Unsurprisingly, many actors and "personalities" like that kind of thing. They don't mind you going a bit nuts. In the current social media climate where people go wild for "likes" and retweets my brand of hysteria might even be considered desirable. But back in the day it wasn't cool. I was not a cool kid.
Flashback to the fall of 1999. Two young graduate students in costume design (myself and my friend Heather) are let loose in New York City for an evening of theatre. Somehow I had made it into a master's program for theatre arts and technology without ever seeing a show on Broadway. A trip we took to NYC to source costumes for the University of Alabama's production of Sweeney Todd was my first (and to my continuing dismay, only) experience there and I was determined to make the most of it. We had already seen The Lion King and had Ragtime and Titanic on the agenda but on this evening we were standing outside of the stage doors of the Minskoff Theatre after seeing a completely revamped production of The Scarlet Pimpernel.
I was unfamiliar with the show at the time, although Heather had already seen it in its first incarnation and was completely smitten with Douglas Sills, the handsome leading man who played Percy. We met him and he was absolutely lovely, staying to talk to us about the costumes and how he felt the time period wasn't a very exciting time for men's trousers since he felt they made him look "wide and lumpy". He answered questions and signed our programs and even told us the name of the bar he and his friends were headed to if we wanted to head over after (sadly we couldn't take him up on the offer for reasons I don't quite remember).
Since I didn't really know who he was I told him that I thought he had a wonderful voice and that the show was going to always be in my memory because it was my first time in New York and he said he was delighted that we came on a night when the show was in fairly good shape. He was honest about the changes in the script and cast being a little overwhelming and said that many of the costumes weren't completely trimmed and finished. The programs we purchased were brand new and none of the actors had seen them yet so as he flipped through it he was almost as excited to see the production shots as we were.
Suddenly the reason I wanted to see the show stepped out of the stage door. Rex Smith was there, in front of me. On the outside I thought I appeared calm, but in reality I went completely bonkers.
In case you don't know who he is, Rex Smith was one of the stars of the Linda Ronstadt movie version of Pirates of Penzance. He had played the role of Frederick on Broadway and reprised it in the movie. Throughout the late seventies he had a few soft rock hits including 1978's "You Take My Breath Away" and he was also the star of the television show Street Hawk which was basically Knight Rider on a motorcycle. I adored him and had a complete and unwavering crush on him up until the night I actually met him.
It turns out Rex Smith was kind of a douche.
I may have been the reason for his douchiness, but I think it was unwarranted.
Here is the basic gist of the meeting.
Me: Oh my god. I love you. I love you like so much. When I was a little girl I asked my mom to buy us a VCR so I could tape Pirates of Penzance off HBO and she was like "what do you think we're made out of money?" but even so I watched it every time it came on. Every single time. I even got to be in a production of the show and it is the reason I caught the acting bug and also why I started making clothes because they hired me to work in the costume shop the summer I did that show. I am positive I have seen every single episode of Street Hawk ever and I especially loved that one where they fitted you for your suit and you had to stand in that tube as it filled up with foam and I wondered if it was cold, but you were such a good actor I couldn't even tell if it was cold because I'm sure you were acting like it wasn't and I still have a copy of "You Take My Breath Away on vinyl and my sister wanted to take the plastic wrap off but I said no because I wanted it to stay nice forever and I loved the way your hands were pressed up against it, no wait I think that was the Shawn Cassidy Under Wraps album but anyway I like how feathery your hair was then even though it isn't anymore and you did such a wonderful job tonight in the show and..."
Rex: Um. Whoa. You really need to get a life.
Rex: This is a new program. (He talks loud and slow) You're going to be the very first girl to have my autograph on this new program. Aren't you excited? No wait. I know you are. You told me. At length. (He turns behind him and plucks a silver paint pen out of the hands of a fan because he had just seen Douglas Sills sign with it) I need a pen like this because it looks like the only great picture of me has a dark background of course. I think I'll keep this. You don't mind if I keep this?
Girl with no pen: Actually I just bought that for autographs and I'd like it back.
Rex: Okay, of course, don't get upset I'll sign everyone's book. (He hands me my book) Don't get that all smeared!
Me: I'm a costume design graduate student. This is my first time in New York. I wanted to meet you because....
Rex: You've seen allllll my shows, yes yes when you were a kid. You make me feel old. You couldn't have been that little of a kid. I'm not that old. Okay. We're done alright. Bye bye.
Then he signed a couple more books and walked over to his wife (who was unbelievably gorgeous) and took the pen with him. Girl with no pen was pissed. He said "Come see the show again!" and they scooted off into a car.
|The autograph presented in stunning silver ink, courtesy of Girl with no pen.|
I wanted to die. Not because I had met Rex Smith or even because I was embarrassed I had just told him one of my "real time" life stories. I wanted to die because he said he thought I needed to get a life. I poured out my heart and all he could do was dismissively make fun of me.
Not cool Rex. Not cool.
As I get older I think I may have jumped the shark at the Shawn Cassidy reference. Probably before, but I had really really enjoyed his work and career to that point and couldn't stop myself. It is possible that he is a wonderful, warm and caring individual who had a bit of a rough night acclimating to a new show and he wasn't prepared for the praise I was throwing at him. It's very possible. But I kinda think he could have handled it better, and he could've not been a pen thief.
That part was super not cool.
If I ever meet one of the people I really passionately hero worship I will probably go down like a sinking ship. I'm gonna go nuts. Stephen King and Billy Joel consider this fair warning.
Speaking of, I just got the new Billy Joel biography yesterday and I've already discovered part of the story behind one of my favorite songs "Why, Judy Why?" and tomorrow I am going to buy my copy of Stephen King's new novel Revival and get lost in his world of terror. I hope that one day I can meet these guys and I hope even more that they both live up to my expectations and they aren't afraid of my personal brand of nuttiness laced with adoration.
SERIOUSLY!!! I WAS JUST ABOUT TO HIT PUBLISH ON THIS POST AND GEOFFREY ZAKARIAN THANKED ME FOR MY BOOK REVIEW ON TWITTER!!!!
Woohoo!! Look at it ----> @gzchef's tweet. Talk about being startstruck!
I am hyperventilating a little bit. If I ever meet you in real life Mr. Zakarian I might tackle you with a hug!