(In fiction, my brother is always “Tony.” It’s the only way I think of him when I’m writing. So, this is a Tony story.)
Walking from Union Square to Irving Place, I passed the Lee Strasberg school. I’ve walked that block any number of times, but somehow I’d never noticed the school before. I’d forgotten about the Strasberg school, kind of. It had definitely left the forefront of my brain. The building is so quiet and unassuming: elegant, almost-plain, on a short but busy block, dark banner hanging at 2nd and 3rd story level.
Tony studied there. It was a brief moment when he slid out of the picture we all had of him and was suddenly this other guy, this guy who studied acting at Lee Strasberg, this guy who clearly had a whole other picture of himself that the rest of us didn’t know anything about.
That was when he met Dagmar, an Austrian singer/performance artist also at Strasberg, who became his flashy, dramatic girlfriend for a time. Thanks to Dagmar, somewhere in ther world there is video footage of Tony dancing on the old High Line in Manhattan. I’ve never seen it, but I would love to.
Tony appeared in a play at NYU, a small part but a part all the same. I went to see him and brought him purple and peach tulips. We went out after the show for felafel with some of his school friends. I was fascinated by him. This was more than our high school musical history — though he was quite fabulous taking on Eric Clapton’s role in Tommy. There was none of the self-consciousness of putting on another persona. He just was another persona. He was exactly the Tony I knew and so not the Tony I knew.
The only way I know how to explain that is to say that I used to wish I could take Tony to Portugal. I thought something in the wild, open ruggedness of some of the coastal towns would appeal to him, would make him feel free, feel himself in a way he didn’t or couldn’t in the confines of our small world. I never took him to Portugal, but the Lee Strasberg days seemed to have the same effect. Watching him after the play, I could see, not a whole different Tony, but a whole Tony. A more complete picture of him.
It didn’t last long, the foray into acting school. (Not long enough, for example, to be discovered and cast in a bio-pic about Jimi Hendrix, a role that had his face all over it.) “Real life” intervened. No one’s even mentioned it in forever. That Tony hasn’t disappeared entirely. Little vestiges surface from time to time (ok, yes, I’m thinking of you putting on your ‘Cameroonian Man’ accent and driving us all crazy, but other things, too!), but in most ways that door seems closed.
Tony is in no way ‘less’ for having set aside his acting. He has matured into a man I like very much. A funny, intense, often happy man who is a wonderful father and big brother. He is intelligent, and creative, and loving in a way that shouldn’t be possible given the role model of our father.
Seeing that banner waving in front of the school gave me back a boy-young Tony I’d almost forgotten. Of course it also gives me a host of ‘what ifs’ to sort through. Naturally, any small change for either of us at that time would have shifted who we are today, and there are too many things I wouldn’t want either of us to have missed in the intervening years, but there was a light in Tony in the Strasberg days that maybe, just maybe, should have been shared with a wider audience, should have been nudged onto center stage.
is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers.