The Better Than Expected Tour
Volume 4 Book 5 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(Part 1)

"Laugh-In" star JoAnne Worley shares a french fry with Jim.

[ Book 4-4 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ]
[ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] - [ Book 4-6 ]

September 17 - 19, 2005.
The Better Than Expected Tour.
We begin the new diary book with a trip to New York we ended up calling "The Better Than Expected Tour" because no matter what we did or where we went, everything went "better than expected." Jimmy finally decided that we were being guided by angels from above. After we landed in NY, we decided to join our friends at the Crystal Symphony to see if we could scam ourselves a free meal. On the way there, Jimmy posed beneath the CBS Broadcast Center sign. He looks like a correspondent on The Daily Show.

Looking like a foreign correspondent.

So we snuck over to the Symphony and found our friend Bernard Walz who is a brilliant pianist and wonderful friend. Our reunion was great as we gossiped about all the things good friends gossip about. Then we waltzed right into the dining room and had a big dinner. Mission accomplished! Seeing Bernard made it part ONE of our better than expected tour.

Jim with Bernard Walz, the famed Australian pianist.

Here is the beautiful Crystal Symphony at night in the harbor of New York:

The Crystal Symphony.

The next day we decided to make our way over to the Polish Tea Room for lunch. It was getting crowded and they tried to put us in the back, but Jimmy said, "No, I like eating in the front by the window." So he barged into the front area and suddenly heard a voice, "JIMMY! SIT HERE!"

He looked over and it was JoAnne Worley. Remember Joanne Worley from Laugh-In? "Sit here quick!" She said. "Help me hide my dog."

Sure enough, she was sitting there and here little dog was in her purse, and she was trying to hide it from the wait staff. So we scooched into the booth and moved a couple of tables together, effectively hiding her dog. That's when I asked her to recreate our incident from last year when Jackie Mason stole my french fry. She did and that was part TWO of our better than expected tour.

JoAnne Worley stealing my french fry.

Next, we had tickets to the Tony Award winning musical, "The Light In The Piazza," which we've been wanting to see for a long time. It's a gloriously romantic story with a beautiful score. Loved every moment of this piece.

The better than expected moment THREE: During the opening moments of Act Two, four people suddenly slipped into their seats just as a the lights were going down. Jimmy jammed his arm into my ribs and said, "It's Barbra Stresand and James Brolin!"

Sure enough, sitting below me -- the seats are raked -- right between my knees was Barbra Streisand's head. Suddenly she threw her purse open and grabbed her cell phone which had just gone off. She shut it down, of course. We did see that there's a picture of a little dog on the lighted screen.

Lincoln Center.

Light In The Piazza with Jim as the mom.

Now we're walking down the street and suddenly I hear Jim shout, "STEPHEN!" and it's Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz ("Godspell," "Wicked," "Pippin"). We tell him all about our reading but he's on his way to another appointment and can't make our performance. But how cool! Stephen was a classmate of Jimmy's back when their school was called Carnegie Tech. Better than expected moment FOUR!

Jim and me with Stephen Schwartz.

Later, we go over to Sardi's for lunch and in walks Sheila McRae. "I can't stop and talk, darlings," she says. "I have to study this script." So she plops herself down in the corner booth and not five minutes pass before she's talking non-stop to us. She gets me over privately when Jim gets up to go to the bathroom and says to me, "Steve, I think you should write about that time..."

"What time?" I ask.

"The time you went away. The dark time. You used to write me notes."

Now I'm totally stuck. I have absolutely no idea what she's talking about. I've met Sheila couple of times and have had dinner with her. But I've never written the woman a note in my life. Now I'm thinking, "How can I rescue this? I feel like I should at least try to help her save face." Remembering that she had seen our show a couple of times, I quickly said, "Oh, you mean the time Jimmy and I had broken up?"

"Yes!" She said.

"You know what?" I said. "I've never really talked about that time." (I haven't. In fact, maybe that's what she was talking about although I still don't remember sending her notes.) I said to her, "I'll look at that."

"You should," she answered. Then Jim came back from the bathroom and we posed for photos. Better than expected moment FIVE!

Running into Sheila McRae.

That night, we went over to the Algonquin Hotel where our friend Mark Janas was musical directing a new show about the "Vicious Circle," the literary group that used to hold court there. Naturally, we had to pose for a picture at the big round table.

The NEW Vicious Circle at the Algonquin.

Inside the Oak Room at the Algonquin.

Jim, Murphy Cross, Carl D. White and me in front of Birdland.

The next day, we went down to Birdland and sang a number at the wonderful Monday night open mic called "Jim Caruso's Cast Party." Tuesday morning, I did a walk around Columbus Circle and took photos of the new towers just erected there. It's a great design. As tall as they are, they feel weightless from the street, open and airy. A superb building.

The new towers at Columbus Circle.

On our way to the rehearsal we passed what used to be called the Hotel Taft. Jim talks about the Hotel Taft in his new play, Zero Hour, about Zero Mostel. One of Zero's best friends was an actor named Phil Loeb. Phil Loeb, a totally harmless and kind comedian was relentlessly hounded by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 50s for having attended some Communist Party meeting. He was blacklisted and lost all hope for work.

So, as Zero tells it, he went to the Hotel Taft, checked into a nice room, got an expensive bottle of champagne and then jumped out of the window to his death.

The former Hotel Taft. Jim pointing to a place on the sidewalk.
On our way to lunch later, we passed by the theatre where they are doing the Monty Python musical, "Spamalot." They have a cut-out out front so naturally, I posed for a picture.

Steve as a Python!

Our last big "better than expected moment" happened at Sardi's again during lunch with Bill Boggs and cabaret artist Steve Ross. We wanted to take a picture, so Jim said, "Maybe we can find a waiter who will take the shot."

Suddenly, behind me I hear a woman's voice say, "I'll take the picture of the four of you!"

"Cool!" I think. And when I turn around, it's Kathie Lee Gifford.

So she takes our photo. Then Jim says, "Hey, then you have to get in the shot. Sit in this chair."

She says, "Forget that! I'll sit on your lap!" And that was better than expected moment -- oh, lord, I forgot what number we're up to. What does it matter? The tour goes on!

With Kathie Lee Gifford, Bill Boggs and Steve Ross.


[ Book 4-3 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ]
[ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] - [ Book 4-6 ]

© 1996-2005 by Steve Schalchlin.
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