EPISODE 7. May/June 1999.
The Last Curtain Call.
Michelle Mais, Jeff Juday, Bob Stillman,
Amy Coleman, Steve Braverman.
photo by roberta
Steve in front of the Last Session banner.
Can we say "bighead?"
photo by roberta
[ Vol. 1 Book 10 ] - [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Part 7 ] - [ Book 2 ]
May 1-8, 1999.
Nothing at all.I know I did a lot this week but I can't remember any of it. Oh, yes, Jimmy and I took time off to just be together. I knew there was something!
Next Tuesday is our recording session with the cast. Next weekend, Shawn Decker will be here for the Saturday night show. On the 17th I fly out to New York. There. That's wasn't so hard.
Jim with "Will" (Eric MacCormack) of Will and Grace at the GLAAD Awards
Gary Bankston (center) takes a curtain call
with (from l.) Jeff Juday, Michelle Mais, Gary, Amy Coleman and Paul Steger at the end of his triumphant week understudying Gideon.
Bob Stillman will return for the rest of the run at the next performance.
photo by gail.
TLS-LA SouvenirLast night we recorded the new CD!! (Maisey accidentally smashed her car and so this gave us the perfect excuse to make CDs and help her get a replacement.)May 13-15, Thursday-Saturday, 1999.
PREACHER AND THE NURSE:
FANTASTIC! It's Maisey kicking ass followed by Bob kicking ass with rich background vocals and Paul Steger on bass guitar.
GOING IT ALONE (Bob Stillman singing):
Be prepared to die. This might be the most beautiful thing you've ever heard in your life and I'm not kidding. Bob's voice caresses this song in ways you just will not believe.
This is the ONLY place you'll hear Bob Stillman singing GOING IT ALONE.
ONE NEW HELL (Amy Coleman singing):
How hot is hot? The ravaged one rips through this song and takes no prisoners. (from the upcoming musical PRODIGAL).
YOU ARE A STRANGER (Michelle Mais singing):
Maisey just takes this song into heartbreaking new depths. (from the upcoming new musical PRODIGAL).
SHADES OF BLUE (Jeff Juday singing):
Jeff came in and heard me trying this (in D, please) and started singing along. Next thing you know it was his solo. He sings in a sweet falsetto. And yes, it's the whole song.
As a bonus, I am going to include The Quiet Session, the five songs I issued on cassette. A total of 10 songs.
We had a great time. I had Karen with me taking pictures and keeping notes. She'll provide a fan's-eye view of the recording session soon.
We cannot begin the manufacturing process of the CD until enough money comes in to pay for it.
1. Only 500 will be made. First come. First served.
10% of the CDs will be given to the artists who donated their time for this.
2. The price for 1 will be $15.00 plus $2.00 postage = $17.00.
3. Or 3 for 33.00 plus $2.00 postage = $35.00.
4. Checks should be made out to:
"See No Evil o/b/o Lil Shack O Tunes"
Send an email to email@example.com for the address and ordering information.
My gym routines are really paying off. On Monday and Tuesday I wasn't just seeing an improvement in my body tone, but also on the inside, I can feel a difference. It's like my body is glowing from within. I've never felt this kind of thing before. And even better, my blood sugar has tested below 100 for three days in a row. I might be able to cut back on the pills that lower my blood sugar.
I'm hooked now. It feels so GOOD.
My Last Weekend.Well, this weekend is my last to see the LA production of The Last Session. It's been a remarkably long run for Los Angeles, six months. (Nothing here hardly ever runs longer than a few weeks).
Shawn Decker is here and Friday night I went to dinner with him and Gwenn, his gorgeous woman and their friend. Meanwhile, this afternoon, Saturday, the cast and myself and who knows who else will doing a special 3pm show, just goofing off and having fun.
Actually, it's to help Maisey and her car trouble -- when I found out about it, that's when I decided to give her the CD money. See what a family we've become?
Tomorrow, Sunday, I finally meet Rev. Mel White a gay minister who used to work for Jerry Falwell. He's a dedicated and amazing man whose work I admire greatly. And together we'll see our final show Sunday night.
Then I'm off to New Yawk Citeee!!!
On the health front, I've been doing so well with my blood sugar that I've been able to cut down on the diabetic pills. I even with hypoglycemic once last week! So, the intense workouts are really making changes in my bod chemistry. It's hard work but it seems to be paying off. In the past, I've flaked out on workouts but not this time. I've been going five days a week and working hard!
Sunday, May 16, 1999.
Yep, Dickie survived and he has a cake to prove it!
This is from his birthday party last Saturday.
My Last Last Session LA.Sunday was it for me. Once again, the fates intervened in my life and I was going to miss another final performance of Last Session -- it closes May 23. This was going to be a hard one. But this is one production I never wanted to see end, so maybe it's all for the better that I miss the "last session."Monday, May 17, 1999.
Earlier this evening I had the great privilege of finally meeting someone I've admired from a distance for a very long time, Rev. Mel White. He once wrote Jerry Falwell's biography. But then he came out and wrote a stunning book, "Stranger At The Gate" and now works for Metropolitan Community Church as Minister of Justice.
I met him and his partner Gary and we went out to Mel's Diner (doncha love verisimilitude? -- hmm. Great name for a drag queen, Vera Similitude). Mel is a champion for gay people and recently put his own career on the line when he insisted, during the Tinky Winky debacle, that it was wrong to ridicule Jerry Falwell, preferring that people present truth rather than disrespect or ridicule. He presents his beliefs at http://www.soulforce.org and they are based on the teachings of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus.
Confronting an opponent with respect is, of course, precisely what we attempt to achieve in The Last Session and on this website. But anyway...
The performance tonight was one of the best I've ever witnessed. Bob Stillman was in top form, both vocally and emotionally. Amy told me afterward that they were all thinking of me out there, knowing it would be my last time to see them. And she was so ON tonight, as were all of them.
You know, usually in a long run actors get tired or bored. But not this cast. The show has continued to grow and become more and more powerful. What a privilege to be out there watching it all.
Maisey & Amy backstage.
