I took a seat with my three gal pals in the wheelchair row. This vintage concert hall was old, ornate and fabulous, like the performer wed come to see ã Joan Rivers. Yes, THE Joan Rivers, the Emmy-winning, Can we talk? force-of-nature comedy diva gay icon, at the Schnitz, one-night-only.
The lights dimmed and the audience cheered, including our back-row gang of four ã four Jews, three chubby AARP card-carrying dykes, two breast cancer survivors, one wheelchair user. Bring on the comedy!
The Oregon Symphony was the opening act. A faggoty guest-conductor in a tux and shiny shoes pranced onto the stage and had the crowd laughing in no time. A quick check-in with my posse verified we were loving the conductor. He introduced the first piece, the overture from Gypsy.
While the musicians played “Everythings Coming Up Roses,” two men in our section proved to be, shall we say, courtesy-challenged. A short, shiny-headed fellow a few seats in front of us, stumbled along his row, staggered up the aisle and returned with a plastic cup of beer, not likely his first of the evening. Brewski sloshing in one raised hand, rhinestone clutch waving in the other, he sidled to his seat. He and his friend talked and fussed. Shushing from nearly everyone in our section proved useless.
Beer Boy was not happy. In a booming slur he hollered Wheres Joan? We Want Joan! I didnt come to listen to no fucking orchestra!
An usher tromped down the aisle, snapped her fingers, pointed her flashlight and told the noisy boys theyd have to leave. The 30 or so of us within earshot of this good news applauded, leading the conductor to think we especially appreciated his witty introduction to The NBC Theme.
Beer Boy and his date, a lanky, goateed guy, obeyed Madame Usher. People stood to let them pass, but the burly man who had the aisle seat shoved Beer Boy, toppling them both to the floral carpet. From the dark floor arose an audible thud and a responding oof. We gal pals exchanged OMG! faces.
The lurching date wobbled in the aisle yelling Get your hands off my boyfriend! you’re assaulting my boyfriend! Queers really are everywhere, even among the heckling riff-raff.
Ushers swarmed down, broke up the fight, and escorted the offending couple out. An armed cop hauled away the husky assailant. More OMG! looks exchanged.
We missed most of “The Pink Panther.” I felt a special bond with our section, though. Wed been through this traumatic incident together, understood each others suffering, and now we were united.
The guest conductor, oblivious, launched into the orchestras last number, a rousing rendition of “The Stripper.” Applause spread to a full-on ovation when Joan made her grand entrance. She grabbed the conductors baton and led the symphony to the songs bumping and grinding finale.
How we cheered. Joan Rivers! Foul-mouthed woman of power, still working at 78, still making it in a mans world, still headlining, still poking fun at Jews, lesbians, old people, fat people, breast cancer survivors and, as she delicately puts it, fucking cripples.
Thanks for recognizing us, Joan. We see you, too.
Award-winning writer Sally Sheklow and her as-yet-unlawfully wedded wife celebrated 23 years together last November. They live with their two cats in Eugene.