Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Going to the theater with Jackie Kennedy

With the Jackie Kennedy movie out this Oscar (I mean “holiday”) season, I am reminded of the time she and I went to the theater together.

Okay, pick yourself off the floor.

We didn’t go together in the sense of “arrive” together, but we did sit together.

You’re still not buying it, but it’s true.

Backstory: Larry Gelbart had a play on Broadway called SLY FOX. (Needless to say it was hilarious.) My wife and I were in New York and Larry arranged for us to have his house seats.

We sit down, third row center, settle in and I glance to my left. Holy shit! It’s Jackie.  In the seat right next to me. 

During intermission I decide to get up and go to the lobby. As I pass by her I rub up against her knees (which were bony by the way).  Okay, that was a dorky thing to do, but that was my brush with greatness.

The next day I called Larry and thanked him for the tickets. I mentioned that Jackie O. sat right next to me. He got very excited. “Did she laugh? What did she laugh at?” I said, “Yes, and hey, you never asked whether my wife and I liked the show.” He apologized, asked us, then wondered if I could remember any specific lines Jackie laughed at.

I’d like to say that’s my favorite Jackie/theater story, but it’s not. Supposedly she was at a theater and bumped into Stephen Sondheim. She asked what he was working on. He had to really hedge. How do you tell Jackie Kennedy you’re working on a musical called ASSASSINS?

From what I hear, the movie JACKIE is supposed to be great and Natalie Portman is amazing in it. I’m sure I’ll see it (although probably not in Maui). I’m curious as to whether they got the bony knees thing right.

18 comments :

Mike Barer said...

That reminds me of the time, my wife, mother-in-law, and I went to a movie (Chicago) and Bill Gates was sitting in the row in front of us. It was right about the time that Microsoft stock was flying high. To be that close to someone who had that much influence was kind of mind racking.

Bud Wilkinson said...

Can't top that, although I did once have Jon Lovitz sitting next to me at a "Cheers" taping.

Steve Bailey said...

Ken: Here's MY going-to-the-theater story. In 1990, my wife and I attended a Broadway performance of "City of Angels," book by (as I'm sure you know) Larry Gelbart, whose writing I admire as much as you do. At intermission, I went to the restroom while my wife went to the bar for a drink. Later at the Russian Tea Room, while we were waiting for dinner to come, my wife was thumbing through the play's program. Suddenly she said, "Hey, this guy was talking to me during intermission. He asked how I liked the show." I stared in shock as my wife pointed to a photo of Larry Gelbart.

blinky said...

No way I am ever going to see that movie. Why relive the horrible death of a dream in 4K slo-mo? America has been sliding down toward the end ever since that day in Dallas on November 22, 1963. We are living the final nightmare right now.
Happy Holidays!

Bill said...

Hi Ken, how about a list of what you thought were the best movies of this year?

Are you going to watch any movies screened for members during Oscar season? You do get DVDs right?

Tim G said...

It wasn't at a show or a movie. But I was on my way to a movie when Princess Diana waved at me. And me alone.

One August day in 1996, I was walking from work to the early evening showing of a movie I can't recall at the Esquire on Oak Street in Chicago. I was irritated because even though it was my own fault for walking I was running late. I walked fast and it took me some time to realize that here it was rush hour and Michigan Avenue was eerily empty. Or at least not filled like usual. A cop was directing a lone cab to turn off Michigan onto a side street. No cars, no pedestrians. I was walking alone on Michigan Avenue at the busiest time of day. It was like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

I was still irritated because I hate to miss movie start times.

Several blocks ahead at the corner of Oak and Michigan, I heard a crowd roar. Crap, I thought just as i am getting closer I'll have to fight a crowd.

Then I realized that Princess Diana was in town for a breast cancer awareness fundraiser at the Field Museum. The crowd was roaring because her sedan had just turned from Oak onto Michigan as she apparently stayed at The Drake.

I watched as a squad car turned onto Michigan, followed by a sedan (I suck at recognizing cars...a 4-year-old who likes engines knows more than I do), which was also followed by a squad car.

In what seemed slow motion, I watched as the car carrying Princess Diana headed south. She was going to pass me. The cars approached, and Diana in the back seat was turned as she finished waving to people on Oak. As she turned to face front our eyes met and I impulsively waved about as smoothly as Gomer Pyle. She waved right to me and was gone.

I went to the movie in a daze.

I joked with friends that I'd search the personal ads. She was newly divorced from Charles and I was going to look for "SWP looking for solitary dork."

A year later, well....

Buttermilk Sky said...