At curtain I came very close to jumping onstage and saying something, but I didn't. I even got out of my seat and stood on the steps near the stage. But Jimmy considers curtain speeches to be very tacky, so I didn't. It's better to let the show speak for itself rather than dragging a bunch of strangers into our own little dramas. :-)
Frieda Payne poses with the cast and Aunt Michael.
However, Aunt Michael gathered us all together after everyone had left and asked me to say something. We formed a big circle on the stage in the empty theatre -- cast, Sessionauts, Kim & Ronda, crew. Aunt Michael looked at me. I didn't know what I wanted to say. I was filled with joy and sadness, pride, thankfulness -- humbled that such incredible talent had dedicated themselves to mine and Jimmy's story.
When it was time to speak I looked up at Ronda and Kim and, tears burning my eyes, throat clogged to the brim, I just recalled our journey together beginning with the day I called them and asked them to allow me to just come and be in their office as a physical therapy -- and three years later, we're standing there as recipients of the most prestigious awards LA has to offer.
I thanked the Sessionauts for giving so much time and energy, the cast for being so dedicated -- I mean, you've heard it all in this diary a billion times, but somehow, standing there holding hands with this family, I just totally lost it.
The cast at Dodger Stadium a couple of weeks ago.
On To New York (except for one of the worst Steve Moments in history).Okay. Poor Jimmy.Tuesday, May 18, 1999.
We're all set to get me to the airport. I'm to leave at 11am, which is very civilized. We can mostly miss the rush traffic... see how wonderful this is? Jimmy will drive me and we'll have a leisurely last morning together since I'm going to be gone for 10 days.
And so we do. The traffic is busy but not horrible. But he's groggy since he is NOT a morning person and also because he's been overworked and SO READY to just get home and pile back into bed. In the car he even remembers to ask me if I have the Mobil card. I pull out my wallet and check. I also make sure I have my plane ticket and luggage.
It's just perfect.
He drops me off, gives me a hug, looks at me through bleary eyes, waves goodbye and drives off. I grab my luggage, step into the terminal, look at my ticket which tells me I need my ID. So I reach for my wallet and...
Not in the pocket, not in the jeans, not in the shirt, not in the luggage.
Nope. It's in the car which is now on its way back to North Hollywood, a half hour away. I have no money. I have no ID. I need food and I need to take pills. So, naturally I do what any red-blooded American would do. I panicked.
First I stand out on the curb thinking, "Jimmy knows I'm an idiot. Surely he will think to scour my seat and he will see the wallet and come back.
He does not come back.
So I make a few phone calls, leave him a message, and to make a long story short, a half hour later I call again and manage to catch him while he's listening to the message. "What do you want me to do?" he asks.
"You have to come back," I responded. "I have no money, no ID, nothing." After that I manage to talk myself into getting put on standby for the next flight and by the time Jimmy shows up, he looks like the walking dead -- or driving dead anyway.
I get on the plane and imagine the divorce papers being filed. (Well, not that gay people can get divorced -- we're not allowed to get married so we can't get divorced. But anyway...)
A Fantastic Benefit.I don't know if I'll be able to properly describe this Tuesday night event. It took place in a gorgeous Jewish country club on Long Island. And though I've been to a few fancy soirees in my life, this one topped them all.Wednesday-Saturday, May 19-22, 1999.
But that's not what made it great.
What made it great was -- well, first of all, I was picked up by Carol Kaplan. I met Carol when I played for the Locust Valley High School last year -- was it last year? That was the one in which I showed up a day early and ended up standing in the rain at the train station.
Carol, as part of the North Shore Jewish Health System, has organized scores of AIDS Education Peer Groups for the high schools here on Long Island. She took me to her home where I met, unexpectedly, her three sons ALL of whom are guitarists and ALL of whom are gorgeous. AND in the living room was a brilliant Steinway piano.
Ask me if I was kvelling.
Anyway, it turns out the benefit was in honor of both her and her husband, Mark Kaplan, a doctor who is credited as a co-discoverer of the AIDS virus.
You see, back in 1980 or 81, Dr. Kaplan began seeing patients turn up with this strange disease. No one had a name for it or had even described it but being a naturally curious man, he began keeping blood samples, feeling that they might come in handy at some point.
Sure enough, he went to a medical convention where he heard Dr. Gallo speak about retroviruses -- a thing Dr. Gallo had discovered. And something clicked in his mind. He met Dr. Gallo and told him that he felt this new disease might also be a retrovirus and offered to assist Dr. Gallo with all his blood samples.
Long story short, both their lab and Dr. Luc Montagnier in Paris were credited with finally discovering HIV.
When I was asked to be a part of this benefit for North Shore Hospital's new AIDS out-patient unit, I wasn't really aware of this stuff, although I knew Dr. Kaplan had a role in the history of AIDS.
By the time I found myself behind the newly tuned piano, I realized that this man, because of his curiosity and because he began keeping these blood samples when few others were even aware of AIDS -- this man played an indirect role in my being alive at this very moment.
Well, the food was sumptuous, the people were lovingly generous and I felt honored and privileged to just have been invited. During my concert, you could hear a pindrop in that room. I took the time to thank Dr. Kaplan -- and also all the nurses, volunteers, social workers, board members and those who gave generously.
Each person was given a copy of the Bonus Round record and I went back to the Kaplan house with a full heart -- uh, and a very full stomach. Hey, I even ate dessert. Couldn't help it. It was gourmet cooking with at least 20 different kinds of chocolate. But the next morning when I took my blood sugar it was totally normal.
Steve Meets Thousands of Kids.Wednesday was a glorious day. I finally got to rest. I had the whole day off. And I had a Steinway grand piano, three guitarists and Carol Kaplan Jewish-mothering me. We sat around the table and talked about art, AIDS, rock hair styles (Noah Kaplan, 25, artist and musician who lives in Ann Arbor with his brother Ethan, 23, also a guitarist) has the coolest dreads ever and his little brother, Daniel, 17 or 18 or something, wants to make his hair do that but so far... uh... no. Anyway...)Sunday, May 23, 1996?
