Meeting Lee Tergesen: Diane's turn

By Diane (

November 13, 2004
Back to Anne's account of this event

My husband and I had wrapped a mini-vacation around my wanting to attend "The Foreigner" and the Lee-fest. But finally the main event (for me!) arrived. Getting to the theater was only about an eight-block walk from our hotel, and I think I floated the whole way there. Cold outside? I have no idea.

We rounded the corner at 46th Street, and there was a cluster of folks outside. Peeps? "FanFromFla?" Yes! Yay! "You just missed him." Nooooooo! Apparently five or six lucky early birds got to say hello to Lee on his way into the theater. However, my disappointment was quelled by meeting all my wonderful online friends in person, and trying to remember all their real-life names. More and more Peeps began assembling, and Mav handed out her goodies -- buttons and magnets all around to commemorate the event. Anne handed out copies of our tickets. Prize possessions all.

At one point I had everyone turn around and give a hello and a wave to hubby, who was happy to bring me to the play but refused to squee. Fair enough :) He was a good sport, god bless 'im. I really wanted him to be part of the evening -- I wanted to share everything with my best friend. But I knew he could take only so much giddiness, and we gave each other the space we needed. I love you, man. :)

Finally it came time to file inside. The ushers seemed amused by the size of our group. I wanted to talk to everyone, but seemed choked up and nervous with anticipation. 

The play itself was a ton of fun. Matthew Broderick was *much* funnier than we had expected. Hubby and I talked later that he seemed to be channeling a combination of Charley Chaplin, John Belushi, Andy Kaufman and Tim Conway. It was interesting to see him say in an interview later that he was an admirer of Buster Keaton and silent movies -- you really could tell that influence in his performance.

Lee's part in Act 1 was kind of short, and it seemed everyone in our group was anxiously waiting for the action to pick up after intermission. And indeed it did. There were several scenes that were side-splitting. Sitting on one side of me, I thought Anne was going to hyperventilate at one point. On the other, hubby had tears streaming down his face he was laughing so hard.

Lee had a really tough part to carry off: He had to be funny, but he also was supposed to be scary and mean. I can see why the part appealed to him -- it's quite a challenge. And, as he noted in some comments in an interview, there's a point when the jokes start to rain down that's so exhilarating. I think that happens in that "bees come down" scene. His performance really comes alive then. It seems like he feeds off the audience reaction as well as his co-star's performance.

When the ensemble is together on stage, Lee looks -- appropriately -- so much more physically imposing than the rest of them. Even though he's being made the butt of jokes, it's obvious that he's still dangerous.

I love how the climax of the play pulls together a lot of the little "throw-away" lines and scenes. I was amused that Matthew Broderick's character is a longtime proofreader of science fiction. The science fiction part turns out to be key to the play, and the result is uproarious.

When the play was over, Lee was the first to take his bow on stage -- and of course got the loudest cheers from a certain section of the audience. He commented later that it's usually Kevin Cahoon, Matthew Broderick and Frances Sternhagen who get the largest ovations. He said he usually gets a "yay," but the others get the "woo hoo!" Well, on this night, he got "woo hoo" and then some!

Lee's performance in "The Foreigner" was impressive, and his acting skill is well-known. But the *real* Lee is the best of all. Pictures, stories and comments by Anne and others had prepared me to a certain extent for the force that is Lee. But I soon found that the warmth and energy he exudes -- you just have to be there.

I don't think I have ever met a more truly genuine person -- in any profession. And to find it in an actor or celebrity is amazing. The way he embraced us -- literally and figuratively -- was so heart-warming. Outside the theater, he greeted his No. 1 gal first (do I have to mention it was Anne?!). Then met or re-met the rest of the group. He approached me, and I said, "Hi, I'm new. I'm Diane, and I came up from Florida to see you." He gave me a big hug and said, "Well that was a mistake." Whether he meant because of the weather or because he was being self-deprecating ... doesn't matter. The hug alone was worth the trip!

After hello's to the rest of the group, we headed down the street to O'Lunney's, where the great and wonderful Nic had reserved some space for us in the upstairs room that overlooks the rest of the bar. We had a long table right along the railing that overlooked the main room. Everything was bustling and lively. I was at the end of one table, with Mav on my right, and Lee sitting next to her (I understand that there was a great deal of arm-fondling going on!).

Anne mentioned the bachelor-party guys who were in the center of the upstairs room, and I had the entertaining view of watching them whisper to one another and look at Lee and try to figure out where they knew that guy from. Finally, one was appointed to come over and ask Lee, "You know that show 'Oz' on TV?" Lee: "No, sorry." The guy, crestfallen: "Oh, OK. Well, you look just like that guy Beecher in the show." Lee: "Really? Huh." Or something like that. But he gave the guy a break and said, "Yeah, that's me." Shook the guy's hand, pleasantries all around. The guy said his group was having a bachelor party, and Lee replied, "OK, but no matter how hard you beg, I will *not* strip for you." Our table, of course wondered how we could get him to strip for *us.*

Lee did a great job of making everyone at the table feel included, which was tough because it was long table, a noisy bar and there were a lot of us.