At a concert in Avery Fisher Hall or whatever it was called that year, I sat behind a small woman with aggressively red hair. When she got up at intermission I saw that it was Lotte Lenya. (She wore a pantsuit, so I can't comment on her knees.) The man next to me asked, "Weren't you in 'Thunderball?'" Since we were there for the New York premiere of a Kurt Weill composition, I thought he could have come up with a better cultural reference, but she graciously signed his program.

Cap'n Bob said...

Joe Garagiola peed at the second urinal from mine (proper urinal etiquette) in 1968 when I was at Rockefeller Center. Top that!

Earl Boebert said...

I was shoved out of the Hertz line at Washington National Airport by Dan Rather. October 21, 1973 (I had to look it up), the day after the infamous Saturday Night Massacre during Watergate. He must have been in a hurry to get somewhere :-)

Anonymous said...

Went to see a show at the Dorothy Chandler. My wife made the reservations by phone and we picked up the tickets at Will Call. Much to my amazement we were led to front row, just of center seats. I was with CBS at the time so I thought I must have some pull. Soon a couple sat next to us and pulled out note pads just before the play started and started taking notes. A short time later, Leonard Bernstein comes in and sits directly behind the couple and greets them. Turns out it was Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the plays authors, setting next to us and we were in Leonard's seats. Same last name. Nobody said anything to us.

VP81955 said...

Saw Barry Goldwater leaving a Frank Sinatra concert at the Kennedy Center in 1983. (My mother and I sat in the front row of one of the balconies, and throughout the show the audience in the orchestra kept turning to look up towards us, and I told mom, "They must really like that dress you're wearing!" Of course, they actually were looking at Ronald and Nancy Reagan, seated in the balcony directly above us.)

Elizabeth Johns said...

sorry if I keep posting this I keep getting error messages
Hi Ken,
I've been reading your blog, for a couple of years, but this is my first time leaving a comment ( I almost left one after your election post, but I'm incredibly shy and don't even like communicating on the internet). I actually have a very recent theater-related story to relate (involving someone you'll recognize). This past week my 76 year old mother and I were able to spend some time in New York (we live in the Deep South and our circumstances don't allow us to travel much so this was a very special opportunity), and we were able to attend the play "A Life" starring David Hyde Pierce. We both loved it, and afterward were waiting with a handful of others to maybe greet said star ( well, I was waiting -my mother had never heard of DHP (she watches very few TV shows or movies); she kept forgetting his name too, but finally recalled it as "Daniel Hyde Pierce").
I was going through my purse for a marker, when my mother looked at my left hand (which had previously been in my coat pocket) and said in a horrified voice, "What happened?!". I looked down at my hand and saw that it was covered in blood. Now I don't usually get faint from the sight of blood, but I also usually feel it when I injure myself, whereas in this case I just looked down to see a lot of blood with no initial idea where it was even coming from ( closer inspection revealed a tiny cut in the skin a little below the fingernail on my index finger; I probably cut it on a zipper or something without noticing), so my panic level shot up 4 or 5 levels. Right about then David walked out, and for the first time in my life I saw someone I'd seen on film in real life ( yeah, I know I saw him during the play, but that's still not "real life") and my mind underwent a nuclear panic explosion.
Honestly, the rest is bit of a blur. I started frantically wiping away blood with kleenex from my pocket, and located and attempted to put pressure on the cut, but I had promised a girl next to me that I would take her picture with David, and she handed me her phone, which I was trying to operate with the clean hand, and I was terrified that I would ruin her photo, and then that reminded me to try and get my phone out, but it wouldnt turn on, and suddenly he was talking to me, and the girl was offering to take my photo, and handed me her marker because I kept dropping mine- I was about to completely lose it. I had been hiding my hand, but finally lifted it up and tried to apologize for my state. David was extremely polite and actually asked one of the theater employees to get me a band aid as well as having me sit down while the girl somehow got my phone working and took a photo ( When I looked at it later I burst out laughing- the expression on my face is one of absolute blank shock). My mother then tried to help me get the band aid on my finger.
Needless to say, I was mortified, though my mother found it funny (once she saw that I wasn't really hurt; she was quite worried earlier when I was shaking uncontrollably). Our travel plans had changed around a lot during the planning, so we had tickets to the show the next day as well in case we were busy the first day, and since we had enjoyed the play we decided to cancel our other stuff and see it again, though I had NO intention of sticking around after that show. We were sitting further back this time, and right before it started I saw a man take a seat on the end of the row above me who seemed familiar. I remembered I had seen him talking to a bunch of people after the play the previous day, and then I suddenly realized that I had also seen his photo in the program; he was the playwright. I instantly became so nervous that I was incapable of laughing for most of the play, and I stared over at him so many times that I'm sure he noticed. I suppose I'm just a hopeless dork.

Elizabeth Johns said...