I was playing songs from The Quiet Session and they were playing guitar parts. Ethan was singing and I harmonized above him. He has a very cool folk/rock voice. I told them they had to move to California and be my band. They're so gorgeous the girls out in El Lay would just eat them up -- and they're straight! I've always promised the Sessionaut girls I'd find them some straight boys. Besides, everyone knows you can't be a rock star without youth eye candy in the band. :-) -- even though I am a hunk.
ROSLYN HIGH SCHOOL
When we arrived at Roslyn High School to do the assembly, the first thing I saw was a line of showbills describing their season. The first one was FOLLIES, my all time favorite Sondheim show and one of the toughest and most sophisticated shows ever written and I thought, hey, if they can do FOLLIES, surely they can do TLS.
The grand piano was set up in the theatre, the seats were slightly raked and were 3/4 round. The audience was very attentive and it felt good to be back singing again. I forget how much I love it sometimes -- and the feel of the room with EVERYONE is listening. Totally intoxicating.
And, as usual, there was a river of water running down my back and drenching my shirt. I love singing for kids but it always scares me until I get a sign from them that they are listening. "The Group" usually does the trick if "Somebody's Friend" doesn't.
And, like with all the schools I have played for this week, I opened the floor for questions. Talk about being on the edge. I have a personal rule that I will answer all questions no matter how personal or supposedly inappropriate.
This is one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen. It looks like an old church building, brick with white spire. The auditorium was more narrow and they had me at an electronic piano facing the kids.
The room was dead silent as I sang. Once again they asked probing questions and once again I just answered the questions as honestly as I could. Halfway through the performance, though, the pedal broke on the keyboard. And as I was answering a question from a student, a bearded teacher suddenly appeared with a whole new keyboard.
What a great school and they even suggested they might want to do their OWN production of TLS there.
Well now I was just warmed up after two days of doing schools. Today at Jericho High School and Jericho Middle School, once again it was powerful and emotional. Maybe it's the right combination of timing and message -- maybe the students've just been so bored anything, even me, would be fun but today was something.
I think I'll ask Carol to write it from her perspective because all I know is they really took me seriously when I told them I would answer any question. But at one point, after one jock type asked me a question about being gay that was maybe slightly belligerent (which I do not mind), another kid raised his hand and asked a question. I didn't quite hear it so I asked him to repeat it. He said (louder), "Can I come up there and shake your hand??"
I said, "Okay." And the next thing I knew this tough kid with his hat pulled low over his eyes -- hip hop body language -- was flying up to the stage. I reached out my hand and he took it. But with the other hand he reached around my shoulder and pulled me into a huge embrace.
Can I say here that I was stunned?
Finally, on Saturday we once again gathered at Jericho where I played for an all-day AIDS Peer Group seminar. And Pegg Winter, who understudied in NY joined me in singing "Going It Alone."
By the time I got back to my room on Saturday, I was a total zombie. What a week.
The Weirdest, Most Outrageous Dream of All.Dearest Diary,Monday-Tuesday, May 24-25, 1999.
You're not going to believe this one. I had the most outrageous and bizarre dream EVER. Well, you know how I've been so sick lately and how I've written all these extremely unlikely, personal songs about AIDS? Last night I dreamed -- man, it was a long one but hold on you're gonna flip -- I dreamed that last night that it was the last night of a long, award-winning run in Los Angeles. And (get this) I wasn't even there!
No, instead I was all the way across the country in New York City playing for fans who had joined me from the internet! *AND* that earlier that day I had dropped in on the guy who owned the place, Sam from "Sam's" -- where do I get this stuff? -- and reminded him that he used to display all my posters in his club!
Not only that, but that we had ALREADY played Off-Broadway New York, had received Best Musical nominations and in Los Angeles had WON Best Musical Awards including a night where Jimmy and my friends Ronda and Kim (and this guy we started calling "Aunt Michael" who I used to know 25 years ago and who had just "dropped in" to the tiny off-off-Broadway theatre when we started) -- had given acceptance speeches to Tom Hanks and Whoopi Goldberg, Sharon Stone, k.d. lang, etc.
I dreamed I was flying all over the country singing for high school kids. I dreamed little theatres around the country were beginning to produce our musical and getting great reviews on their own. I dreamed thousands of people were hitting my website and reading it every single day.
I dreamed people with AIDS and their caregivers were finding understanding, strength, forgiveness, and inspiration that life does not stop when one is struck down with a terrible illness. And that kids who had given up on life were now writing me. And one teenage girl had even, because of our friendship, gotten her OWN play produced halfway across the country.
I dreamed Jimmy's and my musical were giving people permission to remember their loved ones who had died, hauling them back out of the painful closets where they had stowed them.
I dreamed there was a pig in Arkansas that rolls over and shakes when my songs are played. I dreamed I helped a mom whose son committed suicide set up a website that is now giving hope and reality to even MORE thousands of young people and adults.
I also dreamed I had become a big rock star and that the queen had knighted me, the President had given me the congressional medal of honor, that I had figured out how to bring peace to the middle east and to Yugoslavia, that I raised money to feed starving people all over the world, that I had accidentally found a cure for cancer, AIDS, MS, spinal cord... uh...
[Okay. Reality check. I'm sitting here gushing tears. I am crying my eyes out. I'm going to take a shower and just think about the miracles we've already done -- and the miracles we've not even begun doing.]
This past week, some kid at one of the high schools asked me during the assembly if I still believed in God. I kinda dodged the question because I don't think you can describe the transcendent in one sentence. But it got me to thinking. I've had my ups and downs with religion and God and all the comes with it. Sometimes I don't know what I believe, but I can tell you what I do know about myself:
I have faith.
Oh my God, do I have faith.
This is Julie's report about the closing night in Los Angeles.It is now 2am and I just came home from the theater.....for the last time! It was really hard for me today, I started off by yelling at the flower shopgirl who didn't have Aunt Michaels' boutonniere ready at the time I needed it , and remember, I'm the nice one!Lyndsay, a longtime reader witnessed the Jericho Middle School program back here in Long Island:
When I arrived at the theater this afternoon at around 1pm, the crying already started with Amy, of course. When she saw me, it was almost like any other show and I was trying to focus on stuff I needed to do regarding the merchandise and such but leave it up to Amy. She said to me, seeing all us girls today is really gonna make her cry, I had to leave her dressing room at that point!
