Friday, August 22, 2008

Opening The Vault: Part Five

My junior year in London brought with it a whirlwind of romantic activity -- a welcome change after two quiet years at my Massachusetts alma mater, Mount Holyoke College.

With a two-to-one guy-girl ratio, my dormitory Commonwealth Hall served up a steady stream of male distractions -- including an unexpected fling with a good friend. The fling ended so badly that romance was the last thing on my mind when I flew back to New York for spring break. Fate, however, had other plans.

It was during this break that I ended up meeting the man who would become my first true love and real-life version of Mr. Big. The day our paths crossed, my sister Hilary and I were invited by Bill Clark, a family friend and producer of “NYPD Blue” to watch a taping of the show in Tompkins Square Park.

Hilary, actor Dennis Franz and me on the set of "NYPD Blue," March 1994

I now Open The Vault and take you back to 1994...

New York City
March 23, 1994

Dear Diary,

As I rounded the corner where "NYPD Blue" was shooting, I was enchanted with all of the hustle and bustle unfolding before me. There were police cars, movie cameras and those monogrammed folding chairs that are de rigeur on TV and movie sets. I’d never been so close to the action before…I wondered how we were going to find Bill amidst all of the commotion. I spotted a crew member standing by a sound mixing device and approached him.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you know where I can find Bill Clark?”

The man graciously suggested that if I stood right there, Bill would come by. He continued to engage me in small talk and I learned he was sound mixer for the show. We had only been talking for a few minutes when he said--

“You’re so beautiful, you should be in front of the cameras.”

A delighted smile crossed my face. Though his name was Mark, he said his on-set nickname was Sparky so that’s what I called him.

Bill Clark appeared and chatted with Hilary, as Sparky and I continued flirting… For some reason, I didn’t feel the need to subject him to my usual sarcasm and anti-male rhetoric. Probably because of the immediate attraction between us and the fact that he was more charming than any guy I had met before.

When shooting resumed, Sparky invited me to sit in his monogrammed folding chair, and gave me headphones to listen to the scenes being filmed. I saw him whisper something to my sister and then walk away.

“He said he has some time off soon,” Hilary told me. “And he’d like to spend it with you.”

* * *

I had no idea then that Sparky would act on his words and woo me across time zones and bodies of water.

And so it was that we began the recurring dynamic of coming together and letting go that would define our relationship for more than a decade. Defying the odds stacked against us -- namely geography and a 16-year age difference -- we sustained a connection that forever changed my definition of love.

I’ve got the diary entries to prove it.

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