Lame Adventure 393: Cheap Special Thrills

It is no secret that I have been riding on the fast track to get rich slow my entire life. Recently, when I had the opportunity to purchase one of the two last row coffin corner partial view $20 tickets to the hit musical, Fun Home, currently staged at the Public Theater, I pounced. I reasoned:

Me (reasoning): Better to see some of this show than none.

Below, is an image of my irresistible view.

This equipment console sure makes a better door than window.

This equipment console makes a much better door than window.

I could see about a third of the stage. The woman sitting next to me, who paid the $45 membership rate price, had a full view, but was not happy. She also felt sympathy for me. An Alpha New Yorker, she complained to someone. I figured that when the show would start, I would stand for the 105-minute duration. But the woman’s complaining reaped results. Shortly before the play began, an usher informed everyone in the back row that we could have better seats. I was moved to the center of the seventh row as if I paid full price for my ticket. I thought:

Me (thinking): Sweet! This is a great day!

Then my iPhone vibrated in my pocket and I was gob smacked back to reality. I had an alert from the New York Times announcing that Lou Reed had died. Even though he was 71 and had liver disease, I felt sucker punched. Lou was one of the reasons why I moved to New York City in 1982. He was one of my heroes when I was growing up in San Francisco. He was cool, he was smart, he was talented, he had attitude and he was a Brooklyn born New Yorker. He was the real deal.

My sitting in the cheap seats has a connection to him. When I was a high school senior attending Our Lady of Perpetual Misery School or, Our Lady of PMS, Lou was on tour promoting his latest album, Rock & Roll Heart. He was playing in the East Bay at the Berkeley Community Theatre on November 30, 1976. I told my best friend and  fellow Lou-fan, a girl named Faith, that we had to see him. We agreed that we would sit in the $4.50 seats. We deemed the $6.50 seat price too steep. We were sitting so far away at this sold out show it was as if we were watching Lou sing from another galaxy. I brought my super 8 mm Minolta movie camera with me. Somewhere in my father’s house today is a reel of silent, anything but super, super 8 mm film of a gnat-sized Lou Reed performing.

The Minolta super 8 mm movie camera that filmed Lou Reed in concert.

The Minolta super 8 mm movie camera that filmed Lou Reed in concert.

Fast-forward 35 years to October 15, 2011. Milton and I are attending a screening at the New York Film Festival of a documentary film called Pina directed by Wim Wenders. As I approach Milton at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, he is giddy with excitement. Milton recognized Lou standing outside the theater. Quick thinking Milton, whipped out his iPhone and immediately took a photograph.

That's Lou Reed's foot and Milton's finger.

That’s Lou Reed’s foot and Milton’s finger.

Then, he took more images finger obscuring-free.

Lou in long shot just standing on Broadway talking to a friend.

Lou in long shot just standing on Broadway outside Alice Tully Hall talking to a friend.

Lou closer.

Lou maybe confiding, “Don’t look, but there’s a guy with an iPhone breathing down my neck.”

I was very happy that Milton took the pictures, and we were both amazed when it turned out that Lou was sitting in our row just a few seats away from us. Lou probably felt like he was being stalked. Lou made a quick escape before the Q&A ended, but when we were leaving, we saw him again in the theater lobby talking to Wim Wenders. Milton took more pictures and Lou, to his credit, did not file a restraining order.

"Wim, I cannot escape that guy with an iPhone. Help me, please!"

“Wim, I cannot escape that guy with the iPhone. I’m begging you, help me, please!”

One of the many great things about living in New York City is that you never know when you might run into a legend on the street. Unfortunately, there is now one less legend around town to glimpse by chance. Embedded below is the title song from Rock & Roll Heart that I heard Lou sing live back in the day.

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112 responses to “Lame Adventure 393: Cheap Special Thrills

  1. Snoring Dog Studio

    I saw Lou Reed perform in Minneapolis ages and ages ago. Sadly, I don’t remember a thing about it. You New York City people are a lucky bunch. We have to search for some culture here; it surrounds you.

