Tag Archives: Broadway

Madison Square Garden Apologizes, Pulls Homophobic Ads

7 Nov

When I didn’t think the past 24 hours could get any better…

After winning marriage equality in three states last night and stopping an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment in a fourth state, a little bit of light also comes out of New York City.

Earlier this week, we reported on an ad campaign being run by Madison Square Garden Networks. The ads were intended to get people to not do one thing on Friday night, and instead stay home and watch a New York Knicks game on TV.

The ad, found on a phone booth and posted on facebook by Richard Roland stated:

“It’s Friday night. You can either see a Broadway harness malfunction or you can watch real men fly.”

The words were referencing the multi-million dollar musical, Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark,” in which actors have been injured, including Christopher Tierney, who fell 30 feet from the air into the orchestra pit in December 2010. Tierney , who sustained four broken ribs and fractured three of his vertebrae, returned to the show four months later.

Others including myself, found the ad to be very thinly-veiled homophobia. Anytime the term “real men” is used in comparison to someone else, it has historically been a way to feminize someone or in essence, call them a “sissy,” or a “fag.”

This afternoon, we heard from ESPN.com reporter Darren Rovell that the ads have been pulled. According to his article,

“Earlier this week, the New York Post reported that the network, which is under the same business umbrella that includes the Knicks, would pull a particular ad after a representative admitted it was “bad judgment” and apologized to anyone who was offended.”

Well done, everyone who contacted MSG and shared the story with your friends. Little victories like this do make a difference!

Broadway Siblings Launch Broadway for Obama

18 Sep

The Broadway community is one that holds a very special place in my heart. For 12 years, I lived in New York and had the unique opportunity of working with hundreds of the most talented people who’ve ever grapevined across a stage.

Andrew & Celia Keenan-Bolger

What always amazed me though, was that these people who work harder than most people I know, were always willing to give more to help people who needed it. I produced over 200 Broadway concerts while I lived there and members of the community were always willing to go the extra mile, sparing precious time off and much-needed rest when it came to helping Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, The National AIDS Fund, marriage equality fights, hurricane victims, and whoever else needed their help.

The Presidential election is no different for those who believe in social justice. Sister and brother Broadway team Celia and Andrew Keenan-Bolger  have activated the Broadway community to take part in an election which stands to define at least the next four years.

The two Tony Award nominees, while not performing 8 shows a week in Peter and the Starcatcher or Newsies, have started “Broadway for Obama.” They’ve started engaging other members of the Broadway community and their fans to make sure they get out the vote for Obama.

As a young gay man, Andrew sees this work as vital due to the rights he and hundreds of other colleagues are being denied:

“We work in an industry that celebrates the contributions of thousands of gay people. Broadway would not be possible without its performers, directors, writers, choreographers, designers, dressers, ushers, crew members, administrators and musicians, a large percentage of whom are gay.

Millions of Americans come to New York every year to share in the art that these people create but many still believe that they shouldn’t have the same rights as everyone else. We want them to know where we stand.”

For his sister Celia, who was married two years ago to fellow Broadway performer John Ellison Conlee, she felt she needed to stand up for her LGBT family and friends. Four years ago, Celia left New York to campaign in Pennsylvania for then-candidate Barack Obama. Her resolve is made even stronger considering the advancement of LGBT rights made under the Obama administration:

“2 years ago my husband John Conlee and I decided to get married in Vermont because gay marriage was legal there and it was not yet in NY. We felt we couldn’t stand in front of our dearest friends and family (some of whom are LGBT) and ask them to support and celebrate us in a state where they did not have the same rights as us I want everyone I know and love to enjoy the same rights I do.

Gay marriage is just the beginning. My sister has educated me a lot about LGBT homelessness. I know under a Romney presidency not only would these issues lose forward momentum but we would probably move backwards. I want to do everything I can to make sure this doesn’t happen and I believe an Obama administration is better for ALL of us.”

Evita’s Max von Essen

Together, they’re working on organizing the Broadway community around different small things they can do to help the President get re-elected. One of their first actions is to get Broadway performers to make sure they’re wearing Obama T-shirts, pins or whatever they want. Saturday Obama Swag (or #SOS if you’re on the Twitter) will have stars exiting their stage doors hoping to find fans also wearing Obama swag and getting an extra few moments of their favorite performer’s time – with bragging rights to bring home.

Their efforts are already being rewarded with tweets from Evita’s Max von Essen and Tony Winner Audra McDonald promoting their work.

