Volume 2 Book 5 Part 5 of Living In The Bonus Round
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin

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November-December 2000. El Lay, New York, Michigan, New Jersey.

November 23-27, 2000.
Hollywood Confidential!
A note from Shawn Decker:
"Hey gang,

On December 1st, this Friday, MTV is airing a program called "Staying Alive 2" hosted by Ricky Martin. On the half hour is a 4 minute segment starring me and Gwenn... check your local listings, or also try your luck with the web site (it takes FOREVER to load, I don't have the patience for it)

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I am finally getting over the flu myself. I saw Steve in St Louis and tried to make him sick too.... did it work?"

No, Shawnboy, it didn't work. Silly boy. I'm invulnerable. Speaking of which, remember the t-shirt we had made for Jim in St. Louis? Do you think we should take it back? That's Steinbeck wearing the lovely orange and white fur.

Last night I became a paparazzi. Jimmy and I were invited by Jim's old friend, Broadway veteran Terri Ralston to go to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel to hear Donna l (who was in the original "A Chorus Line"). So we invited our pals Charles Nelson Reilly, his friend Patrick and Piper Laurie to join us.

I brought the camera.

Charles, Patrick and Jim at Musso & Frank's.
Charles doesn't wear the orange chiffon cowboy outfits that he used to wear on the Match Game. Jim is wearing a button that says, "Jim Brochu for Vice President."

Jim Brochu and Piper Laurie.

This was part of our conversation in the car:

Jim: Did you ever worked with Burt Lancaster?

Piper: No, unfortunately.

Steve: No, but she starred with Mel Gibson back when he was young and gorgeous.

Piper then emitted a sound that was a cross between a whimper, a moan and an orgasm. LOL. "He was so beautiful," she said.

The movie was "Tim" about a romance between a mentally handicapped man and an older woman. Before I realized what I was saying, I said, "That wasn't a very good movie." And immediately I thought, "Oh, geez. Did I just tell Piper Laurie her movie sucked?"

But she was cool. Without missing a beat, she said, "Such a missed opportunity. The director was crazy. He gave us a treatment but the script was never finished. He'd tell us to go to our dressing rooms and write our own scenes. Then when it was being shot, he'd disappear, then come back and ask us how we did. I think he thought he was giving us artistic freedom but at the first screening, we knew it was an unreleasable mess. A few years later, someone came along and just cut it to the bone and released it. I still get mail from people who are in love with that movie."

That's Terri Ralston on the left and the great singer Karen Morrow, right, with Charles. Overtime Charles sees a picture of himself he says, "I look so old." He said to me once, "I used to be young and beautiful." I said, "No, you weren't." Everyone loves him.

Donna McKechnie.

Donna's show was amazing. Written by Christopher Durang, it wasn't just a cabaret act where she got up and sang a bunch of songs. She told much of her life story. It was funny, poignant, revealing and one of the high points occurred toward the end where she described the rehearsal where Marvin Hamlisch gave her the first song they wrote for her for "Chorus Line" (which was replaced by "The Music and the Mirror".

She recreated the moment, recalling her attempt to sight sing the number, which mostly insisted of her straining to reach these REALLY high notes.  "How do you tell Marvin Hamlisch his song is a big 'rangy.'"

Donna, Jim, Charles and Christopher Durang.
Charles had rewrites for them. He used to be Donna's acting teacher.

Donna and Jim after the show.
Jim has known Donna for many years.
Oh, I just realized I forgot to pose and have MY picture taken. Oh well. You'll see plenty of me as I start up on my next tour. I'm home through Monday (to do the laundry, of course) and then back on the road Tuesday morning. I'm going to Michigan, New York, New Jersey and then Denver. I hope you enjoyed our little Hollywood outing.
November 28, 2000.
A Long Day In The Life.
From my notebook:
9:00am EST Cleveland:
How stupid do I feel today? I'm sitting in an airport in Cleveland at 8am after having just flown the red-eye from LAX because I missed my morning flight yesterday. I had looked at the itinerary that said SAGINAW MICHIGAN NOV. 28 and thought it meant that I was to FLY to Saginaw on Nov. 28th.

No, dear. You were to FLY to Saginaw on Nov. 27th so that you could SING on Nov. 28th. You see, it's not easy to GET to Saginaw, Michigan from Los Angeles.

The only reason I even figured it out in time to make the red-eye was because Tony Thomson from Saginaw sent me a note yesterday morning saying, "You'll be singing for Saginaw High School tomorrow morning at 10am."

I laughingly sent him a note back telling him, "You mean I'll be singing there WEDNESDAY morning, don't you?"

