I asked Frank to marry me about 5 years ago. It’s been so long I don’t remember exactly. On the anniversary of our meeting at Fishs Eddy (a dish boutique on 19th & Broadway…but that’s another story) we went to a lovely restaurant (now defunct) called Telepan on the upper west side. I made my own anniversary card for him and in it popped the question. He accepted. Time went by and we didn’t seem to be moving forward with any sort of marital commitment. Sometimes Frank even joked about it. To me, coming from a broken home, and having been through so many break-ups myself, I didn’t appreciate jokes about something so sacred. So I took marriage off the table.
Then one day, 2 years ago, Frank and I were planning on spending the day with our good friend Marc Soffian (Jesus can this guy cook) who was in from Lancaster, PA. When Marc comes in we give him carte blanche as to what neighborhood he would like to visit…and off we go. When I called Frank (we don’t live together…he on midtown east…me on midtown west…trust me, it works) and told him Marc was in and where we should meet he informed me that he went to an urgent care because of a numbness in him arm. Urgent care directed him to go to an ER nearby. They didn’t call an ambulance for him so it wasn’t crazy time but, needless to say, we were all a bit alarmed. So we headed over to the east side and the hospital. Marc wanted to sit with us but I told him, “Please go and enjoy NYC for the few hours you are here before your tour bus heads back.” Frank was placed in a room and while we were waiting for the test results we looked at each other and said, “Enough of this. Let’s get married.” Two weeks later we were.
Frank and I had gone back and forth (like 7800 times), before that fateful day in the hospital, about the where and when of the wedding. How much were we willing to spend? An in-between jobs actor and a retired school teacher…we had to have some kind of a budget. Should we fly to San Francisco to do it? Frank had never been. I had played there as an actor many times. It’s an amazing city. How about Ireland? We both have never (still haven’t) been. Chicago? My favorite city and another one Frank hasn’t been to. City Hall? I saw a YouTube tape of one of their officiants and I barked “NO WAY!!!” Then we settled on the chapel where Frank presides as a rabbi. A beautiful building on 39th & Park. An intimate chapel…seats about 60. An upstairs receiving room where we would have wedding cake, Italian cookies and prosecco.
I wrote a wedding email invite that I sent out to friends. People who really knew Frank and me as a couple. Picked our witnesses. For me, my old roommate and one of the funniest men alive, Billy Schlatter. For Frank, his cousin (but kind of like another sister) JoAnn who is the one you want in the trenches with you when the chips are down…she will have your back. We ordered a cannoli cream cake (Frank’s choice…and it was damn good) with a picture of Frank and me on the beach in Fire Island…a favorite vacation spot for us…on the cake. It was all coming together.
In between our wedding planning and the actual date I was going to be officiating my nephew’s wedding…his second. I was best man for his first. His first marriage produced adorable twins…a boy and a girl. Sadly, that marriage didn’t last. Perhaps I was so excited about my upcoming nuptials…perhaps thinking about my soon to be ex niece in law…but my heart wasn’t into officiating. I did my best. Tried to be inspiring, witty, heartfelt in my sermon to their guests but I wasn’t impressed with what I brought to the table. Oh, well. My first time out officiating a wedding was a couple of years before for my niece.
While I was home for my nephews wedding I informed my sister that I was getting married. That we were doing it in two weeks…told her the date. To be honest, I really didn’t expect her to attend. But there wasn’t even an “Oh my God, that’s amazing. I am so happy for you guys. What do you need? Can I help in any way?” Actually, what I got was, “Oh, I have to baby sit that day.” THAT WAS IT. Read that last quote over again. Yep, you read it correctly. And it wasn’t even a “Damn, I have to baby sit that day.”
I didn’t want to take away anything from my nephews big day so I didn’t mention it to anyone else. But when I got home the next day I sent my niece and nephew a message that I was getting married. I figured they wouldn’t be able to come...they have full time jobs. Two days went by. NOTHING FROM EITHER MY NIECE OR MY NEPHEW. Not a “Oh my God, that’s amazing. I am so happy for you guys. What do you need? Can I help in any way?” I got even less from them than from my sister.
I spent a lot of time attending my family’s engagement parties, weddings, baby namings, graduations, band recitals, gymnastic recitals, birthday parties, anniversary parties. So, needless to say I was a little peeved there was no response to my wedding announcement. I called my niece and said, “I told you I was getting married. What? No response? Not even a congratulations Uncle Michael.” I was told that what they read into my message was that I did not want them at the wedding. That was so not my intention. But, okay, if that’s how they read it. I assured them that of course I wanted them there. Let’s cut to the chase…I didn’t have one family member at my wedding. They live less than a 2 hour car/bus/train ride away.