The house was all to wall people! People on the stairs, on the floor, everywhere!
The show was amazing! Of course everyone lost it on stage! Starting with Amy! She kinda sets the tone to many of the scenes so from there Bob, Jeff, and Maisey just followed right along!
Each cast member got amazing cheers and applause for his or her entrance. That was very cool! Jeff was barely able to get through "Going it Alone," he was having the most difficult time, almost whispering some of the lines to the song! We love Jeff!
Bob's "Connected" was too overwhelming for me and I just could not keep my composure.
Oops forgot about "Friendly Fire," Jeff added a few shoulder wiggles to "there's a woman named Louise...........," he was working that stage. it was too hysterical! Maisey's voice was already shaky from the beginning, but when she started in on "Singer and the Song", it was truly a moment!..."One more daaaaaay"
Jimmy gave a curtain call speech and put on the "horrible red plaid bathrobe." He hates curtain call speeches unless they are made by him! The cast got flowers from one of other producers, Judy! And there was more crying, hugging, photo taking ect...........
Then we were ready to party! We had champagne and some yummy stuff to munch on in the lobby! As Alice and Michael A, the stage managers, were dismantling the set, Steve Braverman (AKA, Jim in the booth for the last 5 shows) set up the keyboard in the lobby, and the cast gave us some last moments of their talents including Jeff doing "Sweet Transvestite", Bob singing "Going it Alone" with Jeff singing harmony, a few Beatles songs, Bob singing a song he wrote a while ago (the name escapes me, help Karen), and Amy singing a song (this one also escapes me) that she sang for her audition for TLS! Cooooool!
I had the most amazing experience and I am so soo sooo lucky to have been able to be a part of all this!
Karen will fill you all in on stuff that I missed, I am sure, since my hip was chained to the merchandise table! So the abacus is put away for one last time, and the money box is closed.
I can't wait for the next chapter to begin!
JulieSteve told y'all the best part. But lemme see if I can fit more in. My mom and I got there after his high school show and just as he was sitting own to lunch with the high school AIDS peer educators. This was a pretty sharp group of kids. they asked some really intelligent questions. They seemed kinda nervous, so there were these moments where they all just sort of sat there and watched steve try and wolf down some lunch...[Steve here: I don't remember after which song it was, but just as I was about to sing again, I saw a hand shoot up in the third row and I was SO GRATEFUL. Up to that point I couldn't tell what the students were thinking.]
There was also a local TV station there taping part of it from a distance and taping a few songs of the afternoon assembly. There was one particular boy who was really the most articulate of the group. He really seemed totally taken in by Steve. And he asked some really good questions.
The kids gave him a t-shirt from their homecoming. Which he promptly put on. Before the afternoon assembly, the AIDS Awareness club (note: all girls at this age) presented a square they had made for the aids memorial quilt. Then Steve sang. Boy did he look bnervous. I can imagine, why, though. Middle school is a tough age group to read. But right in the middle (I think it was between songs) they started to interrupt him with questions.They wanted to know how he got AIDS, how many pills he had to take, how often he went to the doctor...one kid also asked "Did you get it from a guy or a girl?" Steve told him, "I just told you I'm gay, what do you think?" He also mentioned to them what a hunk he was.From pigs to parrots! From a friend:
Afterwards, he had cookies and water with the club. Steve and 11 little girls. They were adorable. And he, of course, insisted on flexing his muscle several times (and wow!)
My mom was totally taken in. She loves him. My dad said that she couldn't stop talking about it...
LyndsayI'm at my parent's right now, and was playing The Quiet Session for my dad .... My dad liked everything, and funny thing, his Amazon parrot loved The Quiet Session, too. When she hears music she likes, she starts making this happy purring and chirping sound. Well, when I started The Quiet Session, she really got into it. :-)
Monday-Thursday, May 24-27, 1999.
Sean Hayes (Jack) from Will & Grace
signs the backstage celebrity wall.
photo by karen.
>it is impossible to describe to someone who couldn't be there, but it was
amazing. and the thought that it is all over is incredibly hard to accept.
>Maybe this why not many of you have commented on TLS-La's closing weekend!
It has been really, really, really, really hard on all of us!>
yes, that's exactly why. karen and i have tried to put it into words, but
we can't convey it, we just can't do it. but, i do finally have some of the
pictures up - they're at:
http://www.bennytour.com/tls - click on "los angeles closing".
it's been a helluva ride.
Jimmy puts on the "old red plaid bathrobe."
Julie, Dickie, Lindsey and Karen at closing night.
photos by gail
steve in new york celebrating the l.a. closing night at sam's on 46th
there were about 15 people who joined in the celebration
photo by marc
Karen's Bitter Tirade :-)TO THE TLS FANLIST:Monday-Thursday, May 24-27, 1999.
i've been bitter all week. ("so what else is new?" i can just hear lori and the rest of the girls say.) i had to take a few days off. i unsubbed from the list, i blocked myself online, and i just threw myself into my job (who would have imagined i would ever do THAT?). some of my friends were concerned about me - unsubbing from the list is drastic, am i sure that i'm okay...... and by the way, i appreciate it, guys. i was really okay. i mean, it was a short break, and now i'm back. i had originally subbed for the digest, but i spoke to lori on the phone just now, and she has commanded me to get back on the regular list...and as her staff, i have to do what she says. :-) (i'm not on her staff anymore, but i'll do it just this one last time for old time's sake.)
a word of warning......i am going to go into a long and self-indulgent tirade about what the show has meant to me over the past six months. so if you're not in the mood for sentimental crap, then delete this now so you can read about someone's final at school today or something equally meaningful. (yes, i am still the list bitch.)