Then I looked more closely at my itinerary and realized, sitting there at 10am Los Angeles time (with six loads of dirty laundry sitting next to me) that my 9am flight to Saginaw via Cleveland was already somewhere over New Mexico. So I went into a full scale panic -- you should see me in a full scale panic; not pretty.

I found out Continental's next flight that would get me to Saginaw was at 11pm -- and that I'd have to pay full fare for the privilege of changing flights. Well, somehow Tracy at Campuspeak managed to talk them into changing the flight for a mere $75, but I had to do what I've never had to do before: cancel a program for high school kids. (My regular concert was that night at the University).

So I sit here bleary-eyed and waiting on the plane to Saginaw. It's dead cold outside, by the way. Winter is cold in Cleveland. My googly eye hurts like hell. My body aches. The red-eye last night from LAX was full, so I was crammed into my upright bed (and tray table) all night having Sustiva nightmares. One of them had me driving a car in a Sustiva stupor with nothing but a joystick and video monitor for navigation. But at least I'd have all afternoon to sleep at the hotel before the concert tonight.

Okay, um. I can't see anymore so I'm going to put away my notebook, try to nap in this chair and see if the gate agent will rouse me.

Oh, I was roused all right but not from the nap I couldn't take. I was roused with the information that the flight to Saginaw Valley had been delayed and then canceled. "The engineers reported a problem that can't be fixed," said the gate agent. "Go to the service desk and we'll arrange to put you on another flight."

Cleveland airport looks like a warehouse

At the service desk I was informed that the only other flight, the 12:30 to Saginaw Valley was full. "But we can send you to Detroit where you'll change over to Northwest Airlines and arrive in Saginaw at about 4pm."

The plane from Cleveland was little.

Already embarrassed that I had disappointed Tony at Saginaw Valley State University, I now had to call him and beg him to pick me up at yet a different time and find me a shower on campus. By now I know I must smell like old socks and look like hell. And my googly eye is throbbing and twitching a life of its own. So glad I have that eye patch.

Tony was great though. "Hey, no problem. We'll be there. I think you're gonna put on the best concert of your life tonight." Somehow, that cheered me up and I said, "You are right. Tonight we are gonna kick ass."

Things began looking up when I was met at the airport by Leah, engineering major and pole vaulter. Together we held our breaths hoping my hanging bag made the switch from one carrier to another. And it did! My first break in this whole trip!

Saginaw Valley sing says, Steve Schalchlin Performance 7:00 PMWe drove across the flat countryside until came to a sign with my name all lit up. YAY! I made my way to the athletic building and took my first shower since the morning before only to realize there were no towels. So I used the hair dryers mounted on the walls for my upper body and paper towels for the rest.

Tony ThomsonIt was a relief to see Tony. He's one of the nicest people I've ever met and you can tell how much he loves his kids and his job coordinating peer educators and other student health-related programs.

I also love him because he knows how much I love a good piano -- I was there last year. And sure enough, when I entered the recital hall, there was it: my 11 foot Steinway.

My beautiful piano

I had plenty of time to rest and yes, the concert was fantastic, culminating in an instantaneous standing ovation that even took me by surprise. I also stood at the door as everyone left and got a ton of big hugs.

November 29-30, 2000.
Great White North.

This is the view of my plane as I sat in a restaurant
in Vermont wondering if I would get to New Jersey.

Continuing my adventures, I almost didn't make it to Plattsburgh, NY, because the airport listed on my ticket didn't say "Plattsburgh." So, the plane landed, I got off and as I stood inside the little chalet of a terminal...

... Iooked up on the board and saw that Plattsburgh was the NEXT stop, not where I had deplaned. So I stood there in the window and waved my hands at the pilot who was now revving up the propeller.

I managed to get back on the plane and make it to Plattsburgh where we had a good concert in a lovely room.

The concert venue in Plattsburgh

However, the snow was starting to fall the next morning and the plane was late. So we landed in Burlington VT just as my plane to Philly was taking off. Furiously, I was making calls down to New Jersey to let them know I might be late for the concert and, in fact, might not make it at all.

Four hours later, the little prop plane for Philly took off and, luckily, my friends M and Betsey were there waiting for me to zip me up to The College of New Jersey in Trenton.

"Steve was supposed to arrive in Philly at 1:00 and take the train from the airport to trenton where we would pick him up.  Instead his flight gets delayed until 4:30, well no one could go get him at 4:30 because the girl who was supposed to locked her keys in her house.  So i decided to drive... when we got into the car to go to the airport my car wouldn' start.  so... i prayed, i prayed and prayed and prayed, and as i was about to give up and call him a limo it started.  We drove 85 miles an hour to philly and we got there 10 minutes before the flight landed.  We rushed through the airport and ran into steve walking from the flight to the baggage claim, i screamed so loudly i think i might have scared people!!!"