For more information about Broadway for Obama, visit www.facebook.com/BroadwayForObama

One more thing about Bailey Hanks

11 Aug

It’s a long one, bear with me. I’m so very torn right now. I have put something out there on the internets and people have reacted to it. Some more strongly than others.

I wrote a few days ago about how fascinating it is that the Chick-fil-A debacle has brought people into the equality discussion more than any single thing since California’s Prop 8 in 2007. Back then, a whole new generation of activists was born. People took to the streets by the thousands. This time, people are taking to Facebook and Twitter by the millions. I’m still not sure if people actually value their deep-fried chicken so much as to debate it or if this was just the tipping point for something larger? What is it about this that has people taking such definitive sides?

Since posting the other day about Bailey Hanks, I’ve seen the entire spectrum of responses – everything from vitriolic, horrible things being said to and about Bailey to the same being said about me. What I’ve learned is that people are mad. Doesn’t take a genius to figure that out when you’re told you’ve created an “internet coliseum” where Christians are being thrown to the lions.

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear. I don’t hate Bailey Hanks. I don’t hate Christians. I suppose I can say I love the sinner but hate the sin when it comes to anti-gay Christians. Wow, it’s kinda fun to flip that one. I don’t hate the people who have anti-gay beliefs. I hate when they act on those beliefs by supporting, funding or voting on the denial of my rights as a human being.

I don’t believe Bailey Hanks is a hateful person – as many posting on her Facebook have claimed. I think she is someone who has been carefully taught something that’s hard to unlearn. Bailey walked into that Chick-fil-A that day, fully aware that it was Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. That much can’t be denied despite some of those defending her. She “liked” the event on Facebook prior to it happening and I simply will not buy that she didn’t know what was going on. That kind of willful ignorance is extraordinarily rare. Is it possible that she somehow missed ALL media surrounding this? In this day and age – a girl with a private and public Facebook page as well as a twitter account – it’s just hard to believe, despite what she says in her first apology that has been posted for more than a few minutes:

“I have decided to delete this page, it will deactivate in 14 days…but before I do I would like to share my heart to those who do not know me and only seen or heard things from other people. At the time the chicken was only chicken to me and while in rehearsal and shows at the time I was not properly informed on what was going on. I was unaware of the BIG picture. With that being said I had poor timing. But I am a Christian, but a Christian to me is not a religion or a denomination, it is a relationship with my lord and savior Jesus Christ. And my Lord said to love everyone even those who hate you. And that I live by. I have my beliefs as a Christian and I hope you can accept that, as I accept you! If you want to marry whomever you want… Who am I to stop you? Go! Live! Be merry! I have friends who are married and they are gay, friends who are gay and engaged and I couldn’t be more happy for them and they know that. These ppl have reached out to me and know my heart. My intentions are never malicious, and I have never rooted for others unhappiness in their life. I hope this clears up any unanswered questions, and I hope you can please step back and let this all go and let me live a peaceful life without hate…. As I want the same peace for you!

Thank you for hearing me out! Much love to everyone!
Xoxo
Bailey

Bailey is unapologetically Christian. From birth, she had the idea drummed into her little head that we are all sinners. It can sometimes be a tough and damaging lifestyle that when so ingrained into you from such a young age, can build barriers to you learning anything else. That’s being proven around the country right now with “Creationism” being taught in schools, with science – things we know to be true via actual research, being thrown out the window.

My point is, I believe Bailey went to that Chick-fil-A because she thought she was doing something “Pro-Christian” and not “Anti-Gay.” Unfortunately those two things are not inseparable in this particular instance. She does not see or comprehend that the things she is told by her church are “hateful,” it’s how some can look you in the eyes with a huge smile on their face and tell you that you should not have the right to marry or adopt children. They have been convinced for generations that since Christians only know how to love, everything they say or do is only ever said or done out of love. I’m here to say that contributing money to anti-gay groups directly or via Chick-fil-A is not something done out of love. I’m here to say that voting against another person’s right to start a family is not something done out of love. And I’m here to say that just by saying you are doing something out of love, does not mean that you are.

Bailey, I am not letting you off. An action you’ve taken has hurt a lot of people. And now you have the opportunity to fix it. I would love it if you would use this situation to make a real effort to educate yourself on the things your friends, colleagues and young fans are going through. I’m calling to you Bailey to read up on the hundreds of LGBT kids in this country who take their own lives because their Christian families reject them. I beg you to read the book “Prayers for Bobby.” It’s about a devoutly Christian mom who took the time to learn about her gay son after it was too late. And have some real conversations with your gay friends, ask them what it was like to grow up gay or about how they came out to their parents. And then take it a step further. Use the information you find to educate your own family and community on the idea that voting for and funding any kind of discrimination against gay people is wrong and is never done out of love.

