A Farewell to Flatpoint
"A Very Special Diary Entry"
by Tony Lagarto

September 15-17, 2000   

Ever since my March 15 th visit to the SWC office in New York, when I first met Amy Sedaris and Paul Dinello, I had anticipated a return trip so I could actually tour the set and maybe watch part of an episode being filmed.  When I heard that Comedy Central (or, as I refer to them now, "that network") wouldn't be ordering any more new episodes of SWC I knew that I had to coordinate quickly. I contacted the show's Additional Writer, Matthew Lappin, and picked Friday, September 15 th as the day of our visit. It was no mere coincidence that this date was the last scheduled day of filming. I intended to be present to witness the filming of the final scene of my all-time favorite TV show. How many fans get that kind of opportunity? I was even more honored and thrilled when I learned that I was also invited to attend the "wrap party" that would take place the next night (Saturday, September 16 th) at a club called Opaline at 85 Avenue A in the East Village. It was a weekend I'll never forget.

Flatpoint High
Felician College Library
(click to enlarge)
The Trip Back
(Friday, 9/15/00, 1:00 - 6:00pm)
I left my East Rutherford, NJ hotel in the early afternoon and headed into the more charming town of Rutherford. A couple of days earlier, Scott Jacobson from the SWC office had sent me a fax with directions to the former library building of Felician College, where the show's sets are contained. When I arrived on the set I learned that the previous day's filming had gone on until after 3:30am, so the cast and remainder of the crew would be getting a late start and weren't expected until about 3:00pm. I used this opportunity to take a stroll around "Flatpoint" and my first stop was "the Noblet house" on Hackett Place, just around the corner from the school. From there I walked into town and killed time at a little ice cream shop and a fun costume shop across the street.

When I realized that 3:00pm was approaching I started to walk back to the Felician campus on Montross Avenue. My timing was really good because right after I entered the lobby I saw Paul Dinello (Geoffrey Jellineck) walking down the familiar flight of school stairs with his mother. This was her first trip to New York and she had literally just arrived from the airport.

I turned to the left and recognized the school hallway lined with lockers, but it had obviously gone through a dramatic transformation. For the final episode, which was being referred to by one of its themes "Popularity", the corridor had been made to look like it had been through a devastating holocaust. In the story, Flatpoint High School is being turned into a strip mall and so, rather than allow this to transpire, faculty and students come together to destroy the place. I asked Paul to show me Jerri's locker so we stepped through the rubble, around the overturned trophy case, over the smashed Concrete Donkey, and made a mini pilgrimage to locker #15, the former home of Shelly, Klausen, Leslie, Suki, Gregory, and an assortment of male and female nudie photos (remember, Jerri Blank likes "the pole and the hole").

Me, at Jerri's locker, #15Paul and his mother left me so I continued exploring the set on my own. The small row of lockers, which includes Jerri's, is flanked by two classroom doors. Jellineck's art class is to the left and Noblet's history class is to the right. I stepped into the art class and marveled at all of the portraits of Flatpoint High's stentorian dictatorial leader, Principal Onyx Blackman. There were so many familiar pictures, among them:  the Warhol-inspired quad, the bean & pebble mosaic, and the hypnotic photo with the speaker in the forehead, all from "Blank Stare".

Then I went up the stairs and on the right I saw Iris Puffybush's office (complete with mini-bar), which adjoined Principal Blackman's "hidey hole". One of the most enjoyable parts of walking the set is focusing in on the details. The Props Department had obviously taken great care to make every item as realistic as possible, right down to the text on Blackman's degrees and certificates on the wall. Even though these details would never be visible on a television screen they were created anyway, making the rooms as real to the cast as the characters are to the show's fans.

