Ah, the Ziegfeld Theatre. The refined, legendary movie house in New York City has played host to hundreds of A-list affairs since its 1969 opening, premiering hundreds of critically-lauded, star-studded films. (Oh, hi Steven Spielberg, Julia Roberts, and Daniel Radcliffe!)
Last night was a different story. After spending months showing Tommy Wiseau’s cult film The Room at New York’s dingy Village East Cinema on the last Friday of every month, Saturation Films — the folks who stage the screenings — decided to class things up a bit by relocating this month’s midnight screening of “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” to the Ziegfeld. And though, like many of the theatre’s A-list premieres, the screening was completely sold-out — yes, 1,200 people, including Mac guy Justin Long, bought tickets — the scene outside the theatre was far from glitzy. Which, of course, is kind of perfect. Instead of a red carpet, there was a seemingly never-ending line of fans who so anticipated the event, they showed up to nab a spot as early as 8:45 p.m. (I arrived at about 8:50, and still somehow ended up being the 22nd person in line.) Instead of paparazzi, there were 1,200 cult followers snapping so many photos, it would be easy to accept that love is blind because, well, we all nearly went blind. And instead of a limo, the film’s two stars in attendance — Greg Sestero and Wiseau himself — stepped nonchalantly out of a yellow cab on 54th Street. And what followed was absolute mayhem.
While Sestero hung back, quietly signing autographs and taking pictures with fans, Wiseau — wearing a suit and those trademark sunglasses — was immediately bombarded with requests to pose in photos with football-wielding fans dressed in his likeness, and to sign shirts that read “I heart Tommy Wiseau.” And a warning to attractive girls everywhere: Wiseau will kiss you if you ask, as one (lucky?) girl discovered. In fact, during the half hour that Wiseau rubbed elbows with fans outside the theatre, he was constantly surrounded by a mob worthy of Rob Pattinson, which made unknowing passersby curiously ask folks in line, “Who is that?” And though they were ultimately disappointed to discover the man in question was just some dude who made a crappy movie — some dude?! all of us Room fans scoff — the folks in line were as excited as Denny during a pillow fight. (One fan in front of me was wheezing from pure elation after meeting Wiseau, saying, “Oh my god, that was the best thing that ever happened to me!”)
And the atomic bomb of excitement really seemed to go off once fans entered the theatre. About 15 minutes after the film was supposed to begin rolling at midnight, Wiseau and Sestero stepped in front of the sold-out room (and Johnny thought three was a crowd?!) and agreed to take ten — but only ten — questions. (First, however, Wiseau took the time to throw shirts over his shoulder like a wedding bouquet into the crowd, and sing “Hoppy Berthdey” — and gifted two single roses — to two celebrating fans.) Unfortunately, we Room die-hards didn’t discover much during the question and answer session, yet it still managed to be the most hysterical 7-10 minutes of my life. The things we did learn: Wiseau really enjoyed filming those love scenes with Juliette Danielle (“I loved it. I wanted more.”), the disappearing Peter (Kyle Vogt) apparently ended up “at a hospital in Guerrero Street,” and if Wiseau is not sure how to respond to a question, he’ll answer with the combination of the phrases “Well, I don’t know what that is,” “I like what you say,” and “Next question!” One thing that will remain a mystery to Room fans everywhere: What Wiseau kept in his cargo pants pockets while filming The Room. (Wiseau feels some things should be kept “secret.” One fan suspected jellybeans. I’ll choose to believe he stows mini footballs in there.)
After the Q&A with Wiseau and Sestero, the former decided to walk up and down the aisles of the theatre to greet fans and play catch, all while continuing to keep a microphone up to his mouth so we could hear every “Hiii” and “How are you?” he bestowed onto the rowdy fans. And once Wiseau was out of sight and the film began, it was business as usual — plenty of vocal Denny greetings, shushes at the flower shop scene, and so much spoon throwing, I left with a headache in no way related to the libations I downed prior to the show. (Best reason to get a headache ever though, right?)
Unfortunately, the Ziegfeld screening seems to be a one-time only event, as Saturation Films said they’ll be returning to Village East next month — for the time being. As we know, it is Wiseau’s dream to screen the film at the 20,000 capacity Staples Center, or the 50,000+ capacity Yankee Stadium. And I don’t know about you, fellow Room fans, but if either happens, you can count me in — because we all like to watch.
So, New York-area PopWatchers, were you there? And as for those non-New York-area PopWatchers, what would you have asked Tommy? Don’t keep your stupid comments in your pocket — let us know in the comment section below!