New York Moments
Rex Reed, Kevin Chamberlin, and Ann Hampton Callaway share their most memorable New York moments.
I fondly recall the night Brian Lane Green and I were mugged on the very, very treacherous corner of 73rd and Columbus. (Brian has never recovered from the horror, and still dramatically refers to it as "the night we were almost killed.") Another way-too-vivid memory is the time I felt the urge to remove my own air conditioner from the window and then proceeded to drop it 16 floors onto 72nd Street. At noon. I have no doubt that some poor soul is remembering this incident as the time they were almost killed. Don't get me wrong, I have many happy and magical New York memories--but I'd rather ask three members of the show-biz glitterati to regale you with their Manhattan tales.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE NEW YORK MOMENT?
(The New York Observer columnist)
The most amazing night I ever spent in New York was April 23, 1961. That was the night of Judy Garland's historic comeback concert at Carnegie Hall. I was 21 years old, and had only been in the city for five months. I waited in line for five hours the week before, so I had a really great seat. Before I went to the concert, I was so excited that I had to soak in a tub of hot water to calm myself down. That's before anyone had Valium in their medicine cabinet! [laughs]
So there I was I was in the audience with Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson on one side, and Henry Fonda on the other, and they were all squeezing my hand. They didn't know me from the delivery boy, but they could tell I was about to faint! I had never seen so many stars in my life. Eli and Anne kept saying, "Are you all right?" They still tease me about that.
Everyone who had ever been in show business was there: Hedda Hopper, Rock Hudson, Carol Channing, Rosalind Russell, Harold Arlen, Phil Silvers, Polly Bergen, Myrna Loy, Richard Burton--let me tell you, this was a big deal for a little boy from Louisiana. Of course, Judy was unbelievable. People were shrieking! I was just trying to keep my blood pressure down, so that I would not have to be carried out. When the show was over, you literally had to hold on to the side of the building. The aisles were filled with people running to the stage. Hedda Hopper and Julie Andrews were at the edge of the stage with their arms up in the air, just trying to touch Judy.
I remember going outside, leaning my head back onto the 57th Street side of Carnegie Hall, and trying to take deep breaths. I can't remember a night that so transformed me.
(Charlie, and others, in Dirty Blonde on Broadway)
I had a co-starring role in Die Hard With a Vengeance, so I invited my parents to go in a limo with me to the big premiere. They were both very ill at the time and have since passed away, and I knew I didn't have much longer with them. It was a magical evening for them, and certainly for me. That's the last night I really spent with them both together. The party was wild! It was held at Planet Hollywood, and my mother got to talk with Martha Stewart.
Ann Hampton Callaway
(Swing!, on Broadway)
December 9, 1999, was the opening night of Swing!--a day that will live forever in infamy. It was my big opening on Broadway, so of course I had a hideous sinus infection. That alone made it rather memorable. (It just couldn't be perfect happiness!) After working on the show for almost two years, doing three workshops, and striving to make a show that people would enjoy seeing, the fact that it was finally opening was astounding.
[I remember] getting all the presents into all the dressing rooms--and then walking into my dressing room and seeing about 60 bouquets of flowers! There was no room for me to move; I had to do my makeup in a tiny sliver of the mirror. I just couldn't stop crying. Weeping! Twenty years of dreaming and wondering if something could ever happen, and it finally was. I was so moved by the opportunity.
Standing in the wings, [I was] thinking about all the years, the experiences and teachings that got me to that place. I can say that I was totally present, too. I've learned to be much more "in the moment" through meditation and the teachings of Siddha Yoga. It's really helped me to become more emotionally connected. I'm much more able to connect with the significance of things. We performed the show that night to a fantastic audience and to great response. My entire family was there, and so many friends, too.
The big opening party was at Next. There was a Cinderella-type moment when I was announced and walked through the room in my new gown, and there was huge applause! It all represented my entrance into a world that was never mine before. I was welcomed into a community that had always meant so much to me. There was a sense of arrival that was so significant. Symbolically, it was the most important night ever. It was a dream come true.
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