It's me again, the girl with the injured finger. My comment was getting way too large and I'm still burning with embarrassment. Though I have to admit, looking back, it does look more and more hilarious. I do still have one nagging, real regret though- that I didn't say "thank you" to David. I didn't watch "Frasier" until only a few years ago ( it was entirely off my radar), but as I progressed through the series I realized that I had seen bits and pieces of various episodes over the years, though they had been far enough apart that I had never recognized any character or realized that they were from the same show. Sometimes they intersected points of tragedy in my life, such as being that thing playing in the background in some hospital while I sobbed, something barely noticed at the time but still remembered. I discovered it seemed to be randomly present at a lot of dark times, though often too, it wound up being connected to a memory neither happy nor sad, just a moment in time that had disappeared until seeing it again brought it back. I was going through a rough patch at the time, and somehow the show allowed me to reconnect with the past in such a powerful way that I could finally cope with it. Oh, and I enjoyed the show too. However, it remains forever associated in my mind with death, thus making seeing David in this particular play oddly fitting. Actually, after I went online and checked out those sites that list the full works of actors, I realized that I had seen quite a few of those things as well without ever realizing it was the same person( One silly example: I had seen "A Bug's Life", and found myself laughing a lot at the delivery and tone of the stick bug. While I was curious to attach a face to the voice, I deliberately didn't look at the credits, because I thought the guy had a "cute" voice, and I figured that he couldn't possibly look as good as his voice sounded, so why be disappointed? I clearly needed therapy, then and now) Of course, I didn't say any of this to him, I just kept talking about the blood on my hand. Though I know he has certainly heard from many, many people about how his work has affected them, I just wish I could have said it too, for my sake mostly. As it stands all I think I said to him was ( to paraphrase), "Sorry, about all the blood".
Yes, that's definitely why I worked up the courage to write this. If you would, could you forward this to him or something? If you don't want to, I don't mind at all, I know you're not a fan mail forwarding service. Please delete this request from your mind, and honestly, delete this entire comment as well if I've crossed a line or gotten too personal. I completely understand if it's an inappropriate request. Like I said, I'm a hopeless dork. I obviously don't know him at all, and I don't want my words to wind up being a burden or annoying. I don't need to hear a "you're welcome", I just wish I hadn't missed my one chance to SAY thanks, and it will bug me if I didn't at least try again. Anyway, thank you for listening to my long story.

Louis Burklow said...

My best celebrity sighting was the night I volunteered to be an usher at the L.A. Shakespeare Festival reading of "The Comedy of Errors" at the Geffen Theater in Westwood. Stars performing included Tom Hanks, Jack Lemmon, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner and Tracy Ullman, among others. After the show I got to be just a fan and jumped in the line to speak with Tom Hanks. I told him that thanks to "Forrest Gump," people had been asking me to say the "life is like a box of chocolates" line for years (seems no one in L.A. had met a Southerner before me). He politely laughed so I didn't feel like too much of a dork. Then, a few minutes later, I noticed Jack Lemmon, standing alone and looking around for someone. He saw me looking at him... and I froze. Wish I'd had something clever to ask about Billy Wilder or Walter Matthau.

I also can say I saw a U.S. president in person twice. Jimmy Carter happened to be at the 1982 Knoxville World's Fair the same day my family went; he passed near us (a big path having been cleared out by his Secret Service detail, so he wasn't all that close). In 2001, he signed a copy of one of his books for me at the Westwood Borders.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

On another topic...Ken, I thought you might find this piece from Variety interesting: https://variety.com/2016/tv/features/rape-tv-television-sweet-vicious-jessica-jones-game-of-thrones-1201934910/

It discusses the use of rape for shock-value in TV dramas and the frequency with which the rape is shown as happening more to the men in the series than to the women who are the actual victims. I was pretty startled by the statistic given by one showrunner, that out of 200 scripts he read for this staffing season, 30-40 had such scenes in them.

wg

Richard said...

Several years ago Ted Turner was next to me washing his hands in the men's room at McCormick Place in Chicago.

I also once saw Tony Randall talking with fans in an alley outside a Broadway theatre follow a performance. He seemed extremely nice.

Also saw David Letterman signing autographs outside his studio

Richard said...

Speaking of the Kennedys, I used to live across the street from William Kennedy Smith in Chicago. My only encounter was to pass him walking his dog.

Carson Lee said...

Summer 1976 spotted Pat Paulson in Conrad Hilton gift shop, Chicago. I followed him into an elevator. Because he was so funny! ?? We each pressed a button for a floor ... as we rose, I said, You're Pat Paulson! Two or three times. The elevator stopped, door slid open, and as I was still identifying him, to him, he gently interrupted me, saying kindly, "You're going to miss your floor..."