O, my offense is rank!

x-posted to Eating Hard Candy Alone

6 Aug 2008, 12:45, Borough of Westminster

The trip broke the bank. One day more and I’d be busking at Heathrow, scraping together the money to get my car out of long-term parking somewhere off Imperial Hwy near LAX. At least busking on the Heathrow side I’d be paid in pounds.

It’s just past noon and I’m in a franchisey-looking pub near the Tower Bridge, Wednesday, my last day here. Just coming off a week of unreality as escorted by Caz (hostess in possession of the unquestionable mostess) and mon couer N., Alexis, Kari, and some fantastic, hard-rocking good times with Sarah-Jane, a dual-citizenship dear friend from back when we were six years old.

And at the same time I’m looking to get back to LA, you know, where everybody knows my name, or at the very least where my outgoing combination of brashness and sincerity is seen as friendly (as opposed to just terribly gauche, or, you know, threateningly offensive). In LA when I’m washing my hands in the ladies’ room, next to another lady washing her hands at the adjacent sink, it goes like: I say “hey” and she says “hey” and then there’s a “how’s it going” sometimes even followed by a “I am in the process of ditching my date” or “I hope they don’t tow my car” (this is me, spitballing typical LA convo), and then we dry our hands and go our separate ways, right? Anyway it turns out if you do this in a surprisingly non-touristy subterranean wine pub near Covent Garden, the lady in the loo will look hard at the floor, not say a word, and brush past you like you might be trying to corner and kill her.

But the point of all of this, the culture-clash punchline, is Hamlet, up in Stratford-Upon-Avon, me full of glee and no idea of the appropriate way to show it.

The proper review of Hamlet will come under separate cover (if we’re lucky); this is just the context; no melancholy Dane, just the Ugly American and how it all played out.

August 4, 2008; 7:15pm, The Courtyard Theater, Stratford-Upon-Avon

We had front row seats. A mixed blessing. From a combination of nerves, my own chronic insomnia and severe jetlag, I hadn’t slept a wink the night before in the B&B. I bought a few white lilies wrapped in a paper cane bouquet. We file in to the Courtyard Theater. We have front row seats. I’m grabbing Caz like she’s made of magic.

Lights down, play starts, Tennant in the corner barely blinking and we’re all waiting for “a little more than kin and less than kind” and I’m probably actually holding my breath till it comes, but then, I can’t stop yawning.

I CAN’T STOP YAWNING. I’m offending even myself. I want to hold up a sign: “It’s jet lag! I love this play!” but instead we’re in the front row, before Tennant and Shakespeare and god and everybody, and I CAN’T STOP YAWNING.

And what’s funny is that in extreme circumstance, I could probably get away with that at the Pantages, but here, not in a million years. Gauche, brash, obnoxious. I figut yawning and shaking from the cold and nerves, all the while yawning WORSE and shaking WORSE, throughout the whole performance; I looked like nothing so much a an epileptic freezing to death in the snow.

I’m not pretty, necessarily, but I’m striking lookng even on the lamest days, high cheekbone and giant Jewish schnoz and a scar over my lip and dark-rimmed glasses, and, anyway, before the show, sitting outside the theater with Caz drinking pre-show beers — before I learned you don’t bum cigarettes in this country — I bummed a cigarette from an artsy loking university kid named Neil, who’d been in Hamlet at school — Rosencrantz — and we talked about the play and our expectations and interpretation. Again, Hamlet review proper to come in separate post, maybe, hopefully.

And, did I mention, we were in the front row, Caz and me? Caz, a model of Shakespeare-going propriety; me haking, yawning, occasionally gasping, and accidentally whispering along to “oh that this too too solid flesh” and “I have of late and wherefore I know not” (which — though this belongs in the other review — Tennant played to its perfect emo comic effect where so many other productions play it dark. Tennant’s like, REALLY, Hamlet? REALLY, here, halfway through the play you don’t know why you lost all your mirth? The line drew a laugh, from R&G onstage to the rest of us off, but again, I’m digressing) and spastic, and gripping my armrests and Caz white-knuckled, SHIVERING AND YAWNING and laughing out loud.

At intermission, as we’re queued up for the bathroom and drinking our interval-time scotch, two women said to me and Caz, “you were in the front row, right?” and to me, “I recognize your glasses.” You twigged to me because I was the one yawning, I didn’t say out loud. Internally, OH FUCK. Oh, the shame.

