Onstage & Backstage: A Sassy Holiday Season and Remembering My Miracle of 2014

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: A Sassy Holiday Season and Remembering My Miracle of 2014
 
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.

Welcome to the menagerie. So, a week and a half ago, we got our new 10-month old puppy from Animal Care and Control, the city shelter. She is so crazily cute, I can't take it. While we were at the shelter, Juli was looking longingly at the cats and I was reminded of the fact that she's been asking for one ever since I've known her, when she was six. She is now 14. I told James that maybe now is finally the time for her to get a kitty and basically I blinked and we now have a little boy cat. He's named Romeo. So, in our not very big apartment, we have a 10 month-old puppy, a 4 ½ month-old kitty cat and our 14 ½ year-old Sonora. Sonora has now firmly taken on her role as a cantankerous older lady. Every time the puppy wants to play with her she lets our a incredibly loud yelp that's the dog equivalant of, "You kids get off my lawn!!"

Anyhoo, it's been so fun having the new animals and I highly recommend going to shelter and getting a new sweetie in your life! Take a look and see all the cuties!

This week, James and I saw The Last Ship. I'm going to have Aaron Lazar and Rachel Tucker on "Seth Speaks," my SiriusXM show soon, so I'll write more next week but let me say that Sting wrote a great score and you all should get the CD ASAP. Brava!! We also went to see Lypsinka in The Boxed Set. OMG! When I first moved to NYC, I loved seeing Lypsinka's shows. It's been so many years since I've seen one, and I was so excited to see it again. Lypsinka's real name is John Epperson, and five minutes after the show began, I realized what an incredible inspiration he's been on me. All through my deconstructing show, I play audio clips and lipsynch them and I realize that when I accent orchestral moments physically, it's totally based on him! And by "based", I mean "stolen from," according to James. Regardless, let's call what I do an "homage" and hope this whole messy business stays out of the courtroom. If you've never seen Lypsinka, you absolutely must. His shows are so incredibly unique and entertaining. Here is Lypsinka doing the title song from Mame. I love it! And, speaking of my deconstructing show, you can come see me at the Straz Center in Tampa, FL, Jan. 17-18! Tickets here.

With Penny Fuller, Lypsinka and Christine Ebersole
With Penny Fuller, Lypsinka and Christine Ebersole
Seth with Liz Callaway and James
Seth with Liz Callaway and James

James and I also went to Liz Callaway's show at 54 Below, and, of course, she sounded great. She also always has hilarious patter. Since it was a holiday show, she talked about the time she was doing a December symphony gig in Boston. They asked her if she would lead the audience Christmas song sing-along. She told them she would love to, but she only knows the first verse of every holiday song. They told her not to worry because there would be a teleprompter. Liz then added the part of the story that made us realize there would be a horrific ending: A) There wasn't going to be enough time to rehearse any of the sing-along, and B) It was being broadcast live on PBS. Suffice it to say, she told us that she began singing "O Come Let Us Adore Him" and got through the first verse fine because it's so basic. She then looked at the teleprompter to begin the second verse and saw these "lyrics": "Aaron Neville has won five Grammy Awards." I guess that's one of those obscure verses no one knows. On Christmas Eve, my friend Tim came over for a delish meal cooked by my mother-in-law. I've mentioned Tim throughout my many years of writing this column, usually referencing something hilarious he's done. I'll tell you the most recent one: Facebook has this program where they'll make a montage of your photos from the past year and when it's posted, the headline is "It's been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it!" I saw the first one a friend posted and loved it. Then another, then another. I soon began to get annoyed at everyone using the same generic heading. Every single photo montage my friends posted all began with "It's been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it!" Finally, after becoming fed up, I saw Tim's photo montage in which he somehow managed to change the heading to "It's not been so great of a year. Thanks for avoiding becoming part of it." Hilarious. And accurate! Except for the avoiding part.

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Here's the story of last year: At the beginning of June, Tim came over and we watched a movie. He complained about a headache and we assumed it was allergies. The next day he emailed me that one his eyes swelled up which I also assumed was part of allergies. That Sunday was the Drama Desk Awards, and James and I went because the amazing Jennifer Simard was nominated for her performance in Disaster!. When we got home I got a call around 11 PM from Tim. I picked it up and found out that it was indeed Tim's cell phone calling me, but he wasn't on the other end. It was a woman telling me she was a nurse at NYU hospital and Tim was about to get brain surgery! She told me he had a brain abscess and it needed to come out that night. I asked her to put him on the phone but the service was so bad, it disconnected. I told James I would go without him in case I was there late because someone needed to be up the next morning to get Juli to school.

I got into a cab right away and called our mutual friend Jason St. Little ,who told me he'd meet me in the waiting area. James called me while I was in the cab and told me that Tim "could" be fine. He then added that I "shouldn't Google it." Terrifying! I busted him later and told him that trying to protect me from finding out that a brain abscess is incredibly dangerous by saying I "shouldn't Google it" is basically the exact same thing as saying "a brain abscess is incredibly dangerous." I arrived at the hospital and the nurse told me Tim was getting an MRI which would show them exactly where the abscess was. Thus followed 30 minutes of me running around the hospital; I found the MRI place but it was locked. How do I get in? I ran around and found a nurse willing to help. He opened it up for me, but no one was there! Was there another MRI place? I ran back to the first nurse. She told me there was only one MRI place and Tim was there. I went back again. No Tim! I ran back to the first nurse who looked on her computer and told me not fun news: Tim had been about to get an MRI when he began to "act disoriented." This meant the abscess had burst and he had to be immediately rushed into surgery.

