Let me begin by saying I reckoned last night would be interesting. I didn’t know how that it would be an absolute delight.
The weather sucked in a huge way. The city is a big steel and concrete heat-sponge, and it was working it. It was disgustingly hot and humid. So, I did what any idiot would do: walked to Radio City from the PATH station. It’s only sixteen blocks, which under normal circumstances is nothing. By the time I’d gone two blocks, even my wrists were sweating. Ick.
Despite the fact it was forty-five minutes until curtain, there was an enormous line snaking down 51st street. I hastened to grab a place... and was at the door within three or four minutes. That would have been fine were I not waiting for Kelley and Don to join me (I had the tickets). I stepped out of line and amused myself by watching the arrivals: giddy young girls dressed up in pretty dresses and sandals, folks in wizard’s robes, folks in Hogwarts ties and vests, folks in sexified Hogwarts costumes, Rennies (I know I spied some familiar faces), someone sporting a Sorting Hat...
Don showed up not long after, and Kelley at 7:15. We popped inside and got to our seats just in time (second mezzanine, way up, but there were four giant screens suspended above the stage and a decent camera crew on and around the stage, so we weren’t likely to miss anything). The lights dimmed, and out came Whoopi Goldberg to kick things off. Then, to announce the first author, out came Kathy Bates (“I am, after all, [Stephen King’s] #1 fan”). It seemed as if she wrote her own material, though I may be mistaken. In any event, she was warm and sweet and also very funny. There was a brief montage of King and various people talking about the author, and then, amid purple lit mist, Stephen King took the stage.
Okay, first of all, I’ve always thought he looked creepy. Every picture, every interview or shot on film, he just looked odd. Not so in person. Weird, isn’t it? But there you go. He had a little set that consisted of a creaky old windmill, a huge wooden chair that looked like it might have been lifted from ‘The Green Mile’ and other spookifying elements. He chatted a bit, then read one of his short stories. I don’t know the name, but it’s the one about the pie eating contest that appears in the film Stand By Me. He read the original, not film-friendly version, though, and had a few moments where he was clearly amused that certain things didn’t make it to the screen. He reads his work very well, and was clearly having a good time. When he’d finished, Andre Braugher (I have no idea why; anyone know if he has a connection to Irving?) came out to (rather lamely) introduce John Irving.
Irving spoke a bit about being raised in a matriarchal environment, about his Grandfather, and then a bit about Owen Meany, after which he read the segment from that book about the Christmas Pageant. Okay, King read his work well... Irving was frelling brilliant. He has fantastic comic timing, and he did the Owen Meany voice. Perfect.
On a side note, I constantly forget what a very very handsome man John Irving is and am surprised anew whenever I see him.
So. One author left. We were curious to see who’d be introducing her... and out came Jon Stewart. The audience went INSANE. He was, no surprise, mad funny and brilliant and I admit that even at that distance, I was a bit tingly that I was in the same room as Jon Stewart. I know, I know; I’m a fifteen year old.
Anyway, out came J.K. in a simple black dress and spectacular high heeled sandals. More audience insanity. When they’d quieted down, she read a chapter from ‘... Half-Blood Prince.’ Not so adept at reading her own work as the others, but then they have a hell of a lot of experience on her. She was lovely, though, and very gracious and sweet during the brief Q&A that followed.
King and Irving came back on stage for Q&A stage two, and it was here I spoke the words I never imagined I’d say: “Stephen King is absolutely adorable!” But he was. Honestly, when he talks about writing, he shines. There is so much delight, so much joy... and he’s very funny, to boot. And it was interesting to hear how very, vastly different Irving’s approach to writing is.
It was an absolutely wonderful, engaging and delightful evening. Truth be told, I wish I could go back tonight.