Sunday, September 09, 2007

A small victory.

First off, I should note my LOLcatsing on the Guardian site has got out of control. Here is the week in music, as told by LOLcats.


On Friday night, my friend Matt and I went to see the latest Complicite production, A Disappearing Number, at the Barbican - a flawed, but visually ingenious show - and you know who was in the audience? Why, none other than Sir Tom Stoppard, who is probably one of the five or so people I admire most in the world.

Matt and I spied on his giant, grey Stoppard-fro a few rows away from us and, after the show, exited the theatre on his side (stage left), though we really were closer to the other side (stage right). We stood a few feet away from Tom Stoppard in the foyer, pretending to be involved in a conversation that had nothing to do with how the man who wrote such plays as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Arcadia, The Real Thing and Rock'n'Roll was standing a few feet away from us.

Now, one of the main reasons I decided to become a journalist is that I am often painfully shy, but have a great desire to speak to people and ask them questions. My father is good at this sort of thing; if he passes a site under construction that he is curious about, he has no qualms about calling out to one of the builders and asking what they are doing. On my own, I will not do this - I don't want to intrude.

If you stick a notebook in my hand, however, or a tape recorder, I suddenly gain a lot of courage. I feel purposeful and have no problem speaking to strangers. Take the pad and pen away and I'll just stare from afar and try to pretend I'm not gawking.

So, there Matt and I were in the Barbican and I'm thinking, "I would like to shake Tom Stoppard's hand. He is an amazing man, behind some of the cleverest plays of the 20th and 21st centuries. But here he is, out for a night on the town, enjoying himself with a friend, chatting after a play. I don't want to intrude. I shan't intrude. I will leave him alone." (I think the word "shan't", but thankfully never actually say it out loud.)

On the way up the stairs, however, I began to have second thoughts. "I'd like to interview Stoppard someday," I told Matt, "but what if I don't get the chance? No one lives forever. Pavarotti died this week! What if I had seen Pavarotti last week and was too chicken to shake his hand? His hand is no longer shakeable."

"You should tell him that," Matt said. We laughed. That would be a stupid thing to say.

But I decided I would act.

With Nessum Dorma ringing in my ears, I walked purposefully back down the stairs, strode purposefully over to Stoppard and then stared at my feet and shimmied purposefully right past him and into the parking garage, where Matt followed and laughed at me for being such a chicken. "I'm going to do it," I said, breathlessly. "I'm going to do it! Just give me a moment."

I started to head back in, but then, just then, Sir Tom finished his conversation and headed with his companion right towards me. I opened the door for him and asked, "Are you Tom Stoppard?"

"Yes?" Tom Stoppard said.

I thrust my hand at him. "Hi, my name is Kelly, I'm sorry, I would just like to shake your hand..." (He shook it!) "... I just really admire your work..."

"Thank you," Tom Stoppard said.

"...I don't usually do this sort of thing, I'm sorry to infringe on you privacy, but I was just about to leave without coming over to you and then I thought..." Wait! No, stop talking! Don't complete the thought! Nooo...

"I thought, well, Pavarotti has died..."

Whoops. Stopped three words too late.

Tom Stoppard looked at me. Tom Stoppard looked confused. Or, as Matt later put it, Tom Stoppard looked as if he was thinking, "Oh God, is this how it's going to end for me? Stabbed to death in the parking garage at the Barbican."

I changed direction. "Did you enjoy the show?"

"Yes," said Tom Stoppard. "Did you enjoy the show?"

"Yes, yes, quite a bit..."

Tom Stoppard and I stood there.

"Well, it was very nice to meet you, a pleasure, I hope you have a good rest of your evening," I said.

"Goodbye," Tom Stoppard said. And he walked away.

Matt and I went back in. "I can't believe you said that," he said.

"I just spoke to Tom Stoppard!" I said. "And shook his hand!" A small victory.


Anonymous said...



Anders said...

Great story! This beats the time you ran into Mutsumi Takahashi at the video store by a mile.

anders said...

also: LOL LOLcats!

Christine Estima said...


mad props to you kelly!

and i liked the pavarotti shout out, made it memorable, haha:)

but, uhhh, what's this about you chatting up mitsumi takahashi? CFCF12 is retarded.

Michael Black said...

I saw Mitsumi in Paragraphe one time, when they
were still on Mansfield.

Years ago, on a nice spring day, I was walking up
St. Lawrence Blvd, and as I was getting to Marie Anne,
looked into the bar that's at that corner, the glass
being wide open for the nice weather.

I spy Leonard Cohen. And yes I'm thinking "Oh boy,
Leonard Cohen". But before I had any further thought,
he nods in my direction.

And I kept walking.

I realized afterwards it was a defense mechanism
on his part. He noticed that I noticed him, and
if he acknowledged me, it was less likely that I'd
go over and ask "are you Leonard Cohen?".

I was never sure whether or not I was going to,
but it did work, I had no interest at that point.
But over a decade later, I have a great Leonard
Cohen story.

Of course, it can also work differently. I once passed
Ellen Gabriel downtown, she being in the news so
much shortly before as "spokesman" during the
Mohawk Standoff, and I was on the verge of going
over to greet her like a friend, when I realized
"oops". She had become such a familiar face, I
temporarily forgot that I'd never met her before.
I kept on walking that time, too.

And I'm still puzzling over the time one of Mordecai
Richler's sons said "So you're Michael Black".


J. Kelly said...

Nice to see y'all here... I thought perhaps I had been too negligent here on the ol' blog.

MB - Enjoyed your Cohen story...

CE - Once I saw Mistumi renting Caddyshack at a rental store. Or, rather, I once claimed this when I was in high school; I can't remember if it's true or not. How dare you impune her name, though!?! Best anchor ever!