i can just hear bryan saying - with the utmost affection of course - "oh, build a bridge and get over it." hey, i'll get over it. it'll just take a while to recover. after all, it was half a year of my life that all i did was tls-related. it was six months of being at the theatre early and staying late every night...and then going home and doing the show's laundry sometimes until 2:00 a.m. (thanks for keeping me company, katie), then having to go to my day job the next day... then getting up early on saturdays and sundays to take clothes to the cleaners. and then on the off-nights lori and julie and i would be at the production office making copies and stuffing envelopes and making press kits. i went to work every day (almost), and i took my breaks in my car - it seemed like the only time i could really sleep. i had a pillow in there and everything.
when i started working for the show, i felt like a wide-eyed fan who was sneaking around trying to get backstage, almost like an intruder. it took me a long time to refer to the tls company as "we" and tls as "our show," because i felt for a long time that it was "them" and "their show." but everyone made me feel so welcome, so at ease. i remember going to the garland awards...two months after we opened. at the end of the night, i was walking to the parking lot and i passed michael and kim and ronda standing at their cars. i walked right past them because i didn't want to be so presumptuous as to think that they would notice that i was leaving too - after all, i was "just a volunteer" and they were "the producers." and michael yelled after me, "goodnight, honey!" and i was surprised. i told lori this story, and she thought i was such a dork, but that is really how i felt.
i also remember my birthday in december, which i didn't celebrate with my family - i celebrated it at the theatre. it was a sunday, and lori sent me in to watch the matinee. when i came out after the show, they had a cake and balloons and a card that everyone signed, and maisey even gave me a present. in january, i remember bob calling me into the dressing room because he had presents for me and lori, "just because." on the weekend of martin luther king, jr.'s birthday, my car broke down at the theatre on thursday night, and i was so busy with the show that i didn't have time to take it to the mechanic until the following monday. so lori, mandy, and bob drove me around all weekend. lori even let me take her car to my house overnight so i could get up early and go to the cleaners the next day.
i remember when i first started helping lori out with the house managing duties, i screwed up A LOT. if we had seats taped off for special guests, i forgot to watch the audience, and people would take the tape off and sit in the seats. i would keep forgetting to get the advance report from the box office, which was one of the most important duties each night. michael used to get so mad at me and read me the riot act. he would offer to let me stop helping if it was too much for me. i would get so shaken up that i would call lori after the show and whine. and then michael would call lori the next day to make sure that i was okay. i really appreciated michael being so tough, because i didn't want to be coddled. i wanted to know exactly what i needed to do and how i needed to improve. and after a while, the other girls took turns managing the house too (THANK YOU, lindsey and mandy... and marie-reine, michael sugar, and katie for being door wenches and passing out playbills).
i remember the weekend of joey's last show. we ran out of playbills, and lori and julie and i had to go to the office at midnight to make xerox copies of them. (and the copiers kept jamming of course. "oh my god, it says 'take the paper from the sorter!'") and for such a special show, we not only gave out cheaply-made playbills, we had to ask people to share them, and we even asked the regulars to bring some of their playbills back if they had any extras lying around. it's funny now, but at the time, it was very stressful. we ran out of playbills again easter weekend...and i stayed at the theatre sunday morning collating and stapling them instead of going to dodger stadium with the cast. i was bitter, but at least it was on tv. to top it all off, by the time we had new playbills made, there was a typo in jeff juday's bio, and it said that he was on "step by step" as "falsh" instead of "flash." way to make him feel welcome. oy!!!
and speaking of jeff, i will never forget how much fun he was at the theatre. he was the only cast member who was off the stage for long enough to come out to the lobby to hang out with us while the other actors were onstage. about five minutes after the show started nearly every night, he would come out from the backstage doors with his toothbrush in his mouth, and he'd go brush his teeth in the men's room instead of the backstage bathroom. then he'd return with his pants undone, stretching and adjusting his shirt. and then he'd come back out after buddy and gideon's first big confrontation - one time he ran out to the lobby breathless, and told us, "i totally screwed up my line!" michael would tell him often, "i'll kill you if you miss your cue." of course, he never did. tina and lindsey will also tell you that jeff would sneak back to the rocky horror set in his yellow buddy shirt and boxer shorts, and cavort and dance around the floor show curtain.
closing weekend was very hard. i had refused to think about it all month. any time someone asked me, "what are you going to do after the show closes?" i would say, "cry." but mostly i would just say "i don't want to talk about it." i kept hoping that, like every other time we had a "close date" that i would hear from lori, "so yeah, we're extended again." but it didn't happen this time. the day that ronda posted the close date on the list, i was devastated. i knew it was coming, but reality finally hit me that day. i remember when we first posted the closing date, i told lori that i wanted to buy a ticket for the last show because i wanted to be able to see it. she told me that i shouldn't, because there was no telling if any of us was going to be able to watch, since there might be work to be done in the lobby. i was so upset, because all i wanted after all i had done for the show was to see bob's last "connected," which was always my favorite song. i was willing to pay, but if i had to work, even having a ticket wouldn't help me.
well, the last show came, and there had to be easily 120-130 people in that theatre. there were people in every single seat. we had brought in extra seats, and those were all taken too. there were fans all over the stairs on either side of the theatre. and the floor in front of the stage was filled with the volunteers and other fans. there were even some rocky horror fans in the front row. i had resigned myself to accepting that i wasn't going to see the show. before the show started, michael made a quick speech to the crowd apologizing for any discomfort, but thanking them for their understanding and cooperation. then we closed the doors, and michael walked lori and me up to the booth so we could all watch, which made me very happy. halfway through act 1, right after preacher and the nurse, i left the booth and went into the lobby to do our last house count for the box office and make a few preparations for after the show.
after intermission, lori sent me into the theatre. she told me i could watch the rest of the show, that all the after-show preparations would be taken care of. the only open spot in the whole theatre was on the floor up front, right under the keyboard. not only would i be able to see bob's last connected, but i couldn't have been any closer unless i was actually sitting *on* the stage. that made me really happy, and lori, you rock for letting me do that. i can't describe it, except to say that it was just beautiful.
after the show was just a blur. i remember michael pulling all the girls up to the stage to take a bow with the cast. as the audience started to file out of the theatre, i didn't know where to go, so we all just went back to jim's booth....it was so crowded back there, and lindsey grabbed me and gave me a big hug, and for the first time since our pre-show circle, i started to cry. the post-show performance in the lobby was awesome. julie already talked about it, but i have to add that what touched me the most was when the cast sang my favorite song of all time, "in my life" by the beatles. amy sang through a stream of tears.
after everyone hugged and kissed and cried and filed out of the theatre for the last time and only the staff was left.... lori and julie and i had to clean up. steve braverman and alice had cleared away most of the set, and it was depressing. we packed up as much as we could, and for the last time, lori yelled to everyone, "okay, GET OUT!!!" (a nightly tradition at the theatre) and we went home. on monday night, as lori mentioned, we had to clear out the rest of the equipment. when i saw the set bare, i actually gasped out loud. even the floor boards were gone. i couldn't help but stare at what used to be the tls stage and just get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. to top it all off, we had to clean out the front window display too. when i handed my keys over to jeff levinson, he almost hesitated before he took them. we thanked each other, and lori and i left.
