I’ve had a crush on Jonathan Groff from the very moment he opened that beautiful mouth of his on stage at the Eugene O’Neill Theater the spring of 2007. I think he’s sexy, secretly-naughty, well-spoken, smart, beautiful and strapping in a pair of knickers. Oh, and I love the cadence of his speaking voice.
Of course, I don’t think this fact alone makes me particularly unique. There are lots of girls and boys out there who have crushes on Jonathan Groff. I’m sure Glee will add to our numbers in droves. I hear Jesse St. James is a special breed of foxy on his “Highway to Hell.”
What’s remarkable about my crush is that recently, it’s been coupled with a bizarre ability to conjure Jonathan Groff himself straight out of the ether. I’m not even kidding. If I think hard enough, imagine his presence clearly enough, Jonathan literally appears. I know, I sound fully insane. Or like a stalker. But I am neither. I just have magical powers. Ask Lucky, she’s witnessed it.
Or you could talk to M_____. She was there the very first time it happened. The Time Jonathan Groff Incapacitated Me in the Street.
It was a Saturday in July and I was playing tour guide to a group of friends who had never been to New York City before. I’d been dragging them around Lower Manhattan all morning—from the Staten Island Ferry to the West Village—and by the time I got them to the Bleecker Street 6 station, I was dangerously close to being mutinied. These ladies wanted to be back at their hotel. Stat. Only, for some unknown reason, the Bleecker Street Station was closed. Annoying. Regrouping, I promised that Astor Place was only a few blocks away, and we could catch the train there.
As we strolled up Lafayette Street at an extremely painful and un-New-York-City-esque pace, I realized we were about to walk past the Public Theater. Site of many important things, like Joe’s Pub shows and that time I basically went straight from an UES bar to the theater and sat on the sidewalk for a million hours to get tickets for the ‘07 concert staging of Hair. So what did I do? Did I point out the building and explain the significance, both of the theater itself, and of Joseph Papp, for whom the pub is named?
No. I clutched the pointer and middle fingers of my right hand inside my left hand, holding them against my sternum, and quietly, under my breath, I began to repeat ‘Jonathan Groff, Jonathan Groff, Jonathan Groff.’
Why, you ask, was I mumbling his name over and over? Well. On one hand, it seemed possible he could be there, for rehearsals or fittings or something—The Bacchae was approaching—and if he was there, I wanted to see him. But on the other hand, the whole thing seemed foolish and unlikely, so I kept my thoughts to myself.
And that’s when it happened. We were about twenty feet from the front entrance to the theater when he walked out. Jonathan Groff, standing on Lafayette Street. I stopped dead in my tracks.
“Oh my god.”
“What?” M_____ asked, slightly concerned.
I couldn’t answer. Because…how do you explain the fact that you just conjured someone? Even if it had worked, how crazy do you look for even trying? And what if he heard me? Or anyone heard me? Or…
So I stood there. And Jonathan stood there. In his backwards baseball cap and big white sneakers, carrying that backpack like always, he looked every inch the almost-Amish country kid he’d been raised as. With a glance, you’d be hard pressed to identify him as the New York Theater star he really is. But I know. I know him on sight. It’s making me shaky, his being so close.
I’d like to tell you I did something awesome. Told him what a wonderful actor he is. Or how I find his subtlety, his vulnerability on stage inspiring. Shit, even just stuttered out the words ‘You’re hot.’ But as you may have guessed from the title of this piece, I couldn’t manage a damn thing. I could hardly even manage proper breathing. Seeing him standing there is the last thing I can clearly remember.
After that there is a jumble of emotions. The sudden, thundering knowledge that I had actually just conjured this appearance out of thin air. Then the accompanying terror that if I even breathed too loudly, something terrible and embarrassing would happen. And… That’s it. The rest is literally blank. It’s not until about five minutes later—standing near the Astor Place 6 entrance in the middle of Lafayette Street, trembling and trying to hail a cab—that I remember anything else.
J____ and M_____ have since recreated most of the events for me. Jonathan hugged his friend goodbye and proceeded up Lafayette toward Astor Place while I, apparently, continued to stand there without moving. According to M_____, my entire body flushed red and I held onto her arm so tight it hurt, like I might collapse if l let go, repeatedly SHHHHing everyone, as if they had any idea what was going on. Apparently, I also yelled at J____. Pulled her backward sort of violently when I thought she might go after Jonathan and do something embarrassing. Like, you know, say ‘hi,’ or point me out to him when I was clearly unable to function on any normal human level.
But the truth is, every memory I have between the moment I saw Jonathan standing there and the moment I was hailing an uptown cab has been provided to me by friends. Every memory is second hand. Because Jonathan Groff literally incapacitated me. On Lafayette Street.
That’s never actually happened to me, before or since. I’ve met celebrities I’ve admired for years, stumbled onto the film sets of very famous people, managed to say a few words to Gavin Creel. Not once has anyone, any sighting, managed to do to me what Jonathan did last July.
Perhaps it was the unlikeliness of the moment. Or maybe it was just the mind-melting heat and humidity of New York City in the summer. But something about that moment was different, magical. I’d like to think the difference was Jonathan.
Photo Credit: BroadwayWorld.com