Back to our New York story...
My man Tom has hired me to help him publicize his short film at the New York Expo. I am having the time of my life and it keeps getting better!
My amazing, think-of-everything friend has gotten us tickets to the Independent Spirit Awards being held in Manhattan to coincide with the Expo. At the awards show, the IFC presents a lifetime achievement award and guess who the lucky recipients were that year? Well, since this is cleary MY WEEK...it's the inspiring, iconoclastic, personal heroes of mine: The Coen Brothers!
As my email address suggests, Spielberg helped me identify that I wanted to be a filmmaker. Watching E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark cemented my desire to direct movies but the Coen Bros pictures allowed me identify the KIND of filmmaker I wanted to be. Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing and Barton Fink catapulted me into the world of independent filmmaking and my vision has never been the same.
The big night arrived and Tom and I got ALL gussied up. The event was at an old elegant hotel. There was a red carpet and Sigourney Weaver walked ahead of us so all these flash bulbs are going off all around us. We drank and smoked at this long old-school dance hall bar and everyone looked like a glamorous star out of the 1940s. John Turturro introduced the Coen Brothers and they made their typical short and humble speech. It was indy filmmaker heaven!
Then a dance band took the stage and everyone was shaking it on the floor.
And you know how I love to dance.
I danced with Tom.
I danced with Marc.
But I wasn’t done there. No. I, ELLEN PASQUALE, wanted to dance with Joel. Joel Coen.
Why the hell not?
So I went up and asked him. He looked down at me and said, “Uh, let me ask my wife.”
Joel checked in with his wife.
She said, "Oh-kay," and smiled that sardonic smile. Thanks Frances!
So the next thing you know, I’m slow dancing with the guest of honor, Joel Coen! And the things I said to him, if I may be un-p.c. for a moment, were so retarded.
They were actually on the other more retarded side of retarded. I won’t quote anything I said. Let’s try to keep this positive.
The next morning I felt like friggin’ Cinderella with a Marlboro hangover. I had quit smoking a couple years back but had suddenly developed (quite by accident...) a pack a day habit. My mouth and throat were in physical PAIN every day. But it was worth it. Back in the convertible, back to work.
Work was wrapping up though (devastating!). To lessen the blow, on the evening of the last day of the Expo, there were going to be some killer, blow out parties. Three in fact. A fruit and cheese affair at the Angelika. A dinner and dance party sponsored by Kodak down at the piers. And then a kick-ass, after-hours party thrown by Miramax in a three-story club.
Tom in his infinite wisdom (only a filmmaker could organize so well) got us a couple hotel rooms in Manhattan so we wouldn’t have to worry about driving back to Jersey all hammered (again). We check into our rooms after the last film and put our going out clothes on again.
I had started promoting some other folks' films too during the Expo and had some stuff to wrap up. Tom said he had something to do as well so Tom suggested we meet up in a couple hours at the TGIFridays in Time Square.
A couple hours later, when I got there, I saw the TGIFridays was a two-story affair. The second level housed a ginormous bar and it was all glass with panoramic views of Times Square. It was cool in a TGIF/Time Square kind of way.
I walked up the stairs to the bar and saw my handsomedapperdarling Tom sitting at the bar with a bouquet of roses and two glasses of champagne with strawberries on the rims. Tears jumped into my eyes. He turned and it was like the greatest scene in the greatest movie. The gesture was so unexpected, so genuine and sweet--the strawberries on the rims of the glasses slayed me.
To this day, it is the single most romantic expression I have ever experienced.
He had written a letter and he read it to me. He thanked me (thanked ME) for the greatest week ever.
For both of us. It is not too often in this world that two people get to experience their dreams in tandem like that.
We sat and sipped our champagne and had another. We re-lived every great moment and toasted our agreement that it would never get any better than this.
We canoodled so long at TGIFs that we were late to the next party. We hopped in a cab and it had begun drizzling and it was Manfuckinghattan and it was dark and the stars twinkled. We were buzzed on champagne and looking GOOD. I felt like Frank Sinatra.
The cab stopped outside the party at the pier. People milled around looking terrific and the music blasted onto the sidewalk. Tom helped me out of the car and I spotted Marc also looking charming standing on the sidewalk in the bright sprinkling rain. He grabbed his heart in that movie way (it was one big movie!) and then touched his finger to his watch.
“Where have you been?”
Wait. I have to take this in for a minute. A man, a cute man, is WAITING FOR ME IN THE RAIN OUTSIDE A TERRIFIC PARTY. Waiting for me.
“Where have you been?”
I turned to Tom as a way of explanation. Tom patted my back, smiled and pushed me slightly toward Marc.
“Have fun,” he said in his sly Sid way. Because when you are very, very married, away from your husband for one short/long week and you’ve already turned into a big ho, it’s nice to have your friend Tom turn into your friend Sid and refuse to pass judgment. Yes, it’s nice to have Sid around.
So he bee-lined it inside to the free drinks and Marc and I stood a moment, in the dark night, in the rain, under the sparkling lights of the restaurant and he said:
And I said, "Certainly," and he turned and behind his back, picture this please:
He extended his hand to me behind his back without looking.
Just reached his hand back without looking so I would take it and he could lead me into the party. Just like that. I'll never forget it.
Two romantic moments in one night. He wanted to hold my hand. He was confident I would take his hand. We were TOGETHER.
At that moment Frampton's “Baby I Love your Way" began to play from inside.
Who was writing this movie? God?
I took Marc's extended hand of hope and let him lead me inside.
The night rocked. We partied. Par-tayed. Marc was a great dancer (duh) and we danced from the pier to the after-hours party. Everyone we had met during the week was there. Robert De Niro was there. I did not ask him to dance (something tells me he's not a dancer, but for that matter, either is Joel Coen. SNAP!) Anyway I was busy. In a private room.
Later that night, God helped me talk my way out of having to spend the night with Marc. I wasn’t quite ready for that. I was Married. And even if in my mind I knew it was over, my dh didn't know that yet. It's fine line but it's a LINE okay?
The sun came up as Tom got back to the hotel and we decided to forgo sleep and get some greasy breakfast food, smoke, and re-hash the whole week one more time.
Tom drove me back home that night.
I was different on a cellular level. I walked back into my house a stranger. Who's house was this? Who's husband was this? No kids thank God. Who's cats were these?
I secretly called in sick the whole next week and listened to 70s Freedom Rock non-stop while my dh was at work. I smoked. Wrote. Processed.
When you have a spiritual epiphany, it's sometimes called an AWAKENING. That is what it was for me. Literally. I was awake. More importantly to me, at the time I was awakening I realized tragically:
I had been asleep.
I married someone while asleep. How could this have happened?
That's a shame I still deal with.
But once you do wake up, there's nothing you can do about it. Not that I wanted to. I was incredibly grateful. Astoundingly alive. I started writing that screenplay about the waitress. (It's called "Loserville.")
I spoke to Marc on the phone once for closure.
He said he wasn’t into married women.
I knew my marriage was finally, truly over. Now to tell him. I couldn't. A smattering of unforeseen events would keep our separation from happening for another, believe it or not, 6 months. But it was okay. I had already started my new life.
I am forever indebted to Tom. He saved my life. I love him dearly. We lost touch almost immediately after the Expo. But he’ll forever be in my heart.
I’ll never ever forget that champagne in TGIFridays, that rainy NY night.
God bless you. May you remain forever awake.