Most people spill out from an exciting, critically acclaimed Broadway show with great memories, a souvenir playbill and maybe, if they're lucky, an autograph from a star. My friend and colleague Nick Lammers came away with a little something more.
On Nov. 14, Nick, his wife, Ginny, and her mom were attending a splashy new theater production at New York's historic Cort Theatre. It was "Grace," starring Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon and Ed Asner. But that night, it could easily have been subtitled: "The Man Who Came to See a Broadway Play and Lost His Dinner -- Over the Edge of the Mezzanine and onto Several Audience Members, but Mostly Nick."
Everything's Coming Up Grossness
Oh, you haven't heard the delightful holiday tale? It's been splattered all over the Internet, so to speak. Just Google "Broadway" and "vomit" and you'll be knee-deep, so to speak, in jokes suggesting this eruptive emission from an elderly patron -- whether because of illness or alcohol -- was a caustic commentary on the performance, or that the man must have dined at Guy Fieri's much-maligned restaurant before the play.
Rudd's since been on Letterman, providing "The Top 10 Thoughts That Went Through Paul Rudd's Mind When an Audience Member Vomited at his Broadway Show," which included items such as, "Is there a janitor in the house?" and "I've never been a fan of audience participation." Hilarious!
Oh, yeah, um, unless you were Nick. I saw him Tuesday at work, where he's this newspaper's photo director. He's thoroughly clean now, but I gave him a wide berth anyway. He's able to laugh a little. Just a little.
"Trust me, there was nothing funny at the time," he muttered, in the sardonic tone of someone who was, well, recently awash in tossed cookies. "Plus, it was my birthday."
Yes, that's why the Oakland photographer was in New York in the first place, on a nice trip with Ginny and her mom for his 56th birthday celebration. They'd been having a terrific time, been to a couple of plays, watched a taping of Jimmy Fallon and the TV show with the odd combo of Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan. On the day of "Grace," they'd lunched at Robert restaurant, then gotten all gussied up for their special evening out. The Cort is right on Broadway and holds about 1,000 people with a mezzanine and balcony. Nick and family had great seats in the orchestra.
I Could Have Hurled All Night
The show began. It's about a Christian evangelist couple launching a chain of gospel hotels, and there's something to do with a German pest-control man and an agitated rocket scientist. Sounds like a comedy, but apparently it's a drama, a study of faith and love in cynical times.
About 20 minutes in, "I heard this cacophonous collective gasp from above, and then this ... this ... spluttering ..." Nick said, unable finish his sentence, merely shaking his head at the memory.
Basically, the "Top 10 Thoughts Going Through Nick's Mind When an Audience Member Vomited On Him" were: 10. Oh my gawd! 9. Oh my gawd! 8. Oh my gawd! 7. Oh my gawd! 6. Oh my gawd! 5. Oh my gawd! 4. Oh my gawd! 3. Oh my gawd! 2. Oh my gawd! And the No. 1 thought: Oh ... my ... gawd!
"It was in my hair, my glasses, my ears, my shirt, coat, pants -- everywhere. No one got it as bad as I did. I just stood there, I could not believe what was happening."
Nick and the Amazing Technicolor Slime Coat
The play's the thing, not the vomit, so the show went on, and Nick and two other male victims somehow made it to the men's room. He took his shirt off and tried washing it in the sink to no avail, tried washing his hair under the faucet, to no avail. A couple of theater workers brought more towels. The owner offered to pay for his dry cleaning. Someone went to the wardrobe room and got him a red plaid flannel shirt -- perhaps worn by a Broadway star? -- so he could at least go outside.
Ginny and her mom were having their own fun in the ladies' room, where they ran out of towels. Ginny had removed her blouse and was standing in her undergarments. A Cort worker stripped a T-shirt (it read "Grace: Have Faith and a Backup Plan") off a mannequin in the lobby and thrust it at her, promising ticket vouchers in the mail while rushing them all into a cab. It was raining.
Gonna Wash that Man's Vomit Right Outta my Hair
Redolent with regurgitation, they rode back to the hotel and all "vigorously" showered for about an hour, the kind of cleansing like in the movies where someone's been violated in some way and the person showers in fetal position, shuddering under near-scalding water.
If nothing else, Nick will remember this birthday. "The play looked pretty good. I'd like to see it someday," he said. "Fortunately, it starts with the ending, so at least I know what happens."