And to those who’ve responded to what you perceived as hate with more hate: I don’t believe this is how we’ll win our equality. As a young gay kid, I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me. Churches, politicians and everyone I looked up to told me that I would never have that happy ending I’d seen in the Disney movies. Then I started doing theatre, and surrounded myself with that wonderful, creative safe place. Finally I’d found a world where I didn’t feel judged and in fact felt completely supported for who I was. I moved to New York City and stayed holed up in that community of support for 12 years. And outside that little ten-block radius, the world didn’t exist. The hatred outside wasn’t affecting me because I was blissfully unaware of it. Then Prop 8 woke me up. I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

The hatred had penetrated my safe little circle, and I was pissed. I chanted, screamed and organized in the streets. I was activated. I was almost more angry though that the rug was pulled out from under me – this community was no longer safe. Many of you had that same rug pulled out from under you when you saw one of your own supporting a hateful corporation. I get it. I get your anger and you have every right to it. But don’t think for a second that it’s going to change anything. It may activate you like it did me, but you need to find a way to focus it on changing people’s minds. And when someone comes at you swinging, I promise you your mind’s not going to be very quick to change. Be pissed, be hurt, but let your desire for change be stronger than your desire to scream at someone.

In closing, since this all stems from a conversation about a musical, please read and take these prophetic words to heart from Oscar Hammerstein II:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

Laura Bell Bundy, Original Legally Blonde Star Speaks Out About Chick-fil-A

10 Aug

Broadway’s Laura Bell Bundy

This has been quite a few days. In case you’ve missed it, I posted a little story yesterday here and on HuffingtonPost regarding former Broadway performer Bailey Hanks.

The young starlet had tweeted her support of the anti-gay Chick-fil-A back on August 1st – “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” The response to the story has been overwhelming to say the least. Many have been filled with frustration and hurt that this actress would side with a company that is virulently anti-gay. Since I first heard about her tweets, I’ve given Bailey several opportunities to speak out and apologize to the people she’s hurt. All I’ve personally heard from her is that she is a “Proud Christian.” She posted a quick “apoligy” to her Twitter account, but then quickly deleted it along with her account.

Her colleagues are now speaking out. Broadway actor John Carroll has written an open letter to Bailey at Advocate.com and explains why he’s hurt by what she’s said.

“Bailey, you used gay people for your personal gain to make your dreams come true and then sold them down the river with your message condoning a company that is publicly known for discriminating. With your actions, you agreed to treat people like second-class citizens and doing so, disrespected my friends, family, my marriage and me, all this in an Instagram photo of your hate –filled waffle fries.

Stop hiding bigotry and hatred behind religion, let’s call it exactly what it is. If we are going to live by any biblical rule, let it be the golden one.”

And many commenters on Facebook posts about the issue have also been colleagues of Bailey’s. Some posting personally supportive comments, but remaining critical of her actions. And of course there are some who are downright angry with her. One person even compared me to a Roman emperor tossing her to the Coliseum’s lions. But overall, people are frustrated that someone in this community could do something like this.

And today, I just heard from the original star of Broadway’s Legally Blonde (who Bailey succeeded in the show). Laura Bell Bundy is a friend I’ve worked with professionally and a woman I admire with all my soul. She’s a southern Christian Broadway star with more talent in her little finger than most ever have. Here’s Laura’s take on the situation:

“As I fully support everyone’s right to freedom of speech and belief, MY belief is that hate and bigotry is wrong. That is MY first amendment right. I choose not to support an organization against the equal rights of any group of people– especially my beloved gay community… whom without I would not have a career, a livelihood, creative fulfillment, any good shoes,taste, music, a stylist, a publicist, a producer, a writer, a director, a choreographer and two of the greatest friends a gal could ask for. I knew there was a reason I always liked beef better than chicken anyway.

I will never forget that love I have received from the gay community and I hope to give them back that love in equal measure.”

I’m fairly certain this story will die out eventually. And I hope Bailey eventually comes to terms with the idea that her friends and colleagues deserve the same rights and responsibilities she has. Please also know that none of this has ever been intended to hurt Bailey or her career. I write, people write to bring awareness to situations that can cause change. I was hoping the original piece I wrote was going to be “Look what she did, and look at this sincere apology for hurting her colleagues.” It would have been an un-story that 7 people read on my little blog.