The show passed in a blur of bare feet and a broken sword (proper review under separate cover, if I can remember well enough to separate the actual Hamlet from the one I saw in my head for six months leading up to this show).

And then the stage door was a mob scene. Horrible, almost shameful to be part of it, but I had travelled 6000 miles and planned half a year for this, and I had flowers, dammit, and I was going to deliver them if it killed me. I grabbed a pen and scrawled YOU WERE TRANSCENDANT (which I spelled, you know, just like that, and not, as it should be, with an -ent, because that’s par for my yawning, shaking, embarassing course) on the flowers’ paper cone, drunken and bowled over by the show and the night at large.

There were probably a hundred, hundred and twenty screaming fans, pushing and shouting and waving their souvenir swords. As the early actors came out for their autograph signings the fans were generally well behaved, pushing and crushing in controlled chaos and respecting the metal semi-circular barrier that blocked off the crowd from the stage door itself. It’s FREEZING outside, me in my short sleeveless occasional dress and Caz trooping it out valiantly, and my teeth are legitimately chattering, making skull-cracking noises as my knees knock and I stand, way back at the edge of the crowd, staring through to see what’s what and who’s who.

Then the stage manager does a feint, coming out and announcing he was terribly sorry, but David had visitors and would be unable to come out to sign anything. Thanks very much and good night.

About half the crowd dispersed, grumbling, and I made my way up to the metal barrier, planning to give the flowers to the stage manager, nod a thank you for the cast and the phenomenal show, and be on my way.

Of course, instead, David came out, obviously tired and not thrilled about the screaming mob. The look on his face made something actually break in my heart. I can’t think back on it too much or it saddens me. A professional Shakespearean actor in the glow of a press night performance where at least three things went wrong on stage that they covered for valiantly, wanting to chill and bask in the glow and wait for the morning’s reviews, instead faced with a screaming, shouting, nearly VIOLENT crowd.

The running of the bulls began in force, ramming me into the barrier and smacking me in the back of the head with their programs, the cry of “DAVID! DAVID! OVER HERE!” almost threatening and thunderous.

Caz, wise and classy as ever, stayed back, keeping herself out of the fray while standing by in case I needed a picture taken or a moment immortalized. (Caz = FTW, again, for real, really)

David took a deep breath, stepped up, head down, no smile, no eye contact, and began his semicircular signing frenzy, signing program after program without looking up, as people shoved their programs and tickets and swords under his nose. The first couple rows of the crowd, my row and the crowd behind me, mainly, got to shove up and get their papers signed; the folks behind me took advantage of the fact that I was standing quietly and waiting with my flowers to shove their programs in front of my face, around my waist, over my shoulders, leaning me over the bar to get to David, who kept on signing and ignoring the press of flesh as best he could.

I waited till he was done, and he stepped back, threw up a professional but tired-eyed smile and thanked us, and I tossed my bouquet at his feet.

He picked it up, looked at me, made maybe his only eye contact of the evening, murmured “thank you,” and went back inside.

At first I took a small amount of pride; I was the only one who got eye contact, the only one with an acknowledged thank you, the only one who GAVE something as opposed to shouting and grabbing and taking. I touched his arm as he walked by. He’s even more beautiful in person. More on that in the review of the production, to follow in this LJ provided this LJer finds the words to talk about it.

The rest came later at the Dirty Duck, the actors’ pub.

Despite the freezing — no, seriously, SO SO SO cold in my wee strapless dress, SO SO cold — temperature, Caz and I stopped at the pub to find the actors who played Horatio, Ophelia, and Laertes on the patio, drinking with their friends and chatting it up with a small and respectful crowd of adult theatergoers. A much more casual atmosphere for us to chat them up and for Caz to get her program signed.

While she was flirting with Laertes — quite fit and Caz’s new Shakespearean crush — I offered to by Horatio a drink, and then the night went on like that, drinking and smoking with Horatio — Peter de Jersey (and a marvelous Horatio he was, blinded by love for Hamlet, loyal to the end, melancholy himself) — talking about my work and his work and how he wants to come to LA, and about Hamlet and Shakespeare and poetic interpretation (and all the while at this point Caz is taking one for the team and chatting with some horrid crazy fanlady who talked about her life-sized Cyberman cutout and her hideous business cards — Caz, again, CAPITAL wingman, CAPITAL. She gave me nearly an hour with Peter de Jersey, which was just the night I needed) and British custom and the US elections and manga and beer. “Tell David Tennant you met the chick who gave him flowers,” I couldn’t help but say to Peter. “And she wasn’t insane.” He laughed. “I absolutely will.”