I was so happy to hear the scream! I knew I was in good hands -- well, until I saw how she drove. LOL. Anyway, we had some dinner together then to the beautiful venue at College of New Jersey.

As I was waiting to go on, a young man name Jay Brancato came up to me who told me he knew Stephen Bienskie, that he was an actor and singer who loved the TLS score and that he was really glad I was there. His was so excited I thot he was gonna have a heart attack. So I told him to hang around with us after the concert. (What he didn't know was that I was going to put him on the spot).

M sat in the front row and took these pictures of the concert.

After the concert we all hung out a bit cuz my friend Marc from the TLS list got there really late. I sang a few extra songs and then I sprung my surprise on Jay. I asked him to sing "Going It Alone" with me. He didn't hesitate for a second. He screamed something like, "OH MY GAWD!" and then he jumped onto the stage. His lyric baritone was startlingly beautiful. When I joined in on the harmony, our voices blended like we'd been singing together all our lives. He could make it in this business. He's got the voice and he definitely has the moxie. *poof*

Future Broadway star Joseph "Jay" Brancato with Steve

M, Marc & BigHead

After the concert I stayed with my friend Elaine Pasqua, an AIDS educator, and her husband Jeff Cohen and their two kids Evan and David. We stayed up half the night talking about everything, especially religion -- don't ask me why. With all the books I've been reading lately on the subject, I found myself regurgitating a ton of material I didn't even know I knew. It was fun!

The next morning I took pictures. I love their kids! And I especially love the way they have created an easy, open-minded, loving and literate atmosphere for them to grow up in. Look at these faces:

David with his violin; Evan with that smile and those eyes

Elaine and Jeff

Tomorrow: Upstate New York

December 1, 2000.
Another World AIDS Day.
Dear Mr. Schalchlin,

Today is World AIDS Day, and my thoughts turned to you.

I saw "The Last Session" in New York back in 1997 when it was Off-off Broadway and and again Off-Broadway.  The five or six times I saw your show, I was moved beyond words and the feeling hasn't left me since.  I was profoundly affected by your show and continue to be to this day.  Although it's hard for me to believe that it was nearly four years ago that I first saw TLS, I think about the show and you quite often.

What am I trying to say?  It's World AIDS Day and I feel sad.  I feel sad for the families and friends of those who have died.  I'm sad because I do as much as I can for the AIDS cause and still feel helpless.  I'm sad that young children, mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, and creative geniuses (such as yourself) are infected.  I'm sad because such a horrible disease exists.

But throughout my sadness, I have a glimmer of hope for the future.  When I was a kid in the '80's, AIDS wasn't even called AIDS.  When I was a kid, people thought you could get AIDS from water fountains.  Now, AIDS education is commonplace in most public schools.  Public figures have spoken publicly about their infection.  New medicines are helping people live longer.  The world may see a cure in my lifetime.  To me, that's amazing.  It's amazing that I can remember when AIDS was called GRID and also may live to see a cure.

I prayed today, Mr. Schalchlin.  To who or what I'm not sure, but I prayed.  I prayed for you and Jim.  I prayed for all the people in the world who have died from AIDS. I prayed for the families and friends of all those people.  I felt like I had an incredible amount of emotion inside of me and if I didn't do something with it, I would have exploded.  So I prayed and I cried.

You've never met me, but I want you to know that you have touched and affected my life in a way that no one else ever has.  I'll always remember the name Steve Schalchlin and how you impacted my life.  Someday, I'll tell my children about you and hopefully be able to express to them how profound
your existence has been to me.

Namaste, (I bow to the divine in you)


Thank you Alexandra and I can see the Love of God in you, too. Today I'm thinking of my friends who live with disease and also to those who died of this disease, especially our beloved Dick Remley. May we find a way to end this plague and end the suffering -- especially the suffering of the millions and millions of people in places like Africa who have no access to the drugs that have kept me and many others alive.

May God bless us all.

I spent World AIDS Day in Syracuse New York at Nazareth College singing for barely a handful of students. Maybe people don't want to think about AIDS anymore -- or maybe they think AIDS isn't something that'll affect them. But the student group sponsoring the concert actually did a great job of raising awareness by having 1/10 of the student body wear red t-shirts to show the numbers of people worldwide who live with HIV.

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© 2000 by Steve Schalchlin.
You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.