer, so that she can attend.
Just think of how dramatic you'll look walking around with a cane in a few days. And toes do stop hurting relatively quickly (in my humble experience, anyway).Dear Steve,Mike the Director said their rehearsal today was one gross-out story topping the next (after they were told about me). I also got a few emails with personal pain stories. Guess it's contagious.
Does this mean you can't run choreography with us on Wed.??
I'm so sorry about your toe. I know that pain well though and unless you've been there it's hard to understand. I crushed my thumb in a door in Germany.
It was on a holiday so there was NO ONE available to me. I had to wait a whole day before anything could be done. I've never known such pain...and when I finally did see a doctor, I was surrounded by people who didn't speak a lick of English but was told that "ze dotor haz to let out ze bloot...".
And do you know that [expletive deleted] came at me with a paper clip and a bunson burner to heat it! Not a rubber glove or a bit of disinfectant in sight!!!
At first I didn't want him to do it, but they all sort of sat there, laughing their judgmental German laugh, so I gave in and let him burn the hole through my nail..."to schtop ze pain..."
My heart is with you.
This comes from my buddy, Charlene Wolff, in Boston:Steve honey -**laughing**
First of all - I am so sorry to hear about your toe. *BIG HUG*
Second of all - It is amazing, isn't it, the things that can snap one out of self pity and back into counting ones blessings. I know too many people who would rather wallow and complain! As if, by the constant whining, God will change their lives just to shut them up.... Don't worry about giving in to a little self-pity every now and then. It is a necessary emotion sometimes. The trick is not to stay there.This reaction from Hannah was completely different. I don't want to include the whole thing. If she wants to post it in my guestbook, fine, but she was adamant that I had a right to bitch simply because I have AIDS. And that anyone has a right to fight. She worried that "It could be worse..." could be an excuse to sit and do nothing. I don't know if I agree. I think there's always a healthy way to view things depending upon what you need. But she went on:... Man was born to rage against his own death, and somehere along the line in that battle we make miracles...Don't buy in to the complacency of simply being alive, because I've often found that's the last hope you can cling to from a deathbed, and it's a thin and shabby sentiment for a species that has walked on the moon.I believe I can fight and still appreciate the things I have. I fight better when I can have some perspective. Linda, are you writing all this wisdom down? I'm positively profound these days.
The ones who claim you should be grateful for what you have and leave it at that can be understood. But they'll just have to realize that every time you scream against the unfairness, every time you fight back and actually WIN and then seize some more ground in the bargain, you'll be bringing a piece of them to victory with you....
"Stoicism is for the silent, who are often confused with the dead."
Speaking of perspective:
I did not suffer today like I was expecting. Apparently, Physicians Assistant Susan did a wonderful job on my toe. I've stayed in bed most of the day. I did not have to take any pain medications to speak of. Just one Tylenol 3 about noon. I don't care for codeine. I used to have to take it a lot for diarrhea. It can upset my stomach.
I haven't heard from my friend, Jerry, yet, to see how he's doing. I'll keep you posted.TLS Corner:Finally, Jarvis at Harvard University wrote with great sympathy (LOL):
For the first time in its history, The Currican is selling tickets before the show opens. Normally, they do these showcases and it's up to the reviews to bring in people. But our first weekend is nearly sold out. The word of mouth seems to be spreading as all the people who work on this show get buzzing about how much they like it. This past week, the Currican sent out their first official press release. Now, most press releases are ignored by the media because they are inundated with them. It'll be interesting to see if any press people think this is a good story.
One thing though. This diary is not about TLS, but TLS is a part of it. I cannot pretend otherwise. I promise to keep from being too "hype-y." But everyone is screaming for more backstage stuff. I'll get Jimmy to scan some photos in ASAP. I just don't have a scanner at my fingertips.But in anycase, my sweetheart, i'm glad that my toe isn't crushed...you're glad that it's only your toe that's crushed...and believe me, I am thinking and praying for your friend out in California.So, now Gabi and I (and Bill) are a part of the Harvard University course curriculum materials. He already gave them huge printouts of Book One from this diary. (It's so classy to say your part of the Harvard curriculum.) I just hope I'm saying that right. What is a curriculum, anyway? Does it have legs?
I'm making copies of Bill's Story to pass out in my class tomorrow - tomorrow's class is on Adolescent Sexuality, and i think that reading Bill's Story is going to be a very powerful experience for the students there. They were all still talking about your presentation with Belynda in our last class.
JOKE OF THE DAY:
Someone said they should call "Titanic, the Musical" something else. Like, "20,000 Legs Under the Sea."
Much better than "Steve Jokes." Way better.
Wednesday, April 16, 1997
Fighting, Hurting and Healing.TOE STUFF:
Today I went to see Dr. Ergas, a foot doctor. He unwrapped my toe and pronounced it to be free of infection. He directed me to stay off of it and to keep it elevated. I assured him I would. Why not? I have Mikey and Jimmy and Chuckie waiting on me hand and.. er, foot! A life of luxury for me...
A SAD NIGHT:
I've gotten lots of mail from my hetero readers reacting to my comment that I like heteros for the most part. Some from gays asking me how anyone could like heterosexuals. Some str8 people were surprised that "heterophobia" exists. Of course, I don't know of any instance where a young straight kid slit his wrists because of rampant heterophobia. I do know of several who were suicidal because the other kids bashed them thinking they were gay.
I was gaybashed only once by a gang in Dallas. Funny thing was, though, most of my friends who were also bashed for being "...faggots" were not gay. There were just my friends.
On that subject, though, last night I got into a very loud verbal fight with one of my "oldest" friends. Someone I've known for at least 20 years. She has been seeing a non-American and she's kinda been hiding us from each other. She had explained that he's "not used" to gay people. I didn't have a problem with that, thinking she would "educate" him since she and I have been very close friends. I called her the night John Lennon died; that's how close we have been.
But last night, we were happily chatting and I said she should invite him to our opening night. She very firmly stated that he would never come to THE LAST SESSION because he has "strong religious feelings" against homosexuality. "Fine," I said, "So screw him." She screamed at me! She shouted into the phone, "How can you say that? He's a very spiritual man and he just considers homosexuality to be unscriptural.
I said, "Oh, just like Baptists and Catholics." She cut me off with a SCREEEEEAM! How dare I compare his exotic religion and beliefs to stupid ol' Baptists and Catholics. She lambasted me that I couldn't "honor" his religion.
She said, "Well, don't you think some people should just be allowed to not like some things?" Knowing my friend is Jewish and is strongly anti-racist, I said, "Sure! And some people don't like Jews. And some people..." SCREEEEEEEAM! She came at me again. How dare I compare a race with a "sexual practice." I said, "Well, I see them as groups of people who are hated by some, loved by others."
I continued, "Listen to yourself. You're justifying someone actively one of your oldest friends and a whole segment of the population and saying 'my bigotry is better than your bigotry.'" She said, "You've changed." I said, "You better believe I have. I refuse to allow my friends to treat me like a second class citizen. How sad that I'm just not good enough to meet your boyfriend's exacting standards."
The most remarkable thing about this call was that she originally called me to see if I could get her a job on THE LAST SESSION. I told her I wouldn't let her come within a mile of TLS except to sit in the audience -- and that's something I've never said to anyone in my entire life. And it hurt. But we have, on stage and off, the most loving and kind group of people I've ever been associated with. Straight, gay, male, female -- this is the world as it should be. All of us loving and working together and creating a family.