Last Days In Manhattan.There were two defining moments for me in New York."...a very bitter man."
One happened on Monday at the McDonald's on the second floor overlooking Times Square. The last happened after a matinee of "Broadway's FOOTLOOSE Musical" out on the sidewalk.
Monday in Manhattan everyone was drenched in the rain. The sky was barely blue gray when any color radiated from it at all. I was staying in a hellhole called The Edison. Not that I like the Edison but the Polish Tea Room (the diner in the Edison -- not its real name) was our haunt when we had to foot the bill.
I described my room at the Edison as a closet, a cot and a bathroom. The toilet seat wouldn't go all the way up for peeing because the porcelain toilet paper roll holder was put in the wrong place and blocked it. Everything was painted faded institution green. There were no pictures on the walls and the window overlooked an alley and a rooftop. Gray as far as the eye could see.
I had my $4 umbrella which I had purchased the previous day, Sunday, since it was also a rainy day. But today was much worse and I was very frustrated in the first place because I had overslept and taken my Crix an hour late. Not a big deal, really, but it throws off my eating schedule since I can't eat for an hour after taking it.
So I was starving.
Nothing much was open but I knew the McDonald's was open and I felt like something cheap and filling. The wind blew my umbrella inside out and I nearly slipped on some construction set up just east of the Edison.
But I made it in and ordered a sausage biscuit and egg thing, an orange juice and a fried potato hash brown stick. I headed upstairs because the whole front wall of the joint was a big window overlooking Duffy Square and the TKTS booth.
I put down my soaked bag and umbrella and in the corner on the other side of the window my eye caught a young man with a cellphone. I sat at the next table over, facing him and ripped into the hot food and cold orange juice. It was good and crunchy and greasy and filling.
I had just come from writing the diary page about the dream (and cursing the fact that I couldn't get it uploaded), so I was feeling very sentimental and teary. I soon forgot the boy and simply stared out the window, munching mindlessly and thinking how much I'd love to have a show actually on Broadway -- and feeling like an old veteran scouting out the old land, marveling that it was actually a possibility, when suddenly I heard my little friend.
"I just... I just want to leave a picture and a resume."
"No, you don't have to talk to me. I just want to leave a picture and a resume."
Just starting out. He's looking for an agent. Step one is to get them to look at your picture and resume. Most of them won't let you even do that. But there are some offices where there'll be a box where you can put your picture with all the other young hopefuls.
He stopped as they put him on hold and then saw me. I nodded. He smiled embarrassedly. He started.
"Yes! I'll be in the neighborhood this afternoon."
He put his phone down rather sadly and then, caressing his sandwich like a security blanket his gaze wandered down into Times Square with mine. He was suddenly so vulnerable. I started to hear the song "Another Hundred People" going through my head and I don't know if it was because I needed it or because I'm a melodramatic drama queen but I started crying right there in the McDonald's.
Us closing last night. Him starting out today... it was just a supremely tear and rain-soaked moment. I don't forget moments like this anymore. Even in the Bonus Round they are few and far between.
Mandy and Deme scored us some front row tickets to "Broadways's FOOTLOOSE Musical," a show that has been unmercifully skewered by critics but which I wanted to see anyway, at the very least to see the cast and especially Jeremy Kushnier the young star who was robbed of a Tony nomination (my opinion).
Another reason was that this cast did a benefit in DC for youthguard.org created by Jason Hungerford, my young net buddy. And Dean Pitchford who wrote it is an old pal of Jimmy's (and mine).
Once again Mandy and Deme worked their standing in line magic and I was sitting between her and her mom overlooking the orchestra pit in the front row between this gang of teenage girls who were all wearing the same sparkly sunglasses. I was looking over the shoulder of the orchestra conductor. I could see the score he was directing from. He played the keyboard too.
Out front, just before we went in I observed at least a thousand school kids in different buses all lined up and seated in the balcony and the back of the orchestra section.
The kids loved it. They were screaming and applauding in all the right places. They didn't much like the grown-up's songs but they love the kids' songs. All the actors were young and talented and danced up a storm. Jeremy Kushnier was fantastic, as was Dee Hoty as the preacher's wife.
After the show, Mandy and Deme went to the stage door to collect autographs. And it was a mob. They had a police barrier to allow passage from the door down past where the kids were congregated. I stood there for a moment with them until a teenage girl behind said something about being so far away and not getting an autograph. I suddenly felt like a adult who should know better so I slinked down to the end of the police barrier and walked right into five of the ensemble cast members figuring out what they wanted to do between shows.
I introduced myself and one of the guys, a young dancer/singer named Bryant Carroll who plays one of the bad guys, said he had seen The Last Session at the 47th Street Theatre. "It was fantastic," he said. "...and I auditioned for Buddy."
That was over two years ago and I was at all those auditions so as he talked I flipped back through all the faces and names that were brought through Charlie Rosen's office down on 22nd street. And as he spoke, his face became familiar to me and I remembered him. It's a peculiar feeling -- and then I realize that what he just told me was that at one point in our mutual timelines, he wasn't good enough for me.
Well, that's what went through my mind, anyway, and my immediate impulse was to find a way to make it better, not that I actually could, of course. **random thought please ignore**
He tells me he's from Cleveland Ohio and I told him that I was a big star in Ohio now, which got a smile. I told him I loved Ohioans because they remind me of Texans, very sane and down to earth. He agreed with me.