After stepping back into the hallway I took a moment to read some of the notices on the walls and looked at some of the pictures on the bulletin board. One photo of Mr. Jellineck had the word "Sapien" handwritten beneath his face. Get it? Then, while admiring the new Sticky Bunnery set (created for the Finale) I had the pleasure of meeting one of the geniuses whose finely detailed handiwork I had just been admiring: the Property Master, Dylan Sheridan. I was sure that he was probably wondering who the hell I was and why I was just wandering around the set unescorted so I started to introduce myself, "Hi, I'm Tony and I have a web pa...", and Dylan interuppted, "You're Tony Lagarto. Awesome web page, man." Even though I've known that folks associated with the show have viewed my pages I was a little surprised by how many people knew who I was.

Principal Onyx Blackman's office
Principal Blackman's office
(click to enlarge)

Click below to see Onyx's credentials:
1st degree, 2nd, 3rd, 4th

The Flatpoint Strip Mall's new Sticky Bunnery
Flatpoint Strip Mall's new Sticky Bunnery
Me, Dylan, and Dylan's Scabies
Me, Dylan Sheridan, and Dylan's Scabies
Dylan asked if me if I'd like to see the Prop Room. "Uh... Yeah!!!" This room runs almost the entire length of the top floor and is jam packed with goodies. A "Strangers With Candy" fanatics dream come true... the mother lode... a Flatpoint El Dorado. Small items from every episode filled shelves along the walls and larger items were organized in piles according to their association to a specific episode, set, or character. I saw everything from the "stunt Shelly" that was tossed up into the ceiling fan, to a box of Chocolate Scabies cereal, to the Safe Trap House sign, to Jellineck's phallic sculpture, to the Statue of Liberty from Buddah Stalin's "United Hates of Ascarica" video, to the coveted Golden Sack trophy. After spending a few minutes of spotting items that sparked our memories I decided to go back downstairs to see how things were progressing.

As I made my way downstairs I stopped in the Student Lounge and Cafeteria. The Cold Cash Quik ATM was still in the lounge and, here too, there were posters, signs, and banners to read, everywhere you looked. On top of one of the salad bars I found an aluminum tray that was filled with what looked like rubber Vienna sausages. It turned out that they weren't artificial props, they were just some really old sausages that were left out for so long that they had begun to look like glazed rubber. There were still Chocolonic candy bars in the vending machine, too.

Got Milk?

I went outside to see if Matt Lappin had arrived. Dylan showed me to the dressing room in the adjoining castle-like building and he asked Paul Dinello if Matt had arrived yet. Paul said that Matt and Stephen Colbert were driving in together and were expected to arrive momentarily, which they did. I had been looking forward to meeting Stephen Colbert in person, we had only spoken on the phone a couple of times, so I went to introduce myself. I walked up to him and said my first name and Stephen knew exactly who I was, just as Dylan had. He told me how much he loves my web pages and that he and the crew have really appreciated all the work that I've done. I responded by telling him how much I've loved and appreciated what he and the crew have done. Stephen thought it was really funny when I told him that being there on the set for the last day of filming was like a "Trekkie" being invited to the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. He may have thought that I was exaggerating, but I really wasn't. Stephen said that he had to head off to the dressing room to prepare for the first scene so I told him that I'd would be hanging around the set throughout the day. I was taken aback in disbelief when he asked if I'd like to be in the closing credits dance sequence. "Uh... Yeah!!!" What an exciting and unexpected thought.

Before long, the stars were on the set of the first scene to be shot, which would actually be the last scene of the show. They had to film the last scene first because it was an exterior shot and they had to take advantage of the daylight while they could. The scene would take place in the back of the building, in the same spot where Jellineck, Noblet, and Blackman had captured Jerri in a burlap sack and proceeded to beat her silly, in "Blank Stare, part 2". I watched the action from the sidelines with Mrs. Dinello.

Paul Dinello, Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, and Greg Hollimon filming the final scene.