Was I too harsh? Have I become self-righteous and intolerant? I think it's important to ask oneself those questions, and I will. But for now, I just need to cool off. I'm angry and disappointed and my toe hurts when I think about it all.
WHEN STEVE WAS NICE:
My friend, Linda George, has posted on the net the story of how I helped her and her daughter through her daughter's coming out process. Linda gives me way too much credit because it was she who had to fight past the bigotry and prejudice she never knew was inside. Her transformation was remarkable and she is one of real heroes of my life. (http://broph.simplenet.com/linda).
STEVE DOES THAT DUET THING:
My buddy, Nik Venet has posted my picture on his Evening Star Records website. I'm a guest vocalist on Harriet Schock's new album called "Rosebud." (http://eveningstar1.com/schock/rosebud/scrapbook2.html).
Thursday, April 17, 1997
The Hornets Nest.MEDICATIONS MANIA:
I forgot, in all the hysteria surrounding my big toe (which seems to be healing nicely, thank you very much), I forgot to tell you about the medication they put me on. Basically, it's an antibiotic -- no big deal. The problem is that I have to take it every 6 hours. That means I am taking one medication every 8 hours, one every 12 hours and now one every 6 hours -- and some have to be taken on an empty stomach. So, I take meds at 8am & 8:30am, starting eating at 9:30, meds at 9:30am & 2pm, stop eating at 2:30, meds at 4:30pm, start eating, meds at 8pm & 9:30pm, stop eating at 10:30, then meds at 12:30am & 2am. The only thing I haven't figured out how to schedule is sleep time.
STEVE THE INTOLERANT:
Wow!! Talk about stirring up a hornets nest! My email box has been burning. I must say, though, when if I was criticized, it was only by people hitting me for not practicing what I preach. But the response was pretty much 50/50.ONE SAID:Tonight I called my friend back. We yelled a lot -- for about 45 minutes. In fact, at one point -- and this makes me laugh thinking about it -- we were both talking at the same time. So, I took the phone off my ear and just spewed a river of words at her until I finally just wore her out! It was classic. By the end of the conversation, we were both exhausted and we started talking like old friends again, determined to understand each other.
Get a grip...everyone does not have to agree with you...The nazis hated every race but their own but did that make them right? You think it is not right for all folks to accept gays and you come off in your web site that you DEMAND they all believe and accept your views. Gee...sounds like a police state. I guess my 20 years in police work was null and void if all people do not have a right to voice their opinion without being crucified. This may not be the message you try to put out on your web but when you get mad or angry that is exactly what you sound like.
ON THE OTHER HAND, ONE SAID THIS:
I am so glad you gave it to her GOOD. You know, that's why I left my church. Everything was cool, people were coming around - and then my friend who had been so cool, said to me, "But if you read the bible, it says that homosexuality is a sin." Steve, I was in the choir, I sang the next song, and then climbed out of the loft, got my coat, and came home and have not gone back since. The ones who should know better hurt us the most, I think.
Steve, I gotta say I think you're wrong on this one. You have just ostracized a long-time friend by being intolerant of other's beliefs...I think you are starting to sound like the very people you are arguing with..."see it my way or hit the road." I think you have to practice tolerance to teach it.
MY PAL REV. JERRY SAID:
More and more I am thinking that we allow too much in the name of our "tolerance" of others' views. Maybe it's because we do not want to loose the snake that has bitten us... but the truth needs to be told. The basic problem is that many (most?) people still think of gayness as something a person puts on--and could as easily take off. Your outburst of righteous indignation and anger reminds me of Jesus in the temple...
We need some tolerance or light or it will continue forever. I think you valued your looongtime friend. Perhaps, it wasn't right to dump on her for the beliefs of someone else (her new friend). From what I can read she has never exhibited the same beliefs or she would never been your friend for so long. By not bringing her friend into your life she maybe was trying to avoid an uncomfortable situation. You do not have the right to make her choose you over him. Don't turn a friend away because of someone else's feelings. I am only saying this out of concern.
MY IRC FRIEND, JOANNA (THE EMPRESS) SAID:
You did NOT over react my friend. Nothing is uglier than selective bigotry. When I first got saved I had a difficult time dealing with "Biblical" issues that went against my own moral fiber of loving each person on their individual merit. Praise God I have come to peace with this.... he has given me permission to let God be God... and I am allowed to be a mere mortal, no better and no worse than anyone else.
MEGAN, MY FRIEND AT POZ SAID:
Steve, you are not becoming self-righteous and intolerant, you are becoming an activist. (And good for you!) As someone who has been telling people about my gay brother since 1979, and that he's a PWA [Person With AIDS] since 1984, I have found it to be a pretty good indicator of who is worth dating and who is not. It irritates me that your friend suggested that you were comparing a religious practice to sexual behavior, too. Being gay and being Jewish of course are not the same thing, but 99% of the time you are born into either one. (The 1% is for those folks who convert to Judaism for whatever reason.) Plus, how can she, as your friend for 20 years define your life as simply a sexual practice?
FINALLY, PATI SAID:
Just who can you trust to consider the man and not things about the man? I think about how God must look at you...He guarantees us that while "man looks on the outward appearance (that includes lots of stuff) God looks upon the heart!!" Isn't that a good thing!! God looks at our motives, our attitudes, our purposes, our thoughts, our love for others, our love for Him, our intentions ..... while mankind picks and chooses what he will use to process his final judgment of who we really are.
My friend is not a bigot, but she was unintentionally saying things that I've heard bigots say; things I believe are myths about "homosexuality" which we all grow up believing (like heterosexuality is a more "complete" type of spiritual and sexual experience). Perhaps, just saying these things out loud can make her realize how silly she sounded. How these ideas are such a put-down of people. I'm not saying a big conversion was made here, I'm just saying she said some things I said struck a cord with her and that it got her thinking.
Well, it got me thinking, too.
Words can kill. But then, lots of things can kill. If I take my friend, a decent and kind human being, and turn her into the enemy -- and if I just cut her off because I got mad or self-righteous or self-centered -- then it is *I* who have lost the battle. I become the bigot. I become the thing I hate.
I'm suddenly remembering an argument I had a couple years ago in Los Angeles via the local bbs. I got into a "friendly" conversation with a guy who was a devoted gay activist. My first one, really. Up to that point, my biggest political statement (as Managing Director at National Academy of Songwriters) was to just be myself and stay totally honest. No big "I am gay" speeches or ribbons or pins.(Well, okay. Every once in a while I did break out into an imitation of Jimmy's imitation of Ethel Merman, but that was it.)Well, this guy on the bbs, who I admired very much and still admire, hated religion and expressed disdain for anybody who didn't agree with him. It seemed to him that our gay planet had been taken over by a heterosexual standing army in a sexual police state action. (My metaphor, not his.)
Though I agree it might feel that way sometimes, the whole world is not about gay/straight relations. It's one tiny corner of the universe. He vehemently disagreed, seeing conspiracy upon conspiracy, and we went back and forth. I was truly enjoying the mental exercise and learning a lot until the day it dawned on me that he considered *me* to be "the enemy" in his fight.
I was appalled at the thought. He saw me as some hetero-loving religion-loving flunky. Some spy from the other side. I told him he sounded like soldier standing in the field firing his gun off at anything that moved.
I said to him,"You can't even tell your enemies from your friends."When we parted, we parted as friends. I don't think either of us doubt that, although I do think he probably holds me in slight disdain.
(is he tolerating me?)
