Performing as a variety performer (magic, jugging, comedy), and auditioning for and performing in musical theater in New York City will eventually have you rubbing shoulders with the famous and the near famous. Some of these encounters are more glamorous than others, of course. I have shared the stage with Glenn Close and Stacy Keach (glamorous), but I have also stood at a row of urinals next to illustrious New York luminaries like of Richard Kiley (Man of LaMancha) and Regis Philbin (back when he was only a celebrity in New York City). But then there was the time I almost performed for John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
It’s 1978 and I am booked to perform at a birthday party on the upper west side. When I arrive at the address at 72nd St. and Central Park West I am struck with the grandeur of the building. (One I had probably walked past 50 times before).
The Dakota was constructed between October 25, 1880, and October 27, 1884. The architectural firm of Henry Janeway Hardenbergh was commissioned to create the design for Edward Clark, head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The firm also designed the Plaza Hotel. (Not too shabby). I entered the south entrance and told the gate attendant that I was performing at a party in one of the apartments. He had my name on the list and pointed me toward the elevator, which was lined in gorgeous wood paneling and had a velvet covered bench for you to sit on as you ascended (I checked my shoes for dirt and made sure my hair was neat). When I got upstairs the “apartment” was a three level, 15 room dwelling with an extraordinarily large living room that had 20 foot ceilings and windows along one wall that were 12 feet high. Oh, and these windows looked out on to Central Park. (Nowhere in the vicinity of shabby). The room was filled with guests watching the juggler who was scheduled to precede me.
As I waited and looked out among the guests I spotted them – John, Yoko and their 3-year-old son Sean. They were sitting on the floor and I was simultaneously floored. It seems that they lived in the building as well and just happened to come down for the party. (La De Da) I readied myself and was really looking forward to putting smiles on the faces of this amazing family.
Then it happened – the juggler made a move or sound that startled the 3-year-old Sean and he became inconsolable. Minutes before I was to go on, John and Yoko had to leave the room with their screaming child.
For all the times I wished a parent would have taken their screaming child out of the room during one of my shows, I think I might have liked to struggle with this one just a few minutes. C'est la vie!