IFC asked if I would go to a screening on Long Island June 8, at the Great Neck Arts Center. Of course! I grew up there. It turned out they knew this, and that was why I was asked. "Wordplay" was showing as part of a film series
at the Squire Theater. While this theater now has 7 screens, it used to be just one theater. The similar Playhouse, now converted to apartments, was across Middle Neck Road.
Although I'm normally a goody-goody and very honest, there was one childhood lapse. My sister and I went to the movies as "children" (12 and under) as long as we possibly could. One memorable day we approached the ticket booth at the Playhouse. "Two children," I said. My sister giggled behind me. "Wait, are you really children?" the cashier said. I had to admit we weren't (I was 16 and she was 15) and that was the end of that.
I didn't think I should tell this story at the approximate scene of the crime, but I looked forward to seeing "Wordplay" in the same place I saw a kids' series of classics ("Captains Courageous," "Around the World in 80 Days," etc.) as well as contemporary movies like "Goodbye, Columbus." Although this was a subscription series, I was allowed to invite 4 guests, so I asked my great-aunt Marion, cousin Felice (who saw the movie at Tribeca, but needed to help my aunt get around), cousin Chick and his girlfriend Marilyn.
The week before, I did a phone interview with the PR person for the Arts Center. I was jumping around during the conversation and wasn't completely clear, so the resulting article in the Great Neck Record had a few errors. Still, it was a nice piece (it's not online; my cousin gave me a xerox and I'm waiting for a hard copy).
I considered having dinner with everyone beforehand, but IFC said they were sending a car at 6:15 (for the 7:30 showing) so I went along with that. Big mistake. Although the car service called at 5 to verify the address (my address is on an avenue but the entrance is really on the cross street), there was no sign of them. At 6:30 I went back up and called (yeah, I know, cell phone would be handy) and was told the car (a silver town car) was "3 blocks away."
A few minutes later, a black car pulled up. I went over to it, but it was for someone else in the building, going to Harlem. I went back to the lobby to wait. A silver car passed by at 6:45 and I ran out after it, catching it at the corner of the avenue. I yelled, "Wait, wait!" and leaned in the window and asked who was being picked up. He said my address, but did not seem to know my name or where he was taking me (English was not his native language). Or that he had just passed my building even though its address is clearly on the awning. I wasn't about to get in a strange car, so made him radio to find out his destination and it was indeed Great Neck.
After that inauspicious start, he asked how I wanted to go. "The fastest way." He debated Triborough Bridge or Lincoln Tunnel, and we took the bridge since we were already uptown. He complained there had been construction on the way to me. Due to other construction at the bridge entrance, we somehow ended up in the Bronx. He left me in the car in an iffy neighborhood and walked into a gas station to get directions. Finally he came back and we went back over the bridge from the Bronx, and eventually were on the bridge to Queens.
Switching to the LIE, we hit traffic and I sat stoically. Reaching the Great Neck exit, the driver did not seem to know where to go, but luckily I remembered how to get from there to the theater (but what if I didn't?). We pulled in at 8. Inside, the people at the popcorn stand told me to go to theater 5, and right inside was the Arts Center person who ran out to deal with the driver.
Despite being so late, the movie had just started (Will was reading his hate mail). I found out later there had been a raffle of the "Wordplay" book and general intros. In the dark, I saw my relatives and sat in front of them, in the first row. I calmed down after wondering if I would ever get there, and watched the movie once again.
Afterward, they brought me up for questions. I spotted my high school classmate Roberta, who had seen the article and arranged to get a single ticket. Relatives of the composer Peter Golub were also there. It went well, and I signed posters afterward. I also brought buttons which were all snapped up. I did not get to talk much with my relatives, but they did enjoy the movie.
The Arts Center person had sent the original car away and was going to dispute the charge. She called for a cab to go back to the city, and went along as she also lives in Manhattan. In hindsight, the LIRR would have been much easier. We had to wait around a bit, so I looked through the "Wordplay" book for the first time.