We checked into the Loew's New York Hotel at about 11:00 pm, after a 20 hour coach ride from Tampa. I was back in The City again. So was Bobby Poulson. He, Duck, and I did the Kentucky Headhunters together for almost a year. I was sitting in the lobby sipping coffee and writing when Bobby staggered through the revolving door, blind drunk. I couldn't believe it: I haven't seen him in more than a year, and I had not the slightest clue that he was in Town, nor he, I. It's a small road...
I just love this place. I got over my desire to live here about five years ago. Many of my friends who lived here have either moved out, or are planning to in the near future. They are almost uniform in their conviction that this town is not worth saving... All, that is, except for my JAP friend Elinor, who has lived here all her life and is building a career as a psychiatrist...and the 88th Street Brat who was the love of my life for 12 years and who has lived here for 7 years and who can't see that there is a world beyond the river and who can't see what this Town is doing to her even if she stares in the mirror all night long...
Did I write that?
I do love The City, in any case. My fascination with this place deserves a million words all to itself, and I'm not going to do that here. It must be sufficient for me to say that my rush starts when I cross the river, and ends when I cross it again. It doesn't stop in between.
We're at Radio City Music Hall tonight, for the first of two nights. It is my first time in this room, which has been here, in This Town, for 60 years.
When I walked in this morning, I was struck silent by the stately dignity of the place, as theater. The stage was impeccably kept, and lavishly equipped. Every hemp line was just so, every cable neatly tied. The hang of the rep lights plot was precisely measured: the "pipe ends" were in perfect allignment up and downstage. These are pairs of ellipsoidal spotlights hung at the ends of the electric pipes, and cross-focused to provide just the right angle-modeling for entrances in each bay of the drape legs. Pipe ends are an arcane (these days) but basic element of lighting a proscenium stage, and the ones here are textbook examples of the craft.
The grand sweep of the house away from the stage and up into the three balconies is wonderfully clean and elegant, a breathy respite from the (equally adorable but all too frequent) overstatement of Victorian design Vaudeville houses. This house is a tastefully muted expression of Art Deco in grand scale. The clean, uncluttered lines enhance the feeling of space; it is a luxurious expanse of a house.
Local #1 of I.A.T.S.E. (the stagehands union) started on us right away. They noted my hot pink rigging rope and laughed out loud. We ignored them, and talked about what we needed to do today. This was during that early morning (7:30 am, before a scheduled 8:00 am load in) period when we stand around drinking coffee and sizing each other up. Acquaintances were made with handshakes, and we gradually got to know each other. When it came time to crack the first truck, we all knew we were going to have a good day, Local One style.
They don't let us touch our gear here, unless they feel like it. Those are the rules. This is their house, and we play by their rules. When they call a coffee break, everybody takes ten, and we don't plug in so much as a single extension cord. As long as everybody understands this and can deal with it, everything is cool. To any gung-ho new guy who's never worked around Local One before, it can be a serious problem. Four figure fines levied against tours and production companies are frequent. You can violate the rules if you want to, but you'd better know, going in, what it will mean if you do.
So, the gig proceeds at its own pace: "It is what it is." We look at each other and roll our eyes from time to time. These guys don't like to go as fast as we do. But, there is nothing to be done for it...except not to play New York. Nobody ever considers that.
After we got our gear in and were ready to start assembly, I met the Electrics Dept. They handle all the wires, and anything else associated with lights. When it came time to pick up the trusses, I met the Rigging Dept. Electrics stood back and let their Brothers make the shackles. When it was time to place spotlight seats on the trusses, we met the Props Dept. Everyone else stood back and let them place the seats on the truss. Then, when it was time to plug the multicore cables, our old friends, the Electrics Dept., stepped forward and did their appointed thing. This is how It goes.
It was a wonderful spirit of fellowship and unity in the common cause of show business that we shared this morning...a feeling felt for many ages past in this house and its sisters in The City:
"Hey, Billy," called Eric, of Electrics: "Fuck you!"
"No, no...Please," I replied, "Allow me to fuck you. I really must insist."
We grinned. It was good to see each other again.
We all had a real good time, all day long...Local One style.
September 15, 1992
New York, New York
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