Dear Mr. Hoffman
File this under The Cost of Raising Kids and Teenage Crush.
In the spring of my sophomore year in high school, my mother and I spent a weekend in New York City. Dustin Hoffman was appearing in the Broadway musical Jimmy Shine. My mother and I had seen the play during its pre-Broadway run in Baltimore, and wanted to see it again. Actually, I wanted to see it again. I had a crush on Dustin Hoffman.
We arrived in New York City on a sunny Friday afternoon in April. After dropping off our suitcases at the hotel, we walked over to Times Square to buy theatre tickets. There was no Internet back then, and buying tickets usually meant standing in long lines. The ticket booth at Times Square sold tickets at a discount. We bought two tickets to the evening performance of Jimmy Shine.
My mother suggested that I toss a flower to Hoffman during his curtain call. We found a flower shop and purchased a long-stemmed red carnation, an appropriately modest gift for a high-schooler to present to the star of The Graduate.
Jimmy Shine was playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, on West 47th Street (the same theatre where the musical Waitress is currently playing). The plot focused on Jimmy, a struggling artist in Greenwich Village during the 1960s. The production, which ran for 161 performances, starred Dustin Hoffman in the title role. Hoffman won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance for his role in the play.
At curtain call, as the actors stepped onto the stage to take their bows, I tossed the red carnation in Hoffman’s direction. It landed in the orchestra pit.
My mother and I were sitting in box seats, on the left side of the stage. Hoffman picked up a small object, walked over to where we were sitting, and hurled the object into the air. My mother grabbed onto my dress as I leaned over the balcony to catch it. The object landed next to my foot. It was an empty Schlitz beer can, a stage prop. The audience applauded, and I spent the rest of the weekend on cloud nine.
It was a priceless moment, as they say, but not without a price. That beer can cost my father train tickets, a hotel room, theatre tickets, meals, and a day of shopping at Macy’s. Thank you, Dad.
And thank you, Mr. Hoffman, for being a good sport. You should know that I kept the beer can for a long time, longer than I care to admit.