It all began with Mike Vitar. Who?
Mike Vitar. You know. From the 1993 movie, "The Sandlot."
You still have no idea who I'm talking about do you?
Benny. From "The Sandlot." The movie about baseball and Babe Ruth and the beast?
Here. Maybe this will trigger your memory.
Yes. That's right. That's a postcard. Signed. Uh, stamped. Uh, photocopied?
But on the other side...
Oh yes! A personal- uh, stamped- uh, photocopied note. But with a HANDWRITTEN address! TO ME!
Ah-hem. It reads:
HEY WHAT'S UP,
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR WRITING ME. IT'S GREAT TO READ ALL OF YOUR COMMENTS. I'LL ADMIT IT'S TAKEN A WHILE BUT, HEY, I FINALLY GOT TO THEM. ANYWAY, I HOPE YOU ENJOYED "THE SANDLOT" AND PLEASE WATCH FOR MY NEXT PROJECT, "MIGHTY DUCKS 2."
BEST OF LUCK,
Mike A. Vitar
Am I right?!
I was twelve years old and the minute Mike Vitar appeared on the big screen, I understood what it meant to have a crush on a guy. And I crushed. Hard. I dreamed of Mike Vitar. Dreamed of him finding his way to Minnesota, finding me and falling madly in love with my twelve year old self. I wrote fan/stalker mail professing my love for him. Bless his agent/manager/mom's little heart for writing my tween self back.
But they created a monster.
With warped hormones coursing through my pubescent body and a 5x7 "autographed" postcard in hand, I began my path towards celebrity infatuation. Jon, of New Kids on the Block fame arrived ( According to my diary entry chronicling the concert, Danny had cut his hair and it didn't look good, Joey sang like a girl and Donnie announced during the show that he had a problem with drugs, so Jon won out) after it became clear that Mike Vitar's career was fizzling and that he wasn't moving to Minnesota anytime soon.
It wasn't just the uber famous either. Jarrod Emmick had my heart for some time. A beautiful Broadway actor with an incredible voice who just so happened to take all his clothes off in the production of "The Full Monty" I saw in London. Google image search his name. Oh yeah.
Speaking of London.
I lived there for a year when I was twenty and saw as many shows as I could manage. I'd take the train in every weekend and stand in rush lines until I got tickets. I saw four shows a weekend if possible, sometimes standing outside for seven hours to get tickets to a show.
Well, that was really just a couple of times. Four. If we're being precise. To see an Off West End production of "Dr. Faustus."
Starring Jude Law.
My crush du jour thanks to "The Talented Mr. Ripley." And also SOLD OUT. But I wasn't going to let that stop me. I called the box office. A lady answered.
"Young Vic Theatre, how may I help you?"
"Hello, I'm calling to inquire about tickets to Dr-"
This made her angry. "The show is sold out."
"Yes, I understand that."
Angry box office lady sighed. "Yes?"
"I heard there are rush tickets available?"
Angry box office lady turned robotic. Clearly she'd said this before. "The show is entirely sold out. Should there be any ticket returns they will be released to the public twenty minutes prior to curtain."
"Excellent. And what time do people begin lining up?"
Angry box office lady sniffed. "Queue. Queuing."
Angry box office lady sighed, "The word is queue, dear. We don't "line up" in England. We queue."
"Okaaay. What time do people start "queuing?"
"For the matinee?"
"For the evening show."
"If that'll be all--"
Angry box office lady sucked in air, "Yes?"
"How many tickets do you typically release to the public?"
"Well that depends."
"On how many tickets are returned."
"No, I get that. Just give me a guess."
Angry box office lady didn't hesitate. "Two."
"Yes. Now, if that'll be all-"
Angry box office lady wanted to kill me. "Yes?"
"How many people are lined up outside right now?"
"Well, I'm inside so I can't see them but I'd imagine close to twenty. (And here's where Angry Box office lady made a HUGE mistake.) "But they're not here for tickets."
"What are they there for?"
I imagined angry box office lady's eyes were rolling into the back of her head and she was squeezing one of those little stress ball doodads imagining it was my head. "MrLawhasbeensigningitemleftattheboxoffice."
Oh. Dear. God.
This was it. I was going to see Jude Law. Onstage. And I was going to get a playbill and a poster and my boobs signed by my main man.
The following weekend I set my alarm for 5am. I didn't even get up this early to prep for school but there was no way I was going to be anything but the first person in the line outside that theatre. When my alarm went off there was no reaching for the snooze button, no rolling over to the other side of the bed. I whipped off the covers and raced to the bathroom that I shared with two other gentlemen. I met one of them at the bottom of the stairs to my room as I was about to turn the corner into the bathroom. He was headed there too.
