Kevin Williamson was at the theater the other night, and got himself thrown out. Why? As he tells it:
The show was Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which was quite good and which I recommend. The audience, on the other hand, was horrible — talking, using their phones, and making a general nuisance of themselves. It was bad enough that I seriously considered leaving during the intermission, something I’ve not done before. The main offenders were two parties of women of a certain age, the sad sort with too much makeup and too-high heels, and insufficient attention span for following a two-hour musical. But my date spoke with the theater management during the intermission, and they apologetically assured us that the situation would be remedied.
It was not. The woman sitting next to him kept using her phone during the show. Williamson reports that he asked her to please stop, as the management had requested that people silence their phones. She refused. He asked her again. She told him to mind his own business. So he grabbed her phone and threw it across the room.
Management asked him to leave. He may have criminal charges pressed against him. I hope Williamson skates. I know just how he feels. I remember almost 20 years ago, as a film critic in south Florida, I routinely had to deal with people who thought they had a right to talk through movies. I remember on one occasion politely asking these three elderly women sitting behind me several times to please stop talking during the movie. They weren’t just exchanging remarks every now and then. They were talking in a normal tone of voice, as if they were sitting in front of the TV in the community room of their assisted living home, or whatever. The bizarre thing is that they treated my politely stated requests as if I were some sort of ogre who insulted them by asking them to respect the rest of us by piping down.
(Side note: coming as I do from a culture that tends to revere the elderly, living in South Florida was sometimes a trial. The old folks one ran into there were often unbelievably rude. It messed with my head.)
And then there was the time when there was a promotional screening of a film at a Coconut Grove theater. Most of the people there had gotten their tickets through a radio station promotion. As we were all waiting for the movie to start, someone in the audience had a heart attack, and died on the floor of the theater, with paramedics working to revive him. The screening, of course, was cancelled — over the rowdy protests of many in the audience, who had come to see a free movie, dammit, and didn’t understand why the death of an audience member should deny them their due. The publicists had to give out free passes to another movie just to get people to leave peaceably.
More and more people, it seems, simply do not understand how to behave in public, and how to respect others. I wouldn’t recommend seizing the phones of rude old ladies and throwing them across the room. But I understand the impulse, and would pay Kevin Williamson’s court costs, if it came to that.