It's evening on the day of the 2012 Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS annual Flea Market and Grand Auction. I'm home sitting on my bed surrounded by literally HUNDREDS of items I bought there!! Looking around at all of the loot, I feel like the luckiest kid in town after an epic night of theatre-themed trick-or-treating. I've never felt such an intense combination of exhaustion, excitement, and satisfaction. I was at the Flea for nearly seven hours -- arriving just after 10am and finishing when the tables were packing up what was left of their merchandise, just a few minutes before the clock struck six. I left twice in the middle of the day, but only because I had to drop armloads of goodies back at my apartment; it was more than I could carry! And now, here I am, taking it all in.
I go to the Bway Flea every year, but normally I don't indulge quite to this level of excess. I love to search through the piles of t-shirts and tote bags, the stacks of cast albums on both CD and LP, the buttons and keychains and stickers and promotional items. I usually treat myself to something really special, like an opening night gift -- something that isgive n to cast & crew, rarely available to the public. But my favorite sources of treasure are the overflowing dollar boxes, ripe for rummaging through, which are full of countless fun little tchochkes and the occasional something-amazing that has slipped in either by accident or by someone who didn't know the difference.
Two years ago, amongst Rock of Ages temporary tattoos and stickers from Million Dollar Quartet, I uncovered a matchbook from the original production of Annie with all of the matches intact. I've never seen another one like it, and I'm sure it's worth well more than a dollar. Last year I discovered a prototype pair of fuzzy, bright orange, Avenue Q earmuffs, also a dollar. For five dollars, I once bought a full martini set, 4 glasses & a shaker, made of sparkly blue plastic with the Mamma Mia! logo emblazoned on the side. And today, I dug up a logoed cigarette lighter from The Who's Tommy and a sealed deck of playing cards from the 1978 production of The Gin Game starring Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, each for only a dollar. Both of those are going into what I call "my Permanent Collection".
I'll keep a few things from today. But the vast majority of it -- of this gorgeous stockpile I'm practically bathing in -- is going elsewhere. I'm sending it away. I'm sending it, in fact, to YOU.
The Flea Market is packed every year, but only with those people who are lucky enough to be able to get to Shubert Alley for the event. What about everyone outside of New York City?
Writing and tweeting about musical theatre from within the theatres, the neighborhood, the community, and the atmosphere of Broadway is the single thing that makes me happiest. And as I've addressed here before, I've found my own sense of belonging by connecting with other theatre fans and writers. The Flea Market felt like a great way to say thank you to spread the joy. I tweeted the following instructions:
Then I shopped till I almost literally dropped, and bought bags and bags of the items that made me smile the most: nearly 200 items in all. I used my own money, all going straight to BCEFA. The payment for postage will also be my own. The former is my thank you to Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS for all they do; and the latter is my tiny thanks to those of you who bring me so much joy through twitter and on this blog.
I was planning on 100 packages. Now I've got nearly 150 packed. I'll keep sending them till they're gone, or till I run out of money for postage.
Consider this a little piece of Broadway, shining from New York City right to wherever you are.
UPDATE (Monday, 9/24): The response over the past 24 hours has been overwhelming... I'm so touched by the sweet emails I've received!! I'll be sending out over 150 packages over the next week or so. The postage bill has added up and I've reached my max for now, I'm afraid. If you don't get a treat this time, stay tuned. This was so much fun I plan on doing it again (and again, and again, and again...)!!