Living in Manhattan’s theater district has its advantages and disadvantages. It had its advantages as walking most anywhere I walked past theaters and often ran into stars. Once I bumped into this old lady and it was Celeste Holm. Fortunately I caught her before she hit the street and apologized and then it hit me who she was and I said I was so sorry. She just smiled and told me I should be more careful (An understatement) My God, this was the star of the original production of “Oklahoma.”
I walked past Coleen Dewhurst and like the fool that I am I burst out “Holy sh–, you are a giant on screen but you’re like five feet tall. My God, you’re a midget.” Instead of being insulted she just laughed that wonderful laugh of hers and give me a wink. Another time it was Andrew McCarty who wasn’t that teen idol anymore but looked like he was pushing thirty and was at least a foot shorter than me. One afternoon I walked past Luv Ullmann and Max Von Sydow involved in an intense conversation. Unfortunately, I couldn’t understand any of it because it was all in Swedish. I saw Peter O’Toole acting out scenes for “My Favorite Year.” Gregory Hines, Mike Nichols, Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Elizabeth McGovern, Duston Hoffman, Warren Beatty; they all passed me on the street and with some I made amusing comments and with others I kept my “cute’ remarks to myself. I even ran in Central Park in the morning and running there with me where Tom Brokaw, Sally Kellerman and Duston Hoffman’s former wife Anne Byrne.
One night I was eating at a steakhouse a few blocks from my apartment and there was Jason Robards Jr. and John Cassavetes sitting at the next table. Instead of saying something stupid, what really interested me was what they were eating. I was happy to discover that Robards was eating exactly what I was eating. I don’t know what that meant, but it did make me smile. Maybe I thought it told me that I had good taste. (Who was kidding who)
Another time I was shopping at a great Vietnamese fruit stand and guess who was next to me; Al Pacino. He had two body guards with him which I thought was strange as not a single celebrity I ever ran into ever had any. What’s more he was wearing lifts in his shoes and, even with lifts, he was still short. Those lifts told me a lot about the man. Richard Gere and I waited an eternity on a corner for the light to change and we both joked about New York City and its crazy street lights. Surprisingly, he was also short but no lifts.
Anyway I lived in a walk-up apartment and, for I think two years, two actresses lived in the apartment below mine and one of them had a leading role in the TV sci-fi show. Both did TV and during the hiatus lived in the city so they could do theater work and when working in L.A. sublet the apartment. This is not uncommon.
Anyway, one time my toilet broke and it took two days to replace it. (I had to go the bathroom in a local restaurant and pee in the sink. Don’t worry I made sure to thoroughly wash the sink when I was done. UGH!) By happenstance the bathroom ceiling to the apartment below, where the actresses lived, was being re-done. Between my missing toilet and the re-done ceiling, the workers left a big hole in the floor and, if I was so inclined, I could look down and see the toilet in the apartment below. Since I was not your neighborhood pervert I put a bath towel over the hole although when in my bathroom I did hear what was happening in the bathroom below which included the toilet being flushed and someone taking a shower.
This brings me to the evening I was looking at a segment of the original BABYLON5. I never liked the show but there was nothing on so it was a case of “least objectionable programing.” But during a commercial I had to do a number 1. So there I was at the sink and I noticed the towel wasn’t there; apparently it fell through the hole. So, finished doing my business, I glance down to see if it was hanging there and I could get it to re-cover the hole. No towel but what I did see was the Sci-fi actress sitting on the toilet. I have to tell you this was extremely embarrassing and I was so shocked that it took me a whole second to realize what I was seeing. It was like “OH MY GOD!” It took me another second before I stifled a shout and finally turned away. This time I got a blanket to cover the hole until the toilet was replaced. And as far as I was concerned it was not too soon. When my toilet was finally replaced privacy was restored for both my apartment and theirs.
Why I tell you this story is that the poor actress on the toilet whose private moment was made not so private by her idiot neighbor upstairs had a lead on BABYLON5. In fact, I had just seen her on TV before it went to commercial. And now, in real life during a commercial of all times, there she was on the toilet below me.
Of course the next time I ran into the woman on the stairs I told her what had happened and apologized. She told me that she had wondered where that towel came from and when I told her about the blanket we both laughed. At least she didn’t call the police on me. Could you just see the head line:
BABYLON-FIVE STAR STALKED BY APARTMENT PERVERT.
But what is strange is that when I went back to the TV I was looking at the show again and getting into the whole fantasy aspect of it; really losing myself to it. It wasn’t that I was believing it as much as I was caught up in the fantasy/reality that the show was creating. Then there was the actress doing her thing and I’m not only accepting it but also believing that she is this weird alien. Then, I have a suddenly epiphany and say to myself:
“Wait a minute, that woman lives in the apartment below mine. I’ve seen her carrying her groceries. I saw her on the toilet and even heard her flushing it. I heard her take showers. Fantasy bullshit.”
I have to tell you the fantasy of that show went right out the window. I now looked at the show as B.S. ‘make believe’ that had nothing to do with real life. (Like it ever did.) Real life was that toilet beneath the hole. From then on whenever I looked at these fantasy shows on TV for years to come (GAME OF THRONES excepted) I just could never get into the fantasy of it. The acting, the story but the fantasy; FORGETABOUTIT.
The spell was broken it was almost as if I had been watching a play and, for a time, believing what was happening on the stage was real. Then, suddenly, I noticed the proscenium and never again could I look at what was happening on the stage in quite the same way. From that point on whenever I got into discussion about fantasy film, I would blurt out, “If you want a look at reality, take a look around you. Reality is reality and fantasy is fantasy and the two have absolutely no relation to the other and that’s all there is to it.” To me it was just a bunch of actors pretending to be these magical characters.
And why did this change in perspective occur; an actress and my broken toilet. I mean when you see one of them going to the bathroom I have to tell you, it just changes one’s perspectives. As the saying goes; life (or is it fantasy) is crazier than shot.”