Saturday, February 18, 2006

Talking Italian

People are staring and following me.
This is my only escape from it all:
Watching a film or a face on the wall.
Robert DeNiro's waiting,
Talking Italian.

All right, my friends. The twins are tucked in their beds "sleeping", hubby and eldest are shopping for shoes and I am sitting at the computer drinking a glass of wine, listening to the Bananarama song captioned above. Inspiration for a fairly uninspiring story.

So, one of my greatest brushes with fame was when I met Robert DeNiro and a subsequent phone call placed to my house in September 1986.

The story goes like this... My father worked for a New York advertising agency that had "client" tickets for Cuba & His Teddy Bear, a Joe Papp-produced drama starring Mr. DeNiro, Ralph Macchio and Burt Young. The agency had extra tickets, so my sister, a couple of our friends and I went to fill what would have otherwise been empty seats. We all took the train into the city and went out to dinner. This was the first time that I had sushi, I remember that factoid VERY distinctly. My friend, Amy, was able to procure a very nice glass with a Japanese beer logo on it. My sister made a perfectly timed comment about a teapot and I snarfed in my bowl of noodles because I was laughing so hard. From dinner, we raced toward the theatre.

We moved to Connecticut in the Fall of 1985, so I'm quite certain I had seen a couple of Broadway shows by that point. I believe, however, this was my sister's first. It quite possibly could have been her first trip into Manhattan. The whole time she kept asking everyone if we were going to see any stars. Ironically enough, it must've been opening night or a special event of some sort, because it was a star-studded evening. As we arrived at the theatre, winded by the run from the restaurant, a white stretch limousine was pulling up in front of the theatre. From the limo emerged Sylvester Stallone and a towering, pre-Surreal Life, Brigitte Nielsen. My sister began to jump up and down: "It's Rocky! It's Rocky!" And Sly smiled, which was cool. Other celebs that we spotted that night were Robin Williams, Richard Chamberlin and Albert Finney. I think that those are the others we spotted. Williams I know for certain, because my sister, always the charmer, managed to procure a kiss from him. He wasn't doling out autographs that evening because if he gave an autograph to one person, he'd have to give one to everyone. It think this right before Dead Poet's time.

So, I went to see the show a second time. This time I sent a message to Mr. DeNiro that contained an invitation. Youth has no fear (and I hadn't seen The Untouchables or The Godfather: Part II yet). After the show, the guy at the Stage Door said that Mr. DeNiro was not seeing anyone that was not on the list. So I waited on the "other side" of the police barricade with other eager fans, watching the celebs exit the stage door, jump into their limos and take off into the concrete jungle of Manhattan.

My father's career at the aforementioned ad agency was what put food on the table. At heart, my father was, and continues to be, a writer. During the Summer of 1986, my father was working on the production of Occam's Razor, a play that he had written. It was being produced in Manhattan by the Seventh Sign Theatre. I thought that it would be really cool if Robert DeNiro saw the play, as my guest. So, being the ballsy, 17-year-old that I was, I invited him.

So the limited engagement of the show was coming to an end. One Saturday, I went into the city with my father, who had to work on the weekend in a time that preceded telecommuting. As an aspiring actress, I would often stand on line and get half price tickets from the TKTS booth. This particular wait resulted in tickets to the final matinee performance of Cuba. Again, preceding the performance, I sent a message backstage, inviting Mr. DeNiro to attend Occam's Razor. As luck would have it, the person that I sat next to knew someone involved with the production. So, simply by virtue of proximity, I was able to tag along back stage. We stood waiting in the inner sanctum outside the Stage Door, where the guests/groupies were corralled. DeNiro came downstairs with the others and spoke to those that had assembled there. When he turned in my direction, I explained who I was: "Hi, I'm Alicia Burtt. I sent you a message." I handed him my program, eager for an autograph. This man was a film legend, after all.

He took my Playbill and scrawled his name across the front. "Oh, you're here! I just took care of that upstairs." And he glanced upward in the direction of the Long Acre dressing rooms. He said, "Just send me a program for the production and I will get in touch with you. If I'm not otherwise engaged, I would love to attend." And with that, he, the Karate Kid and Rocky's manager headed off. To somewhere more exciting than Grand Central, I'm sure. Which was where I was headed.

I met my father in one of the no-longer-there bars in Grand Central. I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. Robert DeNiro, acting legend, was willing to accompany me to a production of my father's show. I sat down at the small table where my father was waiting and said, "I'm glad you're sitting down. You'll never believe who may be accompanying me to Occam's Razor!"

And he replied.

"I'm glad you're sitting down. You'll never believe who called the house looking for you."

Apparently, taking "care of that" upstairs, went something like this:

DENIRO: Hello, may I speak to Alicia, please?
MY SISTER: Ummm, she's not here right now.
DENIRO: When do you expect her return?
MY SISTER: Dunno. She went to New York to see a show.
DENIRO: Okay. Well, I will call her back later then.
MY SISTER: Could I tell her who called?
DENIRO: Bob. Bob DeNiro.
MY SISTER: Okay. (pause of realization). OH! OKAY!

And that was that. Because he talked to me live he did not call back. But I got to speak to him live, which was very cool.

He never came to see Occam's Razor. I never sent the program and I don't know if my father ever did. So, I don't think he ever received one. He was also filming The Mission at the time. So, it is likely that he would not have been able to come anyway. Perhaps, someday, Bob and I will get together after a screening of my award-winning film at the TriBeca Film Festival and I will say, "Remember back in '86 when you did that show?"

Hey. It could happen.


writergurl said...

And I hope it does!

oneslackmartian said...

Ohh, cool story. It was worth the wait.

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, baby, great stuff

Konrad West said...

Wow, what a story!

Georgi Rimsakov said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Georgi Rimsakov said...

You had me at "Bananarama"!