Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bless It and Release It

Remember on the cartoon Scooby Doo, when something puzzled Scooby he, his ears would perk up and he would go "rrrrroooo?!!??"

I have been making that noise a lot. Wanna know why? You have to know I am going to tell you and that I am going to do it honestly. But it is also something I've said many times before:

"Why are people so mean?"

Backstory: I used to visit the website TalkinBroadway; they have a chat board called All That Chat. I got into it because Brady reads it all the time and one day someone said something so funny that we wanted to respond to it. We signed up for a screen handle and we chose TheGirlFRIENDS, as a tribute to our friend, Happy, who does the most amazing immitation of Celine Dion, during which she refers to herself as "GirlFRIEND". We wrote to the person and, soon, we had an online presence. I noticed, relatively early, that the mood at the chat board was catty and bitchy, downright mean. I have tried for many years to put forth positive energy and I worked (hard) to become that person on ATC that put forth that kind of energy. Sadly, I wasn't always good at it. Once, I voiced an opinion about Joe Mantello and he wrote to me (your email address can be shown in your postings) to set the record straight. I apologized to him, publically, eating the biggest serving of crow you can imagine. To that end, I set forth a good example, even then. I left the chat board because people began to attack my friend, Donna Murphy, during the whole WONDERFUL TOWN mess. By that time, it was well known on the board that TheGirlFRIENDS was me (Brady rarely posted anything). So people attacked Donna (led by the columnist Michael Reidel) on a daily basis for missing shows. I tried to defend her because I knew that she was, truly, ill and couldn't go to work. Then they started attacking me. It wasn't just over Donna, either; they attacked me for things I wrote in defense of Stephen Schwartz, as well as some other people I had worked with, not to mention their attacks on me, outright. So I discontinued my screen name at the chat board and went away. I stayed away for a very long time. One day a friend called me to tell me that I had been mentioned on the chat board. I logged on to see why. It said "Stephen Mosher Sighting". I clicked on the post. Someone was saying "For those of you who were wondering where Stephen Mosher has disappeared to, I saw him at a play at NYU last night". I roared. It is the closest I have ever come to being famous. The day the chatterati start wondering what I am up to is a sad day, indeed.

I began, last year, checking in from time to time. Whatever else that chatboard may be, it IS good for information.

Donna Murphy is back on Broadway. During previews for LOVEMUSIK, the nastiness started. She had just come off of a famously revered performance in the FOLLIES concert, during which everyone (in the press and in the chat rooms) praised her (give or take a person or three). She started performances of LOVEMUSIK and people began posting very mean things about her. They criticized her work and made (endless and boring) jokes about her missing shows and Linda Muggleston covering for her (Miss Muggleston gained fame as the WONDERFUL TOWN understudy). There was even a two day period where Donna WAS out (along with some other castmates) because of flu. Those two days, the chatterati were merciless; they were mean to the point that someone posted that Donna's husband had suffered a stroke. This was false information that could have affected HIS career. Producers are often reluctant to insure an actor that they have heard is in bad health. The attacks on my girlfriend have been ongoing for weeks, for months, for years. And what I don't understand is this:

What did Donna ever do to anyone?

She opened a play called PASSION, a few years ago, to stunning reviews and the fans raised her to "goddess" status. She did some film and tv work and then came back to Broadway in THE KING AND I. For both of these plays she recieved a Tony award. The fans elevated her to "genius" status. She did some film and tv and then did the concert version of WONDERFUL TOWN. The press raved and the fans took her up to "icon" status. When WONDERFUL TOWN was to transfer to Broadway, there were difficulties in the timing and it took awhile. It landed on Broadway and Donna became (famously) ill and missed many performances and (because of a columnist and the chatterati) THAT is what people talk about. She never maligned anyone. She didn't say anything rude about anyone in print. She didn't harm ANYONE. She protected herself, her health, her singing voice. And still, years later, people want to make jokes at her expense. It's not like she is some horrifying politician or terrorist or publicity whoring no talent that people LOVE to vilify. She is a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend and an artist -- she is so many human things that never hurts anyone or anything and yet the chatterati have this compulsion for this incessant cruelty.

Mind you, Donna is not the only one that they do this to. I have read very unflattering things about my friend Max Von Essen, about Daphne Rubin Vega, about any number of celebrated artists of this community. I think that, looking at the big picture--seeing how many people are burned in effigy, I should not take it personally. It isn't REALLY about Donna. Or Max or Daphne or any other artist who gets skewered by the chatterati. It's about the writer. One of my valuable lessons of 2007 was to NOT carry other peoples' baggage. If a person thinks that being mean is being funny, if a person is bitter and unhappy, if a person is jealous, if a person's low self esteem is made better by an attempted destruction of another's image or character, then it is they who must live in a prison of negativity, one of their own creation, for their entire lives. I suppose it may be true that nothing makes the public more excited by their building up of, and then their destruction of, a celebrity. I suppose it gives them a sense of power, of importance.

Everyone wants to feel important. Everyone wants to feel powerful. Everyone wants to feel that their opinion is valid. That's why we voice them, in person or online.

I found the real power in not caring. It is being important to yourself, accepting that you have no control and knowing that your opinions may be voiced but they will change nothing.

I have learned my lesson. That is, I have learned a lesson. I don't know if I will ever learn what it is that makes people so mean - but it doesn't matter because I am, no longer, a mean person and THAT is what matters to me. I will shower Donna with my love and kindness and my friendship and THAT is what will matter to her; and, fortunately, there are many people who do that for her. So no matter what the powerless chatterati try to do, her happiness is intact.

Happiness. That's real power.
Please note: The photo of Donna is one I shot during Broadway Under The Stars a couple of years ago.


Blogger jungle dream pagoda said...

Lovely photo! I hear ya ,on the "not caring" and "happiness" being the real power!
There are certain political personalitys,that I would LOVE to skewer,but why give them the press? I prefer to ignore and hope they will go away!
...and as one of the luckiest and happiest girls I know(me),yes happiness IS power!

10:57 PM  
Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Hey Ste - Great post, filled with lots of love and esteem. And as someone who loves to write about the theatre, it's a great reminder to people like me to remember that we're talking about real fellow human beings.

3:06 PM  

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