Craig Emery Jr.
  Seeing Anna in "Oklahoma!"...

 

 

     I never thought in a million years way back when I became a fan at age 8 that one day I would be meeting Anna.

     My Aunt asked me what I wanted for Christmas in about November of 2002.  Many things were suggested; an MP3 player for example.  I thought about it and jokingly told her I wanted to go and see "Oklahoma!" on Broadway.  I never thought that she would say yes, but she did.  I began to jump up and down.  My dream was so close to coming true.  It was one of those moments that I will remember for the rest of my life.

     I waited for almost 2 months.  My aunt had told me we had decent seats, but nothing spectacular; it really did not matter to me.  I was going to not only see Anna Patty Duke on stage, but in a musical, which was a real treat being the huge fan of her records that I am.   I think in those 2 months I listened to her records more than I had ever in the years that I have had them.

     An added bonus to the whole trip was having the chance to meet Bill Jankowski and Carrie Smith.  I had met Bill online a few years back when I was still relatively young (I'm 17 now) and then met Carrie last year via the internet through Bill.  I was equally as excited to know that I'd be able to now put faces to the typing that I had been seeing for several years.  Eventually before our trips to the 'Big Apple' the 3 of us got to chat a few times on the telephone, which was quite an experience in itself.  Bill and Carrie are 2 of the funniest people I have ever known.  We joked around, exchanged some of our own experiences in collecting everything Anna and our stories about our adoration for Anna.  It's not everyday a 16 year old guy gets to talk to someone closer to his own age, let alone 2 people, that share the same love for Anna!

     Christmas Eve.  I opened all of my presents and the last one I knew was the envelope with my tickets in it.  I carefully opened the wrapping paper, making sure not to tear the tickets.   Slowly I opened the envelope and my face lit up brighter than the Christmas tree.  Decent tickets?  3rd row dead center!  I could not believe I was going to be that close to Anna.

     January 3rd, 2003.  I woke up at 4 am so we could head out by 5 am.  We were smack dab in the middle of a snow storm.  My Aunt drove us through Canada and we reached the US border to enter New York by about 10:30 am.  I figured from there it would be smooth sailing; WRONG!  The snow storm was worse in New York than it was in Michigan.  We had to make frequent rest stops due to completely covered roads and heavy snowfall.  By the time we finally reached our destination, the Holiday Inn on Long Island, it had taken us 18 hours to get from Michigan to New York City.  Let's just say I wasn't a happy camper in the car. 

     The next day I woke up at about 7 am already pumped and ready for my long day in New York City.  We stopped at a McDonalds for breakfast in Brooklyn and then headed for the subway station.  I had no idea what I was in for.  We walked up the stairs to the platform and waited for about 10 or so minutes.  Then we got onto the car.  It was crowded and full of chatter amongst the people.  The doors closed and then the subway began to move.  I did not know I was supposed to hold on to anything because I did not have a seat and I almost fell down.  Good thing I caught my balance. 

     Finally we reached our destination and headed out of the station and into the streets of New York City.  The sight took my breath away.  I was in shock at how tall the buildings were and just the fact that I was actually there.  From the station we headed straight to the Museum of Radio and Television.  We made an appointment to go to the private screening room.  While we waited for our time to come up we watched an episode of 'Friends' in one of the many viewing rooms.  Finally our time had come.  First I sat and watched the movie "Two On A Bench" an absolutely amazing film.  I wish it was available on DVD or even VHS for that matter.  Then I watched the episode of the Patty Duke Show where Patty imagines what it would be like to be married to Richard; quite a humorous episode indeed.  Finally, I had to sneak in something with Lesley Gore in it and I watched the T.A.M.I Show, a concert featuring some of the hottest teen performers of 1964.  The museum was one of the best things I got to see while in New York.  I hope to one day go back to watch some more of Anna's rare movies. 