But when you do something that attacks me, and my friends and family, and young gay people who are looking up to you – I can’t stay quiet. Those are all people that need to know what you’ve done is not okay. That’s why I do what I do. Like it or not.

What happens when a Broadway star supports Chick-fil-A?

9 Aug

Yesterday, I wrote about Broadway star and Chick-fil-A fan, Bailey Hanks as part of a broader discussion. Today, I feel as though it deserves it’s own post.

Bailey, who was cast to take over the starring role in Broadway’s Legally Blonde following a MTV reality contest, has been playing Elle Woods on the road for years now. While I’m sure she’s a talented young lady, I can’t help but wonder how the presumably dozens of gay people who work with her must feel about her support of an anti-gay corporation.

Yesterday upon finding out she had touted her support for Chick-fil-A on Facebook, I added an image to a piece I’d already been working on about the greater conversation regarding people’s reaction to the whole controversy. I also tweeted my disappointment to Bailey herself. Upon responding that she was a “Proud Christian” and not responding to my questions regarding her support for a company that gave millions to anti-gay hate groups, she quickly blocked her public twitter feed. Additionally, she quickly removed the image she’d posted on Facebook.

While everyone has the right to do and say what they please – it’s still a free country after all – it surprises me to see someone who spends every day surrounded by gay people, yet still believe they don’t deserve the same rights and protections  that she does. It reminds me of the drama surrounding Scott Eckern – the Artistic Director at the Sacramento Music Circus a few years back. Scott had contributed to the Yes on 8 campaign, supporting a California Amendment that would strip LGBT couples of their right to marry. 18,000 couples had already been married at that point and the hateful proposition halted those marriages from happening. I was heavily involved with communications with Scott at the time and Marc Shaiman (composer of Broadway’s Hairspray) and Susan Egan (Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast) also played a heavy part in leading the charge against someone who would make all their money because of gay people, but then work to have their rights taken away. In the interest of not damaging the reputation of his organization, Eckern resigned.

And while Bailey Hanks is hardly a household name, her opinion is one that is seen by lots of young gay people. What does it say to a young teen struggling with their identity when they see someone they look up to supporting something so hateful? What does it say to coworkers who are gay when they are working with someone who not only doesn’t believe in their rights to equal protections under the law, but posts it on her Facebook page?

Look, I don’t believe Bailey is a bigot. I think she’s terrifically uninformed and ignorant on the facts.

Bailey – if you’re listening, this is not about someone’s personal beliefs. This is about the fact that Chick-fil-A has given millions to anti-gay groups who are fighting to have gay people put to death in some countries. This is about the groups they support who are working to have homosexuality criminalized here in the U.S.. These are organizations who believe children are better off spending their whole lives in a foster care system instead of having two loving same-sex parents. They spread lies that gay people are child molesters (when every credible study has proven the opposite). They tell people that we are unable to be in committed relationships, that we are trying to harm the church or damaging heterosexual marriage and families. None of these things are true of course, but your words and your support of Chick-fil-A says to your friends, your co-workers and your young gay fans that you believe they are worth less than you. It says that you believe they shouldn’t be allowed to have families. I don’t think that’s what you feel. In my heart of hearts, without even really knowing you, I believe your experience tells you something different.

UPDATE***

It turns out Hanks isn’t completely alone. Broadway performer Wallace Smith (Godspell) also tweeted out his support for Chick-fil-A. While not quite the same ringing endorsement Hanks gave, it’s still troubling to see someone whose lifestyle and career is dependent on the work of LGBT people not coming out against such a bigoted corporation. It seems our out Broadway friends and allies need to step up the education in the community. Your chicken sandwich is not more valuable than the lives of gay people that are threatened in other countries.

UPDATE 2****

Following this same post being published at HuffingtonPost, Bailey started receiving some negative attention on her Twitter account. While some of it was most certainly uncalled for and rude, most people just wanted some kind of reply from her. Instead of replying, Bailey deleted her Twitter account. There may have been something she wrote during all that, but as she’d blocked me yesterday for asking questions, I can’t tell you what she may have written.

On her public Facebook fan page, some people had written very thoughtful replies and requests for an apology from Bailey. To my knowledge, she hasn’t offered any kind of apology and the only real response she has posted has been on her private Facebook page.

