The Night Zsa Zsa Kissed Me!
June 3, 1984
It was an hour or so before everyone had to be in the Gershwin Theatre for the annual Tony Awards.
That immensely big practical joker, Billy Finn, and his date for the evening, Rosalie Joseph, were dressed to the nines for this annual celebration for excellence in the theatre.
A huge crowd gathered a few blocks from the theatre at Barrymores on W. 45th Street. George Hearn, nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical, was in the center of the room with a crowd of well wishers around him. Of course, you all remember his sparkling performance as Albin, or "Zsa Zsa", in La Cage Aux Folles, the Jerry Herman Musical.
After a few drinks, and it's getting near curtain time, the crowd thinned and downd the last of their libations. The fans gathered around the very nervous George to wish him luck. Billy poked Rosalie in the ribs and says, "follow me." He got in line behind two girls, and they wished their luck and did the kissie thing. When Billy was next, George was distracted and looked to his left. So, Billy says in a falsetto voice, "Oh George, I wish you the best." At that point, George just turned and kissed Billy Finn on the cheek. He was so nervous. When he realized the joke, he shook Billy's hand and laughed heartily.
George is such a super fine actor and he possesses a great sense of humor, thus the hearty Sweeney laugh. If you recall, he replaced Len Cariou in Sweeney Todd and played it much longer too. I always felt that Cariou was excellent, but that Hearn brought a living fire to the role. He was just brilliant. I have seen most of his work, going all the way back to The Changing Room.
He did win the Tony Award that night. I often wonder, what was more thrilling to him? Kissing Billy Finn or winning the Tony Award?
On the way to the theatre, Rosalie took Billy's arm and they strolled up New York's Champs Elysee, Eighth Avenue. She said to him, "Billy, you are too much!" He squeezed her hand, laughed, and replied, "Yeah, I know."