In the final scene, Principal Onyx Blackman, Chuck Noblet, Geoffrey Jellineck, and Jerri Blank are standing on the hill behind the school. The most popular girl in school (played by Winona Ryder, in a rare TV appearance) had recently taken Jerri under her wing and had given her a complete make-over, but Jerri's moment in the bright sun of popularity is short lived. The faculty and students have just wreaked havoc and destruction on Flatpoint High and may have even killed some people in retaliation for their school building being turned into a strip mall (I wonder if the folks at "that network" will recognize the symbolism). Principal Blackman lights his cigar and recites the line, "I love the smell of flaming Sticky Buns in the morning." Then they realize that their reign of terror will probably land them in prison, until Jerri reveals her plan for the four of them to seek refuge in the seedy underbelly of society. They'll go back to Jerri's old stomping grounds, the streets, where they'll forage for food like dogs and sell their bodies for smack. Principal Blackman says, "Lead on, you junkie whore."  When they hear the sound of approaching police sirens they run off into the sunset, with Noblet and Jellineck carrying Jerri because she can't run in her new heels.

I had met a few more crew members while the scene was being filmed who had heard of me and my web pages, one of whom was Lisa Terezakis, Amy Sedaris's stand-in and occasional extra. She had seen my "UConn Huskies" cap and told me that she used to live in Connecticut, too, and she had friends who went to UConn. She, like everyone else, treated me like a long-lost friend. After this scene was completed I snapped a few photos of the stars. Amy said to me, "It's so nice of you to be here", and I told her that I wouldn't have missed it for the world. What an honor and privilege for a devoted fan!

I decided to take a break and go for dinner in East Rutherford, then rest in my hotel room for a while. I knew that it would be a long night so I planned on returning to the set at 11:00pm.

the big Four

Blank Stare
(Friday, 9/15/00, 11:00pm - 4:00am)
When I returned to the set at 11:00pm the director, Juan Campanella, was setting up to shoot a Sticky Bunnery scene featuring Janeane Garofalo (Cassie Pines) and a very pregnant Sarah Thyre (Coach Wolf). This area of the set was pretty small so I hovered around the periphery and listened to the proceedings. I actually ended up spending most of the night in the Prop Room leafing through signs and posters ("Cheerleader Tryouts", invitations to Orlando and Melissa's parties, etc.) and strolling down Flatpoint's Memory Lane with some of the cast, extras, and crew. Teresa Mastropierro, the Production Designer, told me how she and Dylan would come up with some of their creations. For instance, the Clap's Chocolate Scabies cereal box evolved after they were told to create a food item related to the episode's theme. They were told that it would be breakfast and the theme was STD's, thus, "The Delicious Taste of VD in a Fun-to-Crunch Cereal" was born.

Not long after I began exploring the treasure trove of props, the Fagan siblings had arrived. Matt (Spiro), Liz, and Tim Fagan have been extras on the show for all three seasons. Even their father, Neil, had gotten into the act, playing Mr. Faganocoulos in "A Price Too High For Riches". For the last few months I had been in frequent email communication with Liz Fagan and she had been a great source of show info and behind-the-scenes photos. Fans will remember Liz in "Yes You Can't" on stage at the "Career Week" rally delivering the line, "...and that's why I want to work at the Artificial Flower Factory."  During the same episode, brother Tim had his notorious line, "I wanna be a gangsta, with a crew, and knee-deep in bitches."  For some reason, they dubbed brother Matt's voice in that same episode, but in "Hit and Run" it was really his voice when he asked Mr. Jellineck, "Do you know who hit you?"

Safe Trap House and St. Mortis Hospital signs
The Safe Trap House & St. Mortis Hospital signs

Before long, the Prop Room started to look like a big rummage sale with everyone sorting through the items, looking for a special memento to treasure. I decided to step back out into the crisp night air for a few moments when I spied Dolores Duffy (Iris Puffybush), enjoying a cigarette in the lounge area just outside the dressing rooms. I decided to go over, introduce myself, and tell her how much I've loved her appearances in various episodes. She was very sweet and thanked me for my kindness and told me how much she's enjoyed working on the show. Sarah Thyre and Janeane Garofalo had just caught taxicabs out of Rutherford and now Dolores was doing the same. I didn't want her to think that I was some kook who was going to disturb her break so I told her I hoped to see her at the wrap party and then I said goodnight.