Later Caz informed me that while I was busy with Horatio, early on, Laertes had said to her, “oh, you were in the front row, yeah, I saw you with your friend.” I saw your friend YAWNING, he didn’t say. SHE DISTRACTED ALL OF US, that FUCKING AMERICAN, he didn’t say.

O, my offense is rank.

So, David Tennant’s not in love with me. But the next morning, in the pouring rain, I tromped back to the flower shop in Stratford, bought a couple lovely cut orchids, and brought them (by then a soggy paper cone) across town to the Courtyard Theater. I’d written a nice long card to Peter de Jersey, thanking him for the night before, complimenting his performance and telling him to share my respect with the whole cast.

I stood at the stage door in my soggy hat at 8:30 in the morning, holding my bouquet and card, and knocked on the door. The crewmembers inside saw my flowers and approached the door suspiciously, convinced I was a rabid David Tennant fan.

“Can I leave these for Peter de Jersey?” I asked. The crew member positively beamed. “Oh, Peter!” he said. “Absolutely, I’ll be sure he gets them!”

*

So, yes. I was a little bit shamed to be a yawning theatergoer, but at the end of the day, the trip, the summer, I am more shamed to be part of that brutal wave of fans that have made life almost unnavigable for David Tennant. And while I didn’t stalk him, or grab at him, or get in his way, or scream his name, I watched it happen.

And I don’t just mean watching the crowd mob him at the stage door; I mean watching his meteoric rise to fame over the last two years (and I predicted this, in June of ’06, I predicted that with two years Tennant wouldn’t be able to walk down the street without being harassed, that he would be a household name. So, go me for getting it, but I wish I’d been wrong), and the audience’s shift from appreciating him as a whip-smart waspish actor to a cover model. From having reverence for Doctor Who to making it impossible for Tennant to go see Catherine Tate’s West End play, because the audience spent more time harassing him and actually disrupted the play, and Tennant had to get up and leave so the show could go on. Awful, awful.

I wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t come back to Doctor Who after this; in fact, I’m sure he won’t; I wouldn’t. And I think we — me, I — all made this happen. So now I’m embarassed for my part of it.

I’m the girl who has always — in the slash battles, the RPS battles, the fanlib battles and the OTW battles, the cease-and-desist battles and the chan battles and the underage battles — come down on the side of the fans, come down for the rights of fans and fandom. And this is the first time I think we’ve pushed it too far, and I’ve done my part, and I feel terrible about it. We wiped the smile off of David Tennant’s face. Our loss.

*

Epilogue: After dropping off Horatio’s flower, I tromped back through the rain to get my luggage, and then to the Stratford-Upon-Avon station to get the train back to London. In the coffee shack on the platform, a kid says to me: “You were at the show last night.” Then I remember him, the Neil dude who rolled me a cigarette before the play. “Yeah, Neil, right?” “Yeah,” he says. “I was several rows up on the other side and I saw you, you were in the first row with your friend.”

“Did I make a scene?” I asked. He grinned. “I saw you yawning a couple times.”

On the train, I sat behind an American college girl and her dad, also on their way back from the show. “I’m never going to wash this hand again,” I overhear the girl say.

After introducing myself they invite me up to play poker with them in their double seat. “I heard you say you got to meet one of the stars?” I ask the girl.

“Yeah,” she says. “I was a theater major and I love Patrick Stewart, and I got to meet him after the show.”

“How’d that happen?” I ask.

“Oh,” she says. “I wrote him a letter.” I bite my tongue. “Wish I’d known that David Tennant guy was going to be in the show,” she goes on. “I’d’ve written two letters.”

*

strange love

Open Letter to Scottish Actor David Tennant

June 4, 2006, reposted.

Dear Mr. Tennant,

I’m writing from Hollywood, California, because your star’s rising so brightly I can see it from here, and it’s gorgeous, and it’s blinding, and I thought you should know what it looks like from 6000 miles. This is also a love letter.