As we stood and talked, I watched various cast members leave the dressing room. Also musicians and stage crew. Some would stop and sign autographs and some weren't asked. The crowd was six deep of girls in pastels, all wanting desperately for an autograph.
Especially Jeremy Kushnier's.
Suddenly the door opened and Jeremy Kushnier leaned out. There was a scream and then a hush as they strained to hear him. I didn't hear what he said but the rumor that reached us was that he was REALLY sorry but had a business meeting. No autographs.
Now, why I do this I don't know, but I leaned over to Bryant, young award-winning know-it-all songwriter that I am and said, "Never not sign autographs."
He said, "He's usually does. Nice guy to work with, too."
I was happy to hear that. I looked over at the crowd and when the reality that Jeremy would not be hanging out hit them, there was a collective sigh and everyone was lost.
Suddenly, one of the girls on the end recognized Bryant as one of the tough guys and she started to palpitate. Then there were four of them breaking from the pack and headed our way.
He smiled and took their books and soon he was surrounded. Of course, I didn't help thing by gesturing and pointing and saying, "He LIKES TO SIGN AUTOGRAPHS!" I hope someone who knows him finds this. Hey Bryant, see? I'm trying to make you famous by talking about you!
Tomorrow I see everyone again. Everyone on the tls list is very sad and very quiet. Lori keeps breaking down and crying. I keep breaking down and crying. I won't drive past the Tiffany. I can't bear to look at it.
THIS WAS AT THE TOP OF MY DIARY PAGE:
-- from a feedback form at a medical conference."...too angry for our children to hear."
-- TV reporter covering my appearance at a Long Island High School
(overheard after he turned off the camera).I'm only putting those quotes up there because people continue to insist that I am some kind of do-gooder. I'm actually a very dangerous man:A local TV reporter, Long Island, New York, was overheard telling his cameraman that he thought I was much too angry for high school kids. The high school "kids" certainly didn't think so as they peppered me with questions and sat dead still while I sang and talked to them..
I'm a songwriter. A sick songwriter with nothing left to lose. *diabolical laughter*
For doctors, I describe what it feels like to be a patient, the good things but also the bad things.And neither did the school officials who, after hearing my assembly concert, offered me a job.BIG ANNOUNCEMENT:
Forgive me if I sound self-serving in all this. I don't deny being self-serving. But I just tell my story -- without sentiment and without any restrictions (while staying age-appropriate, of course). :-)
It threatens people who think others should be shielded from truth. Not that I'm not as full of bull as anyone else on the net. Worse, I'm now in theatre so you have even more reason to doubt anything I say.
End of book one (vol. 2) but more pictures
will be uploaded over the next week.I'm going to San Francisco on the 11th and
will be there for a week. I'm going to be a
chaperone at the gay prom (please don't laugh).On the 13th, Sunday, I'll be a guest on Ken McPherson's
radio show, Hibernia Beach at www.hiberniabeach.com
which is a teen call-in show. The first time I appeared,
they played SAD LADY and we took calls from
teen girls who are cutters. Very intense.
then I will be at Josie's Juice Bar May 20, Sunday,
at 6 & 8.
Don't tell anyone, but Sunday morning the 20th I'll be singing at the Dolores Street Baptist Church starting at 11am. This is an "open and affirming" congregation, which means they accept gay people and do not preach that being gay is a sin. (As opposed to churches that accept gay people without hostility or homophobia even though they think it's a sin, or those that think it's a sin and are hostile to gays but accept divorcees and those who wear two kinds of fabric.)
*whew*Friday-Monday, May 28-31, 1999.
angry, bitter man
End of Sunset Superman.Well, that's it. End of Vol. 2, Book 1 of this diary. I am going to take a tiny break from the diary as I usually do.
By the time I got home from New York last week, I was so tired I could barely see. I think I went directly into the bedroom and crashed. On Saturday, we gathered at a private home and had a beautiful closing night party.
Of course it was beautiful to me because right there in the living room was this gorgeous grand piano, perfectly tuned. No one could drag me off of it the entire night. It's like heroin to a user.
Aunt Michael and Lori and her "staff," Karen and Julie, had a big Mexican food buffet all laid out, the new cast of the LA production of WHEN PIGS FLY joined us along with tons of the regular fans and the cast.
Maisey went to a 99 cent store and bought some plastic keyboards which she gave out a "Maisey Awards." Bob sang a comedy song based on his and Amy's real last names (Cohen), Jeff wasn't there, but both P.M. Howard and Paul Steger were there. It was fun and not at all the weepfest I was expecting.
So, really, there's not much left to do in this book except for a few clean-up items, photos and reports. I'll be adding them over the next few days. I have doctor's appointments (one my regular doctor and the other a specialist who is going to test the neuropathy in my toes).
It was great getting back to the gym yesterday but after that I could barely move, talk or walk. I'm sleeping a lot, enjoying Jimmy and the cats, and working on my new musical. Other than that, life is pretty grand. So, I'll see you in Book 2 if you want to stay connected. If not, thanks for joining in on this ride. It's been a pleasure to have you in my life.CAROL KAPLAN'S REPORT
NEW YORK TOUR MAY 17 - MAY 27
I faced the arrival of Steve Schalchlin with some trepidation on a number of counts. First - I had seen TLS in New York and had been totally bowled over by the power of such an uplifting message floating amidst the agony of illness; second I spent some time with Steve at Locust Valley High School last year, and though I felt a visceral connection, the time was short, and I wasn't sure; third, although the Bonus Round CD in my car had turned ME into a groupie, I had promised many people that having Steve perform for them would be the most amazing experience ever. Would it? Would he know how to talk to sixth graders? Would a sophisticated evening at a country club work as a setting for the emotions of his songs? And how would it be to have a relative "stranger" living in our home?
Trepidation started to melt away as soon as I saw Steve's lanky frame emerge from the plane walkway - he seemed to know where he was headed and that all would be OK. Then we had an evening and a day of constant music - Steve at the piano, my sons Noah, Ethan and Dan on guitars, me and my husband grinning stupidly at the joy of having everyone around,eating, laughing, sharing, caring.
