Last evening, as I was privileged to join hundreds of them at the Kennedy Center, I couldn't help but think, "Ushers are people, too." I say that because so often ticket holders storm the theater and regard the usher as a help or hindrance but rarely as a person with a story to tell. All of the Kennedy Center's hundreds of ushers were gathered in the Atrium for their 17th annual "appreciation" dinner. It was a big crowd.
They were out of their red jackets and dressed up in their party clothes as a dozen or so were honored for 25, 30, 35 and 40 years of service. Those being honored for 40 years have worked at the performing arts center since it opened. Among them Frances Chastang, who invited me as her guest. It was a delight to be there for her, because Frances always has been there for me, whether at Dean and Deluca, where she worked until her recent resignation, or stopping by my house to show me how to trim the roses, or going way back, to when Howard was dying at Washington Hospital Center, and in the last days she showed up with food for all of us keeping vigil. She's known my son since he was a stroller baby.
There were remarks from officials. There were usher jokes. You know, like the hundredth time you get asked for directions to the bathroom but keep on smiling. There was an awful lot of camaraderie. Hooting and hollering as each honoree was announced.
I talked to ushers to the left and right of me. Many are retirees. Many just want to be in the room for opera or ballet, and this is the way to do it. They get paid to be in the theater. Some are second generation ushers.
Frances works the opera house. That's her love. She also works the Presidential box when Potus is in the house. Her BF, Tom, also is an usher. That's where they met!
I miss her smiling face at Dean and Deluca. She was an asset to the store, and there's a marked void with her no longer there. I met her on the day the store opened, eons ago, when they had a swanky opening party. She's been in our lives ever since. By her desk in D&D's basement she kept marks on the wall tracking Spencer's growth from knee high to 6' 4". I spent so much money at D&D because of Frances. Now I don't go in much anymore, but I'll go to the Kennedy Center more often.
Next time you're there ask your usher how long he or she has been on the job. You'll be amazed. Incredible job loyalty.