I fretted and frowned about having no family at my wedding. I hold a grudge that lasts to this day. I’m not proud of that. But there it is. It has changed the dynamics of our family. Which has only had a positive effect on me.
There is a strength in unity. My union with Frank has given me a courage, a boldness, an independence I never had before. When you have that you start to tolerate less and look to attract more of the good stuff.
After the fact sincere apologies were made by my family. But our wedding day…that was my turn…Frank’s turn. After all the days we celebrated for other people…it was our turn to be celebrated. My family would have seen a side of me that they have never seen before. Our talented, interesting, intelligent friends…my chosen family. The way we throw a wedding. It was their turn to just show up and celebrate us. What can I say? Their loss.
This family stuff in no way gets in the way of one of the most profoundly happy days of my life. It was an amazing experience!!!! And I’m grateful I got to experience it with one of the great people in the world…my husband Frank.
Our wedding was beautiful. It was full of spirit, love and heart. The great Amy Jo Phillips (Momma to me) sang FOR GOOD from WICKED (a bit rewritten to accommodate us) with my dearest friend Susan Carey signing it. Tall, dark, handsome, and too young to be as soulful as he is, Marc Keock beautifully singing ONE HAND, ONE HEART. Pals Adrienne Doucette, Carol MacAdam, Joey Agosta, Bill Carroll added their charm to selective readings Frank and I chose. Frank’s colleague, Terry Katz, doing a lovely job officiating and the wonderful Ruth Levy-Schudroff on keyboard. My agent, Francis DelDuca, without being asked, played wedding photographer!!! Gotta love an agent that steps up to the plate like that.
Oh, I was a knit picker. I didn’t want people to go off book. Luckily, a couple of people didn’t listen to me and spoke from their heart then went back to the script. I’m grateful they did. Especially my friend Adrienne who was like “Ah, no…I got some good stuff to say and I’m gonna say it.” And it was good stuff. Really good.
At the beginning of the ceremony I was feeling calm and not very emotional. After we marched down the aisle and we turned around to greet our guests…I cried like a baby. I could barely get out a “Thank you for coming today.” I’m that generation of gay man who never thought marriage would be a possibility for me. I live in a country where a county clerk thinks they have the right to say “No” to a request for a marriage certificate to a same sex couple. Where bakers can say “No, I’m not baking a cake for a gay wedding.”
I’ve been to so many weddings. Some beautiful, some garish, some vulgar, some sweet…but there I was…at my very own wedding. People were there to celebrate our union. It was one of the most overwhelming experiences I have ever had. Frank was his usual stoic self. But I saw him welling up a number of times during our ceremony. We wore our yarmulkes…we stomped the wedding glass…we said Mazel Tov. Yes, two Italians (one a rabbi) did all that.
It was all totally our aesthetic. Simple, eloquent. I know people left our ceremony feeling the love in that chapel. And there was…a lot of love.
Afterwards toasts were made and just before the cutting of the cake I looked up and saw one of the beautiful faces on this planet, the one belonging to Brad Drummer. I messaged Brad that I was getting married but included in my message that I totally knew he couldn’t attend. He is married (glorious Melanie) with four really cool kids and owns and runs a day spa in Washington DC (NADA Spa…check it out when you are in DC). No way, Brad. No sweat. You can’t make it. I know you can't. But there he was in all his matinee idolness. Brad and I toured in FIDDLER ON THE ROOF together. Roomed sometimes on the road, shared dressing rooms in theaters all over the country. Climbed rocks in Sedona, walked the beach in Big Sur, got high on Hurricanes in New Orleans (well, I got high on them…I’m a cheap date). We lived a lot of life together during those two years on the road. And I was in his wedding party. When I saw him at our wedding my jaw dropped. “What are you doing here?” Brad’s response, “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.” He took a 5 hour bus ride that morning and took a five hour bus ride back to his life in DC…all in one day. I think of all the gifts I got that day (aside from one amazing husband) that one was the most precious of all. He even cut and served the wedding cake. Everyone should have a Brad Drummer in their life.
Afterwards we took our witnesses to the Russian Tea Room for a fabulous dinner and then to a Broadway show.
Frank and I talk about that day often. We look at our home made wedding program (actors love their playbills) all the time.
You don’t have to spend gazillions to have a spectacular wedding. I’ve watched many a marriage end before the wedding was even finished being paid for. Hey, I’m not knocking it. If that’s your fantasy…live it.
We had our fantasy wedding.
The day after the wedding I had a callback for a production of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK being done at the Cleveland Playhouse. The director asked me what my connection to Judaism is. I guess my Italian last name confused her since I play Jews so well and so often. I told her, “Yesterday I married a rabbi. Does that count?” They were in complete delight mode. Not delighted enough to offer me the job. But boy was it fun to say that in front of people. “Yesterday I married a rabbi.”