At this point I was a little disappointed that so many people weren't going to be able to be on the set for the final closing credits dance sequence. Roberto Gari (Guy Blank) had just gotten out of the hospital, Deborah Rush (Sara Blank) and Larc Spies (Derrick Blank) had other commitments, Sarah Thyre certainly needed her rest, Jack Ferver (Jimmy Tickles) and David Pasquesi (Stew) were out of town, and the guest stars (Janeane Garofalo, Mark McKinney, Cheri Oteri) couldn't hang around indefinitely.

I returned to the Prop Room and met a few more crew members who had heard that I was on the set and really wanted to meet me. I originally created my "Strangers With Candy" web pages to entertain myself and also because I had noticed that there were no informative sites anywhere on the internet about the show. Little did I know then that it would lead to this: a visit to the set on the last day of filming, plus hearing so many people praising my work and thanking me so genuinely. Then Orlando Pabotoy (Orlando Pinatubo) arrived.

Orlando in the Prop Room
Orlando and friend in the Prop Room
I had really been looking forward to finally meeting Orlando because he and I had written a number of emails to each other over the past year. I wasn't able to meet him during my last visit because I had only gone to the SWC offices in Greenwich Village, not to the set. Even though he wasn't scheduled to appear in any of the day's scenes he wanted to be present for the dance sequence, but as it turned out the dance sequence wouldn't be shot until much later than originally planned. Orlando came to the set directly after having completed a 7:00pm performance in Han Ong's "Middle Finger" at the Blue Heron Arts Center on East 24th Street in Manhattan. He was understandably tired, but very friendly and he posed for a few photos and sat to talk with me for a while.

We sat on Orlando's desk from "Blank Stare" and discussed some of the intricate connections that many cast and crew members have had from working together in other venues. He told me that he and Maria Thayer (Tammi Littlenut) had been in the same class at Juilliard. He had also acted in Paul Rudnick's "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told" with Amy Sedaris and Alan Tudyk (Father). One night in early 1999, Amy and Alan had attended a play in which Orlando and Maria were featured. It was after this performance that Amy had asked Maria to screen test for the role of Tammi. I had known that many members of the cast and guest cast have known each other from their days at Chicago's famed "Second City" troupe, but I hadn't previously heard much about Maria's background. Another piece had been placed in the puzzle for me.

We also discussed certain members of Orlando's fan base, one in particular from Natasha's JerriBlank message board at egroups.com who has given himself the epithet, "Orlando's Lover". He told me that he'd already been informed by friends of this particular fan's claim and he was a bit bemused at first, perhaps thinking that a delusional fan was claiming to be his (Orlando Pabotoy) actual lover rather than his character's (Orlando Pinatubo) lover. That's one little confusion that can arise from having a character with the same name as yourself. The fan's claim and his alternate sobriquet ("Jimmy Tickles' Master") are obviously just a tongue-in-cheek fantasy. I should have asked Orlando what his wife thought about it.

We then decided to check on the progress of the filming. Before we left the Prop Room, though, I told Orlando to make sure he took some souvenirs, lest they end up on a trash heap. I sat in the Student's Lounge area with Mrs. Dinello and watched the filming of Cheri Oteri and Mark McKinney's final scene, which was being shot at the bottom of the stairs. It's amazing to see how many times one short scene needs to be shot, at least four times from each required angle. In the scene, Hillary (Oteri) and Lee (McKinney) are taking room measurements for their diabolical plan to turn Flatpoint High into a strip mall. Principal Blackman (Greg Hollimon) catches them in the act and runs off in a frenzy. The director had to get a few good takes from Blackman's perspective and from Hillary and Lee's point of view.

Mrs. Dinello was such a trouper. She woke up that morning at 3:00am CST in Arkansas so she could travel to New York. After arriving at the Newark airport she was whisked away to the set in Rutherford. Earlier, Paul was able to break away from the set for a while so he and his mother went to dinner at Sardi's and then went to see "Chicago" on Broadway. After the show they returned to the set. When I looked at my watch I saw that it was almost 3:00am EST, so in another hour she would have been awake and on the go for 24 hours. I don't know how she did it, but it was more than I could stand.