As I said above, I didn’t think she was a bigot and I truly believed she just needed some education on the matter. I don’t know that I think that’s true any longer. She has now had several opportunities to offer an apology and instead she has taken to her private Facebook to compare her plight to that of Jesus on the cross. I’m sorry, dear Bailey, but you are no martyr. You ate a chicken sandwich, some waffle fries and a brownie and then put a photo of your food on Twitter so all your gay friends and fans could see that you didn’t believe they deserved the same rights as you. That doesn’t make you a martyr, it makes you a bigot.

What if this whole thing wasn’t about Chick-fil-A at all?

8 Aug

Over the years, corporations have at times been vocal about social issues. It takes courage to take a stand that is sometimes unpopular, but once in a while, a company takes that brave first step.

But a couple weeks ago, something shifted. Something happened that caused all anti-gay hell to break loose. Chick-fil-A‘s CEO came out against marriage equality. For years now, individuals and companies have expressed their opinions and those of us in the equality movement have tried to make it known. JCPenney was boycotted by anti-gay groups when they hired Ellen Degeneres as a spokesperson and published a catalog featuring a photo of lesbian moms and their kids. A few people noticed, but it didn’t become a national debate. A list of California’s anti-gay Proposition 8 supporters came out. Some people got hysterical and started small boycotts of some companies, but again – it didn’t really wind up on the news.

Then CFA’s CEO Dan Cathy spoke up and told the Baptist Press that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” In a later radio interview, he ratcheted up the rhetoric: “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'” And everyone heard it.

I’ve now waded through tens of thousands of comments on Facebook, talked to dozens of people in real life and one thing has become clear. For some reason, something happened that made people stand up and take notice.

For many people in our community, we have those in our lives who we know might not be the most supportive of equality. For years we’ve gently nudged them and some have even taken great strides. And then there are some who have just remained quiet while we’ve posted things on Facebook about different stories of discrimination – some violent and horrific. But for some reason, this Chick-fil-A thing happens and EVERYONE has an opinion – and not a small-voiced one either.

I made a meme that wound up on George Takei’s Facebook wall. It didn’t mention CFA directly but featured The Muppets’ Kermit and Miss Piggy getting married. The text read: Thank you Jim Henson’s Muppets, Standing Up for Non-Traditional Marriage since 1984. The meme was shared 38,000 times, liked 121,000 times and had more than 3,000 comments.

I’ve found most are from people who are misinformed. Most who stand with Chick-fil-A think this is an issue of “free speech” trying to be squashed. Clearly they don’t have an understanding that free speech happens in both directions. Anyone can say whatever the hell they want. And when they say that thing, they have to be willing to face the consequences. And then the other side has free speech as well – to do things like arrange boycotts if you like, or educate the public.

Many think people are just upset because Dan Cathy expressed his opinion on something and some didn’t like that opinion. Some of us have been working to get the message out there that this is not at all about his opinion on marriage equality, it’s about the millions of CFA dollars he’s spent on anti-gay hate groups. As outlined in an earlier post, he’s given over $5 million to groups that (among many other things) try to cure gay people and fight to have gay people put to death in Uganda.

But back to my original question. What is it about this particular moment in history and this particular story that has caused the masses to speak out?

I was talking to a friend earlier who is not terribly active in the LGBT community. He’s gay and married, but doesn’t frequently post things even slightly political on Facebook. He’s shocked at how many friends he’s seen with bigoted opinions. Some who even came to his wedding. I too have seen many comments on things whose opinion I never knew until now.

Even people like Broadway reality performer Bailey Hanks has taken a side. Normally you would think that someone who spends most of their time surrounded by gay people onstage, offstage, in the audience and more than likely cutting her paychecks, would be supportive. But Bailey posted an image to her personal Facebook page clearly coming out in favor of the bigoted fast food chain.

So what is it? Is this really about Chick-fil-A or did we hit a tipping point where those who’ve secretly hated gay people for years feel like their chicken sandwich is worth more than the lives of their gay friends?

UPDATE******

Just a little update on the status of Bailey Hanks. Shortly after we tweeted the story to her, she replied that she is a “Proud Christian.” I replied and when I looked for a response, I discovered she’d blocked her account. Bailey, if you’re reading this, we just want to know if you believe it is “Christian” for Chick-fil-A to support anti-gay hate groups and if you believe your co-workers deserve the same rights as you do. It’s all we want to know.

Upon a little further research, Bailey also tweeted her love of the anti-gay fast food chain on Chick-fil-A Appreciation day! I guess it wasn’t just about her “dear friend” who works at CFA.

