Tuesday, June 26, 2007

From Thespian Heaven... to the Lowest Rung of Celebrity Hell

CELEBRITY HEAVEN......Weekend vacation plans having gone awry, we ended up at Frost Nixon on Broadway, which was a fascinating performance by Tony award winner Frank Langella and Michael Sheen. It is closing this weekend and will be turned into a film by Ron Howard. Alternatively gripping and comic, Langella totally inhabits the persona of the shamed and scorned ex-President. While ultimately not presenting a redemptive Nixon , the play by Peter Morgan manages to find some room for compassion and a fleeting glimpse of the humanity behind the cartoonish mask that history continues to associate with TrickyDick. Michael Sheen explores the character of talk show host David Frost who early on struggled to balance his penchant for lightweight celebrity with the demands for uncovering some semblance of the truth somewhere in the opportunity to interview the former President that that he had engineered.

We lingered after the show and were thrilled to say hello and get autographs from Langella and Sheen, the co-stars, who were very gracious to the gathered fans. Also by the stage door, I said hey to actor Austin Pendeleton who has a long list of film and theatre credits. He mentioned that he had seen the play but was here after the performance "To see Frank" which was cool. Michael Sheen also lingered long and patiently, chatting with the crowd, before disappearing into the night.

AND CELEBRITY HELL: Recently, my son and I visited the National Comic Show at Penn Plaza over the weekend. He is a comic fan, I am more of the occasional graphic novel snob. My favorite comics growing up were Classics Illustrated, and Superman from time to time.

We scouted through the boxes of comics, toys, junk and ephemera for a few hours. We made it to the celebrity area which was a total awakening. Lines of folks ready and willing to plunk down cold, hard, mazuma for an autograph by comic book artists I'd never heard of or one of the other assorted celebs on hand. First to catch my eye was Larry Storch, Corporal Agarn of F Troop fame. He was sitting there in his F trooper hat, looking a bit long in the tooth, reading the NY Post with a publicist nearby. Autographed poster: twenty bucks. If I had a decent camera I would have taken of photo of him and tried to sell it to the Post. But even Larry boy might be not a prime marketing image for them.

Opposite him was Golden Globe winner Paul LeMat. I really wanted to say hello, and how much I enjoyed him in American Grafitti but especially Melvin and Howard, but I could not get over my discomfort with the economic exchange here. I didn't want to pay him for an autograph, but I felt that the point of him being there, besides his appearing on a panel, was to make a few extra bucks pocket change for his effort. Paul was there, chatting with a publicist or comic show aide, totally ignored. I wanted to tell him that he was the most interesting thing about the comic show. But how could I do it and not feel like I needed to fork over money for a poster. I would feel like a shnorrer if I tried to take a photo of him without paying. Paul looked good, but was showing his years (aren't we all) with that dyed reddish hair and leathery tanned skin showing the signs no doubt of a half century of sun-and-surf. My son scoffed at my reluctance. I thought of George Constanza's remark on Seinfeld about paying for sex or parking: why pay when, if you apply yourself a little, with a little effort, you might be able to get it for free?

Anyway, my son thinks like George Costanza and charged over to David Harris, an obsure thespian whose major claim to fame here was his appearance in Walter Hill's version of the Sol Yurik book "The Warriors".

My son charged over and started chatting to him, deftly changing the subject and using non-sequitars to avoid buying the DVDs and posters he was selling. After awhile, an aide came over to assist the actor who was clearly having a hard time closing the sale here with my son, but my son turned on his heel before they could do a used-car salesmen number on him. However, when he came back to me, he comented that the actor hadmade a partially audible but rude remark about his unwillingness to spend any money after the exchange. "That's why you didn't wanna talk to the other guy, right?" My son was hyped up and hopeful because at a prior convention he had gotten autographs from director John Landis, actor Gary Coleman, and Stuart Copeland of the Police for nothing. But here in the lowest rungs of celebrity hell, it was clearly pay to play.

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Current Reading

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