Kissing and Telling on David Schwimmer ‘cuz that’s just how I roll
Before I married the most delicious man in the world I kissed my share of frogs. But I also kissed one sweet Prince. Here’s an excerpt of our moment from my auto-biographical tome, Smash, Crash and BurnL Tales From the Edge of Celebrity:
I can tell my face is the color of a radish. This time it’s not because I’m giving an embarrassing performance in my scene study acting class; the New Guy is. When I’m watching an actor who doesn’t know what he’s doing, or is out of control, I feel somehow responsible. As if I need to help bring things back to order.
The New Guy, who got a legitimate acting degree at Northwestern University in Chicago, is warming up for his monologue by jogging in circles, whipping his head back and forth like a pitbull with a bunny in its mouth, performing jumping jacks and leg kicks like a Vegas showgirl. I must look away.
HA! HA! HA!
That’s him, breathing really loud. This is what I imagine natural childbirth sounds like. Why is he doing that? Is this some kind of Alexander Technique thing? Who is Alexander from the Alexander technique? Certainly not Alexander The Great? Jane Alexander? I should know that if I plan to identify myself an actress.
HOO HOO HOO!
Is the New Guy doing a scene about Native Americans? I can’t listen. I cover my ears, but can’t help opening one eye. I’m a gawker at the scene of an accident. The New Guy is covered in flop sweat. Fie! Fie! Be gone, you Terrible Empathy which afflicteth me in the service of others!
I distract myself by remembering a story about Dustin Hoffman when he was filming Marathon Man. In order to realistically portray a desperate man on the run for his life, the story goes that Dustin stayed awake for days at a stretch and literally ran himself ragged. When he arrived on set one day looking particularly harrowed his co-star, Lawrence Olivier, famously said, “Dustin, why don’t you just try acting?”
Did I say that out loud? Because the New Guy’s looking right at me. What? Oh. He’s chosen me as the recipient of his monologue. I take a seat in front of him and arrange my face into a sanctuary.
The New Guy launches into his monologue, “To be, or not to be — that is the question:”
Oh no. Not Shakespeare. The New Guy is Jewish. Were there any Jews who played Hamlet? I make a mental note to go to the library and check Elliot Gould’s resume. Was Olivier Jewish? Somehow Hamlet seems like a goy role for men like Richard Burton in the full wallow of a carafe of Dewars single-malt scotch.
The New Guy is tall and not fat, but kind of soft and unformed. He has a thick ring of long black eyelashes framing puppy dog eyes and dense, curly black hair. He’s the kind of guy you want to give milk and cookies to.
“Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. To die, to sleep.”
He’s earnest. Maybe he’s not bad, just miscast. Maybe next week he’ll do some Neil Simon. Brighton Beach Memoirs or Biloxi Blues? I’m typecasting.
The following week he plays Joe Bonaparte, an Italian boxer-who-dreams-of-being-a-violinist in Clifford Odets’ Golden Boy.
An Italian boxer.
This kid’s never gonna get work as a casting agent when his acting career doesn’t pan out.
I pull the cowl neck of my sweater up over my eyes. I can’t watch. He’s chewing the scenery with shyness in the love scene he’s doing with my friend Cindy. He looks sheepishly down at his lap, then up at Cindy, sheepishly down in his lap, then up at Cindy.
“Just kiss her!” someone to the right of me hisses.
I wonder when The New Guy will realize he doesn’t have a shot as an actor in Hollywood. When will he give up the pipe dream?
His name is David Schwimmer.
Two weeks later I’m dancing at Funky Reggae, a club off Highland and Melrose with my friend Regina, who castrates men for sport, and my current scene partner, Raoul. I’m not sure if this is a date with Raoul or if he’s gay. He’s prettier than me and his sexuality is sort of a perfume diaspora in which you can’t really determine whether it’s plumeria or sandalwood you smell.
I hope Raoul is straight because we’re working on Splendor In The Grass and you just know Warren Beatty bagged Natalie Wood in that one.
As Raoul and I shimmy near each other like pandas not mating in their zoo habitat, I notice a cute boy-man sharing the dance floor with Regina.
That never happens.
Regina sleeps with men, but draws the line at dancing with them. She seems to welcome this guy because he can move. Which doesn’t make sense because he’s white … and not fat, but kind of soft and unformed …
It’s David Schwimmer from acting class!
I didn’t know Jewish men could dance like that. Something about the yarmulke doesn’t inspire confidence. Not that David’s wearing a yarmulke, but he probably does during the Sabbath and the Jewish High Holy days. I think I can see the imprint of a yarmulke on the top of his head.
Wow. Look at him, so comfortable and loose in that still boyish body. So confident. And … cute.
It wouldn’t hurt to say hello. I edge closer. Am I doing the shiksa step-ball-change? I’ll just tap him on the shoulder. David spins around and looks at me.
He has no idea who I am.
“It’s Shannon … “
“Shannon? From Jeff’s class? Jeff Corey’s class?”
“Shannon? Shannon! Of course! I didn’t recognize you. I mean, I don’t know why I didn’t recognize you …”
“It’s because I transform so completely into character in class.”
