Today was The 26th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction, a festive outdoor event that benefits Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. They raise the money in and around Shubert Alley via tables hosted by many Broadway shows that sell memorabilia, baked goods and anything else that happens to be lying around, via an auction of big-ticket items and via autographs from/photos with a variety of Broadway stars. The first several years I knew about it, I always forgot when it was or just bought stuff at the tables. Last year, I happened upon it in time to snag photos with Alice Ripley and Joyce DeWitt (how have they not worked together yet?). This year, I did the whole enchilada.
Arrived at 10:30 a.m. My major complaint about this event is that they force you (at least in theory) to choose between autographs and photo ops. I mean, who wouldn't want both?
The groupings of stars (four in all) would sign at a table in in front of Junior's. You'd pay $30 and could get everyone's autograph at the table. Since there were to be four groupings, each taking up an hour, you would have to pay $120 to get every person's autograph. And even then, you'd have to hope that by the time you got up to the person you wanted most, he or she wouldn't have just been pulled over to do photo ops, which occurred around the corner in two curtained-off photo booths.
Photo ops were only $10.
The first group was: Kate Arrington, Ed Asner, Stephanie J. Block, Corey Cott, Robert Cuccioli, Tony Daly, Colman Domingo, Malcolm Gets, Ann Harada, Jeremy Kushner, Karen Mason, Jan Maxwell, Elle McLemore, Bebe Neuwirth, Jill Paice and Michael Shannon.
There was a large group of very young girls at the front who were dying for Jan Maxwell, I was with an obsessed Tyne Daly fan (who was supercool and had done this event for 13 years so was level-headed about how to conquer it) and an older couple behind me was jonesing for Michael Shannon. Most of the line seemed to be for Bebe Neuwirth and Tyne Daly, though, so I was worrying about how to get them (and also Jan Maxwell and Malcolm Gets) since the photo ops were random, you'd go through the line for each one, then were supposed to get back in line.
I figured the best thing to do was to just get back in line where I'd been after each op, and also felt that I could get away with asking the stars to sign things after posing even though it was forbidden Broadway. I was right!
Tyne was my first photo of the day. She looked regal with her styled gray hair and the legs of a 25-year-old dancer and couldn't have been nicer, asking me who I was and giving me a terrific photo. When I asked her to sign this unusual photo of her from the 1970 flick Angel Unchained, she exclaimed, "Oh, God...what was his name? Stroud?" I reminded her it was Don Stroud. She said, "There are lots of good stories about that movie...that I'll have to tell you when I know you better!"
I ran back into line just in time for Bebe, who turned out to be just as sweet. She looks amazing, ageless, and was pleased when I told her that her in Chicago is still my favorite thing I've ever seen on Broadway. When I asked her to sign the only photo I could lay my hands on, a vintage "Lillith" shot from Cheers, she said, "Oh, this is an old one!" but was happy to do it.
The line was grumbling about the rumor that Ed Asner—who cheerfully poses for photos at autograph shows all the time—wouldn't be doing photos, so fans bid $20 instead of the usual $10 to get him to agree. The message came back that he had caved, and his line was enormous. I skipped him, having met him already, but did get some footage of him during and after. It had been funny to see him bundling up under his gray parka against the brisk winds.
Malcolm Gets didn't do photos nor did Jan Maxwell, crushing her devoted fangirls. But when Jan took off with a male companion, everyone (myself included) jumped her and got photo ops on the street, which she did happily. An elderly male couple line-jumped me to get their photo first and I'm not sure, but I think it took the shooter an hour to take the picture, which led to Jan and I sharing a laugh.
The next hour had: Adam Chanler-Berat, Lauren "Coco" Cohn, Felicia Finley, Ari Graynor, Neil Haskell, Steve Kazee, Aaron Lazar, Kara Lindsay, Judy McLane, Patrick Page, Kate Rockwell, Matthew Saldivar, Chandra Lee Schwartz and Quinn VanAntwerp.
I've never gotten around to seeing Once, but Steve Kazee is a piece (and a Tony winner) so I wanted him, but only him, from this group. Luckily, he did it right away, freeing me up for a bit to shop the flea market. When I met him, I said, "I saw you at Broadway Bares, but why didn't you do the show?" Very unflirtatiously, he averted his eyes to quickly pose with me and said, "Aw, they wouldn't want me up there." Okay! But he is gorgeous.