The last time we communicated, he saw my site and pronounced it to be a vanity site. Well, it is. It's a diary, for heaven's sake.
There are some say I have have a political agenda and some say I do not. Some say I'm an atheist. Some say I'm a Christian. But surely, you wouldn't make the implication that I don't reveal *ENOUGH* about myself, would you? How much more can you stand?
Well, I think I had it right the first time. I think my best political statement is to just be myself. If I have forgotten who my friends are and if I'm just firing my machine gun at anyone who strays onto the field, it's a passing phase and I'll try to assume more control over myself.
I suppose, for those who are insterested in this dialogue, it comes down to this: Is there a difference between people who "hate" gays versus people who only "tolerate" gays versus people who "love" gays? Must we insist that everyone belong in the latter category?
If we do, can it be achieved by getting mad, slamming down the phone and shutting people off?
Somehow, I don't think so.
On the other hand, isn't being "tolerated" a kind of put-down?
But isn't also a way to say, "I'm listening"?
STEVE THE GLAMOROUS:
AIDS Project Los Angeles has a publication for its friends and volunteers called "Optimist." They have featured yours truly on the current cover with a wonderful article inside. The article by Barry Cherin praised the Survival Site's words against religious bigotry (in all forms) and said, "The probability of a novice songwriter getting a New York off-off Broadway platform for a musical is like getting a free ticket on the space shuttle...". The article also noted that my advice to those who feel down and out is to "...get out and get involved in other people's lives. Stop thinking about yourself. Start doing." I have always looked outside of myself when I've needed inspiration. Either I learned to appreciate what I have or I tried to help someone else. Nothing fills me with life more than when life has been given through my actions or deeds.
Friday, April 18, 1997
Enough Of The Boring Stuff. Back to TLSWhen Jimmy heard I had decided to go to the theatre today, he called and raised a ruckus about my toe getting infected. I explained to him that I have been a perfect patient. After all I have stayed inside with my foot up for four days.
But I have also had a big fight with one of my best friends, gotten my family mad at me for saying such horrible things about Baptists and other Christians and turned this room into a massive pile of comic books, James Joyce's Ulysses (given to me by Mike the Director, explaining it's a more romantic image for my public -- wounded soldier being served trays of food while reading Ulysses),bits of paper with drawings on them, lists of phone numbers, candy wrappers, pill bottles, unread books, clothing, tape and bandages.
So, today I decided it was time for me to get my wooden cane (given to me by Physicians Assistant Susan at St. Vincent's Emergency Room) and get to the rehearsal. Since it was raining, Mike the Scottish-American Director gave me a couple of plastic tall kitchen trashbags made in Scotland to wrap around my beleaguered foot. Scottish trash bags, by the way, have the consistency and strength, of tissue paper. (Michael explained that in Scotland they have less trash than Americans do.)
So we double-bagged me, made sure the bandage was secure, wrapped my foot in one of those velcro hardsole hospital sandals I used to see on homeless people in the streets of El Lay, and got ready to go.
In order to be as protective of my foot as possible, we made the financially extravagant decision to hail a cab. But since it was raining, nothing was coming, so we just gave in and took a subway since the entrance is right next to Mike's doorway. Down in the station, Mike was having apoplexy because he was late for a meeting called by Andrew Miller, the Artistic Director of the Currican, and because he didn't want Jimmy to see us walking.("Jimmy'll kill us if he sees you walking in the rain," he said.)Jimmy and Andrew scare Mikey. Actually, everyone scares Mikey.
MIKE THE DELI-GUY:
The subway was sparsely populated and I was able to prop my toe up with no problem. Proud Director Mike hurried into the theatre, but I stopped at the Italian Deli down the block to let Deli-Guy Mike -- lotta Mikes in this story -- make me some breakfast. I was really hungry by now. Deli-Guy Mike was was glad to see me, called me by name, said he'd wondered about me, and told me he'd make me another of his big breakfasts and would bring it to one of the tables in the back. Scrambled eggs, bacon, home fries and toast -- all for about three bucks.
As I dove into the hot food, which was served in a styrophone container, I noticed, though, that the Scottish bags had begun disintegrating from around my medical footgear. So Mike the Deli-guy gave me a good ol' American bag. Manly bags. That's what we have in America.
I still felt ridiculous wearing a shopping bag on my foot.
Mike the Nervous Director says he heard actor Grace Garland coming up the stairs shouting, "Where's STEVE? The Deli guy says Steve is back!" Mike responded, "Who's the deli guy? How does he know Steve? Does everyone on the block know Steve?"
BINKY COME HOME:
This was the first day actor Stephen Bienskie (who plays "Buddy," and who I have now dubbed "Binky") was back at rehearsal. He'd been away from the others for two days cause he got a paying gig shooting an ad for Pizza Hut or something. So, though he was concerned about being two days behind the others as far as the moment by moment work on the play was concerned, he made up for it by being totally "off book" and incorporating everything Mike gave to him instantaneously. Mike calls him a "dream" to work with because he is able to deliver everything exactly right -- and he remembers everything.Here's how I know this to be true: Last week, before The BellToe Incident, I had given him one performance note regarding Going It Alone. I just told him to play against the big musical build-up on the bridge and where it feels like you want to get louder, get softer instead. Well, it's one thing to tell someone to sing something softer and quite another to hear Stephen Bienskie ripping your guts out. It's like taking credit for Sistine Chapel because you told Michaelango to paint naked people.I spent the rehearsal lying on a couch behind most of the actors with my foot propped up, script in hand, substituting and reading the lines for "Jim," the character of the producer in the recording booth because George Peter Ryan, the actor who is cast as "Jim," was himself out filming a big commercial. From this vantage point, I got to watch Mike in action for the first time because he was facing us.
(Bring your kleenex when you come to see this play, by the way. Or bring Scottish plastic bags...)
MEEK MIKE/MEAN MIKE:
Meek little Mike Wills stands behind a little "pulpit" set up in the audience section, right in the middle, about two riser levels up. It's a very commanding position. When he speaks, he speaks softly. When actors ask him if they can try things, he alsays says, "Yes."
This is in sharp contrast to directors who scream, yell, berate the actors, casigate the "little people" and make everyone feel worthless. Therefore, in order to help him develop a more macho image, I've decided to follow in the footsteps of Penn & Teller (with whom he worked before) and call him Mean Mike. Mike says Penn Jillette, the tall loud half of the duo, began calling him that because Penn thinks Mike Wills truly is mean.
Today, I watched as Mean Mike let the actors do a page or two. Then he would stop them, talk about it, make some suggestions, bring "Buddy" up to speed, and then take off again. Everyone is beginning to realize that Mike Wills has thought through every word, every nuance and every moment of this play. He's evil.
Amy Coleman ("Vicki") stopped at one point and asked if she could do a bit of business. Mike stopped, considered the question and gently responded, "Yes, you can try it." Grace Garland, who is clearly onto Meek Mike abruptly bellowed in with, "Uh oh, honey that means you get to do it for two rehearsals and then it's out." This sent everyone into hysterical laughter.Amy Coleman also grabbed my attention when everyone was singing Preacher and the Nurse, a huge gospel number. At the end, when the piano drops out and everyone begins doing the requisite Gospel screaming, this woman let loose a wail that would have melted Janis Joplin's hair. I peeled myself off the wall and reached for a shot of Southern Comfort.Jimmy, meanwhile, was listening out in the lobby. Suddenly he burst into the rehearsal and screamed:"NO!!! YOU'RE DOING IT ALL WRONG. YOU'RE RUINING MY PLAY!!!!"The cast screamed. Then Jimmy took a bow and walked out.