"Aright?" He offered as he continued into the loo.
"Uh, are you going to be in there long?" I asked inappropriately.
He looked at me. We'd already established that we didn't really know how to act around one another in the time spent living together. He was a thirty-something from Northern England also attending East 15 Acting School, though in a more advanced program. I was twenty and from Midwest America and extremely awkward. The two of us made for uncomfortable entertainment for anyone privileged enough to witness our interactions.
"Well see-I--" he mumbled and continued into the bathroom, shutting the door quickly.
I waited on the steps by the door for a half an hour as my flat mate took his precious time doing God knows what in our shared bathroom. I mean he was bald, he was a man, what in all of tarnation could he be doing in--ohhhhhh. I shook my head in disgust. Oh man, COME ON! We share that bathroom! You have your own room! It's 5am and I need to get in there to primp and prep in order to look my best for my future husband! I leaned my head against the bannister and waited. Tried to ignore the unpleasant and all too telling sounds that were coming from the bathroom. I waited.
I was not good at waiting.
The door opened and lavender scented steam wafted out. Mr. Man sauntered out naked, wearing only a towel around his waist and a contented grin. I shook my head vigorously, trying to erase the image-etch-a-sketch style and then realized--HE WAS USING MY BATH SOAP. Of the three people who shared the bathroom only one of us had any soap in that shower and that was me and it was lavender and oh dear god.
"S'all yours love," he winked at me as he walked into his room and shut his door. I shuddered, re-focused my attention on my goal and took the fastest shower I'd ever taken avoiding the lavender soap altogether, instead washing my body with my shaving cream.
An hour later, smelling baby soft I stepped on to the train headed into Central London and settled back in my seat, discman whirring away in my lap, and cracked open my journal to begin chronicling what was sure to be the most extraordinary day of my life. I woke up with a start an hour later. My journal lay by my feet, sprawled open, my right hand grasping my precious discman and I could feel dried drool plastered down the right side of my chin. I shoved all my stuff into my backpack, darted off the train and headed out of Waterloo station onto the London streets. I stopped off inside a tiny grocery store and bought a giant bottle of water and some fruit. I desperately wanted the Quavers (a most delicious cheese flavored crisp) and a package of chocolate buttons but I had to watch my back here. Jude Law could be anywhere.
I left the grocery store and began down the street, I'd studied my London A to Z the night before so I didn't have to waste any precious time fiddling with maps. Plus after being here for six months I'd rather spend hours riding around on the subway or trolling the streets lost, then succumb to looking like a tourist. I walked confidently toward the theatre knowing, just knowing that today would be my day. I'd get tickets to the show, I'd get all my goods signed. I'd meet Jude Law. He'd fall in love with me, with my innocence and eagerness and passion for theatre, and dump his model wife. I just knew it.
Ahead of me, someone rounded the corner and turned onto the street I was on. He wore a backpack and that could only mean one thing. He was headed toward the theatre for Jude Law tickets and to get his boobs signed. Shit. I picked up my pace. No way was I gonna let this bugger get in front of me. I started speed walking. He moved faster as if he could sense my presence and smell my American desperation. I started jogging. He did too. Oh, come on, man. Really? You're gonna make me run? I did.
And I almost beat him there.
But he wasn't first in line. Oh no. He was number seven and I was to be number eight. I stopped and looked at all these people who either lived much closer or were much crazier than me. They all appeared relatively normal but then again, so did I. I begrudgingly took my place behind them and sent a little prayer upstairs that either eight or sixteen tickets would be returned that day. I hadn't been able to ask angry box office lady how many tickets were given out per person but I hoped to God it was just one per. Two per at most. I wouldn't be able to stomach failure at this level. I just wanted one. Jesus, I just wanted one. And my boobs signed.
I really wasn't asking that much.
I removed my journal and discman from my backpack and after spreading my backpack out on the ground, sat down, leaning against the concrete building. Seven heads swiveled in my direction. I looked back at them. Okay, yeah, it might be a little gross but I sure wasn't going to stand for five hours AND I was fairly certain that it wouldn't be long before they too would give in and rest their butts against the nasty London sidewalk.
And it wasn't. One by one they dropped like defeated little whack-a-moles to the ground. We waited. And waited. People began talking to each other as the line stretched down the sidewalk but I remained silent. Tactical choice. I couldn't afford to befriend these people in case something went horribly wrong. What if man and woman in front of me got the last two tickets? I'd have to steal their tickets and I seriously didn't want to do that to a new friend. It was best we all stayed strange to each other, each on our own little island of desperation.