I observed the filming of one more scene, in Principal Blackman's office. Then I heard that the format of the dance sequence was going to be changed because of the inability of so many cast members, guest stars, and extras to be there. It was now going to feature the primary cast members present and a group of crew members dancing in the burnt-out hallway set with a hand-held camera weaving among the assemblage. At this point I felt that the sequence should only feature those people who had put in such hectic hours and worked so hard for almost two years, so I decided to bow out and leave them with their final curtain call. I also thought that it would be nice to leave the last shot as a surprise for when the episode would air on October 2nd. I said my "thanks" and "goodbyes" for the evening and headed back to my hotel at around 4:00am. I just knew that if I didn't get some sleep I'd be in no shape to enjoy the wrap party the next night (or should I say "that night"?). I don't think that poor Mrs. Dinello had any idea that she and the rest of them would be there until after 7:30am.

Dreams on the Rocks
(Saturday, 9/16/00, 10:00pm)
I arrived at Opaline, in the East Village, at around 10:00pm and saw Orlando Pabotoy standing at the entrance. I knew I was in the right place. The Fagans were just inside the doorway, too. I had just arrived and already I'd seen four people that I "knew". That never even happens to my in DC.  Stephen Colbert, Amy Sedaris, and Greg Hollimon were already inside mixing in the crowd. It's amazing how alert and awake everyone was after working so late for so many nights. They all looked quite well rested.

After a couple of cocktails, I got out on the dance floor and boogied on down right next to Greg and Amy. It was like my own personal closing credits dance sequence! It's amazing how many familiar faces I'd seen from the night before. I had no idea how many people it takes to create a TV show. I saw Perfidia (Jerri's wig stylist), Matt Lappin, Dylan Sheridan, Teresa Mastropierro, Lisa Terezakis, Dolores Duffy, and so many others.

I stepped up to an area with tables to get a seat and on my way I met Troy Metcalf (the "scab" guy) & his girlfriend Michelle. When I started to tell him who I was he stood up and gave me a big bear hug. He told me that he and Maria Thayer would sit on the set some days and read my web pages while waiting for their scenes. He said to Michelle, "This is the guy I told you about with the web pages."  Again, I was getting the star treatment. This was becoming a real "mutual admiration society."

Shortly after that, Troy (the "scab" guy) introduced me to Matt Blumm (P.John), yet another really nice person. I asked Matt what he'd be doing now that the show has ended and he told me that he's been getting some Soap Opera gigs, so keep your eyes opened for him. It was also great to meet a number of guest cast members from the past: Alan Tudyk (Father), Jackie Hoffman (Miss Plog, Job Counselor), and brothers Mark & Steve O'Donnell (the Librarians).

One of the highlights (of an evening filled with highlights) was finally meeting Maria Thayer. When I told her who I was she seemed so genuinely thrilled to meet me. She was so sweet to me and she even invited me to join her and a number of other people at another bar up the street after the party ended. Before the end of the party, though, there was a final treat for the party guests. The original, never-aired "Strangers With Candy" pilot, entitled "Retardation, A Celebration", was shown on a pyramid of six television screens over the bar. The pilot was followed by a special video montage of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage. Paul Dinello and his mother were late arrivals because they had gone to the theater again, this time with Paul's sisters, to see "Cabaret". Then, like the show itself, the party ended far too soon.