“Yes, I thought you were an incestuous ethnic Italian from the Bronx.”
Suddenly Raoul looms and exhibits a heretofore unseen machismo. He drapes a possessive arm around my shoulders and reaches out to shake David’s hand.
“Raoul,” he says in an unrecognizable low register. Maybe this is a date?
David shakes Raoul’s hand, but keeps looking at me. Once again he’s responsible for turning my face into the color of a radish.
“Wow, it’s so weird to see you outside of class,” he says.
“It’s always a little strange to see people out of context.”
“Strange, but cool.”
Suddenly I feel fluttery.
“Good to see you, David,” I inch away. “I guess I’ll see you in Jeff’s class.”
“No, you won’t,” David blurts, an undercurrent of urgency in his voice, “I’m moving to Chicago. Indefinitely.”
Why am I disappointed?
“Well, good luck with that.”
“Right, yeah well, good to see you.”
It feels, in the pit of my stomach, that something is over before it’s even begun.
Raoul and I dance a little longer. Suddenly he’s gotten handsy and I don’t want him to be handsy. I want to go back and dance with David. I glance once or twice in his direction to find him looking at me. Why isn’t he playing by the rules and acting aloof and indifferent? Is this a man-ploy for sex? Because in my current experimental, Casual Sex phase he doesn’t have to try too hard. I’m kind of a Sure Thing. You know, he does kind of remind me a little of John Cusack. Hmm.
Minutes later Raoul and I stand on the sidewalk outside the club waiting for Regina, who emerges and immediately lights up a cigarette. As we walk to the car Regina whispers in my ear so Raoul can’t hear, “I gave the kid inside your number.”
This is an aberration. These are the things I’ve heard Regina variously say to men who dare approach us in a club: “Go fuck yourself,” “Go fuck your mother,” “Go away or I’ll fuck you up,” “Fuck a monkey’s uncle,” and the one that suits all occasions, “Fuck off.”
“You gave that kid my number? What’s wrong? Do you have cancer?”
“He was cute in that Jew way. See ya.” Regina heads home to polish her brass knuckles.
Raoul ushers me to my apartment door. He asks if he can come in, but is unflatteringly easy to dissuade. Huh.
I brush my teeth in the bathroom and ponder what could’ve been with David. Perhaps we could have done a scene from Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice. Elliot Gould was very good in that film. I could play the Dyan Cannon role. Is she a shiksa? One should never assume. I gargle a little, get in my pajamas and turn out the light. My phone rings.
It’s two-thirty in the morning.
He wouldn’t call me tonight, would he? Isn’t he supposed to wait three days or something?
I think it’s David, but I can hardly hear him because there’s a whooshing sound and some loud clattering and banging going on, then more whooshing.
He’s yelling into the phone, “Yeah, its David. Shannon?”
“Yes, It’s SHANNON!”
“SHANNON? ARE YOU ASLEEP?”
“NOT ANYMORE. WHERE ARE YOU?”
“I’M IN THE KITCHEN WITH THE DISHWASHERS AT PENNY FEATHERS!”
“I DIDN’T REALIZE PENNY FEATHERS WAS OPEN THIS LATE!”
“IT’S AN ALL-NIGHT DINER!”
Suddenly the clanking and whooshing stops, but there’s some kind of kerfuffle on David’s end. I hear voices speaking in rapid Spanish and David replying, “Un momento, un mujer en the telephone. Un moment, por favor.”
Then he asks, as though he’s in the privacy of his own home and has all the time in the world and it’s not two-thirty in the morning, “So, how are you?”
“I’m fine. How are you?”
There’s a long silence. One of the dishwashers calls David a coño, which, I’ve learned from the Oaxacan busboys at work, means “pussy” in English.
“So, listen, uh, I was wondering, you know, if you might want to go out for a coffee with me?”
“I don’t drink coffee because it gives me heart palpitations? But I do drink tea.”
“But tea has more caffeine than coffee.”
“Yes, but the quality of caffeine in the tea is milder than the quality of the caffeine in coffee.”
“Then let’s have tea, or lemonade or like, I don’t know, they have good shakes at Ed Debevics where I work, but I’m not going to be working there much longer since I’m moving soon.”
That’s right. Chicago. That settles it. He’s just trying to get laid before he goes.
“So, could I see you soon?” he asks.
“I work tomorrow.”
“After work tomorrow?”
Suddenly the dishwashers start clanking the hell out of everything again.
“Yes,” I say.
“What? I can’t hear you! The rinse cycle’s over!”
“I said yes.”
One of the dishwashers calls him a pinche cabrón.
Yes. I’ll drink milkshakes with him tomorrow, but there’s one thing that’s definitely not going to happen. I’m not having sex with him. Turns out when you’re sexually liberated you’ll have casual sex with everyone but the guy you really want to like you.
The rest of the story can be found in my new book Smash, Crash and Burn: Tales From The Edge of Celebrity … oh yes, I’m self-marketing like that! You’ll laugh (at me) and cry (for me).