When Steve walked into the concert hall at the club on the 18th, he sat down at the perfectly tuned piano and started to get the feel of the place and its great sound system, and then I KNEW that there was nothing to fear. The audience was filled with 260 supporters of the AIDS Awareness Committee at North Shore University Hospital, doctors, nurses, social workers, secretaries from the Center for AIDS Research & Treatment, Peer AIDS Educators, and our friends and family. They were MESMERIZED. There were laughs and tears - and some people just seemed to be holding their breath throughout. The e-mails, calls and letters about the evening have been overwhelming, and now EVERYONE is listening to the Bonus Round in their cars! And we even raised a lot of money towards the Center's new Outpatient Therapy Suite.
So. OK, Steve is flying and thinking that nothing could be better than the feeling in that room. And then we went to Roslyn High School.
The auditorium in this school is very unusual. It's actually a plush feeling theater - none of the big windows and gray painted floors we usually think of when we picture an auditorium. The theater fills with the WHOLE SCHOOL. There's a hush and Steve begins to play. And talk. And kids begin to ask questions. And cheer. And laugh. And cry. And when it's over they stand and applaud and nobody wants to leave. Some kids stay to give Steve a hug or to talk about how he touched them or about their own issues. And others will write him e-mails or discussion board posts later.
Steve is flying higher - me too - and we're off to Great Neck North High School. This is a campus that looks like a New England College, but the auditorium is that classic one. Not too intimate, I was thinking. Too difficult to really connect in this space. BUT NO. BOOM. Utterly focused attention. Some sniffling. And a forced question and answer session (broken pedal & new piano being brought out by bless him - Roger). These questions are probing and honest. And Steve's clarity and honesty in return only increase the respect and focus in the room. Again, standing ovation, cheers, whistling. And then a comment by Ildi Catuogno, health teacher and leader of the Peer AIDS Program at the School - "These kids are leaving this room today different people from when they walked in." And you could see and feel that that was true. It doesn't get any better than this.
A day off to rest and talk and renew, and eat - always eating - and then to Jericho High School. These students have had many programs about AIDS and HIV, and many of them know someone infected with the virus. So they were ready, they thought, to be a little bit bored. AIDS assembly, AGAIN? And then the magic began again. I CAN ONLY CALL IT MAGICAL, HOW STEVE OPENS HIS HEART AND MIND AND SOUL AND WIPES OUT BIASES WITH HIS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
The students adored him, and again asked amazingly open questions, without embarrassment, and got the candid answers they deserved. The Peer AIDS Educators spent the next two hours following him around, talking, asking, just wanting to be NEAR him! And then Lyndsay and her mom appeared and I had the pleasure of meeting more wonderful people… they drove 2 HOURS just to be there that day.
Last big assembly coming up - now the Junior High School. Some of the administrators who had seen the high school show were a little concerned about age appropriateness - so I told Steve, OK, you can't say "fuck" here. Were they in for a surprise! Steve was TOTALLY appropriate for these 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, but I don't think anyone was prepared for what happened next. These young, beautiful, eager, rapt kids started to ask questions that went deeper, were even more honest, than any before! I could see in Steve's eyes how overwhelmed he was by the outpouring of love and caring and interest, and by the total acceptance they gave him in return for the total acceptance and respect he gave them. I was so lucky to be a part of it.
And then this very COOL and seemingly smart-ass kind of kid asked permission to come up and shake Steve's hand. And he bounded up to the stage, shook his hand and then drew Steve to him and hugged him……WOW. Talk about a singular moment.
Now it's Saturday. The week goes on and gets better and better. Steve's head gets bigger and bigger. This is a Spring Conference for Peer AIDS Educators who have been trained by the North Shore Program. About 150 kids from high school freshmen through those already out of college. It was a very emotional, wonderful day of speakers and skits and workshops, and we were ending the session with Steve. Some people who had heard him earlier in the week came in just to hear him again. And Jess Carey and sister Courtney and Dad had driven all the way from Connecticut to be there too.
We got a little hokey for "Connected" and passed a ball of red yarn around the Little Theater, each person holding a piece and passing the ball around, then the ball came to me, and I tossed it to Steve at the piano. He flung it around his neck (Isadora Duncan style - great gesture) and continued to play as we all raised our arms, connected by the yarn, by the feeling, by the song, to each other. Hokey, but VERY beautiful. Lots of tears. Jewish mother (me) panicking at the thought that if someone stands up, Steve will be strangled, got up and unwound the wool from Steve's neck, laughing and hugging. Next came "When You Care" and Peg was there to sing with Steve. It was so BROADWAY and then everyone was up, hugging and kissing and crying and cheering and finally SINGING along with the chorus, over and over……..
You know, trying to write this reinforces my feelings about the inadequacy of my vocabulary. I can report, describe, but really - YA HADDA BE THERE!!!! When Steve left Sunday for New York and Sam's, I cried all the way home, overwhelmed by the emotion of the week, so sad for him to not be in LA for the closing, reliving each event, each moment. Then my husband said - "Why should he pay to stay in a dive in New York? Tell him to come back here. It's like having another son around." And so he returned, water logged, a bit of a wreck, and slowly healed here again in our home. So many new ideas.
So many new thoughts. The New York Tour was a huge success. Steve reached out and was heard by literally THOUSANDS of kids this trip. My own included. He has asked for a sign on "his" room designating it as his own. And I'm sure he knows that it is there. Any time. And Steve reached me. No more trepidation (seems like a long trip from that opening). I learned from him, I heard the truth from him, I was honest in return, and I felt his love. What a gift -blessing-- I have received.
Same Time Next Year?
END OF VOLUME TWO BOOK ONE
| Diary | First time? | Pictures|
Board | Tour Dates | CD
[ Hannah, Hospice Social Worker ] [ Shawn Decker's positoid.com ]
[ Jimmy's Sunday Sermons ] [ My Lynchburg Diary: Meeting Jerry Falwell ]
© 1996 - 2001 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.