And the odyssey continues. When last we left our hero, he was up far too late on Wednesday night. Thursday was mostly a loss. We ate at Donut House, a diner at which we did not, in fact, consume any donuts. I had a corned beef omelet which was superb. That afternoon we were meeting with the producers of Mike’s upcoming off-Broadway show. Sitting in this little diner in Brooklyn, eating greasy food and talking about the meeting, I felt completely in synch with those movie scenes of showbiz people meeting in diners, like The Front with Woody Allen.
It’s curious the ways in which the New York of my movie-going career does not match the New York of this trip. Most notably, a big part of my mental picture of the city comes from films of the 1970s, stuff like Dog Day Afternoon, The Warriors, or even The Exorcist, when Father Damien goes to visit his mother in the city. Those images of the city as a trash-strewn, grimy wasteland, cold and foreboding, do not align with the city I see here today. Parts of it do a little bit, like the streets south of Times Square and north of Chelsea, where the shops all close their graffiti-strewn metal shields at night. But for the most part, the cinematic New York is a thing of fantasy, or of the past, or both.
The meeting with the producers went well. Lots of things are falling into place with the media campaign and so forth. We raised the topic of our shooting a television commercial, but once I made it clear that they would have to pay me for the work–instead of just doing it for something resembling fun or camaraderie–they lost enthusiasm rapidly. (When I said we’d need a schedule and a budget, one jokingly replied, “The schedule is now and the budget is zero.”) I’m glad it worked out this way, since I really can’t stay the extra few days the project would demand.
Afterwards we had dinner at Chumley’s, a venerable watering hole in Greenwich Village. It’s particularly known as a writer’s bar, and has been graced by the likes of Hemingway and Hammett in their day. We had a fine meal there and then headed for home.
Friday came and oh, hell, it was a lazy day. We got moving really slowly. By the time we’d gotten our act together and eaten, it was about 4pm. Lunch was thin-crust pizza, really delicious. Mike and I headed into the city to prepare for TechTV.
This TechTV gig is an odd one. The show is called The Screensavers, and it’s sort of a talk show and tech-support program in one. People call in–sometimes on their internet video cameras–and ask for technical advice, and they also have guests and features and so forth. It’s sort of the tech version of Car Talk. This night was Mike’s fourth appearance on the show, and he drafted me to join him in the role of Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple Computer. We’re both gonzo Mac geeks, so this certainly struck us as funny, even if no one else was amused.
Jobs habitually wears a black turtleneck sweater for his appearances, and we spent a frantic hour trying to buy one. Despite the cutting, freezing wind howling through the city, every salesperson we talked to informed us it was spring, and therefore they only had light spring clothes, no turtlenecks. We finally gave up less than an hour before airtime and made do with a crew-neck sweater I’d brought, which I wore backwards as a simulacrum.
TechTV is based in San Francisco I believe, but they have a small studio here in New York. Most of the branch staff had gone home by the time we arrived, and so a guy led us to a large unoccupied room with a desk and two chairs where we would perform. We sat around for twenty minutes, settling on the material for our bit. We’d sort of made it up now and then over the preceding week, and had enough stuff prepped to ad-lib it sufficiently well. The piece was great, and I’m really satisfied with the results. For those of you unable or unwilling to watch it, I’ll have it online soon. I find it difficult to reconcile my comedic appearance on a cable network show with the rest of my life–it just doesn’t seem to fit. But it was good fun, so that’ll do.
Jean-Michele’s brother Joe arrived in town with his girlfriend Rae. They’re staying at Chez Daisey now, so I decamped to the Pennsylvania, a huge old hotel by Penn Station and Madison Square Gardens. It’s an uninspiring but serviceable place, enormous, and catering to the tourist trade.
We all met up after the TechTV gig and had dinner at O’Reilly’s, which is of course an Irish pub. Afterwards we launched a frustrating quest to see the movie Blade 2, which opened that day. Every theater we went to was sold out. Finally Mike called a ticket service and found a venue in Chelsea where we could catch a midnight showing. He bought tickets over the phone and we headed off.
The film was very good, though I won’t try to write a full review. The crowd was large and boisterous, a suitable opening-night kind of group for a big action movie like this.
Today we all had brunch at Bar Tabac, a French café on Smith St. here in Brooklyn. The food was outstanding, and then we went to Galapagos, the bar where we attended Phat Tuesday. We shot Mike there doing a final batch of short pieces, and he indulged me by doing one where he played Torgo from Manos, Hands of Fate. I had to call Christine in Seattle and get her to hum Torgo’s theme music over the phone so Mike could perform it during the bit. It all went well. We ate yet again, this time perogies in a Polish neighborhood, and are now regrouping.
Tonight we’re going to see The Graduate, a Broadway production of the excellent film. It’s running in previews right now, which means it’s on for real but the critics don’t review it until the official opening. It’s like a grace period combined with a shakedown cruise. The consulting director for Mike’s show is the assistant director for The Graduate, and told us about a cheap-ticket deal we could get. The show has Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson, Alicia Silverstone as Elaine, and Jason Biggs, that pie-fucker guy from American Pie, in the Dustin Hoffman role. No idea if it’s good or not, but it’ll be fun to see a Broadway show.
And that’s that. Sunday should be an all-museum day, if I get my way . . .