Tom and Tilda and Me and Scotland
I lost interest in Woody Allen movies a long time ago. I’ve probably missed a few good ones, but eventually I decided that he was throwing stuff at a wall, seeing if anything stuck. It’s an interesting way to approach filmmaking, I guess. I still lost interest.
The same thing happened with Stephen King, now that I think about it.
I still remember, though. And particularly I remember Play It Again, Sam. I saw it in a theater with my brother when I was 13. I had only a vague idea of who Humphrey Bogart was, but mostly I was intrigued by the Allen character (named Allen, as I recall), because he wrote about movies for a living. Not as a critic, passing judgment on new releases; an actual student of the art form.
At 13, I think it had never occurred to me to think of movies as any kind of art. I was more than intrigued. I really liked movies but I assumed a universal appeal. Everyone likes Disneyland, etc. Play It Again, Sam inspired me to start watching things I wouldn’t normally watch, particularly those old movies on late at night or in the afternoons. And we were off to the races.
Anyway, Play It Again, Sam. Allen is a film writer and also kind of a a schlub, whose way-too-hot-for-him-hmmm wife leaves him and who conjures up the spirit of Bogart to create a comic dialectic. But I’m giving it too much credit. It’s cute.
I have a reason for the above.
But first, some Buffy. My daughter and eventually my wife watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer when it was on in the late ‘90s and early oughts. I resisted, but a few years down the road I eventually started watching and then raced through the entire series, as well as its spin-off Angel. It just happens. They were appealing.
One of the characters in the last seasons of Buffy was Andrew, a nerdy high-schooler who hangs out with the wrong crowd but eventually becomes an ally against evil. He also does light housekeeping. He’s handy to have around.
He was played by an actor named Tom Lenk, and I always really enjoyed Andrew. His timing was brilliant, and he provided a bunch of the comic relief.
My daughter pointed out that Mr. Lenk was going to be in a play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, so Julie and I decided immediately that we’d try to get tickets. There are hundreds of acts at the Fringe. It helps to have a suggestion.
The play was called Tilda Swinton Answers an Ad on Craigslist. A schlubby guy is at the end of his rope, his love life a mess, his burger not made right. His now-gone lover/roommate tries to sublet his room in their shared apartment, and the ad is answered by Tilda Swinton. She and this guy engage in their own kind of dialectic, and I believe I’ve now been about as obvious as I care to be.
Exuberantly strange and at times snort-worthily funny, Byron Lane’s light comedy offers the only sensible explanation for the joyous peculiarities of Tilda Swinton, the international star who once slept in a glass box for a week: she is simply not of this world. Starring Tom Lenk of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame, this is a witty and weird show, with a tinge of sincerity as it nods to the way movies help us connect to the people we love.
(From this February 2019 review in The Guardian)
I thought it was brilliant. I thought Tom Lenk was the brilliant part. I had a great time.
Lenk’s Tilda Swinton was less of a drag portrayal, exaggerating her femininity into recognizable parts, than a creative reinterpretation of what it must mean to be her. If you follow. This isn’t Tilda; it’s “Tilda,” and she bursts in to fix this poor guy’s life, all under the pretense that she’s researching a part.
So, I saw a play and enjoyed it. I recommend it, although I doubt it’ll show up anywhere you can see it.
And now, the highlight—on the drive into Edinburgh, which was long because of some traffic issues, I ended up following Lenk’s Twitter feed, out of curiosity and because I was going to see his show, duh.
Immediately I saw that he had linked to a story about Faye Dunaway getting canned from a play. She was apparently in full diva mode, and made some disparaging comments that could be taken as homophobic or just general assholery. Tom Lenk was making a joke about taking on the Dunaway role (after Tilda, it’s assumed), and he pretended to be workshopping titles, all plays on words. So this happened.
When the play was over, Tom Lenk stood outside and posed in character as Tilda (“Tilda”) for pictures with audience members. Julie headed for the bathroom and I watched this for a bit, as my friends kind of urged me to get a photo. Naw. I’m not that guy. I loved his performance and I was already a fan. Sure, Beth would get a kick out of her dad and Tom Lenk together in a photo, probably. But I’m really not that guy.
I remembered the tweet, though, which gave me an excuse, which was all I wanted. I noted a slowing of the line, so I stepped up and got my photo. He was obviously tired but nice and friendly, and as we got ready for our close-up I said, “I gave you Fayetal Attraction. Now I expect you to make it happen.” He was surprised and laughed and we talked a little about how funny and bizarre that news story was, and that was it.
A brush with goodness, maybe. Certainly with a very talented man, and a fun night, and a Scotland story that could have happened anywhere, but happened there. I began to see a pattern, but then. All sorts of stuff happened.