Helen's Dave-o-rama

Helen's DaveCon 2008 Trip Report

I. Before the Show

This year's DaveCon -- the 10th Annual, and my 9th -- was scheduled for Thursday, June 19. Most years I take the crack-of-dawn flight to NYC on the day of the taping, but it's a bit stressful. Not only do I have to get up at 4:30 a.m. to make the plane, but there is always the possibility of flight delays or outright cancellation which would cause me to miss the show. And then, if everything does run on time, it means arriving at the hotel long before I can check in, which is kind of a pain. So this year, I decided to travel a day early, on Wednesday. It definitely made for a more relaxing trip.

Despite the civilized mid-afternoon departure time on Wednesday, I nonetheless got very little sleep the night before. For starters, I got home quite late (I was playing Mahler's Symphony No. 3 with the Green Mountain Mahler Festival), and by the time I watched Monday night's Late Show, had a bedtime snack, checked e-mail, etc., I didn't get to bed until 1:00 a.m. I mostly tossed and turned, as I always do the night before a trip, and finally gave up and got up to pack. I actually had a little extra time, so I watched most of Wednesday night's Late Show before leaving for the airport.

After getting through airport security, I got on the airport's (free) WiFi and checked e-mail. There were a ton of messages from other DaveCon attendees (many of them en route to NYC), sent from their Blackberries, cellphones, or laptops. Everyone was psyched to be on the way to DaveCon, and we kept shooting silly e-mails back and forth, which was a fun way to pass the time at the airport. My flight, meanwhile, kept changing from on time to delayed to on time; they just couldn't make up their minds. At about the time we were originally scheduled to board, they announced it would be another 45 minutes, then a few minutes later they basically said never mind, we're going to board in 5 minutes afterall. OK, whatever. I sent one last e-mail update to the DaveCon group before getting on the plane. (This wasn't quite as extreme as BostonBill, who sent an e-mail from his Blackberry while sitting in the plane on the runway.)

I got into the city by around 4:00 p.m., and called Traci after I got checked into the hotel. We had plans for dinner and a show. Traci was just leaving the TKTS booth, where she had scored two excellent seats for Gypsy (our first choice), at about half the regular price. Traci came over to the hotel and we hung out for a bit, then walked over to Island Burger, where we chowed down on humongous burgers and real milkshakes. Tom Wolper and BostonBill joined us when we were just about finished eating.

Gypsy was excellent. Great cast, great show. Patti LuPone kicked ass as Mama Rose, and Laura Benanti (as Louise / Gypsy) was astonishing. Boyd Gaines was also great (do I know him from something?). After the show, we went to Junior's for dessert. There is a Junior's (same Junior's) in Vermont, but I don't think I have ever had their desserts; the ravioli (or whatever) comes in such huge portions that there just isn't room. Well, if the desserts are the same at the Vermont Junior's, I'm going to have to save room next time. Really. Really. Good.

Thursday morning I hit the (very nice) gym at the hotel. I couldn't get a room where I usually stay, so this year I ended up at the Sheraton on 53rd and 7th. It was a little pricier than my usual hotel, but nicer and worth it. And it's hard to beat the location, which is practically within spitting distance of the Ed Sullivan Theater. And the room service menu is *hilarious*. Cold cereal with milk and juice, $20.50. Oatmeal for $24. I am not making this up. Fortunately there is no need ever to eat in the hotel, with so many food choices within walking distance.

Around 11:15 I met up with the group hanging around 53rd St., and we went around the corner to Angelo's for lunch as soon as they opened at 11:30. We had to have everyone assembled and go line up for tickets by 1:00 (an hour earlier than usual), hence the early lunch. Old friends from DaveCons past filtered in, along with DaveCon newbies Rod Fernandez and Greg Evans. Traci passed out this year's DaveCon buttons, a simple, elegant design featuring Dave's face with a numeral 10 positioned as an exponent. Nice. There were also DaveCon kazoos in assorted colors, courtesy of Pat Fleet, who had sent them to Traci. Thanks, Pat!

After lunch, we went down and picked up our tickets, were given some instructions from the pages, and were told emphatically to be back at 2:30. Having a little time to burn, we hung around 53rd St., where we chatted briefly with various Late Show staffers coming in and out of the theater. We spoke with Mike McIntee, Bill Scheft, and Will Lee, among others. Mike had on a festive Hawaiian shirt, but I see what he means about needing a new pair of sneakers. Meanwhile, Donz, who was passing out DVDs to the DaveCon crowd, got into a mix-up with two guys from Late Show security, who didn't realized he was part of the group (it didn't help that he wasn't attending the show and therefore had no ticket) and nearly arrested him for solicitation. Read Donz's trip report for the exciting details and writer's embellishments.

Around 2:15 I decided to run back to the hotel to use the bathroom and take an Advil. I was suddenly feeling crummy, with the beginnings of a dehydration headache, and figured I had time, as long as I got back by 2:30. The group would be lining up outside the Ed, and I could just jump in line, right? Well, I was on my way out the door of the hotel to come back to the Ed, when Traci called asking where the heck am I, the group is about to be led into the theater. What?? By my watch it was not quite 2:30, but by the time I got over there about a minute later (I ran), the AFL group was already inside. OK, I have learned my lesson and won't ever cut it that close again, but I do not *ever* remember being brought in at the exact time we were supposed to be back; normally there is some waiting around outside. Sheesh. Fortunately the staff let me in, and I rejoined the group in the lobby, where we stood around for about 40 minutes, chatting with each other and the very friendly and courteous CBS pages. Marilyn, in keeping with longstanding tradition, passed out Altoids. They were curiously strong.

Next: II. The Big Show