Following Mean Mike's lead, I have been laying back, too -- he calls it "neglecting the play." There is still some music I have to teach everyone and it's time for me to hear the arrangements now that they have been learned, and start the real work of pulling it together.
Today, I heard, for the first time, Bob Stillman play The Group. He would stop and apologize now and again for not having it completely "learned," but there were moments where he held the room breathless. He's a star. All these actors are stars to me.
But Bob Stillman sings from some lonely, aching place way, way deep inside. Sometimes, it's as if heaven itself is pouring its heart out to you.
After the other actors left for the day, Grace Garland -- dissed diva extraordinaire who's "Vera" was left out of the "All My Children" Anniversary book -- and I sat around and worked on her solo, One More Song. She's going to raise the roof with that alto belt powered by that massively engaged heart. She can make the chairs rattle.
JEFFREY THE MAN:
After the rehearsal, Mean Mike and I joined Jeffrey -- who has no job at the Currican except to hold it together with his bare fingernails in a heroic heterosexual act of manliness. We all sat together in the office of the Currican to wait on the show's brightly colored postcards. But it was to no avail. The overnight delivery man was two days late and nobody could find him in the rain.
When I got home, I read about the new advances in the science of HIV virology. Seems one of the spots on the virus where it attaches to human immune cells, the one that does NOT mutate, is hidden deeply inside. They did not know this before.
Saturday, April 19, 1997
Oh, That Mailbag.From: "Pamela O'Connell" firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Your site chosen for Mining Company best list!
First let me congratulate you on the Survival Site. It's truly superior.
In fact, I'm happy to inform you that I've chosen it as a weekly "Net Find" -- or pick of the week. The Net Find list will be posted tomorrow at noon EST on a new site called The Mining Company (www.miningco.com).
The Mining Co. is a network of hundreds of topic-specific sites, each run by a "guide" who selects the best of the genre. As my signature attests, I am the guide to personal pages, and you can go directly to my site at the URL below. Your site is mentioned right there on my "Welcome" page.
Also, you can find your site listed in my "Best of" directory. Click on "Resource" and then "Best of" to see the link. Again, congratulations on the great job. Please email in future with any updates on the site, or any story ideas related to personal pages.
Your Mining Co. Guide to Personal Web Pages
THIS COMES FROM JERRY (AFTER SURGERY):
Now I am really home!!!!!!!
This morning I got up confused, with two millions things to be done, Mike my nurse had not been here yet.. I was in real pain, I had not had any pain meds since I left the hospital yesterday evening, only because I could not get the Rx filled last night. After getting Diluadid IV, push every two hours since Monday to say the least I was feeling everything. So now, One New Hell I can relate too. The whole apartment was disorganized. I wanted everything put away, and I could barely get out of bed. I had to piss but was afraid to because it hurt so badly, and I did not have that med either.
My computer was not set up yet!!!!!!! I needed milk, bread, etc. In addition, I hated to call someone for such little things.
Well, Steve Schalchlin,
I turned to the one thing I knew would help me!!!!!
I put your disk on the player and turned the volume up full, okay I know only kids play music at that level. Young man, I started to sob, and the tears stated to flow, and they kept getting harder and harder and I hurt more and more.
But it just 'didn't matter' all the pain, hurt, being scared, alone, all my fears, weren't really important. Because I knew, there are lots and many people:"There's Hand reaching in the darkness
There's a Hand touching you in the darkness
It may be friend or someone you don't know
Which one doesn't matter, it just doesn't matter"
© 1997 by See No Evil/Lil Shack O' Tunes/Words by John
Monday, April 21, 1997
Brushing Against History at The Bottom Line.After taking Sunday off with Jimmy (and staying off my broken toe for two days), I was very excited at the prospect of playing at The Bottom Line in Greenwich Village. The Bottom Line has been there since 1960 and was home to so many great stars -- writers, poets, comedians, etc. -- that I felt the weight of history bearing down on me as I went into the club.
Of course, the first thing I noticed was that they had spelled my name wrong on the poster in the window. This is why I shortened it to "Steve S." for the CD -- so people wouldn't get it wrong. But they tried to spell it all the way out and ended up with "Shacklin." It's okay. I'm used to it.
The other thing I saw was my old buddy, Brett Perkins, waving his hands wildly in the window. He's been in Amsterdam and Germany playing clubs and making a career for himself. You might remember that Brett was one of the producers of the original staged reading of TLS back in Hollywood. But tonight we would be on the same bill as songwriters.
The Bottom Line is not a big club. It looks like it probably did 20 or 30 years ago. The room consisted of faded posters laquered into the walls. Posters of people like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jim Croce, Stevie Wonder, George Carlin, etc. and when I went to the piano for our soundcheck, my mind was reeling, thinking of whose hands had played these keys before mine.
...or who's FEET! This piano looked like it had been beaten and left by the side of the road for dead. Scratches, broken ivories -- yep. This was a rock and roll piano, all right. But when they fired up the PA and I started to play, it was perfectly in tune and ready to rock.
Since tonight was Passover, we weren't expecting many people. Here in New York, as it is in El Lay, Passover is a very big deal. The local morning shows have been filled with recipes for frying matza -- or baking it, or whatever one does with crumbled up crackers.I remember my mom used to take crackers and fry them in butter as a cheap popcorn substitute.As the club began to fill, I felt very honored because three cast members along with some of the Currican crew were there to cheer me on.
Just before the show, Tina Schaeffer gathered the four of us -- the songwriters who would be participating in this Writers in the Round -- and gave us our singing order. She said I would start, so I leaned in and said, "Are you people sure you want to follow me?" I was just kidding, of course. hehe.
I began by singing Connected. Brett then sang a song, then Angela Motter from Atlanta, followed by Kesia Bostic, a New York singer/writer with a wonderfully soulful voice and sound. I needn't have worried. The other writers kicked ass and held their own quite well. I was particularly taken with Angela, who dressed in a black t-shirt with rolled up sleeves and sang songs with titles like, "Pleasure and Pain."
Ah, pleasure and pain. I know them well.
Cast member Grace Garland took personally responsibility to pass out all the postcards giving the info on our show. We have such a cool cast.
Tuesday, April 22, 1997
The Blue Man Group.The day started at the Currican Theatre, where we began doing the one inevitable job one has to do in order to make a show run: We put address stickers on the brightly colored postcards, which should have been here last week. I did as many as I could and then I went up to the upper west side and worked with Bob Stillman on music most of the afternoon.
He has a nice piano and I got to see Tyler the Dog, again. Then, I joined Jimmy back at the theatre because tonight was Blue Man Night!
The Blue Man Group is this thrilling show that everyone talks about, and I've been wanting to see it forever! Well, Andrew Miller (remember Andrew? The the one who scares Mean Mike?) has been one of the Blue Man Group for some time now, but tonight was his last performance and we were invited to watch.
I knew were in for a good time because the sign on the doorway leading into the theatre read, "Yes, you MAY bring food and drink into the theatre." Jimmy and I were led down to row five. It was slightly scary because rows one through four were all wearing clear plastic raincoats. And the usher was giving out strips of white paper which, if you wore the paper, meant you were giving the Blue Men permission to drag you on stage or play with you in some way.
