Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Wearing A Career on Your Sleeve...

Recently I was sitting in the audience to see a friend and fellow performer do a show.  The MC, also a friend, gave me a shout out from the stage.  He simply said, "We are pleased to have Tony Award Winner, Jay Johnson in the house."  I gave a little wave to the MC. That used to be all there was to this process.

With humility and contrition I admit that this is not a rare phenomenon.  I have been honored to get a shout out from stage at some notable performances.  Several are clearly cherished moments in my memory.  Ann Margret had me stand up and take a bow at one of her Caesars Palace Las Vegas Shows. That was wonderfully unbelievable.  On another occasion Wayland Flowers, actually Madame herself,  had me take a bow at one of his Vegas shows. Madame said to the crowd that only She and I knew that my puppet Bob had a "little tiny weenie". In those days it was exciting and fun.
So being introduced from the stage is not new to me, but it has become a new experience in this high tech world. 
At this last event the guy sitting next to me said, "You won a Tony?"  The tone in his voice turned skeptical when he added "for what?" I told him it was a show I had written for myself called "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only".  I am very good at phrasing answers in a way that ends a conversation I don't wish to continue. This was one of those times.
As my friend took the stage, the man sitting next to me was ignoring the performance, completely engrossed in his iPhone.  A couple of people were giving him the stink eye being annoyed by the light from his screen.  I was ready to say something when I looked over and saw my picture on his phone.  Then I saw the Playbill logo and a New York review.  He had "googled" me and my show. When he saw that I was aware of this fact he turned his phone off.

That should have been the end of it but it wasn't.

A few minutes into my friends show the guy turns to me and says this: "So you were only on Broadway for three months and the investors didn't get paid back, but you won a Tony... I get it."
The tone of his voice was definitely condescending. It was a rhetorical question. There is no satisfying answer.   I was uncomfortable sitting next to him for the rest of the show.  At the end, I shuffled out quickly so I would have no more interaction with this guy.  
In the days before instant meaningless information, this guy would have waited till he got home to "research" my career,  assuming he still remembered my name or the name of my show.  By then it would be too late for him to make a personal comment to my face. But because of modern social media, the actual social contact was sour.  This interaction bothered me.  I tried to let it go and move on but was not successful. I was there to see a friend. I was not there to get personally reviewed by a guy who obviously considered my Tony some sort of consolation prize.

It isn't just me, it is happening to people all the time.  An actor friend was at the airport when he "got googled" by a guy waiting for the same plane.  The guy found a 30 year old publicity picture of my friend on line and said, "Wow you have really changed." And shared the old picture on his Smart phone to the others around him.  My friend got up and left rather than hit the guy in the face.
In this virtual society of shares, likes and comments it would seem that everything needs an opinion. Most of the time that is not true nor is it necessary.

We all have the right to our own opinions, and there is nothing wrong with having a contrary thought, but with that right is also the responsibility to keep it to ourselves.  A personal comment to some stranger's face that can be taken as an insult is always rude. Until people learn basic civilized polite ways to interact they should not be allowed to use this powerful tool called the Internet. 
To sum up, "What you think of me is none of my business, so keep it to yourself."  I will only entertain opinions from those who have earned my respect. If you earn that respect, I will ask for your opinion. Absent that, get on with your life and let me do the same. I am sure others feel the same way.
As you were,


Lloyd Lebow said...

What I want to say would be laced with expletives, but I will not degrade the space by doing so. But, this made my blood boil. Where do people get the gall to be so forward and bold in their lack of civility? I know that feeling of wanting to just toss off a sour interaction and move forward, but it's difficult when it is that personal. Been there, hated it.

Gwyn Oswin said...

I think part of it stems from people thinking they "own" public figures. An actor I liked was being stalked and had to sneak around, avoiding people. I recall people on message boards not being remotely sympathetic, even being angry that he couldn't come out of the theater after the play to sign things. They felt it was their right to see him, to interrupt his dinner with autograph requests, to basically hound him whenever and wherever they pleased because he was public property. I was appalled! How could they be so uncaring towards someone they "loved"? Personally, if I am very fond of a celebrity, I do want to meet them -- but not at the expense of their privacy. I respect them as a person and want what is best for them because I *do* care about them. I simply don't understand that people think they can say or do anything they want to a celebrity.