Old friends are good friends

MBT and OG Flash John Wesley Shipp

Author’s note: This post originally appeared on July 15, 2017.

So today I headed out to the Raleigh Supercon. I had never been to a con before, unless you count yarn conventions, which for the purposes of this site I certainly don’t. I didn’t know quite what to expect but it was a short enough drive, so why not?

GalaxyCon Raleigh 2017
View from the balcony down to the show floor, GalaxyCon Raleigh 2017

Here’s about half of it from the balcony – wow!

Imperial Storm Troopers in the ATM queue 🙂

Even storm troopers need to queue for the ATM!

Star Wars Cosplayers
These people looked great!

More Star Wars cosplay – note the completely unimpressed dude in the background checking his phone! These two were amazingly well turned out, and nice enough to pose for a million pictures when asked!

But here was my absolute favorite part –

Actor John Wesley Shipp and designer Mary Beth Temple at GalaxyCon Raleigh 2017
OG Flash John Wesley Shipp with his old friend MBT, GalaxyCon Raleigh 2017

Am I such a fan of The Flash, you ask? No, but I am a big fan of this man, and here’s why.

A long time ago (1983) in a galaxy far, far away (Stamford, CT) there was a  pre-Broadway tryout of an updated version of the musical The Three Musketeers. I was hired to dress the three titular characters, and since it was a smallish crew with a LOT of costumes floating around, all of the dressers sort of roamed around and helped out wherever they were needed. It was my first time being a dresser on a big musical, although I went on to do many more.

There was a popular young soap opera actor who had been cast as the Duke of Buckingham – his name was John Wesley Shipp, and from day one he was simply one of the nicest theater folks I had ever met. There was a moment before the act one finale where all of the dressers were frantically trying to get 20+ identical looking (but different sized) capes and hats onto pretty much everyone in the whole damned cast so they could all go out and sing the rousing musketeer song so it looked like there were a zillion musketeers riding in to save the day – or whatever. John came every dress rehearsal and performance and helped me wrangle capes stage left. He didn’t have to, and in a union house of course he couldn’t have, but he saw the need, stepped up to help and never missed a cue.

So right before the curtain call, he was in a scene in which he was wearing some sort of peasant costume. He wanted to take his bow in his Duke of Buckingham costume – a lavish and impossibly fitted affair in gray velvet, black spandex and trimmed in pearls, dubbed “Bucky at Home” by the wardrobe crew – so the audience would know it was him, but the powers that be were concerned he could never make the quick change and wanted him to bow in whatever he was wearing last. Nice guy, reasonable request, so my friend Maggie and I said we’d make the quick change work come hell or high water.

Every night and twice on matinee days John came dashing off the stage at the speed of light, and Maggie and I stripped him off in a matter of seconds and helped him squeeze into Bucky at Home, wherein he’d dash back on stage in the nick of time to take his well-deserved bow. As we got the hang of the change, we took the opportunity to joke with him every night – how all the swooning tweens and teens who loved him on the soap and gathered outside the stage door hoping for a word would die in a burst of flaming jealousy if they knew what Maggie and I were doing at the time. We tried to make him laugh as he was running out to bow. We never missed a cue either.

Fast forward 33 years! Yes he and I were infants way back when 🙂 And I read that he’s going to be at the Supercon (editor’s note: now GalaxyCon Raleigh) and I think to myself this is awesome! I am going to wait in line to see him and ask if he remembers doing the show. I’ll tell him I worked on it, and how much the crew loved him (we really did – in fact working with that cast spoiled me for every musical I worked after them because they were a wonderful group of men and women), and maybe ask for a photo. I am thinking he will be so surprised when I mention his theater career instead of The Flash that maybe he will be amused.

I did not expect what actually happened.

He was talking to a fan and taking a selfie with him when I was at the front of the line. When that man moved on he looked at me, cocked his head with the “I know you don’t I?” look and came out from behind his table to where I was standing. All I got out was “Three Musketeers” and there was my old friend enveloping me in the warmest hug! I said “I can’t believe you remembered” and he said “I do, of course I do!”

So I know this is a long post and kudos if you are here near the end but here’s the biggest point of all. I have worked on movies and I have worked on tv shows but there’s something about the theater – particularly when you’re doing a new work – that forms an incredible bond between the participants. People outside the theater say things like “well so and so isn’t really a friend, is she? You haven’t seen her in years and it’s not like you hang out and get your nails done.” Show friendships are intense and sometimes short-lived, but never forget they are real. You’ll see these people months or years or decades later and it’s like no time has passed.

The whole experience made my heart sing. Not because I got to hang out with a celebrity, but because I got to hug my friend. It was awesome, and well worth the wait.

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