Merely Legends: Dinner with Patricia Neal & Celeste Holm

15 Jul

Disclaimer: this post has nothing to do with being gay. Well…maybe a little.

About 10 years ago, I was still quite fresh in New York City. The bitterness and jaded behavior had yet to seep into my soul.

I was house sitting for my friend and composer, David Friedman. David had conducted the choirs for a bunch of big Disney films like Beauty & The Beast and Pocohontas and composed the score for the film, Trick.

In the middle of the week at one point, the phone wrang. I picked it up and an older woman crowed into the phone “HELLO! Is David there?” I replied that he was away and wouldn’t be back until the weekend. “Damn! He was supposed to take me to the theatre.” I apologized and she said “Who are you?” in an almost accusatory tone. I told her I was a friend of David’s and I was taking care of his apartment while he was away. She replied “Well you sound delicious, would you like to take me to the theatre this Thursday?” Having no idea still to whom I was speaking, I asked “Who is this?” “Why, it’s Patricia Neal of course.” I told her it would be my honor to take her to the theatre on Thursday.

Me and Patricia Neal

My 23-year old self was thrilled beyond words. I was going to the theatre with the first woman to EVER win a Tony Award for her performance in a Broadway show. She won an Oscar for her performance in Hud with Paul Newman and no one will ever forget her brilliant work in the classic film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” with Audrey Hepburn.

I showed up at her East End Avenue pad on the Upper East Side and she proceeded with a tour. She showed me her award room and mentioned that “Most of theses awards are because I had a stroke and lived to tell about it.” She showed me her Academy Award and inquired “Did you see me in Hud with Paul Newman?” I unfortunately had not and terrifyingly told her so. “It’s alright,” she said “If you blinked your eyes, you would have missed me…but I still won the Oscar.”

She told me a few more stories, bragged about her granddaughter, Sophie Dahl (yes, she was once married to Roald Dahl), and with that we left for the theatre.

Patricia Neal

Ms. Neal was 77 at the time and after multiple strokes had suffered almost no short-term or long-term memory. I escorted her down the stairs to Danny’s Skylight Room on 46th Street and we sat down for a cabaret. Others came up to her table to greet her and she’d always say “Darlings, introduce yourselves,” as she just couldn’t recall many names. Among her friends there that night were Jerry Orbach and Joel Grey and with each handshake I sank deeper and deeper into disbelief of where I was and what I was doing.

Towards the end of the show, Ms. Neal asked me “Darling, have you ever been to Sardi’s?” I hadn’t. “Well tonight’s your lucky night, you’re going to Sardi’s with Patricia Neal!” Many of you know Sardi’s for their glamorous days where they’d created caricatures on the walls of celebrities who’d visited. I recalled Sardi’s from Muppets Take Manhattan where Kermit the Frog famously took down Liza Minnelli’s portrait and replaced it with his own.

We walk through the doors, and everyone immediately knew there was royalty in the room. More introductions and sparkling conversations about the old days of Broadway and Hollywood. And despite having so many stories and so much experience, she seemed to want to know more about me than anything else.

Celeste Holm

We’re almost finished with dinner when a smaller older woman came and said hello. She had her scarf pulled up over her nose and a tight knit cap pulled to the edge of her eyebrows. She chatted with Ms. Neal as if they were old friends and finally was asked to join us for dessert. “Darlings, introduce yourselves,” she said. “Hi, I’m Jamie McGonnigal.” “Hi, I’m Celeste Holm.” My heart dropped through my feet and into the hardwood floor. This was the original…ORIGINAL Ado Annie in Oklahoma. She was in All About Eve with Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe. I spent the next 20 minutes choking down profiteroles while they caught up.

Then I giggled…and then I chuckled…and then I laughed. Not the quiet laughter you would expect from someone in the middle of this situation, but an awkardly loud laugh that caused Ms. Neal to turn to me and say “Darling, what’s wrong? You’re hysterical.” “Ms. Neal, I apologize. I just happened to take a step away from myself and realize that I’m sitting at Sardi’s with Patricia Neal and Celeste Holm. Things are just a little absurd to me right now.”

“Darling.” She replied. “It’s nothing to get hysterical over, we’re merely legends.”

It was in that moment that I knew I would forever have a story of my first meeting with Patricia Neal and Celeste Holm. We lost Patricia to lung cancer 2 years ago, she was 84. And this morning at around 3:30am, my other dinner partner from that magical night, passed away. I’ll never forget that night, as you can imagine. And the world will never forget these “mere legends.”

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