A Reunion with Three Tall Women

This was a fantastic freaking weekend. Drove into NYC with Miss Eileen Kennedy in tow. She does casting in Los Angeles. We met up with Ms. Darcie Lamb (now Rudolph) who is a grief counselor for children in the Philadelphia area. I mention them first, because it was kind of like getting the band back together. We used to hang out and do shows and whatnot back in the day. Way back.

More about that in a moment.

Also joining in the fun were Dave Sartor, who doesn’t like for me to talk about him online, so that’s all I’ll say; and Miss Melanie Brennan who coaches Philly public school kids in chess, teaches them to kick ass while castling. The lot of us got together to go see Glenda Jackson in Albee’s Three Tall Women on Broadway. It was glorious, as was the rest of the weekend, despite getting caught in torrential rain a few times.

The last time the three of us were together in NYC was to see Glenda in Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude some 30 years ago.

We went, because in the summer of 1984, while everyone else was watching the Olympics and sipping Mai Tais with their poolboys, Miss Jackson was whipping us into shape as actors at the University of Scranton for a month. It was an exhilarating, life changing experience. It was not a class for the faint of heart. We took class for 3 hours in the morning, broke for lunch, then worked on our “final,” which was a staged reading of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood.

Later, in 1988, or whatever it was, we descended on the city with others from the class, kidnapped Glenda’s son Daniel Hodges [who, for some inexplicable reason we dubbed Squirrel Boy — your guess why is as good as mine] and took him siteseeing in Manhattan. Later that evening we went to the play, and afterwards we went backstage to congratulate herself.

Al Pacino showed up in her dressing room to congratulate the cast on their performance. He was wearing a necktie around his head like a headband. I didn’t ask. The rowdy bunch of us scared him off, apparently. That’s what Glenda said during this visit at least, and I am not one to argue with her. If you’re wise, you won’t either — have you seen some of the video of her from the floor of the House of Commons? Just don’t. That’s all I’m saying.

After we scared off Pacino, we all piled into Glenda’s limo and went to dinner in the village. I’m sure there are many embarassing photos of the evening, but these are all the pics you’re getting.

The view from the Wayback Machine.

That’s Daniel on one knee, center, next to his mum. If you compare this one to the next, I’m sure you can spot Eileen, Darcie, and I in the lineup above. We haven’t changed an awful lot, save for my hair loss, Eileen’s babushka-loss, and Darcie’s headband-loss. That’s Gerard McDonald to Glenda’s right, there. He was unable to make this trip, but we annoyed him by phone several times through the weekend. All the way to the left, with her knee fetchingly cocked like a chorus girl, is Fancy-Nancy Donohoe [now a writer and script doctor, recently departed from NYC]. She had gone to see Glenda during previews, but there was some sort of lighting glitch, and the performance was cancelled. The two of them caught up later, I was glad to hear.

Back to the future. That’s Mel to my left, and Dave to hers.

Eileen had sent a card with a note and some clippings about the class. We dutifly circled our faces and wrote names so she might easily remember who we were. It didn’t arrive until scant hours before the evening show, and probably while she was onstage for the matinee. She borrowed someones phone to call us, she is a proud Luddite, with neither computer nor cell phone, but she could be heard perfectly through Eileen’s handset, even though she was not on speaker. “Is this Eileen?” she asked. “This is Glenda. I’ve just gotten your lovely card. I see it was posted the 1st of May, but the theater has just now delivered it to me.” Sorry, “theatre,” as she insists Americans can NOT spell the word properly. She said she’d put us on the list so we could come backstage after and catch up, and so we did, as you may have guessed.

Squirel Boy took this photo, by the way. I was glad to see him again, though a little shocked to see he’s going a bit gray now. We could tell by their expressions they were genuinely pleased and surprised to see us. We could tell because there were others who stopped by and their demeanor was somewhat changed. Not negatively, mind you, but they didn’t get that twinkle/smile you can see on Glenda’s face in the latter photo. Neither she nor Daniel could join us for our planned post-show festivities, so we said our goodbyes, offered kisses and hugs and handshakes, and off we wandered in search of food, drink, and a chance to bask in the moment.

When you have a such a transformative moment in your life, you spend a lot of time feeling like it was all some sort of dream. It was wonderful to have that moment reaffirmed and refreshed, even 30 years later. We learned an awful lot from Glenda that we still carry with us. Some things that we had to revive and refresh, and some others that we had to lay to rest. Another transformative moment. A happy, transformative moment when so many who dwell in and on the past wide up like the basketball players in That Championship Season.

My favorite moment of the evening [which is a tough call, to say the least} was when Glenda pulled me aside and whispered, “You’ve grown.”

Always self-deprecating, I grabbed my belly and said, “Maybe a bit.” There were three Johns in our class, after all. Big John, Middling John, and Just John. I was Big John, long before the creation of Mason and my SAG card etc. I thought she may have mistaken me for one of the other two Johns — 30+ years later, I might have done as much.

“No,” she said, “as a person. You’ve grown.”

I think that was perhaps the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me, and I have been on the receiving end of great kindness.

P.S. I just found out that Glenda won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play for her work in Three Tall Women, which must have been that “damned drama thing” she said she had to attend after Sunday’s matinee, and one of the reasons she couldn’t come out to play with us. So, congrats. At least getting dressed up was worth it! Tony Awards this week. I’ll be watching and rooting for her.

P.P.S. Also the Tony Award, too. And one for Laurie Metcalf. Plus a slate of nominations. Woo-hoo!

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