Walking around the tables, I spotted some original West Side Story movie dancers plugging Dancers Over 40. They were way over 40 and looked happy as clams to be there, even if they were a mix of Sharks and Jets.
Next up were: Jackie Burns, Mario Cantone, Jason Gotay, Jenn Harris, Judy Kaye, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Tyler Louderman, Kyle Dean Massey, Rob McClure, Michael McGrath, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jessie Mueller, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Ryan Redmond, Will Swenson and Adrienne Warren.
I wanted Kyle Dean Massey (in more ways than one) because he was brilliant in Broadway Bares, not to mention Wicked and Next to Normal.
He was a total doll even if my head dwarfed him, happily signing a blank book I brought along.
I was standing with a woman (and her husband) who I thought would wet her pants in anticipation of getting a photo with Mario Cantone. I joked that he might cancel and I thought she'd pass out! When he was called, she high-tailed it to the front of the line and whatever she said to him led to a kiss on the cheek for her. I was going to suggest he sit on my lap—he's so tiny! I've had dildos larger than him, and I mean that enviously as I covet compact attractiveness—but instead just did a normal hullo. I had him sign a Laugh Whore program I'd found at the flea market for a dollar. A friend I bumped into told me Mario was a jerk, but I replied, "I do anyone with a name," which threatens to become my epitaph.
But I was most excited to get Brian Stokes Mitchell, who I remember creaming over on $25,000 Pyramid. Dick Clark had such a hard-on for that guy, always teasing him about his clothes and credits. Very Billy Budd. I told Brian I'd been interested in him since that show and he laughed and said, "We go way back!" He's stunningly handsome still with his silvery hair, and before I even had to ask him to sign my book he signed a nice promo card for his new Simply Broadway show and CD.
The last grouping was the most intense: Danny Burstein, Charles Busch, Harvey Fierstein, Capathia Jenkins, Derek Klena, Rebecca Luker, Lindsay Mendez, Debra Monk, Donna Murphy, Karen Olivo, Laura Osnes, Bernadette Peters, Anthony Rapp and Christopher Sieber.
Bernadette had a line of probably 100 people, so they promptly doubled the price (weeding out no one in the process). I was with a fun group, all of us interested in both her and Harvey, though I also wanted Charles Busch. I was with a fun mom and her Off Broadway-veteran daughter (who idolizes Sutton Foster and had had to pay $100 to get a photo with Sutton and her brother last year), an adorable kid who had to be like 15 but knew all this trivia and was spouting out the fact that Matthew Broderick once killed a person and this brassy starfucker who was cursing like a sailor! She was a hoot, saying that there was no way Bernadette Peters would not do photos because, "She's Bernadette Fuckin' Peters!" I told her to ask Bernadette to sign that way—and she did! She signed "Bernadette F. Peters" for her!
Bernadette was a sweetheart, patiently receiving everyone's slobbering praise and signing for everyone who asked. I got two photos with her because the photographer told me to check the first so I said, "It's a little blurry..." Good thing, because the second shot was a dream.
Harvey was very cool, too. I blurted out that I'd played "Alan" in Torch Song Trilogy in college, which he laughed at. One great photo later, he almost balked when I asked him to sign for me. "Isn't that against the rules?" he queried. "No, it's fine," I replied. "Okay!"
He implored all the freebie photo-seekers to cough up money for Broadway Cares, which I'm sure most did. (I will be donating some $ myself to make up for all my free autographs.)
Finally, I needed to get Charles Busch, but it looked like he wasn't doing photos so I told them I'd pay $50 instead of $10. That drew him over and he seemed kind of bemused. I reminded him I'd recently written about his Garbo drawing being auctioned by Garbo's nephew, so that led to a brief and sweet chat with a true icon, IMHO. Our photo is fuzzy but not bad at all.
Once it was over, I then grabbed Karen Olivo (so nice) for a photo as she left, and had to dash after Donna Murphy, who was ducking into a theater to escape notice. Two little girls had sweet-talked her into a photo so this big boy tried and she said, "Okay, but it has to be fast." With no one but children nearby, I had to do the dreaded self-photo op. It's not the best picture of me, but it is Donna Murphy. Later, as I walked home, I crossed the street and wound up next to her. I couldn't risk having her think I was following her home so I crossed back, averting my gaze.
Because I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm some kind of bonkers starfucker.