An hour earlier I'd pulled out a strategic weapon--a battered copy of Marlowe's "Faust" that I'd purchased at a second hand shop. Should anyone ask I had my ace in the hole "I'm an acting student" answer with my tattered script to prove it. Perhaps they'd take pity on me and gracefully remove themselves from the line, coming to queue behind me, understanding the important learning experience that this posed for me. OR perhaps they'd simply ignore me, not wanting to engage the crazy girl sitting on the crusty London street singing along to "The Full Monty" soundtrack and occasionally looking at the giant "Dr. Faustus" poster behind her and sighing wistfully. Yes, the latter seemed more realistic.
Five hours into our seated pilgrimage the door to the theatre opened. Slowly. A head cautiously peered around the edge of the door, though the body stayed shielded by the heavy glass. The head scanned the street, eyes growing wider with each person they took in. Was this angry box office lady?
"ATTENTION!"The head screamed.
Yes. I was willing to bet this was angry box office lady.
"I SAID ATTENTION! I will only say this once, so listen VERY carefully or you will lose the opportunity to purchase any returned tickets we may have. There is no guarantee that there will be tickets returned for this SOLD OUT production but in the event there are, we will release ONE TICKET per person."
People began grumbling. I smirked. I had this in the bag.
Angry box office lady continued. "That said, as right now there are NO available tickets for the matinee or the evening performance today. You are welcome to continue to wait OUTSIDE and should any tickets be returned we will sell them twenty minutes prior to the show."
Now it was angry box office lady's turn to smirk as she glanced one final time at all of us sad sacks and pulled the door shut behind her with a slam.
Around me people started to leave. Mostly those behind me, but a pair ahead of me, third and fourth in line, packed up and left. I was ecstatic and astonished. What was this? I didn't understand. Quitting was not an option. I assumed we were all in this for the win. But this was happy news. I was that much closer. I shifted my backpack closer to the door, passing another "Dr. Faustus" poster along the way and sighed contentedly. I leaned my head against the wall, flooded my ears with some awesome and super cool show tunes and continued to wait.
An hour later I woke up to a nudge from my next wall neighbor. Instinctively I brought my hand to my mouth and batted away the dried drool and with the other hand shove my discman into my backpack. I turned to look at him. "They're opening the doors." He said.
"Did angry box office lady say if they have any tickets?"
He laughed. "No one said anything, they just unlocked the door."
I looked at him. Dang. He was cute. "Thanks for waking me up."
"No problem. Where are you from?"
"Minnesota. Here for the year studying. You?" I was trying to keep this short and sweet. I had my tactics to think of. And I knew myself well enough to know that cute boys not only distracted me but also made me do ridiculous things and I wasn't going to risk that on a cute backpacking dude.
"I'm from Colorado. Here for the year too. Studying."
"Nice. What and where?"
"Theatre. At RADA."
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Dude raised the bar with that admission. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts was the Harvard of London theatre Schools. I'd heard rumors about how difficult it was to get past the first round of audition, let alone accepted. Heard the famous story of a girl being admitted after she eschewed all traditional audition techniques and did an improvisational monologue based on her experience witnessing hamsters give birth. Girl got in. RADA was the big leagues and this guy was legit. I revised my strategy. Perhaps it would behoove me to remain cordial to this gentleman.
"Wow. That's amazing."
"Yeah, it's pretty cool."
Pretty cool? Seriously dude? This was RADA we were talking about. My school was NOTHING compared to that. I mean if anyone was going to impress Jude Law it was going to be him. Ah-ha! Yes. A new strategy!
Suddenly we were at the door. This could only mean one thing. There were tickets. I mean, she wouldn't let us get this far only to turn us away, right? I looked at angry box office lady. She glared at me. Yes. Yes, she would.
I approached tentatively, waited for her to make the first move. I couldn't afford to mess this up.
"Twenty pound please." She wouldn't meet my eye. I slid the note under the glass partition. I was so close. Givemetheticket. Please justgivemetheticket.
She slid the ticket through. I grabbed it and shook it in the air triumphantly. I waited to see if RADA was going to get a ticket as well. He did. And then they shut the window. We'd made it. Thank God for the two quitters who'd left earlier, we'd made it. With little time remaining before curtain I darted to the bathroom. I had to pee. I had to put on lipstick. I had to pull my shirt down to expose my cleavage. I had to be ready to woo Jude Law.
