Monday, August 29, 2011

One of those truly uncomfortable moments in life

From time to time, folks in show business try to use contacts to get house seats for various plays and musicals. Some participants of a production – like playwright, director, actors – are entitled to a certain number of house seats for each performance and often they don’t use them. So through agents, casting directors, friends, or on those rare occasions, actually knowing the participants yourself, you can sometimes score their house seats.

A number of years ago at the Huntington Hartford Theatre in Los Angeles there was a new play by Herb Gardner starring Judd Hirsch that my wife and I wanted to see. In this case, I did not know anyone. I had met Judd on a couple of occasions when I was on CHEERS and he was still doing TAXI on the same lot. But those were only momentary “Nice to meet you” encounters. Still, through the casting director of the show I was working on at the time I got Judd's house seats.

We go to the theatre, they’re great seats, and about ten minutes before the performance Judd’s assistant approaches and says Judd would like us to come back to his dressing room after the show. Okay. That’s a little strange. Often as a courtesy, you will go backstage to thank the person for the seats or just leave him a note acknowledging your gratitude. It’s a little odd to be summoned.

All through the play I’m wondering – what does he want? Does he have an idea for a show he wants to pitch? Is he just a big fan of my shows? Does he want to go out with my wife?

After the show the assistant reappears and escorts us backstage to Judd’s dressing room. And here’s where it gets weird.

We walk in and immediately, by the look on his face, it’s clear he doesn’t know me from Adam. He must’ve thought I was somebody else -- someone that he did know. But of course he doesn’t want to be rude so he pretends that he does know us. At which point we don't want to embarrass him by saying he doesn't know us so we pretend that we know him as well.

So now the three of us engage in the most excruciatingly awkward conversation ever. I don’t recall what we talked about. I just remember a whole lot of pauses. All the while I kept hoping the assistant would pop her head in and say there were other well-wishers or the theatre was fire. Nothing. There was no escape.

After what seems like an hour (it was probably ten minutes) we go to the babysitter card and gracefully make our exit.  Moments later our car screams out of the parking lot. 

The next day the casting director who arranged for the tickets said Judd called her and asked, “Who the hell was that?” Then, when she told him, he said, “Oh. Glad he stopped by.”

The next time I’m just buying tickets.

25 comments:

Alan Tomlinson said...

Thank you. My life sometimes feels like that moment. I appreciate the perspective and the comic relief.

Molto grazie,

Alan Tomlinson

Emmett Flatus said...

I am really enjoying Hirsch's work on Damages on DirecTV.

notworthreading said...

This is s rerun. You told this same story back in November.

Chad said...

If this was a rerun, thanks for rerunning it. I check this blog often but somehow missed this and enjoyed reading it.

Anonymous said...

So notworthreading, you want your money back?

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

Usually, I can't stand uncomfortable moments like those. If it were me, I'd be looking for a shotgun to put me out of my misery for good.

MikeBo said...

I'll bet that was not the first time that happened to him, or to others who have house seats. It was definitely an ad lib situation that didn't go well. Your story, as usual, is nicely told.

Corey said...

Had something like that happen to me. I was 16, on vacation with my mom & dad @ a Lake Tahoe hotel. Tony Bennett was the headliner. We were at the beach when Tony just walks up to say hi. (He thought he knew dad). Dad sized the situation immeadiately & had a nice chat w/Tony... That is until mom saw who dad was talking to and proceded to go all "I'm your biggest fan" on him. He quickly realized his error, turned tail and got the hell away.

chalmers said...

That’s one for the Awkward Hall of Fame. Maybe you have a solution for my dreaded pit of social awkwardness:

You’re in a supermarket and happen upon a friendly acquaintance you haven’t seen in a while. You greet each other warmly, spend a few minutes doing catchup, and then part, perhaps with a vague promise of getting together in the future.

Then, two aisles later, you encounter the same person again. You can’t ignore them, but there’s nothing left to say, so you’re left with a sheepish smile and a semi-coherent “heeeeyyyyy” as you walk by.

When I tell people I’m not on Facebook, they assume it’s due to some stand on privacy or something, but to me, the whole enterprise seems like a supermarket where you repeatedly bump into everyone you know, and from which there is no escape.

RCP said...

Except for the peeling out of the parking lot part, you handled this rather graciously. I'm afraid I would have been reduced to a Chris Farley routine: "Remember when Latka lost the lottery ticket? Man that was funny......Remember when..."

normadesmond said...

good story, but it would've been better if judd would've been honest...

Mary Stella said...

Leave it to you to turn an awkward moment into a great story. Did you ever use something like that in a script?

Miffy said...

Re: rerun - I hadn't read this before, so it was new to me!

Frank said...

Sounds like it could have been a subplot right out of Taxi.

Anonymous said...

Had a similar experience. My wife ordered, by phone, tickets to a preview show at the Ahmenson. We picked up our tickets at will call and got to our seats in the very front row, just off center. Wow, how great is that. Soon another couple took the seats next to us an pulled out note books and pencils. They're Betty Comden and Adolph Green. A short time later a guy leans over them to say hello, from the row in back and it's Leonard Bernstein. Same last name as mine. I was too embarrassed to say a word.

cshel said...

Although this was a funny story, Ken, I think you've been writing sitcoms too long.

Had it been me, as soon as I saw the look on his face, I would have let him off the hook, admitted he didn't know me, explained the ticket situation, had a laugh about it, thanked him, told him he was fabulous in the play, and left before it got really awkward.

Or at least you could have gone all the way to the other extreme by pretending you thought you were having dinner with him after the show, insist on taking him out, and then boring him with stories about your life, as if he would care, then when the truth was revealed you would both laugh and laugh, Judd would have learned a valuable life lesson about honesty, and your post would be even longer. : )

Wendy M. Grossman said...

At least *you* remembered *him*. I'm always meeting people who clearly know me and being reduced to saying, "Who *are* you?" with my best apologetic smile.

Sometimes they resent this procedure.

wg

JdJdJd said...

Actually, the first thought I had when reading this is what a truly nice guy Judd Hirsch must be.

Either he just assumed it was someone he knew in those seats and wanted to make sure he said hello, or he was expecting someone else.

Whatever it was, it was nice of him to make the effort to say hello to people he thought of as his guests.

HogsAteMySister said...

Over the years,I have found "free" tickets invariably have the highest cost, normally in humiliation. Especially when my musician son is involved.

Kirk said...

The conversation may have been awkward, but for a second there, I was expecting you to say that Judd Hirsch was going to kick you out of your seats because some friends or relatives of his suddenly decided to see the show. Instead, Judd turns out to be a nice guy. I've him in whatever he's appeared in, be it Taxi or Ordinary People. I even thought he was OK playing Dracula in an otherwise cornball Halloween special in the 1970s

Kirk said...

That should be "I've liked him in whatever he's appeared in"

lucifervandross said...

I am so glad other people remembered you telling this because I thought I was going nuts.

Paul Duca said...

If you search YouTube, you can find a commercial for Listerine where Judd portrays a disc jockey.

Mike Barer said...

A fun story.

Sebastian said...

I'm so glad I don't have a problem getting tickets for a play in LA via connections I have.

Because I don't live in LA and I don't have connections :-D

Let me quote @nerdist

"Fiiiirst woooorld proooobleeeems".