(EDITOR’S NOTE: I went back through this post after I had finished writing it and counted every single time I said something that made me sound like a crazy person. I have marked them [like so] for your reading pleasure.)
I lived in New York for a year after graduation and had an internship at Manhattan Theatre Club. MTC, if you’ve never heard of them, and if you don’t follow theatre there’s no reason why you would, is a big effing deal in the theatre world. They’ve premiered tons of now-famous shows, moved lots of things to Broadway, and launched the careers of many famous actors. They’re the kind of place that can get Gabriel Byrne (AKA my celebrity crush-of-all-crushes) [#1] to come and do a no-budget play reading in the rehearsal hall, or get people I only know from hit TV shows to play supporting roles in their plays. I mention this to give you a sense of the sheer magnitude of acting celebrity talent to which MTC has regular access.
Now, may I remind you, I am from Oregon. Here’s a comprehensive list of Oregon celebrities:
–Gus Van Sant (every gay guy I know in town has a story about Gus Van Sant hitting on him, or hitting on his boyfriend, in a bar. It’s practically a rite of passage)
–Jean M. Auel (“Clan of the Cave Bear”) and Ursula LeGuin
–Art Alexakis of Everclear (who I only met in passing when he came to speak at my old high school for Career Day and I was THISCLOSE to being on his panel; [#2] but according to my brother Colin, he’s a complete tool. Apparently Colin’s high school “rewarded” the students after a successful fundraiser with a free Everclear concert, LIKE ANYONE CURRENTLY IN HIGH SCHOOL GIVES A CRAP ABOUT ART ALEXAKIS EXCEPT ART ALEXAKIS’ DAUGHTER, SORRY WAS THAT OUT LOUD?, and Colin says the band was quite clearly drunk. Playing a charity concert. For a Catholic high school. In the middle of the day. You stay classy, Everclear!)
— . . . yeah, that’s it.
So, clearly, my standards for celebrity are pretty low. I’ll squeal and get stalker-giddy for almost anyone. [#3](Ask me sometime how I met my soon-to-be-roommate Jenny. She’s a recording artist. I had her CD months before I met her. I’d be TOTALLY lying if I denied that there was any stalking involved. [#4]) This is why, amongst my unflappable Manhattan-born friends, I was quickly declared a pariah. They got very tired very quickly of my sentences beginning “OHMYGODYOUGUYSITOTALLYJUSTSAW____________INTHELOBBY! SQUEEEEEEEEEEE!” [#5] “Yeah. He’s friends with the boss, he’s here all the time. YAWN.” (Pause) “Oh.” The only person who really shared my level of glee was my mother, who demanded a daily Celebrity Watch. When I was bored at my desk, I would dig through our database and send her the home addresses of famous people. [#6]Let’s just say that it’s a good thing I’m not a crazy person; otherwise, I’d be very, very afraid if I was Bernadette Peters, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Laurence Fishburne, Robert Redford, Lily Tomlin, or Woody Allen. [#7] I’m just saying.
In addition to database-stalking, I also quickly learned that you couldn’t throw a rock in the MTC office building without hitting somebody famous. For example, I e-mailed my entire family the day I shared an elevator down to the lobby with BRENT FREAKING SPINER [#8] (also known around the Willett household as one Lieutenant Commander Data). I almost passed out from how hard I was trying to look cool. Also, while showing her to her seat at our season opening party, Swoosie Kurtz told me I was pretty and that she wished she had my shoulders so she could pull of the kind of camisole top I was wearing, though then she added thoughtfully that it probably wouldn’t work on her because she always gets cold, and then we talked for awhile about air conditioning. [#9] P.S. I think she’s part meerkat because she is SO TINY and SO ADORABLE and I just wanted to hug her to death.
I am not a creepy stalker, I swear. [#10] I SWEAR. [#11]
Anyway, I felt like I was beginning to get the hang of this whole, “I BARELY even notice that you’re a famous person” attitude that seems to come so easily to New Yorkers. I was thinking, “Okay, I might be able to pull this off.”
THEN. Ohhhhh, then. The Liev Schreiber Incident. Shudder . . .
