Gotham Note:
At the Barber Shop
28 March 2018

At the barber shop, they call me Capitán, because I remind them of Titanic. It is not the most agreeable of associations, but the irony is rich, and in any case I’ve gotten used to it. I pretend that they call me Capitán (they’re all from Lima) simply because they’ve always called me that. They certainly make sure that I could walk right onto the set looking spruce and bridgeworthy. 

I went for a trim yesterday. Tito and I were chatting about something. Movies, it must have been. Yes. Timothée Chalamet was on the cover of a magazine lying at the base of the mirror. I told Tito that I’d just seen Lady Bird and that, despite his exotic name, the actor is a native New Yorker who grew up, I read somewhere, in Hell’s Kitchen. (More rich irony.) At a lull in our conversation, I became dimly aware that Tito was talking about me, in Spanish,  to Willy, the owner. Then, out of the blue, Tito asked me what I thought about Tony Robbins. 

“The speaker?” I said, in which case I wouldn’t care to say much more. “The speaker, the actor…” Tito drawled, clipping my eyebrows. What happened next I don’t recall. Suddenly I was on my feet, shaking hands with Tony Roberts (Annie Hall, Serpico). Willy was getting out his camera and Tito was taking off the chair cloth. Idiotically, I shook hands with Mr Roberts a second time. He was affable and game, even when he confessed that he didn’t remember the line that spurted out of me when I met him. 

“That’s no fluke!”

It’s only a moment in Woody Allen’s Radio Days, just another job for an actor. Tony Roberts, who played what IMDb calls “Silver Dollar Emcee” in what seems to have been his last role for the currently beleaguered director, has probably not watched this movie every New Year’s Eve for twenty-five years, as Kathleen and I have done. Mortified, I switched as quickly as I could onto his answering-service shtick in Play It Again, Sam. This, he remembered. “That’s a dated joke now,” he insisted. I didn’t agree; the joke isn’t so much the answering service as the character’s obliviousness to the beautiful Bay Area scenery. But I kept that to myself, and tried not to offer to shake hands a third time. 

This sort of thing never happens in New York. I must tell Willy and Tito that, while they may continue to identify me with the doomed Captain Smith, they must not inflict me upon other patrons, especially famous ones. 

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