Saturday, October 10, 2015

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.

This is a repost from before there was electricity. 

14 comments:

normadesmond said...

so, was ben franklin the audience?

canda said...

It is part of the show business fabric, isn't it, to pretend you like everybody and what they do? It seems like no one wants to be unpleasant or rude, for fear that the nobody you're talking to may one day became another Spielberg or DiCaprio.

I don't blame you for the interaction, but if you had simply said, "I'm sorry, I bet you thought someone you knew got these seats", I think Hirsch would have been relieved and laughed, and admitted you were right. This might have led to a fun conversation and you might be good friends today. Of course, Judd Hirsch isn't necessarily someone you may want to be friends with.

Naturally, Hirsch could have also admitted he thought you were someone else. Mel Brooks would probably have said, "Who the hell are you? You don't look like___________!" You and your wife would have laughed, and had a great visit.

Unknown said...

He probably just called you back to tell you what a huge fan of Bioshock he is...

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

"Unknown!" VERY funny comment. :)

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

OK: Saturday morning. Time for ESPN's College Game Day. If you've never watched it, I apologize, but if you have don't you feel that Coach Lee Corso could be the twin brother of Coach Ernie Pantuso on Cheers? I keep waiting for Coach Corso to make his game day picks singing, "Albania."

ScottyB said...

Nothing relevant to today's blog post, just a Friday Question on a totally different something else for @KenLevine: The vast body of your work is on adult sitcoms, but since you also know people in the business, how do directors/whoever deal with sitcoms with veryvery young children in the cast who have to say a line (or several, if they're overly precocious) or do something? I'm talking about kids in the 2-3 years old range.

Do the cameras stop, kids get prompted, and then cameras then roll again seconds later while they still have an attention span? Something else? I've just always been curious about this from everything from 'Full House' to 'Everybody Loves Raymond'.

Radman said...

The fact that you were both uncomfortable probably says a lot about the character of each...

Peter said...

This sort of thing seems to happen to you a lot. I loved your story about Mike Medavoy waving at you and that you were certain he'd mistaken you for someone else because you've never met him, so to avoid awkwardness you waved back and carried on your way.

But what if one day you bump into him and he says "Ken, why'd you ignore me? I love your work and was gonna offer you a script deal"?

DwWashburn said...

I've heard so many bad stories about Hirsch. Thanks for adding to it.

John in Ohio said...

@dwwashburn. How is that a bad story about Hirsch? It reflects on Ken the same, which is to say a decent person in a town that needs more of them
Props to @radman

Rick said...

Did you read today's post on Mark Evanier's site? This sounds like something that belongs in a Seinfeld episode: "And remember the problems I had with Apria keeping me on hold? It was worse with the CVS Pharmacy that's supposed to be filling a prescription for me. Yesterday, I wound up calling the CVS corporate headquarters to complain there and I made my way up the food chain to a gent with a very impressive-sounding title. He promised he would contact my local CVS and have someone there call me, apologize for the absurdly-long hold time and discuss my prescription with me. Half an hour later, he called me back and admitted that even he couldn't get through to them."

Barry Traylor said...

Now that is funny.

Anonymous said...

My wife bought tickets to a preview of a big Musical at the Dorothy Chandler by phone. We picked up our tickets at will-call and were escorted to the very first row, center, of the theatre. I was working for CBS at the time and thought, well, someone must know me. Setting next to us were a man and women, with note pads, Betty Comden and Adolph Greene, writers of the show. A short time later a very famous writer, conductor, etc., with the same last name as mine (and a nice young man), shows up behind us and engages in long conversations with Comden and Greene,all very friendly. I then know the great seats were not a CBS connection. Just a famous last name. No one asked any questions, especially me.

diego said...

this story reminds me of an episode of "the larry sanders show." season 1, episode 2: the promise. david spade is having his pre-interview at the talent booker's desk and larry pops over and has a chummy moment with spade and tells him to stop by his office before he leaves. then, when spade actually does come to larry's office, neither one has anything to say to the other. and the scene is interminably long and awkward, to great comedic effect.