October 10, 2006

Tucker: A Man at a Party

At the outset of each of the past several weeks, it’s been a ritual to talk football on this site, but this week, circumstances have dictated that we flip the script. Frankly, Week 5 of the NFL season wasn’t all that compelling, and at the same time there’s too much going on in the world of baseball to possibly be able to turn away and ignore it.

And it’s not just that the League Championship series are about to begin, or all of the speculation that Joe Torre could be out as Yankees manager after another first round playoff exit, or even the revelation that a certain Atlanta Brave got his offseason off to a strong start by throwing back a drink with our friends at whynatte.com.

All of that merits discussion, but being that this was Columbus Day weekend, it only seems fitting that we make it our first priority to discuss the Columbus Day party that yours truly attended Sunday evening, because…well, you’ll see. Here’s how things unfolded:

Word of a party came down late Sunday night when an associate mentioned he was going to be attending a Columbus Day get together at the W Hotel, a prestigious if not completely over the top trendy spot in midtown Manhattan.

And with this invite came an added bonus – at least one New York Met was expected to be in attendance.

So round about 11 p.m. we high tailed it over to the W at 49th Street and Lexington, walked past a handful of cyborg-like human beauty drones in the lobby and arrived at the front desk. We told the staff members at the desk that we were going to the Columbus Day party on the 17th floor.

“What’s the password?” they asked.

“Columbus Day,” responded my associate, without missing a beat.

We were in.

A slick-looking gentleman escorted us to the elevator and swiped us up to floor 17 with his keycard before saying “Thanks” as he walked away, making me wonder if we were supposed to tip him and hadn’t. Don’t you just love moments like that?

Soon afterwards the man and any lingering guilt about not tipping him had vanished, and we were whisked up to 17. Upon exiting the elevator, we rounded a corner to head to the suite, and suddenly we saw him:

There in front of us, leaning against a wall outside the suite talking to a woman, was Michael Tucker.

Okay, okay. So I know you were probably hoping for Jose Reyes or David Wright or Carlos Delgado, and now you’re probably all disappointed, like that spoiled kid on Seinfeld who demanded that Kramer get Paul O’Neill to hit two home runs for him in a game but then complained when the second one (which appeared to be an inside-the-parker) was actually ruled to be a triple and an error. But seriously, what do you expect? This was a Columbus Day party, for God’s sake, not a New Year’s Eve bash at the 40/40 Club. So please don’t be that annoying kid from Seinfeld. Thank you for your understanding. Now back to the story…

Not wanting to be overzealous, nerdy baseball fans (at least not yet), we walked past Michael Tucker as though we had no idea who he was, briefly detecting an unspoken thought of “What the hell are these guys doing here?” passing through his mind as we moved past, and entered the suite.

As this was the Presidential Suite at the W hotel, it was an impressive layout to say the least, including a full wraparound balcony on the outside. And it was on that same balcony about 10 minutes later that Michael Tucker suddenly stood alone, and myself and one of my friends opted to make our move. As he’s a diehard Mets fan and I’m a Braves fan (and Tucker used to play for the Braves), we figured we’d have plenty to talk to him about.

We were mistaken. Though he was perfectly friendly and responded to all of our comments as best he could, the conversation just didn’t have legs. My friend started out by talking about the Mets, making all the reasonable banter one would expect (Congratulations…Which team would you rather have played in the NLCS? etc.), and at that point things were going okay. But after a couple minutes, that kind of died out, and I sensed it was my turn to jump in.

“Hey man, I’m a big Braves fan so I used to watch you play in Atlanta,” I said. (Nerdiness factor: 72.)

“Oh man, that was a long time ago – ‘97, ‘98,” he responded. “That was when they used to be good.”

