This post is sponsored by Budweiser. Budweiser: the official beer of regret.
I was hungover from the night before, more useless than usual at work, but still in desperate need of a suit before Saturday’s event – a cocktail party at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. (For some reason, in my head I’m reading this like a film noir.) After my misadventures at Century 21, I was left in a bind and time was running out. All I know is: if I didn’t get a suit in time, the Waldorf Astoria would be nothing but another in the long list of memories I never had. (Picture me driving a cab in black and white while reading this.)
Anyway, I ended up at a suit shop on the Upper East Side with an Italian salesman whose biggest threat was that he might be so nice and helpful that I would hit him on the head with a wood soled shoe, bound him with his measuring tape and keep him in my apartment to tell me “how a’good” I look every morning before I leave for work. Or maybe that was my biggest threat, I’m not sure how that wording works. In any event, it was a far cry from the nightmare inducing episode I had previously endured, and to top it off I came away with a great suit, one that would prompt not one but TWO men at the cocktail party to say to me, “I love your suit, do I know you from Los Angeles?” Either I have a gay doppelganger in Los Angeles, or I give off an air of dandiness and that’s just a very common pick-up line.*
Now, I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a cocktail party before. I’ve been to parties where there was a cocktail hour, but that was always immediately preceded by a wedding and followed by a dinner, cake and a crippling guilt about that slow dance with the cousin you never knew you had. But an entire party where you arrive at 5:00 and leave at 7:00? It is a foreign concept to me, to begin drinking so early and to stop . . . so early. It seems like a waste, like laying the foundation for a 5,000 square foot house and then saying halfway through, “You know, I think 2,500 will be enough.” Yet if I have learned anything in my years since college it is that the more I drink, the drunker I get. And the drunker I get, the higher the likelihood that I will urinate somewhere other than a bathroom. And, much like most upscale institutions, the Waldorf frowns on you peeing in their trash cans.
I arrived at the party promptly at five and immediately put a cocktail in my hand, the international symbol for “I belong,” both “at this party” and “in general.” I wasn’t expecting to see anyone famous, and by famous I mean someone I recognize from TV or the movies. I’m sure as I stood there surveying the room I was gazing out upon Broadway stars both old and young, but if I haven’t seen your face on a screen of some sort it really means nothing to me. Which is exactly why when S. Epatha Merkerson walked in, it was my own version of spotting Judy Kaye (whoever she is, I just Googled “big Broadway star”).
She walked past my friends and I didn’t spot her immediately. It was my friend Brendan who said, “Isn’t that that woman from “Law & Order”?” to which I responded in my best “I’ve never been to an event with celebrities” tone of voice, “Holy crap, which one?!” Brendan pointed her out and sure enough Lt. “Find out where that gun came from” Van Buren was standing 20 feet away from me.
As you may or may not know, I love “Law & Order.” A couple of years ago before his untimely death, I saw Jerry Orbach in the men’s department at Lord & Taylor. I slyly watched him from across the room shop with his wife until he stopped at a rack of sports coats and tried one on. After they left, I went over to the rack and tried the same jacket on even though it was something like a 44 long to my 38 regular, just to say that I was lame/unbalanced enough to have tried on the same sports coat as Jerry Orbach. But here I was, eyeing Lt. “Pay a visit to the wife” Van Buren from across the room, much like I did with Sarah Winger at my high school freshman cotillion. It was then that, like an angel from Hollywood, I was introduced to Wendy, who it just so happens used to work on “Law & Order” and who, as casually as offering me a donut, offered to introduce me to S.Ep (my pet name for her).
She led me over and we stood off to the side feigning conversation for a few minutes while S.Ep finished her conversation with someone else before Wendy jumped in, introduced herself and said how she used to work on the show. She then turns to me as I stare directly at S.Ep’s face, trying hopelessly not to stare directly at S.Ep’s face, and we have this exchange:
Wendy: “This is my friend, Dan.”
S.Ep: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dan.”
Me (internally): “It’s a pleasure to meet you too.”
Me (externally): “I’m a really big fan of “Law & Order!” (As though I wanted to meet her for her turn as Doctor #1 in Jersey Girl.)
S.Ep: “Thank you, I’m glad you enjoy the show.”
Two minutes of conversation ensue between Wendy and S.Ep as I stand there listening and smiling as though I find the question “So what are you working on now?” extremely amusing. Finally . . .
S.Ep: “Well it was great to see you again, Wendy. And a real pleasure to meet you too, Dan.”
Me: (remembering what I should have said before) “It was a pleasure to meet you too.”
I walked back to my friends emboldened by the experience. So emboldened, in fact, that no more than five minutes later I peer over at my friend John who is mid-conversation with Neil Patrick Harris, and after a moment’s hesitation I walk right over and make pretend that I have something important to tell John before instead reaching over and shaking Doogie’s hand. It is a move that is effective in its embarrassment, and all of us stand there for five minutes having a conversation that I only wish I had tape recorded, because I could probably bribe Doogie with a few choice incriminating comments. Not that I really would though, because he is actually a very cool guy and the incriminating comments were just the same jokes that my friends and I make all the time. Unless anyone is making offers, in which case I have the shorthand notes on a cocktail napkin at home, right next to the address for the executive producer of “How I Met Your Mother” and the statute on what constitutes “extortion” in the state of New York.
* PROOF THAT THE FORMER OPTION IS POSSIBLE: Guy de Maupassant, the French novelist and short story writer, claimed to have been haunted by his doppelganger near the end of his life. On one occasion, he said, this double entered his room, took a seat opposite him and began to dictate what de Maupassant was writing. He wrote about this experience in his short story "Lui." If you can’t trust Guy de Maupassant, who can you trust?