From today I give you a year, maybe eighteen months till you’re a household name, top-billed, in the States as well as abroad. Here’s what’s gonna happen.

They’ll make you work out, you beautiful lanky stringbean, and you’ll get biceps and a chest and then they’ll make you do (more) shirtless scenes. Then you’re gonna cultivate an American accent. They’ll tell you to do it because more roles’ll open up for you. We’ll tell you to do it because we want to hear you sound like us, and you’ll do it because you got a bit of the cowboy in ya and a damned good ear. Take it for a test drive on Doctor Who this year, because in the age of BBC America you’ve got a bigger captive audience than Tom Baker ever had, and in a week you’ll end up on YouTube.

Next you get a breakthrough hit. Something with critical appeal on a low budget, this year’s Trainspotting. I bet the scripts are coming in already, and you’re with ICM, so you’ll pick the right one. Then it’s a question of do you want to do the mainstream summer American romantic comedy they send ya, or do you wait for the villain role in the smaller American thriller? And the girls join the gays, as they tend to, and next thing you’re beating out Brad Pitt in every poll there is. Glossy magazines that smell like perfume will call you things like “The Scottish Sensation” and the Desperate Housewives will start fantasizing about you. Quite possibly call you to offer you a six-episode arc.

I just met you this past year because I’m a geek and a fangirl and I watched Eccleston in Who, and, like everyone, thought I’d never get over him once he left. (If you’re playing the home game, you had me in three episodes. I marked the moment, it’s at the end of “School Reunion” when we get our very first giant Tennant grin, breaking around “my Sarah Jane!”)

Since then I’ve made a point of getting hold of screeners for Casanova, Blackpool, Secret Smile. I watched 2005’s Quatermass for you, and the internet provided old episodes of Taking over the Asylum where they noticed you first, all limbs and energy and that weird wisdom in your eyes. You like props and stage business. You like smiles that break from one corner of your mouth to the other, like a wave. You like to touch people. You like to pace, to sit down and get right back up again. You like to cross a room and then look back over your shoulder. You bite your upper lip and shoot a knowing look. Most white guys bite their lower lips, but you’ve redefined mouth business for a whole new generation, with that pop of your lower jaw and the way the tip of your tongue folds up against the roof of your mouth. I suspect some of that’s you, just as I suspect that even when you’re not performing your face tells a hell of a story.

So I did twelve years of Tennant in about two months, real time. I watched you grow up and blow up and explode on the screen as Casanova, as Carlisle, as the Doctor. This time you took the slower path, and I tripped through the pages of your book and fell for you as I watched you blow the roof off the place.

The reviews I’ve read describe your Doctor as quirky, electric, I’ve even heard “waspish,” but if you ask me (and boy how you didn’t) I think the key element you bring to the character’s what we saw in the very first five minutes we had him on screen — he’s a fellow who’s hop, hop, hopping for his life, in perpetual motion because if he ever stops, even for a second, he’ll be forced to come to terms with the weight of his 900 years and all his angst and guilt. And so you spin him across the screen with a sort of desperate mania, like the guy who hides his emotions behind humor or the guy who talks too fast because he doesn’t want to hear what you’re gonna say if he lets you interrupt. Actually, it’s kind of chilling. One gets the feeling that just beneath the surface, Tennant’s Doctor, for all his infinite adaptibility, is about one good guilt trip away from smiting the universe with his wrath for all of its injustices. Kind and passionate, yeah, but don’t ever mistake that for nice.

All this in sharp contrast to your Casanova, though on the surface they do share a sort of Peter Pannish irrepressibility, because you somehow managed to make Casanova — while entirely a rogue — the domestic sort. Here’s a man who, despite appearances, really does just want that perfect love affair, to run off with his heart’s desire and settle down for a life of domestic wedded bliss. And how you managed to do that while keeping him a self-centered cad is just another little indication of why I spent the last two months seeking out every credit of yours I could get my hands on. Casanova who wants nothing more than for his son to be proud of him, or nothing more than to play house with Henriette, and still manages to botch the whole thing up because he’s crippled by his own need for instant gratification and because he’s got that magpie-like attraction to the shiny and new and untried.

