When Theater 80, an Off-Broadway Theater, called Joan’s office and asked if she’d be willing to have herself immortalized by putting her hands in cement in front of their theater, Joan was more than happy to agree. Joan loves the theater – she’s been on Broadway three times and been nominated for a Tony Award for best actress. And it was a great excuse to have her family come into New York – which she always loves. Joan called me and asked whether I thought we could shoot an episode in New York that featured the handprint ceremony. Show budgets being somewhat limited, we weren’t sure we could make it work – but thank goodness we found the money. Shooting in New York always gives you amazing surprises you don’t expect. There were several great examples of that in this episode.
For starters, when Joan decided to take Cooper and Melissa to one of her favorite lunch spots, Serendipity, we had no idea that her friend, fellow actress Sharon Gless would be there at the very same time. We were shooting over the Labor Day weekend – when most New Yorkers clear out of town for the long weekend. Not only was Sharon there, but she was in full make-up, having just come from a photo shoot with Tyne Daly (her former partner on the show Cagney and Lacy ). The make-up part is no small coincidence, since most actresses without make-up, especially ones over 20, will hide from cameras faster than roaches will run from sunlight. So to have her sitting at a table, happy to see Joan, and willing to be on camera – was nothing short of a New York miracle. Sharon could not have been sweeter. I get a thrill as a producer, and as a fan, when I see that people you admire on screen are great to work with. And she did not disappoint.
Another small, but fantastic New York surprise was that Theater 80 decided to have a kilt-wearing fan play the bag pipes outside the theater to play for Joan as she came past the press into the theater for the ceremony. Now on our shows, we have to clear all the music that plays in the background. So when he told us that he planned to play “Give My Regards to Broadway” I was delighted. Not only is the song loud and fun, it’s public domain (meaning: free). Oh, and it’s absolutely hilarious. I was afraid he would be playing an unknown Scottish dirge. I knew that Joan would find it funny too. When you get a comic gift like that on a reality show – it’s just sign that you’re making the show that you were meant to shoot. And where else but New York would you find a bag piper that plays show tunes?