On New Year’s Eve in 1985, I had just finished the National Tour of Camelot. I was subletting an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, and my best friend Avril, came out to visit me on her way to London. I was pregnant with my son Nick, and I was delighted to have my best friend with me at that time.
We were invited to a party at a restaurant in the Theatre District called Barrymore’s. Oh how I miss Barrymore’s! It was a great place where theatrical types ate before curtain, after curtain, and it was comfy and convenient. It is also close enough to Time’s Square, that we could hear the insanity on that New Year’s Eve.
At one point, Avril thought it would be fun to just pop around the corner and see the million or so people who show up every year to see that ball drop. As we walked out the door, a drunken reveler fell into the front window of the St. James Theatre, which was housing Bernadette Peters in Song and Dance at the time. He was bleeding profusely and laughing his head off as the cops crowded around him, at which point, Avril said she had seen quite enough and was ready to go back into Barrymore’s and have dessert.
Shelly Winters was at that party, and I do not believe that I had ever seen a more depressed look on anyone’s face….ever. I chatted with her briefly, thanking her for time that she had taken with me when I was in high school and my Drama Club came to see her in Minnie’s Boys on Broadway. She had been told that there were theatre loving high school kids in the audience, and she told an usher to bring us down to the stage after the curtain came down. She talked with us about the show, the hard work, the joy, and she answered our questions sincerely and completely without effect. It was a gesture of kindness that I have never forgotten. I wanted to thank her for that, and let her know that I was profoundly moved by her generosity, and it was yet another reason why I chose to be in the profession. She seemed genuinely happy that I said that to her, and thanked ME for cheering her up.
I have had subsequent New Year’s Eves when I wore a face similar to that of Ms. Winter’s on that night. I find the holiday difficult. Sometimes the year that is coming to an end is so difficult that there is relief of its end, coupled with the unthinkable possibility that just because you bought a new calendar, there might be a continuance of the horror that re-boots on the morning of January 1st.
Robbie Burnes seemed to know that we needed a sad little ditty to sing on this difficult evening, so he wrote Auld Lang Syne in 1788. In a few hours, I will sing it again. I find the song sadder and sadder as the years go by. Since I am older, I have simply outlived some of the people I have loved dearly. Like Avril.
To my dear friends who are missing people this evening, I send love, and pray that I have the wherewithal to figure out if you want me to talk to you, or leave you alone. I will sing the song for you.
We’ll take a cup o’ kindess yet, for Auld Lang Syne.