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    • What I recall was dot in the distance Lou standing at a microphone singing and playing his guitar. I recall very little else, if there was any banter with the audience I missed it. This was also before jumbotron screens. I was there but so far away, I would have felt almost the same had I watched the show from the parking lot, but I seem to recall that we parked on the seat. Yes, I remember where we parked. Go figure.

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  2. I worked with Lou Reed on a music video back in the day. I do not remember exactly what we were working on – whether it was for him or if he was appearing in someone else’s video – but I do remember it was evening, we were in an apartment in Manhattan somewhere and I asked if I could get him anything and he asked for a hamburger and a alcohol-free beer. I do remember that I was impressed that he was very nice and quite humble.

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    • This must have been before I knew you Bon! That is so cool! Thanks for sharing. My pal, Coco, sold Lou some tile a few years ago and had a less than stellar experience with him. I think he got cranky with age. Hey, it happens, right? The only music video I ever worked on was one for a has been that never was, a guy pretentiously named Simon F. He was completely absorbed in his facade of cool. A crew member asked me what the f stood for. I said, “Fudd.”

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  3. I never saw him in concert or on the street … but I did come kind of close to seeing a concert, which I plan to explain in the next OITS on Friday. Love the pic of Lou’s shoes with Milton’s finger!

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  4. Thanks for the memories and a true feel of what it’s like to be a New Yawker (rhymes with stalker, get it?). Even those of us in the toney suburbs feel the loss.

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  5. Must ask … was Fun Home fun?

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  6. So was the musical good? And why do people have to Beware of the Projector?? What’s in that plastic tub?

    Anyway, it was sad to learn of a poetic artist’s passing. Most everyone remembers the Walk on the Wild Side as his signature songs. It’s one of those songs that gets stuck in your head, in a good way.

    So cool you and Milton did get the pictures of him, though, V.

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    • Brig, I liked Walk on the Wild Side, but my personal favorite will always be Heroin and runner up, Sweet Jane. Please don’t half quote me out of context about my affinity for heroin. We don’t want to start rumors.

      The musical was excellent but luckily, I was relocated so I never found out what was in the plastic tub. Maybe someone’s snack? There were some screens projected during the course of the show.

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  7. What a great celebrity sighting! Nice that you and Milton have that memory, however stalkerish it was.
    Even though it wasn’t unexpected, I was sad to learn of his passing.

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  8. I hope you enjoyed Fun Home anyway, V. And thanks for the memories about Lou Reed. A legend.

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  9. I’m never one to be too impressed by celebrities; managing restaurants in NYC, I came across my fair share, several of them “regulars” who just want something to eat. Among the 2 most memorable were Steven Jay Gould (ok, maybe not a celebrity, but I’m a big fan. I think if Saul Bellow had come in, I might have had to break a steadfast rule and get an autograph) and Lou Reed, who often came in with Laurie Anderson for brunch (an egg white omelet, I seem to remember). I believe they have/had an apartment in Soho. Having been a big Velvets fan for as long as I can remember, and hanging out with a crowd who revered them and him as a prime mover in the proto-punk movement of the early 70’s, being in such close proximity would give me the kind of shivers normally associated with a tweeny- Bieberphile. Jarring, to say the least, to come across news of his death last night. He will be missed.

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    • Jeremy, thanks for sharing a glimpse of what Lou was like when you saw him. I cannot say I get that excited over most celebrities sightings, either, but there are some that I’ve glimpsed over the years I’ve lived here including Andy Warhol (twice), Woody Allen (once), Patti Smith (three times), Julian Schnabel (twice), Roz Chast (once) that will always be special memories for me. And, of course, Lou fit right in with that group.

