My autograph-hound pal Rich invited me to see My Name is Asher Lev at the Westside Theatre, based on the beloved Chaim Potok novel about an Orthodox Jewish boy born with artistic talent who must convince his strict parents to allow him to fulfill his potential in spite of his religion. I'd heard it was good so it wasn't hard to convince me to go (for free...thanks, Rich!), but Rich's motives were not the art but his religious pursuit of autographs; in this case, he was looking to snag Mark Nelson from Asher Lev and also Marilyn Sokol, who was appearing in Old Jews Telling Jokes in the same space.
Nelson, now in his fifties, appealed to Rich's horror appreciation, having appeared in Friday the 13th (1980), while Sokol, 75, was a draw for having had the misfortune of appearing in Can't Stop the Music that same year. I think Rich was worried they'd rebuff him at the stage door (some actors resent being remembered for their least accomplished but sometimes most loveable performances), so having me along as a buffer and also having tickets to one of the shows was a way to ensure we wouldn't be seen as those autograph hawkers who hop from event to event stalking stars and expecting them to participate in a cottage industry the profits from which they're not allowed to share.
We didn't see Old Jews but saw plenty of old Jews (no joke, would the theatre exist without them?) and saw a terrific play in Asher Lev. It was deceptively simple and powerful, with an exciting performance by Ari Brand in the title role (Rich thought he shook his head too much, but I think it was a spot-on cultural mannerism). Also, Jenny Bacon was fairly mesmerizing in her multiple roles, including "Lev"'s mother and also a nude model who represents the decision he must make if he's to be a real artist. Happily, Nelson, the reason we were there, was outstanding in the roles he played, nimbly shading "Lev"'s taciturn father and his complicated mentor. Definitely check it out if you can.
After, we realized Sokol's show had let out earlier so we'd missed her. This was no great loss for me as Rich had admitted she had blown him off once before; I don't like being shot down. Then we idiotically allowed Brand and Bacon to slip by with only our compliments and without asking them to sign our programs. We were there, why not?
Nelson emerged last, with friends. I told him how brilliant his performance had been and he was gracious. Then Rich asked if he would sign something for him. He had been hiding his Friday the 13th DVD cover art. Nelson said he would, then when he saw it said without a hint of irritation, "I thought that's what it might be."
He did say it was a blessing to have such a juicy role to play in Asher Lev and thanked us before agreeing to do a pic-with for Rich.
When I Facebooked this that night, I noted: "Nelson was a hot young piece in Friday the 13th, so after we got his autograph we stabbed him to death for having sex out of wedlock." A friend immediately told me he knew Nelson and would forward my status to him.
Nelson's reply came back, "What does he mean 'was a hot young piece?'"
All of the above reveals some reasons why celeb-hunting can be fun: There is camaraderie, there is an OCD sense of satisfaction (Rich now has signatures from most of that movie's original cast), there is an opportunity to praise someone who's given you pleasure and there is always the chance of a good laugh when it's over.