How to describe Blue Man Group. Imagine aliens. Blue aliens with no ears who don't speak and who stand on stage and discover objects. And then do weird things with them. They catch paintballs in their mouths, then spin canvasses and paint by blowing the paint out of their mouths in a spray. They throw marshmallows into each other's mouths. Huge numbers of marshmallows until their faces are grotesquely blown up. Fun stuff like that.
But what they do really well is play drums and percussion. In the dark, they'd play these big kettle drums which were lit from inside so they cast a glow up onto the faces of the Blue Men. Then one would pour paint onto the drum while the other was playing and the spray would bounce from the drum in a brilliant multi-colored "fire."
It was a night of incredible music and percussion and words flying across on LED signs, surprises around every corner, until at the end, huge streams of crepe paper began streaming from the back of the room until the entire audience was buried in it. Kids went crazy.
What was really nice, though, was they had a donation box in the lobby for "Equity Fights AIDS." And after the show, the Blue Men would stand and shake your hand as you left the theatre. It was really a very nice gesture.
Jimmy and I met an old friend of Jimmy's after the show and we went up to Andrew's apartment in the same building. Andrew took this space, which used to be the servant's quarters in the old Astor Mansion -- and which was in a horrible state of disrepair -- and completely rebuilt it. He called it The Batcave because we had to walk several halls and up strange deserted stairways to get to it.
Got home to Mike's rather late, but he was still up preparing for Wednesday's rehearsal.
Wednesday, April 23, 1997
Meanwhile, Back At The Rehearsal...Today, rehearsal was being held at Musical Theatre Works (MTW), which is on the same block as Blue Man Group (and across the street from the Public Theatre). And once again, I had to go look at the board listing to see "The Last Session" written up there with all the other shows in rehearsal.
Our room was fairly large. Along one wall was this huge faded gold curtain which hung from floor to ceiling. On the other wall, was long mirror. The first thing Mean Mike did was drill Amy, Grace and Stephen on Friendly Fire. Mike rearranged some of the movement to make it easier on them, but also to simplify it so the lyrics would be more prominent. Marie Cain's lyrics are just too brilliant and we don't want anyone to miss a single one.
Just as we were about to start, this incredible stomping noise came from above. It rattled the windows and left us all gazing at the ceiling wondering who could possibly stomp so loudly. So, Bob, on piano, starting playing, "Baby Elephant Walk." It finally stopped, but it was amazing how loud that stomping was. I guess some dance troup was on the next floor up.
Jimmy popped his head in and gestured for me to join him in the hall. He had just had a conversation with Kaye Ballard, one of his and my favorite comic actors. She was rehearsing for something going on in Atlantic City, apparently, and after Jimmy told her why we were in New York, she said to him, "Write me something. I want something new... fresh."
Jimmy matter-of-factly responded, "Okay," ...as if she'd just asked for extra taco sauce.
My job in the rehearsal today was to listen to the singing and playing, making sure everyone was remembering their vocal parts; and to prompt the actors on their lines because this was to be the first official day "off book." (Note: When an actors are struggling to remember their lines, you're not supposed to say anything until they say, "Line!").
At 2pm, I got out my peanut butter and Jelly sandwich, which Mike had made for me earlier -- we're trying so hard to watch our spending. My eye was on the clock because I can't eat after 2:30, so I can take my Crix at 4:40. After I got home, I completely collapsed, falling asleep at 9pm, waking up at 10 to take my d4t and 3tc; and then waking up again at 12:30am to take my Crix.
And then I fell right back asleep again.
One of the actors who had auditioned for "Gideon," had two boys under the age of five. We were talking about how rambunctious boys that young are and he said: "With kids, every day is tech."
(Tech day, in case you don't know, is the worst day in the production of the play. It's the day everyone goes from scene to scene as the lighting technicians and sound techs and all the other techs focus lights and plan the show, moment by moment.)
Thursday, April 24, 1997
Pulling Another Steve.I pulled another "Steve" this morning. (Why do they have to call it a "Steve?")
I was due at the toe doctor. It was cold and raining, but I didn't want to walk around with Scottish trash bags on my foot again, so I decided to try to slip it into my tennis shoe. It was slightly uncomfortable at first, but it did go in. Success! With my cane for support, I was going to be just fine as long as I didn't have to do too much walking.
So, I got down to the street and made the bus. After I got on, I noticed we were zooming down the street and passing all the stops. So, I asked if the bus was an express. The lady sitting across from me said, "Yes," and I panicked because I didn't know if it was going to stop anywhere near 78th street. It stopped at 86th, so I got out and started walking.
I made it down to 78th and then crossed over from Lex to Fifth Avenue, which was three large blocks. I got to the corner and my doctor's office was nowhere in sight. Wrong address? What was I doing? Where was I? My toe was throbbing and it was still raining so I ducked under a canopy and looked in my bag for the address.
It was at 87TH STREET! Not 78th! I had walked all those blocks for nothing. The bus had put me right where I needed to be. By this time, I was late, so I flagged a cab and had him drive me 10 blocks. ($4 bucks down the drain...). Anyway, my toe is doing fabulously. No infection and I'm actually walking.
I got on the 6 train and made it down to Astor Place. On the train, I read the reviews to "Titanic," the musical, which opened last night. The critics were more disappointed with it than anything else.
I was early for the rehearsal, so I went to the "Soup & Burger" and had a big breakfast trying to kill an hour. Then I went over to MTW and worked out some harmonies for When You Care. Then Mean Mike made them run over the movement for Friendly Fire before running Act Two.
This was the cast's first day "off book" for Act Two so it was rough going. Plus, we're still trying to get the songs together, but we're still having very happy rehearsals with lots of laughter and, given the fact that we have two weeks left, we clearly have enough time to pull it all together.
Jimmy came in today, too, and stayed for a little while. We were bemoaning our financial situation and trying to figure out how we were going to pay our bills next month. In a way, I guess we have all our eggs in the TLS basket, although other things are in the works. It just gets scary, sometimes worrying about bills. I wrote my friend, Ronda, today and found myself saying how much easier it all was this past summer when I thought I was going to die.
Sometimes I can say the stupidest things.
Friday, April 25, 1997
Finally, All The Way Through.[As I write this, I am sitting up in my little guest bed at Mean Mike's with a blue ice bag wrapped around my toe. I was doing well today, but after the rehearsal, we ended up walking more than we had planned and now I'm so sore...]This was our first day back at the Currican for a rehearsal, but the cast had to work on a brightly colored, cartoon-looking set because the theatre has been rented for a couple of weeks to another company. Since TLS takes place in a bomb shelter, the difference was striking.
Binky (Stephen Binskie) arrived first, so he and I worked a bit on Going It Alone. I still love hearing him sing. Next came Andbob (We call Bob Stillman "Andbob" because in the program, his credit reads "...and Bob Stillman as Gideon. So, he's "Andbob.") He and I discussed a few of the music changes I had made with the others yesterday. Next came "Flamin' Amy." She's the one that sings like Janis Joplin and until today, I hadn't realized that she actually has an all female blues band called "The Flamin' Amy Coleman Band."
Diva Grace Garland was late today by about 20 minutes because of "transport problems." After she arrived, she went into a ten minute monologue describing how she loudly insisted to the train conductor that she was late for rehearsal and HE BETTER GET THIS TRAIN IN GEAR!
Today was the first day the cast was to do a full run-through of the whole play, both acts, "off book" and it was a bit rough, but they survived it. In fact, the first act began to really take shape and there were even some amazing moments. I sat in the front on a big overstuffed chair which was from the visiting troup's set, Jimmy (the author) sat further back and I could hear him blubbering during the more emotional sequences.
