That’s Matt B. as groomsman Dominic Fabrizzi, giving the audience their marching orders before letting them into the chapel for the final performance in the run of Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding here in Chicago at Piper’s Alley. After over 16 years at that location, TnT has finally closed. It will be replaced by the musical High Fidelity (yes, based on the John Cusack movie of the same name). TnT may come back for a brief run in the winter, but that is far from a certainty so it seems only proper to consider that potential production as a separate run of the show. CC and I, both former cast members, actually paid to get in and watched the whole show as patrons, which would be kind of surreal for us anyway, but which was even more so given the circumstances of Saturday’s performance.
As expected, there were a lot of other former cast members in the audience as well, which resulted in the largest audience to watch a performance of TnT this year. One very cool moment occurred at the very end of the show when caterer Vinnie Black asked for all of the former cast members who were in the audience to come out onto the dance floor and take a bow. As I made my way onto the floor, I was startled at how many people were suddenly rising and joining me. Many of them obviously predated my 2002 debut in the cast, which only goes to show you what a unique experience TnT was, that so many former cast members would make it a point to show up on the last night.
I brought along my camera and I’ve got a few more photos to share…
On the back wall of the bar (Vinnie Black’s Celebrity Lounge), there are a great many autographed photos of some of the luminaries who have visited Vinnie’s place over the years (though many of them appear to have been signed by the same hand. Hmmm… mysterious…). Seen here, right above a photo of Frankie Avalon, is a genuine autographed photo of Todd Mengay. If you can’t make out the inscription, it reads “To Vinnie: We’ll always have Arizona, Todd M.” I’m told that this one first appeared on Vinnie’s wall only a few hours before the final performance. The story behind this is funny as hell, though a little complicated to lay out in this space, so if you don’t already know the story, ask me about it sometime.
A quintet of former cast members. That’s Teddy R., CC, Pete W., Pete P., and (just barely) Kelley A. Delighted as I was to see all of them, it’s only fair to point out that CC is the only one in this picture who actually paid to get in. The rest of them had the good sense to crash the joint about half an hour before the show ended.
The inimitable Vince L. as Vinnie Black. It is Vinnie’s job to pepper his monologues with dreadful one-liners. Vince gave me an example of one that he recently used in the show for about two days: “What’s the difference between Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett? – About three hours.” I certainly do not condone the use of such material and I offer it here only for instructive and academic purposes.
I’m not an autograph collector and I rarely get excited about being around celebrities, but this was special. During the chapel service, I found myself sitting right next to the Marv Levy party and we chatted with them quite amiably until the show began. FYI, Marv Levy was the long-time head coach of the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League. He coached them all the way to four appearances in the Super Bowl, so he is pretty famous in NFL circles. During the reception, I stepped out into the lobby and saw Marv standing there. He remembered me from the chapel service and greeted me by name. He explained that his hearing aid was amplifying the dance music in the reception hall to an uncomfortable level and that he was getting ready to leave. Before he left, he kindly consented to pose with me for a photo. The flash failed to go off, so I had to doctor this picture quite a bit to make it viewable, but it’s still a pretty neat keepsake from an evening that was already very memorable.