When I was in college, some people I knew were publishing an off-campus newspaper called The Student Review. One of my favorite columns in this excellent paper was called "Brushes with Fame," in which people would list 10 celebrity encounters. Some were entertainingly remote; others were what some of us would term "of the third kind."
Once I moved to Manhattan, I had pretty frequent Brushes with Fame of my own, but it wasn't until Patrick's career took off that our Celebrity Sightings kicked into high gear. Patrick specializes in intellectual property; specifically, he works to protect people's copyrights and trademarks. He does quite a bit of work for several Broadway types, which means we are often invited to the openings of shows and the cast parties that follow. Once we even went to the Tony Awards, but that's a subject for another post.
Most of the premieres we attend are in Manhattan, but we've been lucky enough to go to London three times. The first was for the 1994 revival of Oliver!, the second was for The Witches of Eastwick in 2000, and the third was for Mary Poppins in 2004. It is the last with which this edition of Light the Corners of My Mind is concerned.
Mary Poppins was a fun musical, much truer to the book than was the Julie Andrews/Dick Van Dyke movie. The music was fabulous (Patrick's client did the orchestrations), the sets were incredible, and the dark edge to the script made the lightheartedness stand out in lovely relief. As enjoyable as the show was, though, I couldn't help but be distracted by three things: a) we walked into the theater on the red carpet with Sir Richard Attenborough (total coincidence); b) we had better seats than Roger Rees (who, sadly, has not aged well); and c) Anthony Andrews was in attendance.
Still my beating heart. I obsessively watched Brideshead Revisited when I was 15. My friend and fellow anglophile Joanie and I came to an amicable arrangement: she would marry Jeremy Irons and I would marry Anthony Andrews. I snickered secretly whenever I contemplated how much better I'd done in the fantasy wedding department than she. Alas, I did not then know that Anthony had been happily married since 1971 (and still is). Then again, Jeremy Irons has been married almost as long.
When the teleplay The Scarlet Pimpernel came out in 1982, my love for Anthony grew exponentially. Sink me, but that rich voice; those hooded eyes; that valor disguised with masterful foppishness. My mother, sisters, and I watched a bad VHS tape recorded from the television over and over again until the graininess of the picture became unbearable. We have whole scenes memorized.
The movie became a litmus test of sorts for us. Any new boyfriend had to watch it, his every reaction carefully gauged out of the corners of our eyes. Many failed and were discarded as unworthy. No matter; an evening with Sir Percival Blakeney and a pint of Haagen-Dazs was better than most dates anyway.
I read the book after we saw the movie for the first time. This is one of those rare cases in which the movie is light years better than the book. But bless Baroness Orczy's heart for creating the character in the first place. I've also seen the old movie with Leslie Howard. I'm sorry; Leslie makes a perfect Ashley Wilkes, but he is no match for Anthony Andrews in the "demmed elusive" category. The Broadway version of the Pimpernel was horrible. Horrible. Trust me.
So there I sat in the darkened Prince Edward Theater, knowing that Sir Percy's most perfect incarnation was nearby. Would he go to the cast party? It was too much to hope for; I put him firmly out of my mind, held Patrick's hand tightly, and watched Mary and Bert's magical adventures.
The cast party was horrendously crowded; worse, the guests were segregated by floors. As we squeezed past people packed around the buffet tables, Patrick promised me that we'd get a quick plate of food, hook up with his client Bill for a round of hearty congratulations, then head back to our friend Carmen's flat and crash. We found Bill a moment later, who, gracious as always, made introductions to the people seated at his table. We smiled and nodded, shook hands when we could reach.
Bill got to the last couple; I hadn't seen who was sitting there in the half-dark of the night club until that moment. I stopped breathing. I really did, for at least a minute. His name is pronounced "Antony," by the way.
He stood up, bent slightly over my hand, introduced us to his wife Georgina, then offered me his chair. I demurred, but he insisted. I sank down on the blue cushions and made what little small talk I could with my brain having exited the building. Anthony and his kind wife left not long afterward, which was a good thing. I couldn't have taken the proximity of gorgeousness much longer.
Anthony has aged beautifully. He's taller and broader in the shoulder than he looks on screen; his evening clothes were exquisitely tailored. But there are many attractive men who wear a tuxedo well. What set him apart for me was that he really was a gentleman; he didn't just play one on TV. Solicitous, deferential, completely unpretentious...swoon, sigh.
You all know how madly in love I am with Patrick. I loved him all the more when he snuggled contentedly with me in the taxi on the way back to Carmen's, not the slightest bit jealous throughout my latest and greatest Brush with Fame. And when I called my mom and sisters, their screams as I told them the whole story were immensely gratifying.
There wasn't really anyone else to tell about meeting Anthony at that point in my life; I've met few people acquainted with the delicious pleasure that is my Scarlet Pimpernel. But one of the many joys of blogging is discovering far-flung folk with similar interests; Annette and Josi, had I known you back in 2004, I know I could have counted on you for a few more squeals of delight and envy as I regaled you with my tale.