We did have a bit of tension today, though. George Peter Ryan was in the middle of the first scene but was having trouble concentrating because the other actors were making noise backstage, so he suddenly just stopped and screamed, "QUIET!" I could see Grace's face through a little doorway and she looked like she was going to have a heart attack. Binky told Mean Mike later that it made his stomach twist into a knot that didn't let up until the end of act one.
George Peter, who I haven't spoken of much, is a great big sweet teddy bear of a man, but he does have this incredibly deep and loud voice. He's made quite a living for himself doing voiceovers, in fact. But he loves to take these odd long pauses every once in awhile which tends to throw the other actors off. They sometimes can't remember if it's their turn to speak or if he's just forgotten his next line. But when they "step on" his lines, he can get a bit angry about it.
So, today, it happened. He took one of his dramatic pauses, one of the other actors said a line, and he came bolting out from behind the set. Just as he was about to say something, Mean Mike did something none of us had ever seen him do. Little, meek, sweet, innocent Mike, who hardly ever speaks above a murmur suddenly shouted at full volume, "Don't say a word, George Peter!" And George Peter, aware he was "caught," just turned and went right back to his spot.
I have to say this, though. Just before we ran through act one, Mike had the cast run through Friendly Fire leading right into Connected. And once again, Bob Stillman (singing Connected, laid us all in the aisles with his unbelievably beautiful voice. Just after he finished, George Peter came off the set, put his arms around me, and said he couldn't imagine what I must have gone through to have written such a song. I like George Peter a lot. We all do.
After Mean Mike blew up, all the tension seemed to just break and suddenly everyone came to life and we had a brilliant first act. At break, it was already a quarter of three and I was 15 minutes late eating. So, I decided to eat anyway, finish by 3, and take my Crix a half hour late at 5pm (remember I have to fast for two hours before taking my Crix).
Quickly, I went down the block to see Deli-Guy Mike, who loudly welcomed us all and gave us free samples of a new chicken dish he had just prepared. I told him I was making him famous on my diary page. He didn't really have the faintest idea of what I was talking about -- had never seen a website nor knew what one looked like -- he got a big grin on his face and said, "Really?" I grabbed a couple of pizza slices and scarfed them down back at the Currican.
Act two was a bit rougher going. The actors needed a bit more prompting on their lines and the new music parts were really rough, but we slogged through to the end and finished. Very little of actual "performance level" stuff was going on, but then they knew that. After both acts, Mean Mike took them aside and gave them notes on line readings and blocking.
Just as we were about to leave, we discovered AndBob had left his script behind. So, being the lovely creatures that we are, Mike, Jimmy and I went up to 72nd Street and brought him his script. And as a reward for our good deed, we found $25 on the floor near the elevator! So, the three of us went to a cheap pizza/burger joint and had a sloppy good dinner together.
Then we walked over to Central Park and waited for a bus. By this time, though, my foot was really sore and I was getting majorly cranky. As we waited for the bus, there came AndBob walking Tyler the dog. So, we talked a bit waiting for our bus and after we got home, I was so relieved to be in bed ready to watch Ellen Degeneres on 20/20.
STEVE ON ELLEN:
Readers have been asking me what I think about Ellen coming out in her TV show. My first instinct is to make a smart remark like, "What? You couldn't tell??"
But my take on it is this: Watch the Falwells and the Pat Robertsons. This is going to be such a great money-making opportunity them. The pink envelopes along with their venom and lies will be flying to your local mailbox very soon. Rev. Jerry F. has already called her "Ellen Degenerate."
It's amazing to hear all these reactions at this time since this is exactly what TLS is all about. A friend told me that at a private dinner last week, some musicians and composers began talking about TLS and while they weren't too keen on seeing a show about some guy with AIDS (yawn), they were very intrigued that this show attempts to seriously deal with the issue of gay people and Christianity. Especially when they found out that Buddy's agenda is to get in there and "save" Gideon.
STEEL PIER OPENS:
"Steel Piel," another big budget Broadway show opened last night to unanimously bad reviews. It's a very sad Broadway season so far and that's depressing because, for the first time in eons, there are a lot of new American musicals being produced. Since I love musicals, I'm very sad that this is happening. All I can hope is that when people see our show (the budget of which has yet to reach $20,000 -- as opposed to $10,000,000) they'll like what they see.
Well, I guess we'll know in two weeks, assuming anyone even notices we're here.[PERSONAL NOTE: I'VE NOT BEEN TO MY EMAIL IN A COUPLE OF DAYS AND I AM WAY BEHIND. I'LL TRY TO CATCH UP ON SUNDAY. MY APOLOGIES IF YOU'VE WRITTEN ME AND I HAVEN'T RESPONDED. Steve]
Saturday, April 26, 1997
Saturday Mailbag.This comes from Maggie in Scotland, a friend of Mean Mike Wills. Maggie recently requested to be added to the diary email list:Hi SteveYou might recall a few days ago, when I was complaining about money and bills and I said that I had written to a friend, "...it was so much easier last summer when I thought I was just going to die soon...". Well, it didn't take my rock-solid friend, Tracey, whose beloved Uncle Bob died unexpectedly of cancer this past fall to remind me:
Just a few words to say thanks for writing these diaries of yours, I really look forward to getting them. I saw Blue Man Group when I was in New York with my youngest son and tried so hard to describe it to my husband to no avail. Reading your latest escapade was great you are so good at describing things, I felt as if I was in the theatre watching them again, such fun.
You know you could call Mike "Wonderful Mike" -- that is how we see him anyway, tho please do not tell him, as it would embarrass him.
Would you like some STRONG SCOTTISH plastic bags for your foot? We do have them you know, I bet that Mike gave you the wee horrible ones that you get from the supermarkets.
I do hope that you are feeling better and I am looking forward to seeing THE LAST SESSION on opening night.
Keep up the good work and once again thank you.
Margaret and James (in Scotland)Steve,For any of you who are new readers, you should be prepared to know that my friends, family, and other longtime readers never hesitate to kick my butt and dress me down when I say stupid things. You see, part of the "deal" we have together -- as diary writer and diary reader -- is that I do not hide the times when I am an ass or a fool; the most recent example being when I yelled at my old friend, Diane, last week.
I know that you already said you thought it was stupid to make that comment about it being easier when you thought you were dying, but I just want you to know that I had a knee-jerk reaction to that .... I really did .... I don't understand how the thought can even enter your head except in the most "I'm wallowing in the pit of self-pity" moments .... you, I know, know what it means to be close to dying but then you weren't there when Bob KNEW he was going to die, you didn't see the look in his eyes when he KNEW that he had only a few hours to live and you weren't there to see him say that he just wasn't ready to go yet and that he just wanted a little more time ....
I wonder if he would have thought that not having the money to pay bills was a better alternative .....
(even though I was in the right, i might generously add.)
Tonight, I played an event called "Kudos," which is a great big GMHC Volunteer "thank you" party / concert / cabaret / feast. These volunteers are usually the people who do not normally get to go to the expensive celebrity fundraisers, but who change bedpans, answer phones, stuff envelopes, act as a buddy and friend -- the flesh and blood of the organization. And I think it's so cool that they get this night in Webster Hall.