Retardation, A Celebration
"Wrap Party" Photo Album

Amy, Alan Tudyk (Father), Unidentified Flying Drag Queen, Maria Thayer (Tammi), and Perfidia (Jerri's Wig Stylist Extraordinaire Matt Blumm (P.John) and Troy Metcalf (Troy, the 'scab' guy)

Amy Sedaris (Jerri), Stephen Colbert (Noblet), and me

Me, Troy, Maria Thayer, Matt Fagan (Spiro), Lisa Terezakis (Amy's stand-in), and Liz Fagan ('...and that's why I want to work at the artificial flower factory'.) Greg Hollimon (Principal Blackman) admires my tee-shirt

Maria Thayer (Tammi Littlenut) and me. Maria Thayer and Troy Marino

Jackie Hoffman (Miss Plog, Job Counselor) Me, standing between Mark and Steve O'Donnell (the Librarians)

Stephen, Amy, and Paul Dinello (Jellineck), with Matt Lappin peeking from behind Amy Sedaris with a 'Comfort Zone' poster, given to her by Production Designer Teresa Mastropierro

Me and Mark Ibold, the bassist from Pavement who appeared in a couple 2nd season episodes of SWC
A select group of the revelers ventured a few blocks away to the 11th Street Bar to continue the fun. Maria Thayer had gotten there before me, so when I arrived I went up to her and reenacted my all-time favorite "Strangers" scene of hers. She was standing on the sidewalk with Alan Tudyk and I approached them, looked at her, and said in my best Jerri voice, "Where were you?"  She gave me a puzzled and slightly startled look, so I could tell that she hadn't caught on yet. I quickly followed up with, "I'll repeat the question. What took you so long?"  Then it was obvious that she and Alan both knew what I was doing and they both burst into laughter. Alan said that it was one of his all-time favorite episodes, too.

Amy, Paul, Stephen, Matt Blumm, Troy Metcalf, Dylan, Matt Lappin, Lisa T., Teresa, and at least a dozen others from the wrap party had gathered on the sidewalk. It was a nice casual atmosphere and a lot easier to actually make conversation than at Opaline.

I told Stephen that, although I'd almost always "get" all of the jokes on the show, I didn't know if there was any significance in the name Captain Stacks. He explained that he had brought Amy and Paul to his home in North Carolina to write 8 out of the 10 third season episodes and while they were there they would go out to eat dinner at a place called "Captain Stacks". That little gem of trivia was just the kind of thing I'd love to have gotten more of, but after about 45 minutes of hanging around on the sidewalk someone in an apartment over the bar had thrown an egg down at us and shortly after that the police arrived. Apparently there was someone who was trying to get some sleep, but Amy joked that perhaps it was someone who had seen the show and hated it. That incident seemed to snap everyone back to reality for a minute and Amy, Paul, and Stephen decided that it was time to go home and catch up on some much-needed rest.

I, on the other hand, wasn't ready to leave yet, so I went inside the bar and hung out with the die-hard party people. When Mark Ibold (the bassist for Pavement) showed up, I asked him if he was at the party earlier. He said that he missed the party, but he lives in the neighborhood so he decided to stop by the after-party party. He also filled me in regarding his connection to the show: his girlfriend is Victoria Farrell, the show's Costume Designer.

At around 3:00am, many of my new friends were filtering out of the bar and making their way home and so I decided to do the same. I walked to my car, high on the excitement of the evening, and made the short drive back to my hotel in Rutherford.

Trail of Tears
(Sunday, 9/17/00, 2:00pm)
And so it happened, my final unforgettable weekend in "Flatpoint". During the long drive home, I tried to remember every detail of my adventure. It was a bittersweet time for me. Of course, it was wonderful to be around those warm talented people. These are people that I've admired so much and they treated me like I was the celebrity. Although I will probably (hopefully) see many of them again, it was sad to think that it was almost certainly the last time we'd all ever be assembled in one place at one time again. But we were together for a great reason, to celebrate all of the work that went into creating a show that has brought so many hearty laughs to so many people. "Strangers With Candy" will certainly go on beyond its abbreviated television life. It will undoubtedly influence the future projects of its creators, cast, and crew. Perhaps it will be resurrected as a feature film or a stage show. It will definitely live on at my web pages and hopefully in the "Companion" book that I'm shopping around to publishers. Who knows what its certain "cult status" will lead to?  "That network" may have uprooted Flatpoint from the somewhat barren landscape of TV Land, but they can never take it from the hearts of the fans.

Just one more
"Farewell, Flatpoint!"