Robert Roth – Recognition

Recognition

By

Robert Roth

1992. As would be expected, I arrived at the Sheraton Hotel in Buenos Aires and the first thing the man behind the desk asked me was whether I was a movie actor. Since January I have been stopped at least thirteen times and asked if I was an actor. No one quite knows the actor’s name—it might be more than one person—it is always someone just on the tip of the tongue—there’s usually a snapping of the fingers as the person tries to figure out who I am—though sometimes they do identify me by movie if not by name. New Year’s Eve at Judith Malina’s party a woman drunk and somewhat obnoxious

A digression: They have chocolates and drinks in a cabinet in my room. I thought they were gratis. But in fact it was $3.25 for potato chips. $7 for a small box of chocolate. $11 for cashew nuts, etc. My brother is upset because he ate the cashews! Just stumbling out of bed could cost a bundle.

The woman at the party said to me that the movie I was in was lousy, but that I was pretty good. I felt insulted that someone would be that cavalier with my work so I made some comment back. A man then asked me if I had really been in a movie and if so what was my name. I told him that the movie had generated such hostility that I didn’t want to talk about it any more. A few weeks later at a restaurant a waitress asked in a most respectful way that a couple at another table would like to have my autograph. Another time—here I’m only giving the most notable encounters—three young black women saw me and immediately huddled together. I was delivering newspapers into a building and one of the women followed me to the building. But as she was about to enter I was just about to leave. I was standing one step above her—she looked startled—I made a playfully menacing face at her and she ran to her friends screaming—all three huddled together shrieking as if they were in a horror movie. I went over and said something. They shrieked louder combining horror with the giddiness of being approached by a celebrity. They mumbled “ghost” and dashed by me in a screaming clump and ran into the building. Just a couple of days before I left New York a man came over to me and said he admired my work and shook my hand. I was deep into my own head and somewhat unnerved when his hand entered through some protective field I had placed around me. At first I thought he might have seen me give a reading or somehow knew of the magazine or had read something that I had written. But in truth he had just seen me on a VCR the night before while watching Ghost.. He had seen me walking on Twelfth Street just a few days before and had decided to approach me the next time he saw me. He said I was also very good in Taxi Driver. The man at the desk in the hotel said I was terrific in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest with Jack Nicholson. Ghosts and lunatics all. My charisma is pretty intense.

*****

Many years later, I went to England to be at the launch of five mini operas, aptly named “5 Operas” [https://www.flickr.com/photos/szpako/albums/72157670738115225]. It took place at a community center in Epping, Essex, a town outside of London. My friend Carletta Joy Walker and I wrote the libretto for one of the operas. The great British composer Michael Szpakowski composed the music for all five. It was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

On the way home, at Heathrow Airport, as I as was streaming through a gate with thousands of other travelers, a custom official tapped me on shoulder and asked very politely, “Were you here making a movie?”

Blurring one truth with another I answered smilingly, “Yes. Things went very well. Thank you so much for asking.”

 

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