Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Smashing Spiders, Meeting Stars, & Getting Autographs

Decades ago, as a teen, I loved ballet.  I took for many years, and when the greatest male ballet dancer of all time, Mikhail Baryshnikov, came town to perform, my mom and I decided we had to see him.  We weren’t season ballet ticket holders, so we didn’t have first dibs on buying tickets to see him.  In fact the performance sold out before we even had a chance to buy a ticket.  We viewed this as a minor inconvenience.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

My mom taught me the meaning of persistence.  She once told me that there’s no such thing as a sold-out theater performance because someone always doesn’t show.  The key is to not give up, so we didn’t. The day of his performance, we dressed up, made a sign that said “tickets?” and stood in front of the Performing Arts Center. We weren’t alone, but it wasn’t a large crowd trying to get tickets at the last minute either.

Anyway, after standing out in the 100F heat for a while, we did manage to get tickets without paying through the nose.  I think one of them was free from a generous individual who had one seat that wasn’t being used and the other we reimbursed the individual for.  As you can imagine, the performance was magnificent and didn’t disappoint.

After the show, we were prepared to get an autograph.  More than a week before the performance, we’d managed to “wander around” backstage, under the guise of being clueless and lost, and we’d determined what door Mr. Baryshnikov would exit through.  We made a beeline for it after the curtain went down.

Security at the stage door was busily informing fans, like us, that Mr. Baryshnikov would exit through the front.  One by one, the fans left and went around the building, all except us, that is.  There was a black Mercedes with the air conditioning running just outside the door.  We knew we were right and that if we just politely waited out in the sweltering heat long enough, he’d have to walk right past us.  We didn’t pester security, try to look through the door, or anything else.  No, we just stood there, patiently waiting on the public sidewalk.

I’ll never forget the short black formal I was wearing.  As we waited, a spider appeared from nowhere and began crawling down my chest and towards my stomach, so quickly, that I couldn’t get it off me before it disappeared beneath the material.  If I left to use the Ladies’ Room to get my dress off and get rid of the spider, I’d miss my once-in-a-lifetime chance to get Mr. Baryshnkov’s  autograph.  So, like a true fan, I took the only course of action open to me.  I slapped at the front of my tight black dress and smashed the spider between my body and the fabric.

Shortly after I had spider guts against my skin, Mr. Baryshnikov came out the door, as we knew he would.  I had my pen and magazine with his picture in it ready, and was able to find my voice long enough to politely ask for an autograph.  He gave me one, and I was thrilled.  The next day, the “Tulsa World” reported that he hadn’t given out any autographs while in town, and hadn’t signed anything for the people at the $500/plate reception (or some large figure like that) that was held, that I of course, didn’t attend.  But they were wrong.  Yep, I’m the only one in Tulsa who got his autograph.  It made my day, week, year! 

I know that a lot of people buy autographed memorabilia from Ebay at high prices, but to me, the whole point of getting an autograph is the adventure of getting it.  When it hangs on my wall and someone asks me about it, saying “I bought it on Ebay” just wouldn’t do it for me.  No, I need a story like the one I just told.  Or, even if it’s less exciting, and I wrote off to get it, there’s still an adventure there.  That’s what makes it so cool.  It takes time to write a fan letter, and there’s always the anticipation of a response.  To me, it’s the adventure behind the signature that makes it so exciting.

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