So the free screening of the film was at a movie theater in Times Square. For those of you who have never seen a movie in New York City, it’s a little bit like going to a gospel church, where people yell at the preacher when the spirit moves them. If you’re used to the kind of mass where everyone sits quietly, it can be kind of startling at first. In New England, not only do people not yell at the screen, they sometimes don’t even laugh out loud at the funny parts. In NYC, there’s no such problem. If anything, there’s too much laughing at inappropriate moments.
This is why going to see a movie in the city is fun. If you’re not in love with the person being laughed at, anyway.
I’m getting ahead of myself again, though.
Sarah’s driver dropped us off a block or two away from the theater and we walked. There was a pretty big crowd outside under the marquee, and they had gigantic blowups of the movie poster flapping on the exterior walls like tapestries. There were three versions. One had the two of them in a romantic mutual hand-clutch, framed as if they were standing on top of a giant spotlight pointed upward. The other two had the same spotlight effect, but one was Jennifer Carstens standing alone, a wireless mic raised in one fist, and the other was Ziggy alone, no mic, just both arms outstretched, palms upward, face upward, so you couldn’t really even see his face.
The way it had worked out was that Jonathan had gotten tickets for Sarah and me, so our names weren’t on a guest list–yet. He used his press pass to get inside to see if he could pull us out of the crowd.
Sarah and I were game to stand in line, actually. I mean, why not? Well, other than the fact I was kind of a wreck, but you know, I can put on a normal face when I need to. In fact, being there among happy people who had no big emotional stakes would probably be good for me, you know? We got in line and at first no one around us realized who we were. We can both be pretty unassuming. We were wearing sunglasses and Sarah was not overly dressed up or anything.
And New Yorkers being New Yorkers, when they started to recognize us, it was mostly with little nods of recognition. A couple of people craned their necks as Mark Goodman and one of the other MTV veejays got out of a car and headed to the door, shaking hands and giving high fives as they went.
But there was a palpable shift as people realized we were staying put in line and not going inside. A guy in a polo shirt who looked like he was playing hooky from his office finally turned around and said, “Everyone’s kinda looking at you because you look like Daron Moondog.”
“That’s because I am,” I said.
“No shit! Well, let me shake your hand.”
I shook his hand.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Just here to see a movie,” I answered, which got a laugh from the people around us.
See, I told myself, everything’s fine, you shouldn’t worry so much, it’s just a movie, and later you’ll call Ziggy and have a big laugh about the whole thing.
That was when the girl ran up to us, put her hands over her mouth so she wouldn’t scream when she saw me, and burst into tears. She had done herself up sort of like Ziggy’s Statue of Liberty look from last year. She swayed like she was about to faint.
I caught one of her arms, and Mr. Polo Shirt caught the other. “Oh my god oh my god I was outside the hotel that time you almost got arrested and I love you so much it’s been so hard when you were gone I didn’t know what to do,” she said to me. And then she passed out.
We couldn’t really hold her up, and people started waving for security while we lowered her gently to the sidewalk. I crouched down next to her while Sarah fanned the girl’s face.
Next thing I knew a big man was elbowing people aside and kneeling down next to me.
I did a double-take. It was Antonio. “Was this the job you had to do?” I blurted out.
“Yeah,” he said, holding the girl’s hand. She was blinking now. “Um, yeah. What the hell are you doing out here?”
“Waiting for the mov–”
“Come the hell inside,” he said, and helped the girl to her feet. The crowd parted for us and he guided her slowly inside, while Sarah and I followed.
In the lobby there were various industry types milling around, but I was kind of focused on making sure the girl was okay. Tony gave her a sip of ice water from a soft drink cup and she took a couple of deep breaths and said, “Oh my god, sorry about that. I’ve never had that happen before.” I couldn’t make out her natural hair color or skin color but she had a Puerto Rican lilt mixed in with her Long Island accent.
“It’s okay,” I said, “if you’re okay.”
“I’m fine now, thank you.” She took another deep breath. “You are so nice. I mean, I knew you were, I was there outside the hotel. That time? When you were letting girls come in a few at a time when you were eating?”
“At the Penta.”
