Sedaris Cleans Up

Getting to Carnegie Hall used to require practice, practice, practice, but essayist David Sedaris has found a shortcut. "You can't get any lazier than me," the gap-toothed Mr. Sedaris told a crowd of 2,800 at his sold-out reading at the concert hall on Tuesday, Oct. 22. "I mean, I read out loud. It's pretty amazing to me that you can just read out loud and be here!"

Looking like a leprechaun in a striped pink shirt with a blue and red tie, Mr. Sedaris' head was barely visible above the podium as he read essays covering topics from gun control to Dutch Christmas customs to his experience with a product called the Stadium Pal-a device that collects urine in a bag strapped to the user's leg, thereby eliminating bathroom breaks. Mr. Sedaris had employed a Stadium Pal so that he could sit at book signings for hours on end.

During the question-and-answer session at evening's end, he was asked to sing, and obliged with a verse of "Amazing Grace" done to the theme from Gilligan's Island. He also confirmed a rumor that Smoke director Wayne Wang was considering making a movie of Mr. Sedaris' life.

But who would play him?

"That guy Corky from the TV show Life Goes On!" said Mr. Sedaris' sister Amy at the after-party backstage. Ms. Sedaris is best known for her role as a menopausal ex-drug addict who goes back to high school in the Comedy Central show Strangers with Candy. When she's not acting, Ms. Sedaris sells cheese balls and cupcakes from her West Village apartment.

Who would she want to play her in the movie?

"Eric Roberts!" she shrieked.

"Tom Hanks would be a good pick to play David," said Lou Sedaris, the guest of honor's elfin, 79-year-old dad. "Tom Hanks is married to a Greek, so at least there would be some association there." Slightly hunched with sad brown eyes, Papa Sedaris was in from his family's hometown of Raleigh, N.C. He said he could name all of his five children, but wasn't sure of their birthdays. "I'm proud of everyone of them in equal amounts," he said. There was a pensive pause. "But when they were growing up, if I had a favorite, it wasn't David. He was a dropout."

Did Sedaris père ever think he'd see his son perform at Carnegie Hall?

"Well, I thought maybe I'd see him cleaning Carnegie Hall," he said, referring to the fact that his son was once a house-cleaner.

Nearby stood David Sedaris' boyfriend, painter Hugh Hamrick, with whom he lives in Paris.

"It was touching to be in Carnegie Hall and see his little form on that big stage," said Mr. Hamrick, who was clad in a black turtleneck. "It was special. Before we came, David was worried he'd be looking out at a half-empty audience."

The Transom asked Mr. Hamrick who should play his beau in the movie.

"They've been talking about maybe Matthew Broderick .... "

Speak of the devil: There was Mr. Broderick, standing by the door with his extremely pregnant actress wife, Sarah Jessica Parker. She was wearing frumpy red overalls, a black tube top and kitten heels. Mr. Broderick seemed enthusiastic about the idea of playing Mr. Sedaris.

The feeling was mutual. "I'd be flattered if Matthew Broderick played me," said Mr. Sedaris, entering the salon with a moist brow after spending an hour and a half signing books, programs and ticket stubs. "And I'd like for Denzel Washington to play Hugh. That would be my dream! Then I could vicariously watch Denzel Washington and Matthew Broderick having sex."

-Anna Jane Grossman

© November 4, 2002  |  New York Observer