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  10. Living in The City gives you that chance to bump into celebrities, whether you like them or not. I’m waiting for Adam Sandler to die so I can feel sorry for calling him all the names on the bible in Central Park.
    My dad is a big fan or Lou Reed

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  11. I saw him in concert in Mexico City. He was awesome. Awaiting your review of the musical…

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    • That’s great that you saw Lou, Enchilada! Thanks for sharing. Fun Home was excellent. I saw Lisa Kron, who adapted Alison Bechdel’s novel for the stage, standing in the lobby when the play let out. It took all of my power of self control not to approach her to say, “Thank you for cleansing my palate of Blue is the Warmest Color.” The sex in Fun Home is brief and essentially G-rated, but it was such an overall honest, witty and poignant piece. I was very impressed. If you don’t want to spend top dollar to see it, try to get the $20 tickets for seats S7 and S12. They’re the two partial view seats and they’re not together, but maybe you’ll get lucky like me and you and the Magnificent Arepa will get upgraded.

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  12. At least Lou made it to 70. Many of the Rock ‘n Roll legends of my generation never made it 30.

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  13. Love the stalking pics! Sad indeed that he left us.

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  14. That’s so awesome that you got to see Lou Reed back in the day. $4.50? Ticketmaster would eat those chumps for breakfast!

    As I get older, I’m increasingly grateful for the “legends” I’ve been able to see in concert (Johnny Cash, Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode–hey, it was at Wembley) and more regretful of those I had the opportunity to see but passed up (the Grateful Dead–I don’t even like ’em, but I’d have loved to go to a Dead show).

    It’s cool that New York is such a celebrity mecca. I lived in the LA area for 10 years and saw exactly 1 celebrity “on the street” (at a restaurant, actually), and that was Richard Simmons. Yay for me.

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    • $4.50 probably doesn’t even cover Ticketmaster’s fees today, Smak.

      I think it’s hilarious that you only saw Richard Simmons on the streets of LA over the course of the ten years you lived there. Did you live under a tarp all that time? Or, were they hiding from you and Richard didn’t get the memo?

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      • Probably the latter. He didn’t look pleased that I’d recognized him.

        I may tell this story again on PT someday (pretend you haven’t heard it), but the time I saw RS, I was at a chi-chi restaurant in LA with a girlfriend (and by that I mean a friend who was a girl, although a decade and a half later I would marry her). We were just minding our business when I heard a woman talking loudly somewhere else in the restaurant. What was weird was that I KNEW her from somewhere, and this was NOT the kind of place a guy like me (e.g., broke) frequented. I looked around for her, and as I’m sure you’ve guessed, saw that it was Deal-A-Meal spokesperson Richard Simmons. Our eyes met briefly, and it was obvious he could tell he’d been recognized and that he wasn’t happy about it.

        This was only the first or second of those 10 years in Southern California, though, so I figured I’d run into a better one before too long.

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        • That’s so sad that you never ran into anyone for the ensuing 8 years, Smak. Your high point of celebrity sighting is Richard Simmons? That just seems like an industrial strength barrel of wrong to me. Periscope-head Milton has a sighting almost every week, if not every day. On my way out the door to buy lunch, I once saw Meryl Streep in my play of employ. My company’s on the swanky side. On my way to the subway, I sometimes see Harvey Keitel. I probably have two or three dozen sightings a year, excluding seeing famous people at events and of course, on stage. I remember when Milton and I saw the revival of West Side Story a few years back, Jack Nicholson was in or audience. We were not sitting near him and this was before Milton got an iPhone. So, neither one of us ran the risk of getting beaten with a golf club. Maybe you need to consider moving to NYC.

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          • The Bride got winked at/chatted up by Jack at ABT back in the day at Lincoln Center. He was in NYC to re-shoots on As Good as it Gets. Also ran into Anthony Quinn back in 1986 or thereabouts on Central Park West. And one Sunday morning in search of a nosh, the Bride and I ran into a young Howie Mandel–from the St Elsewhere years.

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          • Maybe you need to consider moving to NYC.

            That city would kill me dead. It may not sleep, but I have to eventually. I kid, but it’s the very vibrancy of the city that’s difficult for me. So many people, so close together and so damn loud. It’s a magnificent city, and I understand the appeal, but I’m afraid it’s my kryptonite.