I tried to be serious at one point and asked him, "So, what's next for you? What are you doing after the play?" Meaning what project does he have lined up after the play ends in January. He said, "Oh, walk my dog..." Hee!

But he got the drift, and said that he'd probably head out to LA and audition and try to land a part in a series. (Yes! A regular dose of Lee would definitely be a good thing.)

Much hilarity and talk ensued, which Anne has already captured, but I will try to shed some more light on the genesis of the night's major controversy: Tomato -- vegetable or fruit?

Actually, the discussion started with pumpkins. Mav was telling Lee about the beer she had drunk earlier that day -- it was a pumpkin beer. A few jokes cropped up about that, and I commented, "Well, that's one way to get a serving of vegetables." Or something like that. Lee turned and said something to the other end of the table. Then turned back to me and, with great seriousness: "You know it's bugging me that I've never thought of pumpkin as a vegetable." Of course, it had been very much a throwaway line when I said it, but, hey, Lee was talking to me, and I wasn't going to discourage him. "Well," I said, "I just figured it's in that family with squashes and zucchinis and your gourd-like produce." I forget who chimed in with what comments, and before long we were debating whether a pumpkin was a fruit or a vegetable. This led logically, of course, to the age-old question about tomatoes.

I think others have covered the rest of the discussion, including a call to L's brother, who according to Lee, was looking up information in the "Book of Wrong Things." At one point, a waiter -- possibly a manager -- came to check on our table, asked if there's anything he could do for us. "Well," I said, "You could tell us if a tomato a vegetable or a fruit?" All eyes turned to him. This was not what he was expecting, but he recovered in fine fashion. I confess that I forget what his answer was (fruit or veggie), but in replying in his Irish accent, he said the word "tom-ah-to." Which could have prompted another round of debates. Tomayto, Tomahto? Let's call the whole thing off! ;)

I think I have the chronological order of events mixed up, but at one point (probably *before* the tomato talk), Lee signed autographs for several of us. The thing that impressed me most was the great thought and care he put into personalizing each of the autographs.

I will fast-forward to my departure now. Sadly.

Actually, it was pretty cool. As you may recall, hubby accompanied me on this adventure. I had not forgotten him, although he was waiting down at the bar for, like, hours while I was getting giddy with Lee and the girls. After a while, I went down and checked on him. He was bleary-eyed to say the least. (I don't know how much beer he had put down, but I don't think he had consumed as much since college.) So I figured it was time to say goodbye. 

I went back upstairs and handed my camera to Mav, and went over to Lee, who was sitting next to Anne at this point. I put my arm around his shoulders (Guh! They're rock solid!) and said that the No. 1 man in America is waiting downstairs for me, so it's time for me to say goodnight to No. 2. He got up to pose for a picture with me, and Mav snapped a good one. (Thanks again!). 

A few words were said, which I frankly don't remember because he also kissed me on the cheek and thanked me for coming. But I do know that I said, "Why don't you come downstairs and say hello to my husband," because as I left, Lee was right behind me. I must admit I was terribly surprised. I really thought he was going to just sit back down at the table. I know better now!

However, I really wanted hubby to meet him to show him what all my fuss was about. So it was excellent that Lee took the time to come down and say hello. Hubby was truly happy to see him. They exchanged pleasantries, then hubby asked, "So, what's your next project?" Lee turned to me, then back to hubby and said, "That's a popular question in your family...." Then told him about planning to go to LA because it's "pilot season" then and wanting to hook up with a series.

Hubby complimented him on the play, and Lee talked excitedly about having wanted to do theater again and what a great play and well-written "The Foreigner" is.

Hubby further complimented Lee on being such a classy guy and spending so much time with all of us. Goodbyes ensued; Lee gave me another kiss. I told him he was terrific, it was good to see him and wished him all the luck in the world.

With that, we exited the restaurant, with me on top of the world.

But oh, it was coooooold outside. And damn! I forgot my coat. I had gotten out of that habit here in Florida! I ran back upstairs to retrieve it, and little did I know that Lee had just finished teasing the group with a story that we had asked Lee if he "swings." My face would have been glowing bright red if I had had any inkling then about that discussion! Fortunately, I didn't learn about it till I got home Monday afternoon, and listened to a phone message from Anne. I spent much of the next hour blushing and giggling.

So there's my slice of the story of our evening with Lee. There's so much more, I know. But I've rambled enough, and I don't know if I could ever accurately capture the excitement, the hilarity, the warm feeling of the whole evening. Lee is a marvelous man, and I, for one, feel lucky to have discovered him -- and his fans!

Main Page
Meeting Lee

Meeting One
March 19, 2002

Meeting Two
May 19, 2002

Meeting Three
October 7, 2002

Meeting Four
December 7, 2002

Meeting Five
January 28, 2003

Meeting Six
August 31, 2003

Meeting Seven
November 13, 2004

Meeting Eight
January 7, 2005

Meeting Nine
May 31, 2008

Meeting Ten
May 2, 2010

Meeting 11
Dec. 4, 2010

Meeting 12
Nov. 23, 2011

Meeting 13
June 9, 2012

Meeting 14
Aug. 17, 2013

Meeting 15
June 14, 2015

Meeting 16
October 15, 2017

Meeting 17
June 8, 2019