“Yeah. I was there when you almost got arrested, too.”
Antonio gave me a look, remembering that. I guess I didn’t exactly make his job easy.
The girl went on. “It’s just that I didn’t think you were going to be here. I mean, I kind of hoped you would? But I thought it would take a miracle.” Her voice dropped to a stage whisper. “I prayed for it to happen. I’ve never had a prayer answered before! So it was a total shock!”
I prayed for as ecstatic a reaction from Ziggy the next time he laid eyes on me. “Well, we should take some pictures or something,” I said. “You’ve got a camera?”
“Of course, of course!” She pulled her camera out of her bag, and Antonio took some pictures of her and me, and also of her and me and Sarah.
Then he escorted her out, and she happily went, blowing me a goodbye kiss as she did.
“Wow, you’re so calm with them,” Sarah said. “Fans, I mean.”
“Shouldn’t I be?” I watched Antonio cross the lobby again, then, and disappear through the double doors into the auditorium.
“I guess I get more affected when a girl screams and faints in front of me,” Sarah said. “I get all jittery, too, like it’s catching, like I want to jump up and down and scream, too.”
“You look cool as a cucumber.”
“But inside I’m spazzing out.” She hooked an arm into mine.
“You’ll probably get used to it,” I said. “When you tour. Speaking of which, why aren’t you on the road? Number three Top 40 hit, and it’s summer…”
“I’m doing a bunch of festivals here and there. Come over here, they’ve got swag.” She steered me toward the scattered industry schmoozers at the other end of the lobby. “They’re not sure I’ve got the stamina to do night after night.”
“Well, given what went on with Ziggy’s vocal cords I can’t say that I blame them for being careful.”
A young PR assistant of some kind, wearing an extra large promo T-shirt over her regular clothes and tied in a knot at one hip, handed us T-shirts from behind the table where she was sorting them into piles. Sarah and I disengaged elbows to look at them. On the back was the logo of the radio station, while the front seemed to be the movie posters. She had the one with the Ziggy image on the front, mine had Carstens.
Sarah swapped them, twitching the one out of my hands and giving me hers. I rolled the shirt up small and put it in my back pocket just as Mills came through the doors from the actual theater into the lobby.
I will confess it was kind of satisfying to see he stopped in his tracks for a second when he saw me. He was goosed, and the thought that went through my head was you can’t get rid of me that easily. Then Sarah waved to him and sauntered over in a really jaunty-but-sexy way. He smiled and kissed her on the cheek, plastering a fake smile on his face. Or at least it looked fake to me.
Then he spoke to another guy, maybe mid-thirties, also wearing the promo T-shirt in too-large a size over his button-down shirt, which let me tell you, was not a good look. I guessed he was the PR director for the station. He cleared his throat and made an announcement to the scattered group. “We’re letting the crowd in starting in two minutes, so get your swag if you want it and sit anywhere inside that you like.”
We went in and found Jonathan and what had to be a bunch of other writers and press people sitting in the first couple of rows. They were each holding a press packet and I guessed they had been having a sort of press conference in here while the rest milled around outside.
Sarah plopped down next to Jonathan and began to regale him with the tale of the fainting fan. I gave him a little wave as if I were going to hit the men’s room or something and he gave me a little nod back while listening intently to Sarah.
I didn’t want to sit in the front. I wanted to sit somewhere I could slip out without anyone noticing.
I went up to the second level, where there was a large upper level balcony, but I was searching for a way to get to the ornamental opera boxes. That is, I was hoping that they weren’t merely ornamental.
There was a rough door that had a latch on it like a closet door would, with a hasp and a padlock, but the padlock was open and hanging from it. I figured that had to be either a supply closet or it went where I wanted to go.
I pulled it open and heard a gasp.
I took in a lot of things with my eyes at that moment. The bruise purple of Ziggy’s lipstick. His wide-eyed what-the-fuck-are-you-doing-here look. The stylish, well-cut suit of the man with him. Ziggy’s hand down that man’s pants.
I panicked. I can’t do this. I don’t know if I said it or if I only thought it, but there was too much, too much to think about, too much to remember, too much to handle, and I panicked, shut down, and fled.