            Despite my ten years in LA yielding such bitter fruit (intended), I’ve been lucky enough to stumble across some other celebrities/figures outside of LA including Ted Kennedy (DC), Martin Landau (Seattle), Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo (SF–this one’s ikind of a cheat, because I saw him talking to fans in front of the theater) Andy Bell of Erasure (Boulder–also a cheat, found him out back smoking) and President-Elect Bill Clinton (Santa Barbara).

            I also saw Jeff Conaway of Taxi/Grease fame a few months before he died. That was really sad, because he was in horrible physical shape, and walked bent over like an out-of-shape 80 year old. Having said that, there was still something in his face–particularly in his eyes, which, despite his reputed substance abuse problem, were clear and striking–that was extraordinary.

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            • You do realize I was yanking you about moving here? But I do appreciate you sharing your list of celebrity sightings outside the confines of Los Angeles. Brace yourself. I actually once lived there, too. Just as you’re so averse to the idea of settling in the Big Apple, my living in LA was horrible. I lasted 6 weeks and could not get out of there fast enough. It’s like a vast, smoggy, suburb to me. Four years later I moved to NYC site unseen, but based on the advice of several people I met along the way who guaranteed that I’d fit in here. Gotta say they were right. I thrive on this town’s urban jungle atmosphere ir maybe I’m just opposite you and drawn to soot. I realize that isn’t quite for everyone.

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  15. It’s cool how your memories are tied to this Lou Reed. ( I’m embarrassed to admit I’m scratching my head over who he is— yes I live in a foggy brain)

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  16. Saw Lou Reed live in Madrid in 1975, I may still have a bootleg cassette that someone made of the show. The sound is atrocious. A few days earlier he had played in Barcelona and the promoters had had to physically drag him out of his dressing room and placed him onstage in front of the mike, strung out as he was on (probably) heroin. They were terrified, as the path from the dressing room to the stage involved parading him in front of General Franco-era police, who may have arrested him on the spot in view of his condition. This kind of behavior was glamorized by the Spanish youth of the time, who idolized him. Me, I’m left with a few Velvet U. albums, plus “Berlin” and “Rock’n’Roll Animal” from his solo stuff. I lost interest in his output years ago, although I’m sure that he must have made a good song here and there until the end. But, by the end, he didn’t have the stature he once had in my eyes. I’ll be much sadder when Green Gartside or Scott Walker pass away.

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    • I think he might have been taking a walk on the listless side when I saw him, too, a year after ypu. It was not dynamic show, but he did get through it. From what I could see roadies were not propping him up. When I visit my dad later this year, I would be curious to see that horrible super 8 mm film I shot. Maybe I can project it and record it with my iPhone for this site? That would be a rather Lame Adventure. I thought that Julian Schnabel made a very good film of Berlin. I had that album, too, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal. I played the hell out of both of them. I left behind many of his records on my father’s house, but I resisted buying Metal Machine Music. No way.

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  17. Sadly I have no Lou (or even near-Lou) sighting to share. I would LOVE to see Fun Home, however. When the book came out, I remember thinking that graphic memoir was a pretty cool form. I’m assuming this is the same story we’re talking about.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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    • You assume correctly, Kathy from Ecuador. Lisa Kron wrote an excellent adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s book. You and Sara would love it. The run’s been extended through December 1. If you guys are back in New York before then, try to see it. I embedded the link to the NYT review in the play’s name on this post.

      Hugs back,
      V from New York City

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  18. I’ve no Lou Reed sighting tale to add, LA, but you’re right about running into legends on those streets in New York. When I was there, Estelle Getty walked out of a restaurant just in front of me. I’m convinced it was Estelle, anyway…

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  19. I have no Lou Reed tale or foot picture to share although I did used to get comparisons to Mo Tucker when I played drums in a non-successful rock band. I think it was mainly because I had ovaries and played drums. We did do a few Velvet covers.