Webster hall is a like a huge faded mansion. After entering, you would be greeted by four enormous drag queens who were in no way effeminate, but tried very hard to be -- in other words, they were FABulous! Then you'd walk into the reception area, which was deep oldmansion red and gold, give your name to two men sitting behind a big, white, table ready to sign you in -- and point you to a stack of beautiful, colorful LAST SESSION postcards.
On your immediate right, you would see a big piece of white cardboard with the name "Steve Schalchlin" in green. And just below that big green name were mounted a Last Session poster (in a little spotlight), postcards, and a new article on "Living in the Bonus Round" from APLA's "Optimist" magazine. They wanted 8 x 10s but I don't have one because I'm not really a "performer" who does this for a living (I just play one on the internet).
Just past this room, there was a cabaret-sized disco complete with long bar featuring a beautiful, muscular male bartender on the left, long bar of hot food with servers on the right, a big dance floor in between, and directly ahead, a little stage area with keyboard.
Webster Hall is a like a huge party mansion filled with bars and places to sing or dance. Levels and levels of rooms, and long English bars with couches and ceiling fans and oriental rugs on the walls. Long, old velvet couches, massive hallways with more bars. Go up another floor and you're on the huge balcony which circle the ballroom. Move to the edge of the balcony and you look out over of sea of dancers, male and female, swimming in unison to loud campy dance music.
Mirror balls and walls decorated with paintings of balloons -- like clown wallpaper.Earlier this evening, just after sound check, as Jimmy and I were walking through this ballroom/concert hall, he suddenly stopped and said, "I remember this place. This is where Merman recorded the score to Gypsy!" He said they used to record all the old cast albums here.
The dressing room was three flights up around the back of the balcony, in two little rooms on the other side. There was a big bowl of fancy cookies there and a changing area. When I got there, the host comedienne was talking to one of the other singers, Jeffrey Kiordes, and reviewing the jokes she was going to tell.
They also had a little reception for those volunteers who have put in 10 years or more. That reception was held in our little cabaret/disco and it featured champagne and a pate tree out in the middle of the dance floor.
[Side note for my proud hillbilly family in Arkansas and Texas: pate is not the top of dad's head, nor is it a mispronunciation of "Pete." It is duck innards, cooked and mashed into food that goes on little toast things and it is pronounced "Pa-tay." Rhymes with latte. To the skeptical rest of you, latte was invented in Arkansas. You did not know this because it is a lie.]
LAST SESSION cards. Also, my friend, Jarvis from Harvard was down and he said he'd scan the new logo so I could post it here. (I apologize there have not been any pictures posted, yet. I'm supposed to borrow a scanner this week).
There were a couple of gay comedians who were hysterically funny. Though the crowd was both gay and straight, male and female, the atmosphere was definitely queer, so some people people I know wouldn't have enjoyed it much, our group was having a ball.
Well, it was kinda tough singing Going It Alone to a noisy group of people partying and celebrating, but our PA -- there were three comedians and two others singers -- was very loud and it was easy for audience members to walk right up to the stage since it overlooked the dance floor and there were no tables or chairs.
Later that night, they had a big rock and roll show in the ballroom and everyone agreed it was an incredible night. But, I didn't stay because I am still tending to my foot. So, I went back to my little room, put my foot up and went right to sleep.
Sunday, April 27, 1997
The Ninth Gland.If you like really weird stuff, you should go to your local comic book store and pick up a comic book called "The Ninth Gland" by Renee French (Dark Horse Comics). The reason I'm telling you this is because Renee is going to draw some really cool stuff especially for TLS and The Currican is going to display it in the lobby.
Now, I have to warn you. Her stuff is very avant garde and will not appeal to everyone's taste. "The Ninth Gland" is a very hypnotic story about two girls who find a horse-like creature with a strange growth on his leg, so they take it to a janitor who lives in the basement of a hospital where they do an operation...
See what I mean? I suppose one could delve into the psychological aspects of it and look for meaning, but I like weird things -- especially her fascination with operations and doctors and medical stuff. I can't wait to see what she ends up doing for our gallery.
Monday, April 28, 1997
Another Fantasy Comes True.Today at rehearsal I got to play "Gideon" for most of act one and all of act two because Bob Stillman (AKA "AndBob") had to be at a rehearsal for a tribute concert to Kander & Ebb going on tonight. It was great fun to be doing the part with this cast. But it also told me how much of an actor I am not. And how much of a musician and singer Bob Stillman is.
We also were breaking in a possible new cast member. Our dear George Peter Ryan is dealing with some personal turmoil in his life and it looks like he just can't continue with TLS. But, Mike quickly took things in hand yesterday and called Dean Bradshaw, one of his favorite actors. Dean got the script last night, and this morning when he arrived, he was already "off book" for the opening sequence between Gideon and Jim (Dean's role). It was a bravura performance. He not only had the script memorized, but he also knew all the blocking. I don't think I've ever seen anything like it.
Anyway, Dean and AndBob ran through it several times before the others showed up. After the others appeared, the whole "new" cast ran about half the first act and Dean's performance was letter perfect. It was amazing.
I also got to meet Michael Gottlieb today. Michael is designing the lighting for TLS and is already trying to figure out how to do what he wants to do on the Currican's non-profit miniscule budget. He wanted me to suggest that everyone donate to the Currican and earmark all the money for him. AS IF...!
Castmembers Amy Coleman and Grace Garland ("Flamin' Amy" and "Diva Grace") have asked me to deliver a message to all you readers, and if this sounds sexist or exploitative, I just want you to know that it was not my idea. They said that I should make mention of the fact that both these great women have very large ... uh ... well, in Grace's parlance, "ta tas."
Yes, this version of Last Session features two women with large breasts capable of reducing any heterosexual male (or gay female) to a quivering mass of jello. Grace and Amy wanted me to mention this so that if anyone thinks this play is a "gay play" -- which is most certainly is not -- or if any of you wives think you'll have trouble convincing your lunk hubby to come out to the "thee-uh-tah," you can now tell them that at the very least they'll get to observe excellent "ta tas."
(why do i suddenly feel like a pimp?) speaking of pimps...
This past weekend, yet another new musical has opened on Broadway. It's called THE LIFE and it features a score by Cy Coleman, one of my fave composers. The reviewers, however, weren't so kind. The story, as reported, is a memory play where a pimp remembers back to the good ol' days when Times Square was a cesspool of prositution and crime. Most of the critics made the point that few people are nostalgic for sleeze, curruption and whoring, so it was hard to know just who to root for. But they said it had some brilliant performers and some tuneful music.
Tonight, JECKYL & HYDE opens. I'll tell you all about it.
Tuesday, April 29, 1997
Music Music Music.Today at rehearsal, we did nothing but music. This is the first time we've done this since the early music rehearsals where the actors were mostly learning the notes. In earlier rehearsals, I made a little mistake with Flamin' Amy when I asked her to "cool down" her singing. (Remember how I said she sounded sometimes like Janis Joplin? Well, her voice is pretty amazing in that if I tell her to "blow the roof off," she actually can and will!)
As we went through Somebody's Friend today, it was Diva Grace who realized that Amy had thought that I didn't like it when she wailed. So, I had to reassure her that it was all a matter of finding the right times and places; that if I "used" Amy's power at just the right moments, the audience would never get over it.
I explained to them, for example, that Somebody's Friend is a song with a very bitter lyric about cures -- but the music sounds like a big celebration. I recounted a news program I saw where some guy who had planned a huge electrical machine which would supposedly cure cancer; next to him was a little girl who was "terminal." He was implying to her that if all these nice people would just give him five million dollars, he could cure her with his big machine.