RADA and I had seats next to each other, and I suspect he realized that engaging me in conversation was fruitless after we stepped inside the theatre and I began gasping at every turn. The stagehand that I mistook for Jude Law. The curtains that rustled with actors and JUDELAW moving behind them. The proximity of seats to stage. The Young Vic was small to begin with but they'd arranged this show in the round with only a narrow walkway intersecting the audience as the stage. Our seats were at the end of the walkway and my seat happened to be right next to the stage. I gasped again. I reached out. I touched it. And then I panicked. If I was this close to him, how was I to focus on the play? I mean I was here to see Jude Law but I wasn't a complete asshole. I also had interest in the production. This posed a serious problem. How could I do that knowing he could see me? I didn't have time to formulate an answer, to prepare a strategy because the lights went down.
And. My world. Was. Rocked.
To be honest? I didn't have a whole lot of faith that Mr. Law could pull this off. But he did. He was captivating and present and passionate and so damn good looking I couldn't stand it. He made Marlowe's "Dr. Faustus" accessible and interesting and relevant to the world we lived in and did it all while looking so very, very pretty.
And afterwards I can neither confirm nor deny that the following happened:
*I purchased a poster and playbill and got RADA to leave them with angry box office lady to be signed. (Boobs stayed with me).
*RADA and I got back in line to try for return tickets to the evening performance. (Yes, I had found my partner in infatuation).
*RADA and I got tickets again. (Take that angry box office lady!)
We saw it again. And again it was just-- it was just--transcendent. (Hey-I was twenty. Lots of things were transcendent then.) But then my crazy switch got flipped. Because Jude freaking Law grazed my hand during the show. I mean, of course it was completely an accident and totally understandable given that I was practically resting my head on my arms against the stage in full swoon but it happened and suddenly I was a woman on another mission. I had to meet him.
Two performances and a signed poster and playbill weren't enough. (Besides, I was worried that the signature was not his, I hadn't seen it so I couldn't be sure. I didn't want to risk taking home items signed by Jude's manager/wife/mom. I needed to witness the signature this time.) I'd had a taste and I wanted more. I was going to meet Jude Law.
At many West End theaters you could hang around the stage door and if you waited long enough you usually found who you were looking for (Hello, Eddie Izzard! Hello, Brendan Fraser!) but this was off West End and this was Jude Law and I was going to have to be a little more sneaky with this one given angry box office lady and her propensity towards hating all things me.
RADA and I stood outside the theatre, leaning against our wall and attempted to come up with a plan. He thought we should go around the building and see if there was another entrance. I mean there was sure to be another entrance, after all we hadn't seen him come or go and we'd been there all damn day. And besides my little nap, I'd watched militantly. I thought we should wait until all the audience had dispersed and see if the actors and artistic staff came out once the coast was clear. RADA and I went back and forth until he had me convinced that we should at least go look. We headed away from the theatre. There was a bar in the building next door and we passed it as we walked. Suddenly RADA grabbed my backpack, halting my progress.
"There!" He hissed.
"What?! Where?!" I yelled.
"Shhh!" He said, "Look!" and he pointed at the bar.
Jude Law. Right there. Separated by only a few flimsy panes of glass. Sucker. He was mine. We walked to the door and RADA yanked on the handle. Locked. Sonofabeach. Oh no. No no. This was not a closed party. This was not going to be the end of my story. We were going to figure this out. RADA and I retreated a few steps away, leaning, once more against the wall. And then RADA took off. Well, great. I thought. Now he's gone and what am I going to do and oh sweet god he's holding the door open. RADA had seen an opportunity and grabbed it. The people leaving the bar had absolutely no clue what they were letting in. Had no idea what was about to be unleashed upon this poor, unknowing actor.
The minute I got inside I turned into a panicked little freak. I walked back and forth to the bar because it gave me something to do and the wine they were serving was my favorite kind--free. I found RADA sitting at a table, engaged in conversation with someone. How had that happened? Now I didn't have anyone to talk to at all! I panicked a little more. Where was Jude? Did everyone know we were interlopers? Was I going to get arrested? I walked over to him and he gestured for me to sit down. I surveyed the room, looking for him when I noticed the handsome man sitting next to RADA's companion. My jaw dropped. It was him. Jude Law was sitting at my table. I didn't know what to do. I looked at RADA. He was holding, it seemed, a calm and intelligent conversation with the two men. I was anything but calm and intelligent. I got back up, walked to the bar and pounded a glass of wine. Walked back to the table. Jude was gone. I spun around. Left. Then right. Then steadied myself on the chair as the wine hit me. I couldn't find him but then again I couldn't even find my balance at the moment.
