RE-PRODUCING 'THE ICEMAN'
Joyce E. Henry, Ph.D.
There were other unwelcome visitors to my lobby box office besides the copulating rats. From time to time Bowery residents would stop in, looking for a handout. At showtime, with customers waiting for the theater to open, their presence was a tad embarrassing, and drove Ted Mann crazy. He would tell them in no uncertain terms to “Get Out!” and instructed me to say the same. And as a New Yorker, I could be as callous as he.
But there was one fellow who seemed to be a little different. He would not come right before the show started, but, perhaps, in the middle of the afternoon. He was a giant of a man, with a big head surrounded by a wisp of white hair; his cheeks were ruddy and his eyes were blue. I fancied he might have been a sailor—he looked as though he belonged on a ship. There was no question he was looking for a handout, though, but he had the decency or tact not to approach customers—just me. My finances were stretched thin as it was, but I could usually find a quarter or so to send him on his way with “Many thanks” and a “God bless you” or two.
His visits came almost weekly, and I grew quite fond of him. I even fantasized that perhaps I should offer him shelter—take him home to my Village apartment, give him a bowl of soup and a shower, and even help him to find a job. Or maybe he could sleep on my pull-out sofa. I didn’t tell Ted, of course, who would have thought me certifiable.
And then one day I realized that I hadn’t seen the bum for a while. A couple of weeks went by, a month, two, and even three months. I thought maybe he’d become ill, or even died, and I felt a little guilty that I hadn’t done something for him. Then my schedule changed, and I pretty much forgot about the rehab plans. One Sunday afternoon, when I ordinarily didn’t work, I was organizing the evening’s reservations, and I saw a familiar figure pass the glass entrance doors.
He passed the door, then apparently stopped, turned back, looked, and shouted in the most thrilled voice, “Yeee-re Heere!” They could have heard him down in Washington Square.
He came in, of course, as I was searching for some coins in my purse. He looked good; he had on a red checked shirt and his face was tanned and healthy. We had a fond
reunion, and he gave me a hug—a bear hug, I must say.
I found out later, from Timmy, the cop on the beat, that fellows of his ilk take off for Florida when it gets too cold. They hitchhike down, sleep on the beach, and do their panhandling there. But they’re New Yorkers at heart, and when the weather warms
up, they’re back in the Bowery. So my friend was doing quite well for himself—he’d spent the winter months in Florida, while I froze in New York City!
(This is the final segment of Joyce Henry's articles on Circle in the Square.)
© 2010 by Joyce E. Henry. All rights reserved.
(A graduate of the Neighborhood Playhouse, Joyce E. Henry acted off-Broadway and in regional theaters, managed a dozen off-Broadway shows, wrote A Matter of Conscience, a play about Fanny Kemble, directed the theater program at Ursinus College, and edited five books, including One on One: The Best Women’s Monologues for the 21st Century; One on One: The Best Men’s Monologues for the 21st Century; and Duo!: The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century—all from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books. For three years or so in the late ‘50s, during the runs of Iceman, Children of Darkness, and Our Town, she worked at Circle in the Square.)
(Read Theodore Mann’s memoir, Journeys in the Night, also from Applause. Visit his Web site for the book: http://www.journeysinthenight.com/index.htm.)
Visit Stage Voices blog: http://stagevoices.typepad.com/stage_voices/