Okay, so a lot of people don’t know who Liev Schreiber is. IMDb him if you don’t. I don’t have time to explain it to you. Suffice to say that A) he is a fabulous actor and B) he is dreamy and I adore him. [#12]I began referring to him as my boyfriend [#13] (WOW, I really, really do sound creepy) in college when I found out that he was college BFFs with Chuck, my favorite professor. He would say, “Oh, hey, I talked to your boyfriend last night, he says hi, Hamlet’s going really well,” and we would chuckle and ha ha whatever, I never thought I would actually have the chance to MEET Liev Schreiber, so it was all a hilarious joke. Then, second semester, when I was studying in Ireland, Chuck decided to inform me that Liev Schreiber (BTW, I am totally incapable of referring to famous people without using their full names. Otherwise it feels . . . impertinent) was coming to my school to do a Shakespeare seminar, and I’m not kidding, I actually for like twenty minutes weighed dropping out of my study-abroad program to fly back to school and meet Liev Schreiber. [#14] I didn’t, of course, because I am not actually insane. But I was pretty heartbroken – even after my friends told me that he was kind of a pretentious jerk. I did not care. I had a chance to meet Liev Schreiber and be introduced by our mutual friend Chuck which would give me the “in” I needed to become his best friend [#15]but I was studying abroad in stupid Ireland and missed it. Of all the rotten luck!
Fast-forward to New York. When I found out that the person cutting the ribbon at the ribbon-cutting for our new theatre would be the one the only LIEV SCHREIBER, who was starring in a play later that year (except not really because he dropped out, and I’m pretty sure it was my fault, see the following story), I thought, “Perfection! I have the best ever opening line!” [#16 ]Here’s how I envisioned the dialogue going:
ME: Hi, are you Mr. Schreiber? (It’s always good to be polite.)
LIEV SCHREIBER: Why yes. (This is how I imagine that he talks.
ME: You were at my school two years ago! [#17] But I wasn’t there. [#18] I’m friends with Chuck! [#19]
LIEV SCHREIBER: We have so much in common! Would you like to be best friends? [#20]
I had this all planned out. I bought a new outfit. I put my face on. I was all glammed up. I WAS GOING TO MAKE LIEV SCHREIBER BEST FRIENDS WITH ME IF IT KILLED US BOTH. [#21] What could go wrong? It couldn’t possibly go any worse than The Robert Sean Leonard Guacamole Fiasco. [#22]
Ah, I’m glad you asked. Here’s what happened. Robert Sean Leonard (star of “Dead Poets’ Society,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” and pretty much all of my seventh-grade daydreams) [#23] was starring in the first play of our season. The first time I saw Robert Sean Leonard on a rehearsal break, hanging in the lobby eating HIS lunch one table away from me while I was eating MY lunch, I did a convulsive full-body twitch [#24] which caused me to throw guacamole onto my new white skirt, which I then attempted to nonchalantly wipe up without looking too obviously like I was cleaning dip from my clothing like a socially-awkward goober who can’t eat without throwing food at herself, and then attempted to nonchalantly walk past Robert Sean Leonard like a suave cool person to go back to my office, ’cause, yeah, I work here and am also important, except the guacamole side of my skirt – now a vast pea-green stain – was on my right, and he was on my right as I walked back to the stairs, so I attempted to casually execute an evasive maneuver where it wouldn’t be quite so visible [#25] but it didn’t quite come off and I MIGHT have crashed into a wall for a second before hastily recovering myself and returning to my office and wanting to die.
So. The day dawns. I get to the theatre. I join my fellow interns in the Subscriber’s Lounge, where we will be pouring champagne for guests for the duration of the morning. I am all atwitter with excitement. [#26] While pouring champagne, I’m chatting with my co-worker Lara; there are a scant handful of patrons milling about but most of the crowd down there so far is MTC staff, so I feel no need to look cool. Here is an actual, verbatim (because it is SEARED INTO MY BRAIN) transcription of the conversation which followed:
ME: Hey! Hi! How are you??
LARA: You’re in a good mood.
ME: Today’s a SUPER EXCITING DAY! [#27]
ME: (Loudly and enthusiastically) Because LIEV SCHREIBER’S GOING TO BE HERE! [#28] I can’t wait!
LARA: He’s right behind you.
ME: (Pause) That’s not funny.
LARA: He is RIGHT. BEHIND you.
ME: Oh God.
LARA: Turn around.
LARA: Turn around!
LARA: Dude, seriously.
ME: Fine. (Turns around. Sees LIEV SCHREIBER approximately two feet away, intently staring at a photo on the wall and appearing extremely interested in it. Almost drops champagne bottle.) [#29]
ME: Oh God.
ME: Oh God oh God oh God oh God oh God . . .
LIEV SCHREIBER: (Silence)
Blackout. End of play.
And that, children, is why your Aunt Claire is not allowed around celebrities, why she never became friends with Liev Schreiber, and why she was so deeply, deeply humiliated when this entire scenario was repeated almost verbatim during The Liev Schreiber Incident 2.0, AKA The Phillip Seymour Hoffman Incident. [#30] But that, boys and girls, is a tale for another day.