RADA tapped on my arm. He waved his head, gesturing me to look behind him. There he was. Standing in a sea of Barbie Dolls, soaking up the attention and admiration of beautiful women. RADA looked at me and I knew his patience was running out. I had to do this now or I would be on my own and that wouldn't end well, I was sure. I pulled my Playbill out of my backpack, slugged back the rest of RADA's wine and walked over to Jude Law. He was in the center of the Barbie Doll circle, a handsome hub to their beautiful spokes. I didn't know how I'd breach this barrier but I was beyond caring at this point. I went for it. I lifted my arm over a beautiful blonde head and reached for Jude's shoulder. And tapped. His beautiful little face turned my direction and he lifted his head to see me over the model's shoulder. I waved.
"Hi," I offered. I was proud that I didn't wreck it yet, but terrified of where I'd go next.
He looked at me. "Hi." He said back.
I opened my mouth to respond and something strange happened. My voice dropped and the sentence that followed was delivered in my best Kathleen Turner plays a phone-sex-operator impression.
"I really admire your work." I said taken aback by my tone and fearing for the future of this conversation.
Every Barbie Doll headed swiveled to look at me. A combination of horror and amusement filled all their faces as they watched the American girl attempt seduction of a major celebrity.
"Thank you." He replied politely.
I just stood there. He was talking to me. He looked at me quizzically, attempting to determine where I was going with this.
"I uh...I got a poster and playbill signed by you. I mean you signed them. And thank you...for that. But see I was just worried that maybe it wasn't you who signed-I mean do you think you could just-I'm wondering if you would-you were so really good tonight. I saw it two times today-I'm not a-I mean I'm in acting school. It's not RADA but it's this place and the upperclassmen they live in trees-I mean that's not the-what I'm trying to say--so what I'm saying, uh-asking is canyousignthisforme?" And with that I thrust my playbill over a blonde's shoulder. My sweaty hands shook and I could feel the print from the playbill rubbing off on my fingers.
There was silence as everyone took in my monologue. A couple of Barbie Dolls left the circle, unwilling to participate in this mess. Apparently even Jude Law wasn't worth witnessing the self-destruction of an American girl. The remaining smiled at me sympathetically knowing with absolute certainty I posed no threat to them.
I suspect Jude Law realized that the path of least resistance lay in him signing the playbill. He took it out of my hand and looked at me for a moment. Oh my god. Were we connecting? We were connecting! This was it. The moment I'd waited for. There was something between us, I knew it and now, he felt it too. He looked deep into my eyes. My heart pounded. He smiled. I smiled. A Barbie doll snickered in the background. Jude Law opened his mouth to speak. It was happening. He was going to tell them all to scram. He was going to invite me to sit down and hand me a glass of wine and we would talk about his performance and my acting school and where would live in London and how we'd deal with his wife and custody of their shared children. We'd figure it all out, Jude Law and I.
"Do you have a pen?"
Oh. A pen. RIGHT. To sign my playbill. Oh sweet Jesus I didn't bring a pen. I stared at him. A couple more Barbie Dolls left the circle. Now it was just Jude Law and a couple of blonde stragglers and me. I didn't know whether to count this as success or extreme failure. Probably failure. Cause I didn't have a damn pen.
"Right-uh.." I began when I felt a tap on my shoulder. RADA stood behind me. He offered me a pen. I grabbed it and triumphantly waved it in the air.
"A pen! Here!" I exclaimed as I handed it to Jude Law. He quickly scribbled his name on the playbill and handed it back to me. I pretended not to notice as he wiped his hands against his pants and began to walk away.
I didn't even stop to think. "WAIT!" I yelled.
He turned back around very slowly.
"How bout a picture? I mean-will you take a picture-can I get my picture taken-with, uh you?"
It was at this point that his manager/agent/mom stepped in. "I'm afraid that won't be possible" she said as she began ushering Jude Law away from me. RADA gently took my arm and handed me my backpack, and we left. I imagined everyone inside exhaling deeply as I was removed from the building. Back on the sidewalk I gazed wistfully back inside the bar. The Barbie Dolls had resumed their rightful place at Jude Law's side. As we walked, I only wandered back toward the bar once, pressing my palm wistfully against the pane of glass. We'd had our moment. It wasn't what I'd hoped or imagined but it was a moment nonetheless and it was ours.
Back at Waterloo, RADA and I said goodbye. After realizing that Jude Law wasn't going to ask for my number, I'd sorta hoped that RADA would. And I imagine that he might have if my behavior that day had steered a little more towards normal. Perhaps there was a lesson to be learned in all this. Perhaps if I'd opened my eyes a little wider to see the cute acting student who'd willingly spent the whole day by my infatuated side, I'd see potential in the reality in front of me. Would snap out of my daydream and see an interested guy waiting as I fawned over a dream.
Eh. Who am I kidding. Probably not. And I have the playbill to prove it.