So when my friend Susan found out that Sing-along SOM was coming to Coolidge Corner Theater in Boston, she called me right up. This was way too funny. We decided we had to go…in costume….. as The Curtains. (You know, the ones that Maria made the dirndls and lederhosen out of when Georg refused to give her fabric to make play clothes.)
In addition to Susan, her husband Steve, and my husband Colin, I invited my very dear friend (and coincidentally the minister of our church) Richard Jones, because he was one of the biggest Sound of Music Fans I know, and it was thanks to him that my 6-year-old daughters got to see the Broadway production when it came to the Colonial Theater. He surprised us with tickets and took us all, because he didn’t want Jessie and Savannah to miss out on the experience. (What he didn’t tell me was that he wanted to arrange for us to meet Richard Chamberlain himself, which fortunately never happened because he didn’t perform that night due to illness.)
Notice I just said "fortunately that never happened?" That wasn' t a typo. At that point in my life, I preferred to fly under the radar and had been enjoying the anonymity my married name of “Gibson” afforded me. Yet here I was, about to surround myself with the groupiest of Sound of Music groupies. So on the way to the theater, I reminded my companions that we were going Incognito. I think I was even specific. Please do not tell anyone that I am a von Trapp. I said it mostly for Richard's benefit, remembering the near-miss with Richard Chamberlain.
We arrived at a packed theater, and had to take seats close to the front. Once we settled in, I noticed Richard had disappeared. Then I saw him coming down the aisle – an entire camera crew and some news commentator with a microphone in tow. What the hell was he doing? I felt the panic start to rise in my throat. Remember: stage fright. (WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTENT CONTAINS LANGUAGE THAT MAY BE INAPPROPRIATE FOR READERS UNDER THE AGE OF 13 OR OLDER THAN 75 BUT IS NECESSARY FOR ACCURACY).
They came right to where we were sitting. Richard looked so proud. The woman with the microphone smiled her big news-magazine-reporter smile and told me she was from Chronicle, and would I mind being interviewed? I was trapped in the row between Colin, Susan and Steve and a million other attendees. There was no escape. I pointed at Richard, “Fuck you! You’re a dead man.” (Yes, to my MINISTER, not one of my proudest moments, I must admit.) The smile on his face froze in place as he realized his mistake.
I only remember a couple of things after that. My friends and husband telling me to go ahead, I could do this. Me, picturing the whole thing on the news and all the stupid things I would say. I tried; I really tried to answer their questions. Then the adrenaline kicked in as I realized I had a choice. “Fuck this shit. I’m out of here.” And I fled, out of the theater, out of the building, halfway to the parking lot before collapsing to the curb, sobbing in mortification.
Susan came to find me, and to coax me back inside. She told me the camera crew was gone. The woman reporter was right behind her. I told her to go away. She told me she was sorry, and assured me they wouldn’t use the footage. (A minor relief – I had temporarily forgotten my academy award winning performance had been captured on tape). Eventually, I calmed down, and went back inside to see the show. I even enjoyed it. The Emcee, Ryan, dressed in drag, was a dead-ringer for Julie Andrews. We won a prize for our curtain costumes.
During the show, at intermission, and afterwards Richard apologized profusely. I think the experience actually brought him clarity about my life as a von Trapp. The next day, I received a dozen red roses and a card of apology from him. Poor guy, I think he was damaged by this experience more than I was. I’m happy to report that our friendship was not harmed, in fact, its stronger than ever (ironically, I’m no longer married to Colin, and have lost touch with Susan and Steve.)
I have to admit that for a while after this incident I was haunted by it. I couldn’t figure out why I had lost my composure. I had spent years working at Trapp Family Lodge, and acting as a family spokesperson when called upon to do so. Ultimately, I came to the realization that this public appearance hadn’t been on my terms. I hadn’t been given a choice or had time to prepare. Quite the opposite – I had specifically asked NOT to be outed. Even though I’m not famous in my own right, I feel empathy for those who are and have to deal with this kind of thing every day. – F.v.T.