The whole story made me physically ill; how someone could tell a child something like that. I showed the cast how the bridge of the song begins spinning a tale of an "HIV-free town" with a "HIV-free circus" and an "HIV-free clown." And how the whole song turns -- changes -- when it says the clown is performing for all the "HIV-free children." Just a reminder what the stakes are when people recklessly throw "cures" around.
I also had a great moment with Diva Grace. During a little break, she told me one of her favorite singers of all time was Nancy Wilson because of how explicitly Nancy will sing a lyric bringing every bit of meaning to it. I told her I once got to sing backup vocals for Nancy Wilson in El Lay. Grace said she once got to meet her and when she came face to face with Ms. Wilson, Grace's throat closed up and she just stood there speechless.
We also talked about how she and I almost never sing a song the same way twice, that it always comes right from the heart. Later on, we were privately working on her verse from The Group and I "made" her sing it a dozen different ways, one right after the other.
A SONGWRITER FANTASY:
Since I get a lot of songwriters who read my page, I thought I'd share this moment: I'm sitting at our little keyboard and I've positioned the four singers from our show in a semi-circle around me. There's Stephen Binskie, who sounds like a soft Steve Perry, Bob Stillman who sounds like an angelic Edgar Winter, Amy Coleman who sounds like Janis Joplin, and Grace Garland who has this smoky ultra-soulful alto, and they are all joyfully singing my songs. MY songs!!!
Then we stop and I tell them little things about the songs, point out places where they can find more meaning, and we run them again. Then I take each one and work on their solo spots, giving them little bits of information or alternative phrasings (as options only, so they'll understand how free they are to interpret according to their emotions).
I couldn't get enough of it. My heart was joyfully full to overflowing, partly because it was a big ego trip, but also because I could tell how much they seemed to love singing my songs. How often does one get to hear one's songs performed by world class talents? Bob's voice, skittering and wailing, Binky's voice so rich and heartbreakingly innocent, Grace with these little leaps from her upper and lower registers that just send chills up and down your spine. And Amy!
Today, for the fiirst time, I was just playing around with Amy's voice as if it were a fantastic musical toy. There were these amazing surprises around every corner and until today, I hadn't realized how much there was to work with. If she's Janis Joplin, she's Janis with tenderness and heartbreaking delicacy. Like a beautiful Japanese flower arrangement lying of top of a keg of dynamite.
What's funny is that, except for Bob Stillman, most of these great singers don't get to do many musicals. They get hired mostly for their acting abilities because their voices don't "fit" into the musical stereotypes. (Neither does Bob's, but he can fake it better than the others). They call themselves a bunch of musical misfits.
Mike Wills said he believes The Last Session does not look or sound like anything that has ever been on a New York stage. (And yes, this is a good thing -- we hope).
I just hope our play and songs are worthy enough to get reviews that will let the show play long enough for people to experience these great performers. There are truly some breathtaking moments no one will ever forget.
Wednesday, April 30, 1997
Hobbles The Clown.TOE JAMMED:
I went to the toe doctor today for my check-up and while we were looking at it, my toenail slid off. The toenail bed is still not healed up, either. So, I'm really going to have to be careful about infection at this point. And I have been told that I can NOT wear regular shoes. I must wear open toed shoes I must keep a big bandage with antibiotic gunk on it. How annoying. And to top it off, I forgot to bring my cane today, so I walked from the doctor's office in my sock to the busstop where I had EXACTLY the $1.50 it took to get on. Not one penny more. Not one penny less.
I spoke to a friend who is an attorney. I told him I was not in any way going to make a big lawsuit deal out of this. I just wanted my expenses covered (despite the fact that I have friends screaming at me to SUE SUE SUE!!) and maybe a small extra. Sorry. Not my bag, that exploitative lawsuit thing. Problem is, though, once I sign off (on the little settlement), I don't have any future legal standing if my toe gets really badly infected or something unforseeable happens. I asked the doctor if he could "predict" anything and he said, "No way. Not for a month or more."
So, I'm stuck. The insurance company is happy I'm not going to turn this into the trial of the century, but I don't want to wait, either. I just want this behind me. The real pain is that with the old toenail gone, I'm going to be very uncomfortable for much longer than I anticipated.
JECKYL & HYDE:
Well, the reviews on "Jeckyl And Hyde" were decidedly bizarre with most of the critics making fun of it, but impressed with the acting and sets and stuff. Some liked Frank Wildhorn's music and some didn't. I think, though, that it sounds like something an audience would enjoy. Given how much everyone had hated everything else that has opened, it might be the most entertaining of the lot.
The big Broadway producers, according to the papers today, have decided to ignore the reviews and keep the shows running, holding out until the Tony Awards bring them some badly needed publicity. What a terrible position to be in. The ones I really feel sorry for, though, are the actors who have worked so hard and whose jobs could end any second.
MEAN MIKE GOES INSANE:
Meanwhile, today was a real work day. Now that the actors are off book, Mean Mike (AKA "Wonderful Mike" according to Maggie in Scotland) spent the day on act two working through each line, moment by moment. There are some very emotional scenes as the drama comes to a head in act two and this is where the work gets very intense. There is a crucial scene where Gideon and Vicki go head to head as she challenges decisions he's made and Mike's job is to keep it believable, controlling the white hot anger while not losing any of the intense emotions.
But, that's not the story I want to tell. The real stuff happened just before we began the actual rehearsal. Dean (AKA "Butterboy" -- a nickname he acquired in Scotland when the Currican was at the Edinburgh Festival) arrived early. Mike enlisted me to "run lines" for the opening scene which is just Gideon and Jim -- played by Butterboy and AndBob (Bob Stillman). I did it from a seated position while Dean walked himself through the blocking. Suddenly, Mean Mike -- in an act of uncontrolled insanity -- leaped onto stage, putting himself where Gideon would be during the scene, making faces at Dean, following him around and trying to make him laugh.
After achieving his perverse pleasure from torturing poor Dean, he put me on the stage to do the scene again. Well, I was in the middle of the scene when AndBob came in and started watching. I could feel my face start to heat up in sheer terror as I realized I was doing his lines, but I pressed on and just tried to ignore the fact that he was there.
After that, he ran the scene with Dean and I realized he had more or less picked up some of my goofy body language to use as part of the character. Mean Mike loved it, and began his own interpretation of my goofy bearing. Like a crazy man, he suddenly jumped onto the stage and loped across with this weird walk and looking like he had pulled his arms out of joint, saying, "See? Steve thinks he's sexy, but he's just goofy! He's just goofy!" (AndBob later described him as a drunk Gumby.)
A look of horror spread across AndBob's face at this incredibly bad imitation, thinking that that was what *he* looked like, but I said, "Don't worry, Bob. You don't look anything like Mike right now. No one could possibly look like that." Relieved, AndBob said, "Good."
"Wonderful Mike" was so much better when he was just sitting behind his pulpit quietly acting like he's in control. How will anyone take him seriously after that little exhibition? Hmmm???
By the way, last week, Jim and Mean Mike began calling me "Hobbles The Clown," so this past Saturday -- something I forgot to mention -- he forced me to dress up in a big clown costume. Then he took pictures of me on the stairs with my cane. I'll post one as soon as I can. But you see why I'm thus emotional wreck. These people here have no respect for the starving, ailing, artist in pain.
© 1996 - 2001 by Steve Schalchlin