Monday, April 10, 2006
Live From New York...It's Victoria Jackson!
Saturday Night Live comedienne, Victoria Jackson, was a regular on my late afternoon train in the early 1990’s. She starred as one of the show’s Not Ready for Prime Time Players. She is as sweet and naive as she appears on TV and I always felt a little protective of her whenever passengers approached her for an autograph. At the time she was embroiled in a nasty divorce battle with her husband, a circus performer, who she described as “pure evil.”
Victoria often complained to me that SNL was a male-dominated show, and that it was hard for her to get any airtime. I suggested that perhaps, if she wrote some fresh ideas for the show, she would appear in more skits. Every so often I would try to come up with ideas in hopes that she would propose them during her weekly writing sessions. I remember one idea in particular, it was called, “Victoria’s Secrets.”
This skit had Victoria dressed in lingerie while interviewing celebrities. Each week she would interrogate a star and have them reveal a horrible, deep hidden, disturbing secret about themselves. The twist would be that the celebrity, both male and female, would also be dressed in sexy lingerie. I advised that the first episode should feature actor John Goodman, crying about some childhood trauma while dressed in a teddy.
Victoria half listened to my idea. Her young daughter Scarlet was spinning around the grab poles in the train’s bar car and she worried for her safety.
About six months later, I was watching Saturday Night Live when one of their satirical commercials came on. It featured Victoria, dressed in lingerie, lying seductively on a bearskin rug. “Hi, I’m Victoria,” she said, “and these are my secrets.”
When I later questioned her about this, she said that actor Jon Lovitz had written the skit for her. She hadn’t remembered our conversation at all.
Victoria asked me on several occasions if my wife and I would like to visit NBC studios and watch the show.
"We would love to," I said.
Months past and we never received tickets. I didn't ask because I didn't want to pester her. I assumed she simply forgot. Then one night when I was at work, Victoria called. She told my wife that she was leaving the show and she had tickets for me. Since my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, we thought it better to go sooner than later.
I called her back and made arrangements to go to the show on the following Saturday. We planned that we would drive to Westport, (Victoria’s station,) and take the train into New York. Victoria said we could join her on a chauffeured limo ride back to Connecticut. We jumped at the chance.
All seemed to be going according to plan. We arrived at 30 Rockefeller Center in plenty of time to find studio 8H, (which is surprisingly small,) and find our seats. The guest host that evening was John Goodman and Garth Brooks was the musical guest.
The show was great, but we noticed that Victoria did not appear in any of the skits.
At the end of show the cast and the guest star came out on stage to say goodbye and to thank everybody for watching. Victoria was missing.
I hoped she hadn’t forgotten about our ride home, I thought.
My wife and I went down to the lobby of 30 Rockefeller Center where the show is filmed and waited for NBC security to clear us to go upstairs to the dressing rooms. While we waited, cast member Adam Sandler stood nearby surrounded by beautiful young women seeking his autograph.
Security finally gave us clearance to go up to the elevator to the dressing rooms. We went down a narrow hallway and asked a burly trumpet player where Victoria’s dressing room was. Just as he pointed to a door, I heard Victoria sob in the distance. We knocked on her door and with her voice choking back tears Victoria said, “Come in.” There sat Victoria, black mascara running down her cheeks and an empty wine bottle on the counter in front of her. It seems that during the rehearsal, the show’s producer, Lorne Michaels, had cut two of her skits from the show--she was very upset, and very drunk.
She carried her wine bottle and continued to cry as we went down the elevator through the lobby and into the waiting limo.
It seemed Victoria had offered a ride home to half of the shows’ cast and crew. A makeup artist and one of the show’s hair stylists took her up on her offer. She introduced everyone as we all piled into the limo.
We shuttled our new friends around Manhattan and she continued to wail. We each took turns trying to console her by telling her how funny and talented she was. “Nobody can do a handstand like you,” someone said. “You’re a great ukulele player,” said someone else.
Victoria said,"Lorne is a #%&*#."
Now, had she used this word on the show that night, the NBC censor would have bleeped her. Apparently, the censor was the only person she failed to offer a ride to, so the expletives flew.
When she was finished exorcising her demons, she asked, “Are you Christians?” Followed by, “I’m born again.”
She got on the limo car phone to call her boyfriend Rick in Florida. This was before we had cell phones, we were quite impressed. While she dialed the phone, she explained that Rick was an old high school sweetheart. He was now a police officer with the Miami SWAT team.
When Rick picked up the phone she burst into tears again. She cried through the Bronx and told him that she was leaving show business. She sobbed through Westchester County and asked him to marry her. In Connecticut she whined and told him that she wanted to live the simple life, just like the cute train conductor and his adorable pregnant wife who were sitting across from her in the limo.
I couldn’t help but remember this night, when on a recent evening, my wife and I saw Victoria on a new reality TV show. The show features overweight celebrities in a weight loss competition. The stars are separated into two teams, red and blue. Each week the teams clash in different athletic events. At the end of the each show, each team stands in one of two giant gold plates, which, as the camera pulls back, are attached to a giant scale of justice. The scale teeters and totters while we, the audience, wait to see which team has lost the most weight.
How low can you go?