By: Sandra Benee
The year was 2012. The club was humming with excitement on the night of The Players Hall of Fame gala. There was a long list of very prominent honorees. I was a new member, and this was my first evening at The Players. I climbed the magnificent stairway toward the sounds of gaiety. Not seeing my sponsors, Scott Glascock and Lee Moore, I moved into the Kinstler Room and seated myself on an armchair in the corner. Assuming my best serene and sophisticated pose, I surveyed a room full of strangers. Across from me, two couples were talking. One of the gentlemen smiled at me. I later learned it was Ervin Drake, the songwriter, with his wife, Edith. The others were Joe Sirola, best known as the King of Voiceovers, and his partner, Claire. After a while, I moved to the other room and took a seat on a corner of a sofa, where a man was already seated on the other end. I glanced at him with a smile. He turned to me and said, “What a beautiful place this is. I’ve never been here before.” “I am a new member.” I replied. It is an extraordinary room, I might have said. My mind was racing. What a good-looking guy, and he must be 80 years old. He is very sexy! Wow. Then someone approached him and said, “Mr. Armstrong, would you please step over here for some press pictures?” NEIL ARMSTRONG! Well, fly me to the moon! The first man to step on the moon! The man who said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
And he said something else, something that may not go down in the history books: “Good luck, Mr. Gorsky.” Good luck, Mr. Gorsky? Mr. Armstrong confirmed that he had indeed uttered these odd words, and later, when he was called to the stage in the dining room, he explained them. “When I was a kid playing in our yard at my house," he said, "our neighbor, Mr. Gorsky, was outside and suddenly his wife appeared and shouted angrily, ‘I’ll have sex with you again when that kid next door walks on the moon.’ I smile at the memory today.” This is now known to be a joke he used often; and he shared it with us that evening. But first, I joined the long line of of people waiting to be shown to their tables in the dining room. As I waited, I looked over the program, in which I had taken a quarter-page ad. Funny, everyone else's plain pages read simply, “Congratulations to the honorees.” But I had sent my full-color headshot with the words, “So glad to be a member of The Players.” Oops! I hoped these would all be burned after reading. When I got to the front of the line, Robin, our hostess, looked for my name. “You did not pay for dinner, Sandra. Please step aside while I seat everyone here and then I’ll find you a table.” Oops again.
I would have been happy to be seated at the very back table. Finally, Robin told me to follow her through the entire room to table three. Table three! On my left was Brian Murray, stage name Brian Doyle-Murray, and next to him, one of my very favorite actors, Judith Ivey. On my right was Charles Busch. When asked who I was, I thought, Oh, nobody, but I gave my stage name, Sandra Benee. It took about three more seconds for me to tell Mr. Busch that I had played the part of Lee Green in his play The Allergist’s Wife in my Actor’s Workshop with Miriam Fond. “I would cast you as Lee Green,” he said. From then on, every time I ran into Charles Busch, he greeted me as Lee Green. So I guess I made an impression on him. Mr. Murray and Mr. Busch were eventually called to the stage. Judith Ivey did the honors for Brian Murray. Edward Albee was also honored with a portrait for the Hall of Fame that night, but I refrained from telling him that I had been cast as Agnes in A Delicate Balance, also in Miriam Fond’s Actor’s Workshop. Discretion being the better part of valor, I resisted any further impulses. At the end of the evening, I ran into Judith Ivey in the ladies’ room in The Grill, and then in the cloak room. When she saw me outside hailing a taxi, she jokingly said, “You again!” I laughed, making a mental note to see her on Broadway in The Heiress, and got into the cab. What an evening it was for this new member. I would never forget it. Being a Player was going to be fun. In 2022, 10 years later, I had the pleasure of congratulating another Brian … Brian Drutman, in a quarter-page ad shared with Sarah-Ann Rodgers. This time it was appropriate, congratulating Brian, our piano man, and saying, “We love you, Brian.” And this time, I looked around the packed dining room, feeling thankful for all the warm friendships I now enjoy when I walk into The Players' hallowed halls.
The very apt title of my memoir in progress, “Backing into My Life.” says it all. I became a lawyer, an industrial warehouse owner, (36 years), and especially the latter, without much planning. Starting in 1992, I became a cabaret singer and an actor in Miriam Fond’s The Actor’s Workshop in much the same way. The last thirty years, pursuing my creative avocations, which now includes writing, has been the best thirty years. Hooray for creativity!