Listen, if any day is sacred in a Texan’s heart, it’s Texas-OU weekend. My husband and I, being lazy, never go to the actual game, which is in Dallas. But we always watch and get ridiculously excited about it.
Last year, when we were traveling in the wine county around Santa Barbara, we went into a pre-game panic about finding a TV set. (For some reason, the game assumes even more importance when you’re out of state. This is utterly devoid of logic, but true.) We ended up watching the game in a wine bar, surrounded by well-dressed diners swirling pinots and chardonnays as we watched a TV with the sound off. When Texas won the game, we tried to cheer soundlessly, but didn’t quite make it.
I thought that was weird. This year in New York, though, was even stranger. We want to a midtown bar commandeered by Texas fans and met our new friends, Robert and Michael. They’re both from Texas, which is a prerequisite. But, as it immediately became clear, they weren’t exactly into Texas football even to the lukewarm degree we were.
“Most of my family,” Robert said, “went to A&M.”
So we proceeded to have a split-screen experience. I could look up and watch the game on one of the zillions of TV monitors and scream and groan along with everybody else. Truthfully, the game was pretty abysmal. Robert’s and Michael’s conversation was a lot more interesting.
“We saw Cybill Shepherd at the Cafe Carlyle,” Robert said. “She was completely inappropriate.”
Well, who cared about a stupid game when gossip like this was available?
“I can’t stand Cybill Shepherd,” I said. “What did she do? I wouldn’t be surprised by anything.”
“I don’t know why you don’t like Cybill Shepherd,” my husband said.
“It was when we went to see Elaine Stritch for her one-woman show,” Robert said. “She lives at the Carlyle, you know. Well, she was just magnificent.”
During Stritch’s show, Robert said, they had noticed an odd-looking personage in the small audience wearing some kind of hood-like apparatus. Robert mentioned the technical name for it. It’s something Katharine Hepburn wore in The Philadelphia Story, he reported. Naturally, I’ve already forgotten the name for it. “It’s something people wear when they’re pretending to be anonymous,” he said, “but they really want to call attention to themselves.”
“That sounds just like Cybill Shepherd,” I said.
“When Elaine finished her show,” Robert continued, “she went around the room thanking members of the audience. Cybill Shepherd grabbed her and wouldn’t let go. She was sobbing and telling Elaine what an inspiration she was. She asked for Elaine’s phone number so she could get advice on her one-woman show — ”
“God,” I said. “Cybill Shepherd has a one-woman show?”
“That woman’s entire performance going after Elaine was completely inappropriate,” Robert said. He and Michael shook their heads sadly in unison. “Elaine was very gracious, though,” Robert said.
Robert and Michael left at halftime, assuring us they’d had a good time and that Robert’s father would be thrilled to hear he’d actually seen a football game.
After that, it was just football, boring old football. We screamed and yelled and sang “The Eyes of Texas” and UT — by some miracle — managed to not lose. It was fine, but not thrilling.
I realized the problem. In football, I’m only a bystander; in gossip, I’m a participant.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
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