Because I’m tired, cranky, and cold (it’s a balmy 18 degrees Fahrenheit where I am. That’s -7 degrees Celsius, 265 Kelvin), we’re having a “Listen to Jen ramble about a celebrity she met one time.” Otherwise known as “That time I met Mandy Patinkin once.”
Okay, this one time, I met Mandy Patinkin. But let me break it down with breathless, massively urple prose.
It was the winter of 1996. My mother, knowing my love of all things musical theatre, presented me with an early Valentine’s day present. Tickets to see Mandy Patinkin at DeVos Hall in Grand Rapids on February 9th.
Now, since February 9th is my mother’s birthday, one might assume that she bought those tickets partially for herself, but I trust my mom. She used to give super awesome presents for weird holidays. For instance, one year for Christmas I got like, a VHS of Purple Rain and some random assorted weirdness from the outlet mall, but then for Valentine’s day she got me tickets to the lady’s professional figure skating world championships. She used to pull really weird pranks, too, like putting a life-sized cut out of Darth Vader in the doorway of my room so that when I opened it he would be looming over me and scare me half to death.
But I digress.
My mother bought us the tickets, as well as a hotel room at the swank downtown Amway Grand Plaza. If you are from Michigan, or are familiar with Amway, it will not surprise you to hear that these two properties are connected. We arrived in plenty of time to check in and went to dinner, but I couldn’t concentrate on eating. I was going to see Mandy Patinkin, of “Evita” and “Yentl” and “Sunday In The Park With George” fame. Also “The Princess Bride,” lest you forget about that a crucial part of the story not make sense.
Show time came closer and closer. We paused in the lobby to purchase his latest cd, “Oscar and Steve,” and I bounced and hopped in my seat, full of expectant, nervous thrill at the thought of finally seeing one of my favorite performers on stage.
The lights went down. Mandy came out. It was rapturous.
The show was very informal. He came out in jeans and a t-shirt. There was no backdrop on the stage, just the blank back wall and a ghost light, and Paul Ford at an upright piano. Mandy chattered like he was putting on a show for friends in his living room; at one point a woman’s coughing in the audience grew so distracting that he passed a bottle of water back to her. He stopped mid-song to sheepishly admit that he had to burp and it would ruin the mood of the piece, so he started a new song and promised to go back to the ruined one later. It was the most fun you could have watching a man and a piano, unless there was some sort of balancing act involved.
As we left, happy and excited about what a great evening it had been, an usher stopped us.
“Looks like you enjoyed the concert,” he said, indicating my perma-grin.
“Oh, yes!” I exclaimed. I might even have locked my hands together and brought them up behind my ear in the classic pose of a delighted child.
“Would you like to meet Mandy?” he asked. He might have added “backstage” to the end of that sentence, but I could hear him because all I heard in my head was the bit of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” where Roger Daltry screams “YEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!”
The usher led my mother and I to a backstage area, near the dressing rooms, where group of about twenty people waited in a line. A door opened. Mandy emerged, showing no signs of fatigue after his nearly two hour concert except the still damp sweat stains on his clothes.
It seemed a lifetime as we waited for him to sign autographs and pose for photos with the people ahead of us. I was almost convinced I was having one of those dreams like I always have where I’m about to eat a cupcake and then I wake up before I take the first bite and realize that there are no cupcakes, and the world is as hard and cruel as it has always been. Except in this case it was not a cupcake, it was Mandy Patinkin, and also, I would not bite him because I have learned my lesson about biting strangers.
But lo! I was no dream, and we approached the golden-throated near-counter-tenor that thrilled my drama geek heart as Georges Seurat in Sondheim’s opus “Sunday In The Park With George”! My palms sweating, I stepped up when he motioned me over. Trembling, I handed him the “Oscar and Steve” cd to sign, which he did, as well as my program. “Enjoy the show?” he asked, sounding just like Dr. Geiger from “Chicago Hope”, which makes sense because that was him. I just hadn’t, until that moment, realized that he sounded that cool in person.
I nodded dumbly and took my cd back. I opened my mouth to say “Thank you,” but what came out was this: “Say it.”
Without batting an eye, without pausing in momentary confusion, in fact, without any sort of change of expression at all aside from a charming half-smile, he said: “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
“THAT WAS AWESOME!” I exclaimed, shaking his hand heartily. The ice broken, I told him about my theatrical aspirations (I was still laboring under the misconception that someday I would be a big Broadway star), and told him very earnestly, “I’m going to do what you do someday.” He smiled and said, “Well, I’ll see you down the road then.”
I was about to say thank you and walk away when a man with a press badge approached and interrupted. “Excuse me, Mr. Patinkin, can we get a picture for the Grand Rapids Press?”
I mumbled a quiet thank you and, clutching my cd and program, started to walk away, when Mandy said, “Wait, can she be in the picture too?”
I theorize that he’d overheard my conversation with my mother moments before our turn in line, when I’d lamented not knowing to bring a camera. Either that, or he thought the guy should have just waiting in the line and was annoyed at him.
The press guy looked a little bit put-off, but he said it would be okay. How are you going to tell Inigo Montoya no? Mandy waved me back over and put an arm around my shoulders and we said cheese for the camera. Just as the photographer was about to take the photo, Mandy called for him to wait. “Is that mom over there?” he asked, pointing to where my mother, all 5’2″ of her, stood, giving an enthusiastic thumbs up. “Let’s get mom in the picture, too!” Mandy said, and my mom hurried over to stand on the other side of him. With his arms around us like we were the greatest chums in the history of friendship, we smile big for the picture. Just as the flash goes, he turned his head and planted a great big kiss on my cheek. Everyone still in line laughed, my mother and I shook hands with him and thanked him again for the autographs. We went back to our hotel room and ordered an obscene amount of room service food, ate ourselves into comas and she even let me skip school the next day.
My only regret about the whole thing was that the picture never ran in the paper. It would have been a fantastic shot for my scrapbook, where my treasured pictures of all the celebrities I’ve
stalked met go.
And that’s it. That’s the story about how this one time I met Mandy Patinkin once.