Saturday was the opening night for the exhibit of Carl Van Vechten’s photographs of the Harlem Renaissance, at job #1. It was also my first opening ever at this job. The place was packed with fancy people swilling champagne and munching on canapes. Apparently, one of the Grande Dames of Newport society put in an appearance as well– what a coup!
Rich people wear ridiculous clothes. There were a lot of ascots, and fancy dresses, faire isle sweaters, a tracksuit, and running shorts with leggings underneath. My favorite was a quasi-military ensemble that reminded me of something Michael Jackson would have worn around the time HIStory came out. There may have been some monocles as well, but it was just all so much to take in… I was swilling champagne from a plastic cup behind the circulation desk and trying to look smart even though I had nothing to do. I still haven’t actually seen the exhibit, since I was there in an official capacity and the gallery was packed with bodies.
The highlight of the opening, for me, was right before I left, when I spoke to my boss briefly. Obviously, the following re-creation is not verbatim– we did a lot more gushing and patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.
Me: “I need to get going, but your speech was excellent. This is all so impressive.”
Boss: “Oh, you have to leave? Thank you so much for staying. You know, this is the best turnout we’ve ever had for an opening.”
Me: “Really? Yes, I do need to get back to Providence, I have RENT tonight.”
Boss: “RENT? oh that’s right”
Me: “I’m going from Harlem to AIDS in under an hour.”
Boss: “That’s really going from bad to worse, isn’t it? Have fun.”
And I did have fun, surprisingly. I admit, I was very apprehensive about seeing this play (musical? musicale? show?). I’d watched the movie, and of course, seen Team America: World Police, so I knew what to expect, kind of. I was expecting it to be slightly cheesy and odd, and irritating in a way that only musicals can manage. I planned on scoffing and squirming uncomfortably, but feeling well-rounded for making the attempt. Instead, I can honestly say, I loved it. I loved seeing RENT. And when Angel died, I got a little choked up.
Why do I not have an amazing voice that makes people applaud until their hands bruise? Not fair.
Of course, there was some dumb superfan sitting behind me singing along to practically all of the songs. That pulled me out of the story, as I pictured the home life of a person who would do something like that.
I’m sure she auditioned for all the musicals her high school staged, but never quite made the cut, because her singing voice is weak– at best. I’m sure she has never seen RENT on Broadway, but just watched the movie over and over in her parents basement, singing along, wishing she had AIDS so she could feel ways about things. It’s odd to listen to someone who is not in the production sing to a packed auditorium. She must have known she could be heard, and you’d think the people she came with would have told her to shut up. I don’t go to a lot of musicals, so maybe this is standard and people don’t mind paying $60 to listen to some virgin butcher well-written and catchy tunes. I mind; I mind big-time.