And then Carlisle’s a third sort entirely, probably the laziest character I’ve seen you play. And of course it’s not really laziness he’s got, but what you present as sort of a combination of complete worldly entitlement and a sort of boredom with everything around him. Your Carlisle slouches through his life completely convinced he’ll get whatever he’s got his eye on without much effort on his part. When other folks talk, he lets his mind wander. He lopes around with that air of bored confidence, but then, in a really phenomenal performance, you litter all that confidence with nervous behavior, the eye poking, the oral fixation. Like even Carlisle doesn’t know how insecure he really is. And it works for him, both the insecurity and the overconfidence; he gets his man, he gets the girl, he’s a corrupt antihero and we all root for him anyway.

In other words, you’ve impressed the socks off me. And that doesn’t mean anything, I mean, my opinion, as I’m not famous, or noteworthy, or an asshole, but I’m brighter than most and I’ve got discerning taste and I’m not even an Anglophile; I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Jewish New Yorker cum-Angeleno, and I think you are the greatest thing to come along since belly lox on a bagel. And not just because you’re a beautiful man, which you are, from the loud arch of your eyebrow to your toothy grin that can stop a girl’s heart, ka-thud, just like that. And not just because you’re a legitimate talent, a genuine actor’s actor, an alive, electric performer with a freakish ability to shift from beaming to broken or from charming to creepy with a curl of your lip. Because one bit of stage business isn’t enough for you, and they may call you spastic and jumpy but every single one of those movements is controlled, elegant. You slide into your roles like you were born in them, which, I suppose, in the Doctor’s case, you were. You make good decisions. You see the whole picture. And I’ve grown absolutely addicted to watching you do it, and falling just a little bit in love with you besides.

Not even just because you’re a Socialist, or you did 7:84 or can probably match me at West Wing trivia, or because you still believe in agitprop, though those are points in your favor. And I didn’t fall for you just because you’re six feet and can’t weigh more than a buck fifty but you move like a dancer and your head’s always square on your shoulders and you can’t teach that kind of confidence, that kind of posture, that’s just born, and either you got it or you don’t, and you’ve got it in spades.

But mostly I’m impressed from 6000 miles away, and I felt the need to write to you, because you’re taking this in stride, all of it, hop hop hopping for your life and making good choices and living in the present and building a career not by cutthroat ambition but by sheer talent, each role coming out of the next because we want you, and not the other way around. And you say now that you don’t have a five year plan, and I believe you, because I’ve read articles from ’04 where you mentioned trying to get your agent to put you up for a walk-on role on Who. But a year from now you’re going to belong to the world, The Next Big Scot, because the scripts are only going to come in faster after Christmas, after Recovery, after whatever’s next, and I’m gonna miss you.

Scotland’s known you forever, but we just got hold of you over here across the pond, and we’re proprietary! I love that this year you’re property of the geeks, the fanboys and fangirls and the Pink Paper gays, all of us who always jump on board just a little bit quicker than the rest of the world, all of us who know how to see magic in the mundane and who saw it in your amazing face. We’re a clever bunch, geeks and artists, and we usually find the cool stuff first.

We’re on the brink, you know? Doesn’t it feel like apocalypse weather? This big world and my country’s diabolical administration and the conflict that arises when a planet gets too small for its population? Good time for agitprop and a great time for geeks — we made the microphones and the internet and the podiums and now we’ve got ’em in our hot little hands. So what do we SAY? What do we DO? How do we use what we got to change the world for the better? Is it any wonder I fantasize about this year’s love in the form of a Socialist Scot with a talent that even The Man can’t keep down?

But that’s also why this is a love letter, because I’m aching for our lost year, because next time you’re in LA you’ll be bigger than Brad Pitt and rich as Croesus, and I’m never gonna get the chance to work with you, to use your energy and vast, sprawling talent to tell my stories. And we’ll never get that drink.

And it woulda been a good drink, David, it woulda been awesome.

Maybe I’m wrong, and you’ll stay staunchly where you are, the pride of Scotland and the Pink Paper heartthrob for five more series of Who, and then maybe after that you’ll team up with Russell Davies and write your own pilot, and star in that, and spend some more decades with the RSC and follow the path of other actorly British sorts, and you’ll crossover to the states when you’re seventy and playing Dumbledore in Harry Potter 21.

But either way, I hope you feel the potential, the excitement, the fire of your shooting star. Because from over here, it is absolutely incredible to watch, and I can’t look away.

The best of luck to you in everything you do. Come to LA and I’ll show you a good time.