Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Peeved

I'm one of those people who dislikes New Year's Eve. I can't say I hate it, I just don't get it. The holiday surrounds a completely arbitrary calendar change, set eons ago by who knows whom. But because the number of the year changes, somehow the day has developed into a moment in time where everybody is supposed to look back on the year and take stock of our accomplishments (and failures!) before looking ahead to another year.

New Year's Eve has always made me uncomfortable. As a kid, of course, you feel very left out of things; it is a distinctly adult holiday. (If a kid is ever likely to take stock of past accomplishments, it's going to happen at the end of the school year, not the calendar year.)

And as a young adult, my discomfort with the holiday grew to actual dislike. First and foremost, there's all that kissing business. You know, midnight arrives, the ball drops, everybody starts blowing those horns and throwing that confetti, then you have to find someone to kiss. What if you are single, as I always was, and didn't bring someone to the party, as I never did? There's that horrible awkwardness of standing around while all the couples kiss, then once they pry themselves apart, they realize that there are a few poor schnooks who haven't yet been kissed, and yada yada yada.

There was usually a big party during my college days, but I often missed it. In those years, a group of us traveled from LA to New York right after Christmas to spend a week seeing shows. (That's another blog altogether; during those trips, I saw many many Broadway shows, including the ORIGINAL casts of "Chicago" [Gwen Verdon, Chita Rivera, Jerry Orbach], "A Chorus Line,"[Donna McKecknie, Priscilla Lopez, Sammy Williams, Kay Cole, Baayork Lee, Wayne Cilento, Robert Lupone] "Ballroom" [Dorothy Loudon was wondrous], "Annie" [ditto], "Pacific Overtures," and so many others.) We were in New York at least twice for New Year's Eve, and the first year, we actually did the Times Square thing. This was years before the Disneyfication of the district, so we were crammed into the square with about a million other people, including bums, whores, crack heads, and crazy people. Happy New Year!

I remember that the second year we were in NY for the Big Night, we all looked at each other and went, uh-uh. Once you've done Times Square one time, that's enough, so we booked a big table at Joe Allen's and spent the evening there. The big thrill that year was at the table behind us, where Tommy Tune was hosting a bunch of friends, including Priscilla Lopez.

Hmm, I guess that was a pretty good New Year's Eve, but one of only a few.

Once I became a waiter, the pressure was off. If you worked in a fine foods establishment, or even a steak house, you could always count on working New Year's Eve. For most establishments, it's the second biggest dinner of the year. (What's the biggest? Here's a hint: it's in February.)

So, I spent many years working on the Big Party Night, and that suited me just fine. It was always a hectic shift, but a big money maker, and you never had to feel awkward at midnight. Your hands were always full of dirty dishes or cocktail glasses or somebody's change or something. Midnight would slip by unnoticed those nights.

I do remember one other really terrific New Year's Eve Party, which I threw. It was my dear Claudia's idea, and she co-hosted. At the time I was living in my family home in LA, a large 4 bedroom palace, and for reasons too boring to explain here, I was living there alone. It was a terrific house in which to have a party. I must have had a good time. Here are Claudia and Scott helping me celebrate; I'm obviously feeling no pain:

My dearest Jenny was there, too, with husband Frankie. She wasn't drinking that night, as she was about to give birth to one of the kids:

I think I spent most of the evening at the fridge, refilling my own champagne:

That's "Brady Bunch" star Eve Plumb on the left. We became friends after we were lepers together in "Jesus Christ Superstar"

I've missed a lot of recent New Year's Eves by, you know, nodding off. I just can't deal with trying to make it the biggest, wildest, most fun night of the year. Too much pressure! I'd rather let the New Year slip in unnoticed.

("pssssst! happy new year.")

Rolling in it

Today's mail brought my final paycheck for 2007. It was a residual for an episode of "The Wire." I laughed out loud, then started wondering if it was a harbinger of the new year...

I started 2007 unemployed, but was not worried in the least. I had just completed two gigs in late 2006, and had several projects already lined up for the new year. I spent a very busy spring doing two shows simultaneously, Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center, and Opus at the Washington Stage Guild. I had a ball.

The summer brought some stock, playing one of my dream roles, Harry MacAfee in "Bye Bye Birdie." The fall included a remount of "Opus" and my debut at Olney Theatre, in "Of Mice and Men."

I had a very good year.

But I had to laugh at today's residual check. It reminded me of a neighborhood bar in Studio City, CA, which I was told about recently (I never heard of it when I lived in LA). It's called Re$iduals, and is located close to Universal, Warner Bros, NBC, and other spots where actors occasionally make money. The "hook" at this bar was this: any actor who brought in a paycheck under a dollar received a free drink.

We work for poverty wages all the time in this business, but when I heard this, I rolled my eyes. A paycheck for under a buck?

I'm not rolling my eyes anymore. The amount of my residual check for "The Wire" was 87 cents.