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Friday, April 2, 2004
By Paul Ford
A night out on April 1.
Tonight was Abbe Rosenfeld's 50th birthday, or close enough. Abbe manages musicians—he once worked with my friend Steve Burns as Steve made the transition from kid's TV actor to musician, and he used to manage the Village People in the 70s. Abbe's a mensch, so I went out to Boat, on Smith St., to toast him for an hour.
Steve was in rare April Fool's form. Earlier in the day, he'd had one of his friends call me pretending to be from the NYC Department of Health. The young woman explained in a somber voice that the department had received numerous complaints about my messy apartment, and from my landlord, and would need to perform a walk-through to check for animals and fungus.
It took only a half-minute. “Is this related to Mr. Burns?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said. “Damn.”
Steve blew any April Fools chances with me five years ago, when he had a professional actor call me as an IRS representative. The representative told me I was being audited. (“Sir, you need to come to 182 Varick St. at 8:30 AM on April 7, and bring all of your receipts from the last 2 years.”) That time, he let me in on the joke only after I'd hyperventilated for 6 hours.
I asked the woman pretending to be from the health department to call Steve back and tell him that it had gone too far. “Tell him I'm crying.”
Over the next hour, Steve left phone messages and emailed several times, genuine sorrow in his voice, telling me it was okay, not to cry, he felt awful, just a joke, each increasingly desperate message bringing me a corresponding amount of happiness. I rarely win battles in this pernicious, eternal campaign of mutual torment.
In any case, Abbe's birthday: we met at Boat, a bar on Smith St. There was a cake. We chatted for a while, discussing the phone call from the Department of Health, elaborating and exaggerating, and just as Steve complained loudly about the dificulty of perpetrating a halfway-decent April Fools prank, a singing Rabbi with a huge fake beard arrived and delivered a musical telegram, serenading Abbe in the middle of the bar. After posing for photos with Abbe, the rabbi left.
A few feet away was another birthday party. Members of that group came over and introduced themselves, showing us their kitty litter cake, a crumble of white cookies and cake, served in a deep plastic box with fecal tootsie rolls buried throughout and spots of green food coloring to emulate urine, dished out with a new litter scoop. We sat down again, and then the Devil, in a red suit, cape, and horns arrived with another singing telegram. The Devil, more fun than the somber rabbi, yelled out his birthday greetings to the whole bar, made fun of Abbe for several minutes, sang a bit, then stayed for a number of drinks.
“The Devil has a lot more fun than the rabbi,” I said.
“The Devil spends a lot more time in bars,” said Steve.
Now that representatives of both good and evil had delivered their singing telegrams, Steve promised Abbe that the joke was over. We toasted Abbe, and entered into a long discussion on not much at all, when we heard a loud clucking and the singing chicken appeared.
Through a dirty-looking costume, a man sang a muffled “You're the Top,” with lyrics supposedly customized for Abbe, but impossible to hear through the thick plastic beak. After that, it was over—someone else had booked the pink gorilla, Steve explained. A bit later M— and I left, patting the devil on the shoulder on the way out, as he pounded back beers and chatted with the bartender.