As an usher at Shakespeare in the Park, I have the privilege of watching the show every single night. This activity is actually the majority of my job. I’m paid to tell a couple people where the bathroom is and watch a show. To date, I have seen this Shakespearean tragedy 18 times. These have all been “previews” which is very specifically theater lingo that pretty much means the play hasn’t been reviewed yet and the company wants to make opening night a huge deal.
Finally after those 18 shows it’s opening night, no more previews, the “gala” performance. And you can be sure they’re making it as big a deal as possible. I’ve agreed to work “extra security”, thinking it’ll be an experience for sure. I show up at 4pm, dozens of tables have been set up outside the theatre, caterers are running around filling glasses with water and mixing drinks, people in pretty party clothes are not allowed in yet but you can see some milling about already. I’m given a 2XXL black SECURITY shirt and told to “make it work”. Which is harder than a Project Runway challenge considering my budget is ummm $0.00 and it has to be completed ummm NOW, I don’t even get a pair of scissors or a safety pin, oh and it must be tucked into khaki pants. For a red carpet event (no joke, I watched them set it up.) Needless to say, I will not be looking fabulous for this portion of the evening. Balls. I tuck my dress-of-a-shirt in and can at least be amused. The armpits fall down to my waist.
My security station is next to a bar. Not the bar, a bar, there are three others. Sky Vodka, wine, cocktails, bar tenders doing their thing. It’s all under my security. Hells yes. There’s a promo for a new cocktail, and the beverage obviously sponsoring the night. “Tava” is a new brand of sparkling no calorie fruit drink. I drank quite a fucking few as they were all over the theater and I can report it’s a pretty decent drink. And they make for good cocktails. “Tavatinis.” I overhear someone say, “Come here my little Tavatini” and almost die. Clearly all real New Yorkers quote/reference Sex and the City on a daily basis. Hells yes exclamation point.
Unfortunately, security guards are not supposed to almost die due to funny things patrons say, or really laugh ever. Well fuck that, it’s a party. I am going to smile at people. And I do. I don’t even attempt a mug, a security scowl. Well surprise, surprise, I am pretty much the worst, least intimidating security guard ever. And that’s not just me being pessimistic. Over the next 4 hours I am approached by 3 catererrs and 3 guests “You don’t look like a security guard, who’d you fuck?who do you know who got you the job?” “You’re to cheery to be security.” “Don’t they usually give this job to big threatening men?” “ooo, I’m really intimated. ha ha.” “Here, let me help you practice a mug.” “Is your shirt on backwards?” Thanks, thanks so much.
It is a spectacular people watching situation, in fact I am being paid to people watch. And the people I’m watching all paid at least $1,500 to get into this party. That makes it even more interesting, and the fashion is fascinating. I note a beautiful, flowy, floral, orange dress one woman is wearing. It’s fabulous. And 10 minutes later another woman walks in wearing the same dress. That sucks. And one of course looks way better in it than the other. There’s one woman on the arm of a man in a fucking fabulous jumpsuit. Floral, sheer light fabric. It is awesome. New New York goal for me: be able to rock a jumpsuit. It’s hard to do, but if you can it really boosts you up a level. Another New York goal: get into fabulous parties as a date. Best case senerio? I’m working on it.
For the moment, I’m flirting with caterers. They’re all really cute, in pressed white shirts and black pants, likely having more interesting endeavors that don’t pay the bills, and here the ratio is skewed in a way I rarely see in my business: way more men than women. My flirtations are rewarded with dessert trays inconspicuously made available to me before the return trip to the kitchen and as much Tava as I can chug down when no one’s looking. $1,500 buys you decadent desserts that your diet probably doesn’t allow. Score one for me (me: one, them: 1,500).
As this is a red carpet, gala event people watching reaches its peak when I see cameras flashing. These photographers have a pretty shitty job, snapping pictures of famous people, being kinda annoying, and the majority of the time are just completely ignored. It’s hard to describe, but it was weird to watch and I sort of felt bad for them. But yes, there are famous people milling about in front of me. Which is kinda cool, but also kinda scary. If there was an actual security situation I would not know what the fuck to do. I glance at Kim Raver at least 10 times before I finally place her as the actress who plays Nico on Lipstick Jungle. Steve Martin is there and I resist the urge, “I love your books! They’re all I want to read right now!” One of my favorite actresses ever is there. Cynthia Nixon, looking fabulous. That was cool. But interaction with famous people is weird. They’re just people. The I-know-who-you-are-but-you-don’t-know-who-I-am deal is awkward. And they look a lot littler in real life. Which is kinda cool when you can be like “You know what? I honestly never want to be that skinny.”
So yeah, there are famous people at this deal, but it’s totally not my place to interact with them. There’s not much joy praising someone who gets recognized on the street and hears it every day. It much more awesome for the semi to not really at all famous, who rarely get recognized and you can instantly tell are not jaded by fame. Like the people in the play I’m ushering. I ran into one of the guys who has a really small ensemble part on the subway and there I could tell my compliments to him really meant something.
And then the show after opening. We’re back to the usual ushering, no security, no $1,500 minimum, no fancy dresses, no red carpet. No celebrity people watching.
Hello, can you help me find where this is? he hands me the ticket.
Of course! You’re in Section L which is right here, but as you’re seat 710, you’re actually on the far left, so you’re gonna want go up those stairs and keep to your left.
Thanks a lot. and he smiles at me!
You’re welcome, enjoy the show!
I have this exchange in various forms a dozen times a night. But this time it was with James Franco. Yep, Daniel DeSario of Freaks and Geeks, Spiderman’s Harry Osborn. He’s with a blonde, wearing a leather jacket and has the same melt worthy smile you’ve seen on screen. How to put this….squee! rather sums it up. Somehow I was fucking professional, didn’t make a fool of myself, and didn’t even get fired for jumping a patron. Hells YES. The concept of celebrity still weirds me out, but that was pretty fucking awesome.
It has been a good week.
(there was an after party post-show where cast and crew where invited too. Open bar, good food, dancing, theater people as well as big bucks patrons, no more security. I traded my 2XXL shirt for an awesome dress, mingled, danced, and got a little sloshed. Fashionably sloshed. Lots of fun.)