Sunday night was the night we were all waiting for. While the other two parties had been mere warm-ups, this was the real deal, Broadway’s biggest party of the year.
(Sidebar: I know, “Broadway’s biggest party of the year” sounds . . . sarcastic. But note two things: 1) it’s not like Hollywood where it’s SO huge that it’s splintered – if you went to the Tony’s and you wanted to drink right afterwards, chances are you were at Rockefeller Plaza for this party; and 2) Broadway actors know how to party. Think about it – they have struggled more than most hot dog vendors to even make a moderate splash in an industry that forgets your name faster than a used car salesman after closing a deal. It will really break a person down, to the point where they are not only without ego or conceit, but also proud alcoholics, which are invariably fun to be around. Unless they are your parents. Moving on.)
The party didn’t start until 11:00 so The Girlfriend and I watched a bit of the show while we were getting ready just in case we found ourselves in a conversation that made mention of something other than Cats or Phantom of the Opera. Luckily we were both sitting in front of the TV for this classic moment, when Christian Hoff gave his acceptance speech for winning Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his role in Jersey Boys:
TG and I sitting on the couch, half paying attention to the TV.
Me: “Should we eat now or do you think there will be food at the party?”
TG: “There will probably be food at the party.”
Hoff: “ . . . I thank my wife, Melissa Hoff, for coming to me and saving me and being there as a mother for my children, our new baby in her womb right now . . .”
Me: (sitting up suddenly) “Did he just say womb?”
TG: “He said womb.”
Camera flashes to Hoff’s wife seated in the audience.
Me: “Awkward moment. Awkward moment. Please don’t say womb again.”
TG: (still stunned) “Who says womb?”
We make it down to Rockefeller Center by 11:15 to meet our friends outside before walking in. As we turn the corner we see a flock of spectators huddled outside the entrance to the party peering over the gates to see who is arriving. My friend Matt and I whisper to each other “I love this, I love this” and squeeze our way through the crowd, hold up our invitations and walk in.
Now, I’m not one to get off on power trips and making other people feel small, but when you’re dressed in a suit with a pocket square entering a gala with a gowned woman on your arm, that feeling of humanity seems to cloud over. You think, “Wait, maybe I AM better than the guy in the boat shoes with white socks trying to get Bebe Neuwirth's attention . . .” And then you filter through the crowd over to the bar, get a round of drinks with your friends and toast: “Well, we didn’t win this year guys. But here’s to chasing the dream!” and the faces on everyone around you go straight into “Who are they?” mode.
And then you finish those drinks and get another round and you walk through the crowd towards the food and pile your plate with carved beef and salmon and you eat your food with champagne and a cocktail on the side because why not?, options are the order of the night. Then you are “offered” women in this sense: “My daughters are over there and they are all pretty you should go talk to them.” Things seem to come easier when you’re in a suit with a pocket square.
Eventually you make your way out to the dance floor, which is set on top of the Rockefeller Center skating rink, meaning there is nothing above you but sky and stars. The band is up on stage playing the classics. As you dance scotch is swishing out of your glass like it’s “a celebration of winning the revolutionary war” in one friend’s words, and why not?, because they’re charging by the sip and that charge is FREE. You make up lies to strangers about the details of your life because hey, this is Broadway after all, and no one cares anyway.
Finally, after the night comes to an untimely close, the band announces that this will be their last song and a frazzled middle-aged man runs to the lip of the stage and screams, “I’ve got $4,000 here for you to keep playing,” and your friend calmly approaches the stage and says, “I’ll match that $4,000,” then lights a cigarette and walks away because “I’ve got $4,000” is a foreign concept to him. You loosen your tie. All around you are recognizable stars, but you eventually stop taking notice because you are just having so goddamn much fun.
The night “ending” is neither an option nor a realistic possibility and people discuss where to go now. The after-after party. The post-post script. It’s 2:00 in the morning and you’ve still got places to be – more bars, more drinks, more celebration, until a cab ride home while the sun is coming up. So, yeah, it’s hard not to catch the bug when the whole situation smacks of “cooler than thou.”
That is until you wake up the next day (later that day) and go to work and ten minutes in you get a frantic call from Crazy June because her computer is “going berserk” and when you go over to her desk you see the cursor shooting down the screen and, lo and behold, a steno pad resting on the enter key. And six hours ago is a distant memory; Broadway’s already forgotten your name.