     The rest of the day we saw the usual tourist attractions.  Sacs, Tiffany's, Toys R' Us, FAO Schwartz, etc.  One of our last stops was the place Bill and Carrie told me about, "Jerry's."  I had a field day going through the entire Anna folder full of pictures spanning her entire career.  I finally decided on 3 from my favorite Anna era "1967-1968" around the time of Valley of the Dolls.  From there we hit the subway and went to Times Square.  It was Saturday night and quite possibly the most happening place in the world.  There were a TON of people.  I began having a panic attack because of all of the people and we headed off to the street over and went to a 3 story McDonalds which was really cool.  You ordered your food downstairs and ate on the other 2 floors.  From there we went back to the subway and headed back to the hotel for the night.  Overall an incredible day, but my fun was just beginning.

     Finally the day I had been waiting 2 months for had arrived.   I was so excited I couldn't stand it.  I got dressed making sure I had the perfect outfit for the occasion on.  Instead of driving to the subway station we decided to take the train which was right by our hotel.  We stood on the platform and waited for it to arrive.  It seemed as if it was taking forever and a day to come.  When it finally arrived we boarded and took our seats.  It was quite a bit nicer than the subway, but slower.  The train reached the station and we exited and made our way to the streets of New York once again.  We walked all of the way to the Gershwin theatre awaiting the arrival of Bill, Carrie, and Jay.  I saw them walk up and we finally formally introduced ourselves.  They were all so nice.  We chatted for a bit while we waited to go in the theater.  Bill had a message sent back stage to let Anna know that we were there and then we entered the theater and made our way to our seats.  The first thing the audience saw was Anna as Aunt Eller churning butter and as she became visible I began to get chills.  It was so strange seeing her right in front of me in person when I had seen her so many times on my own television.  It was absolutely amazing!  The show was great too.  At intermission we all met outside to talk about the show and discuss the rude people we were all sitting by, Bill, Carrie, and Jay's sniffling 'friend' and the guy in front of me who was clearly wearing a little too much cologne.  We eventually want back into the Gershwin and just as we were getting back to our seats the music for Anna's big musical number, "The Farmer and the Cowman," began.  I was ecstatic!  Anna's voice was absolutely superb.  It was such a thrill to get to hear her sing live after listening to all of her records.

     After the show we went to the stage door and waited for Anna to come out, which she didn't.  While outside we met Jeff, a friend of Johnny G's.  A REALLY nice guy.  With Jeff, we all just went through the stage door and waited for Anna to come out.  We saw all of the performers leave before Anna came out.  So I was used to the door opening and closing.  Finally Anna came through the door.  I couldn't believe it was happening.  Positively the MOST thrilling experience of my life.  She talked to Bill and Carrie for a while and then came to me and said, "You must be Craig."  I could barely speak.  She had heard about me when Bill went and saw her while she was performing in "Follies" and he had her sign my VOD album for me.  She was absolutely amazed that I really liked her singing and questioned my sanity!  That really made me laugh.  We all had presents for Anna and then something for her to sign.  I had taken a music cassette of songs Anna recorded in 1968 for a folk album and put it on CD and designed cover art and copied the design of the United Artists label for the CD itself.  That was my present to her.  She was really amazed with the work I put into the cover art and label.  It really pleased me that she liked it.  She even gave me a kiss on the cheek!!!!  How's that for exciting!?!? Then I gave her the folder with the 3 photos I purchased from "Jerry's" and asked her to choose which one she would like to sign.  She looked through them and chose a black and white photo from Valley of the Dolls.  She explained that in the picture she was actually singing that she had been bored on the set and started singing and they took the picture.  It was really neat to hear the story.   After about 45 minutes of talking with Anna we said our goodbyes to her and she gave us all hugs.  Then we watched her as she started walking home.  I will never forget that night!

     For dinner we all decided to walk to Ellen's Stardust Diner.  It had the coolest atmosphere!  The waiters and waitresses all got up and sang.  It was really fun.  Over dinner we all of course talked about Anna and her movies and how we all became fans.  It was the best.  When we were all done we went outside and headed to the subway.  When we got to our stop we said our goodbyes to each other and off we went back to the train station to start our long journey back home.  It was like a dream come true.  Still today I cannot believe that I actually met Anna Patty Duke.

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