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  20. 71 used to seem so old to me and now I feel it’s way too young to die. We’ve lost a great rocker.

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  21. Sad news for sure. How fortunate you are to have seen him in the past. My favorite shot is of course the shoe shot, and good job Milton is so quick with his camera. I’m afraid even with my phone camera I’m too busy fumbling to get those spur of the moment celebrity shots – even if I did recognize anyone, which I probably wouldn’t.

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  22. Sorry to hear one of your heros died. I love your name for your high school though, Our Lady of PMS. That’s hilarious, particularly if it was an all-girls school.

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  23. So many of the legends of my generation are departing this earth. Lou Reed broke so many barriers with impunity. Your great pictures made this a wonderful example of why your city is one of the great ones. I missed my one chance to see him by being locked up in juvenile hall, ah well i was a bit of a wild child back in the day.

    for those who don’t know who Lou Reed was: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4p_cXfdz8Hw

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    • When people we admired when we were young die, it does make one think about one’s own mortality more. You must have veen a hellion in your youth, Val! For the most part I played by the rules, but I did walk out on my SAT test to see Jack Nicholson at the San Francisco Film Festival. My brother, Axel, determined that if I did, I’d have enough points to get into college and he was right. Axel was also sitting next to me when we saw Jack. He drove his Mercury Capri like a bat out of hell from my testing site to the festival. Looking back, I had my priorities straight.

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  24. RIP Lou Reed.
    I sheepishly admit to loving celebrity sightings too. Go Milton! Keep rockin’ that iPhone!

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    • Soon, Milton will be upgrading to the iPhone 5S, so his shots will be even better, excluding the occasional finger and unintended selfie. Hey Patricia, this comment of yours is my 8,800th! If you were here with me in my apartment right now, I’d reward you with fruit. Unfortunately, I scarfed all the chocolate earlier this evening. I supposed I could have planned better.

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  25. Unrelated posting from Boston, MA, this evening/morning: Hey Audra, I finally got to Fenway this year. Game 6 WORLD CHAMPIONS BABY!!!! Will send you photos tomorrow. Gotta get to sleep cuz I have a train to catch in 5 hours.

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  26. I was shocked when I received the NYT news alert as well. Thanks for sharing your memories. And I love the shoe/finger shot. I love NY–you get to see all types of people, But I’m horrible at spying celebrities. I saw Boris Becker in Hyde Park a few years ago. That was pretty neat–I’m a huge tennis fan.

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  27. You New Yawkers! I’m glad you were moved beyond the projector’s periphery for the show.
    I was sad to hear of Lou Reed’s passing. As we age (or have diseases or someone else’s liver) it can’t be all that surprising that we die, but we still mourn. I liked Sweet Jane and the way Lou just seemed to be in an orbit of his own cool. Who knows what he was like in real life, but Milton’s pic is a fabulous juxtaposition of two unrelating yet intersecting body parts. Such — is life.

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  28. Sorry, didn’t see this on earlier post. Please excise my last comment.

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  29. Great, great pics and what a nice guy Lou was to pose so affably. We’ll all miss him.

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  30. Sorry to hear about Lou Reed’s passing. Yet another of our heroes. it’s scary when celebs my age are dropping all around me like flies at the first frost.

    In a parallel story, in 1964, my girlfriend and I, wearing our black turtle neck sweaters, drove from Washington, D.C., to Atlantic City to see the Beatles at Convention Hall. We sat directly opposite the stage at the far end of that long hall. It could have been any four guys on the stage, while the hall managers played Beatles recordings. I don’t recall the price of tickets back then, maybe four or five dollars. Of course, my full-time salary in those days was about a dollar a week, only slightly less than pay these days.

    Love Milton’s thumb shot and the name of your high school. 🙂

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    • Still, you were in the same place breathing the same air as the Fab Four. That’s cool.

      When more celebrities my age start buying the farm, I know I will feel exactly like you when it gets that close to home. I hear you loud and clear.

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