I asked her what had happened in the first place, and she told me that Tim probably had a sinus infection and the area between the sinuses and the brain is very thin. The infection spread to the brain and formed the abscess. She then told me that the area where the abscess was located was the area that affected personality. Tim would be different after surgery, but she didn't know how much. She then added that "anyone who cared about Tim should be here." Holy cow! I got out my cell phone and started calling everyone who knew Tim, including his family. Jason and I waited 'til around 3 AM and finally met with his surgeon who told us that the surgery was successful, which was great news. By the next day, there was a group of Tim's friends who handled everything for him. We got him on immediate disability, we got his rent paid, we got his cat fed, etc.

First the rent: James realized that it was the beginning of June and he probably hadn't paid his rent. But Tim couldn't speak so we didn't know who his landlord was as well as how much his rent is. We found keys to his apartment in his bag and got his checkbook. Then we looked at the buzzer in his building to find his landlord's address. I saw an entry in his checkbook that I thought was for rent so I put that amount on the check, we dropped it off with a note signed by me explaning that it was late because Tim had brain surgery. The next day I got a call from an unknown number and when I picked up I heard and aggressive voice ask "Yeah, is this someone named Seth?" PS I'm obsessed with that. It wasn't, "Hi! Is this Seth?" It was "Is this someone named Seth?" He then explained he would not accept the rent check because it was the wrong amount. I had my friend Ross go pick it up and when Ross asked what the right amount should be he literally said, "I'm not telling you!"

What's happening? Tim started speaking and I was able to find out the right amount. What was the monetary difference that put his landlord into a rage, you ask? 40 cents! The other issue we had to deal with was his kitty. The day before Tim got sick, one of his cats named Little Bear was diagnosed with cancer. I knew Tim would want her to get chemotherapy but the vet said she couldn't live in the apartment by herself while getting treated. I called the wonderful Bill Berloni, who trains all the animals for Broadway, and at first he was going to find a person to foster Little Bear but then he told us that the Humane Society would let Little Bear stay there the entire time Tim was in the hospital. It was such a generous offer because we knew she was safe while she was getting treated. Brava Humane Society! Go visit and/or make a donation! Even though the surgery was successful, I remembered the nurse telling me his personality would be affected. Immediately after, Tim was in intensive care, and the best part was the fact that the head of the unit had seen Disaster!. And, at one point Tim joined the show for 10 performances and the doctor had actually seen Tim! The crazy part was Tim not understanding how serious the surgery was. He was basically in a head wrap to allow his skull to heal and tethered to a lot of machines. But he acted as though he had a cold. Actually, not even a cold. He acted like he was fine. His friend Michael Klimzak came in from Chicago to visit two days after Tim had surgery and we told Tim we were going to leave intensive care and go downstairs for food. We asked him if he wanted anything. He told us not to bring him anything because he was going to come with us. We tried to explain he was in intensive care with a massive head wound but he thought we were acting crazy and overprotective. The next day, the nurse told me that they had to send away car service during the night because Tim had called them to pick him up! When he got transferred to a rehab hospital, we would go visit him and when we said goodbye, he would leave the bed and tell us he was coming, too. He had his bag packed next to him at all times and every night he would try different tactics to come home, including sitting in the elevator and refusing to leave.

After a few days, they had a guard stationed with him at all times. The doctors told us he was getting stronger physically, but mentally he still had a lot of "deficits." However, because he was so much better physically, his insurance wouldn't allow him to stay in the rehab. Where would he go? James and I planned on taking him in while he recovered, but what was going to happen at night? We knew he'd try to leave our apartment so we started planning on hiring people who'd watch him from midnight to 8 AM. Oy! Also, when James and I met with his team of doctors, they told us he that they didn't know what Tim's brain had forgotten. For instance, would he know not to put metal in the microwave? I had horrific visions of our apartment burning down because Tim heated up a Poptart with a fork stuck in it. Then we suddenly found out his insurance would pay for another rehab for a month! And the best part was, it was on the Upper West Side where I live! Tim moved there around 10 days after his surgery and already his personality was starting to come back. First he told me that one of the nurses entered the room singing "This girl is on fire!" and he asked, "Who, me?" Then one of the male nurses asked if he had a wife. When he told that nurse he was gay, the male nurse said that none of the other nurses knew that. More specifically he said, "They don't know that! They don't know you don't believe in God!" Huh?

Tim at home
Tim at home

Tim started getting much better in the new rehab, even though it was a crazy house. First we were obsessed with the social worker named Fay. Not because she was named Fay, but because when the head nurse, who was foreign, would want to tell me she spoke to her, she would always say, "I spoke to the Fay." Why did she add an article before her name? Also, Tim had a roommate who was around 90 years old. Tim told me that the nurse kept putting his clothes on the 90-year-old man which I couldn't believe until I arrived and saw a very hunched-over figure in a wheelchair and the back of the man's shirt said "Nobody." Yes, they had somehow dressed him in the "Anybody? Nobody." shirt I had given Tim. After a few more weeks, Tim was finally released to go back home. He still needed time to heal before he returned to work but I knew his personality was back in full when he wrote me this email: If my disability extension gets rejected, this is the appeal I'm submitting...

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The doctor told me he'd need disability until at least December, but he went back to work in the fall! And, the most amazing part, he doesn't have any personality deficits! We were prepared for a whole new Tim, but he's just as cranky/full of sassy comments as he was beforehand. Don't believe a negative prognosis because you never know. In conclusion, that's our 2014 miracle. Happy New Year!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)

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