Thud. I could feel the aura of boringness seeping out of my pores, hovering around me and violently strangling anything resembling a humorous comment before I could even ponder saying it. At one point I attempted to spice things up by asking Michael, “Hey, how’s Julio [Franco] doing?” I was sure this would get things going. It’s hard not to have a mildly amusing conversation about Julio Franco, right? Umm, well…

“Julio’s alright,” Michael responded. And perhaps sensing that he hadn’t quite given me everything I had hoped for with his response, he went on to add that no one really has any idea how old Julio is, and he’s probably 50 or something.

A minute or so later, realizing we were going to suck the few remaining ounces of lifeblood from his veins if he stayed and talked to us any longer, Michael announced that he was going to go inside but would be right back. This was code for: I will not be coming back, and do not wish to speak with you any more.

Later in the evening, the party showed signs of getting strange. Remember that scene in Boogie Nights where Dirk and Reed and Todd are at the rich guy’s house planning to rob him and there’s a small scantily-clad boy running around throwing firecrackers and everyone’s freaking out and getting paranoid while the egomaniac guy they’re planning to rob is walking around in his bathrobe making bizarre comments and generally acting like the creepiest guy in the world?

Well, we didn’t quite approach that level of strangeness, but it should be noted that I mentioned this scene early in the evening after observing our host behaving in a semi-bizarre manner, and then, later in the night, the song “Jesse’s Girl” played on the stereo, and if you’ll recall, it was that very same song that played in the aforementioned scene in Boogie Nights. Coincidence? Probably so. But I’d just like to say that I was one sighting of a small boy throwing firecrackers away from running out of that party screaming.

Other things to note:

  • Michael Tucker ordered up a bottle of Grey Goose which I believe he intended primarily to indulge in himself and share with the ladies at the party, but I took some when he wasn’t looking.
  • Michael was wearing a brown suit that may or may not have been made of linen and was noteworthy because the suit jacket was also the suit shirt. Which is to say that it was a jacket-like garment but clearly there was no shirt on underneath it. Fortunately the collar came up higher than most suit jackets because otherwise it would have made him look like a gigolo.
  • Michael Tucker doesn’t look like a very big dude on TV, but he is surprisingly large. Probably 6-2 and pretty thick. Which makes you realize what absolute monsters guys like Albert Pujols are, because they actually do look big on TV. Kind of frightening.
  • At one point in the evening I and some friends became involved in a conversation with a man whose nose was actively bleeding, apparently unbeknownst to him. This man also bared a strange resemblance to actor Stephen Dorff, who played a vampire named Frost in the Wesley Snipes classic Blade. I opted not to make any “Hey you look like an actor who played a vampire and your nose is bleeding” jokes because frankly I was mildly afraid the man was going to attempt to knife me at any moment and I just wanted to keep him complacent.

Michael Tucker was in and out of the party for much of the night, shuttling back and forth between his own hotel suite (which was apparently right next door) and the Presidential Suite. I wish I could say that he did something completely outrageous late in the evening like rip off his brown jacketshirt, pick up the bottle of Grey Goose, smash it against the wall and challenge everyone in the room to a brawl, but the simple fact is he didn’t. He was more or less just an exceedingly normal dude who just so happened to have about 15 million dollars, 125 Major League homers and two fat diamond earrings more than everyone else in the room.

As I walked home sometime after 3 a.m., I crossed West 52nd Street and went past a slew of people spilled all over the sidewalk and street in the aftermath of what appeared to be a Ludacris album release party. And at that precise moment, as someone who had zero percent chance of getting invited to such a party, I felt disoriented and out of place. And then I thought about how Michael Tucker, as a guy who gets invited just about everywhere yet is always having to deal with strangers like myself asking him for details about his life and job, probably feels a different kind of disorientation on a daily basis.

And then, for whatever reason as I turned off 52nd Street to head home, I suddenly had a different, somewhat unexpected thought. It was: Man, I have really got to get me one of those brown jacketshirts.


Blogger kuniansky said...

It made me uncomfortable just reading that non conversation with Michael Tucker.

I wonder why that guy had a bloody nose? Hmmm, high altitude on the 17th floor?

3:35 PM, October 10, 2006  

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