In 2005 I had the brilliant idea to write a stage musical based on the cult Madonna film Desperately Seeking Susan, scored with the hit songs of Blondie. I set the show in 1979, infusing it with a gritty Lower East Side, punk edge. A real New York musical. Big producers from the West End picked it up, eager to open it in London - an Angloholic's dream come true! My dream come true.
Cheerio. My name is Pete, and I'm an Angloholic. Always have been. Ever since I was a wee lad tormenting the nuns at my New York City Catholic school with my Dickensian, "Please, Sister Anthony Mary? May I have some more?" Benny Hill was my babysitter. Jimmy on H.R. Pufnstuf was my best mate. I played my Mary Poppins record until it melted. To this day, I'm simply mad for anything British. BBC America blares on the telly in my tiny Manhattan apartment. My news comes not from CNN but from the BBC. Heck! I've memorized every episode of Absolutely Fabulous. Which also proves that I'm a homosexual ... and what prompted me to pen a West End musical.
What better place to debut a movie-music-mash-up? After all, the Brits adore Blondie and jukebox musicals and American movies. The classic American film, Saturday Night Fever was made into a massive Brit musical smash. Buddy, the Buddy Holly story, played in London forever. The Queen musical We Will Rock You and the Abba musical Mamma Mia are still playing to packed houses after 200 years!
So, I crossed the pond and dove into my beloved British culture while developing the show that would put me on the UK map and get me knighted. Visiting the free museums, enjoying Bank Holidays with exploratory walks along the Thames, eating tiny cups of ice cream during West End intervals. Fabulous! I reveled in chomping on fish and chips off London newspapers featuring photos of scantily clad women. I poured through gossipy copies of OK magazine whilst sipping pints of lager at the gastro pubs. I'd spend entire days exploring the Tube by shuttling from Camden to Brixton to Brighton.
After nearly two years of London workshops, the show opened on the West End, and shuttered after one month. Whoops. The reviews were appalling. Every British newspaper panned my idea, my writing, and the show itself. Along the way, we got feedback that the show was "too American." Cultural references from Phil Donohue to Port Authority were lost on the London audiences. Slang words baffled them. Locations confounded them. I couldn't understand why. Everyone I encountered in London knew as much about the friends on Friends as I knew about the servants and masters on Upstairs, Downstairs.
After living in my darling London for nearly two years, I left with my wellies in my backpack and my tail between my legs. London was not calling. How could I ever return to the very country that killed my show and thrust me into a year-long depression? Easy. Write another show!
I created a solo comedy called Desperately Seeking the Exit (the charming title lifted from one of the London review headlines), and I'm returning to the UK to perform it at the Edinburgh Fringe, where all the Brits escaping Olympics' madness can see it. Some have suggested that I'm going to get slaughtered again and that I might be suffering from a case of Stockholm Syndrome. I am not. I'm an Angloholic. An Anglophilic addict. I suspect that my observations about British passive-aggressiveness disguised as acute politeness will ruffle feathers. My voice will be too loud. My hoodie will get me tossed out of clubs. I'll get suspicious looks on the Tube for wearing sunglasses. I'll get impatient waiting for the bartender to fill up someone's pint while ignoring my request for a frozen margarita. With salt.
But, I must go back. I love the Brits and all of their quirkiness. And maybe this little show will help them love me back. Folks enjoy hearing what they already know about themselves, right? Especially from a Yank.
I don't know much about the monarchy and my trusty A-Zed is always in my back pocket. But I do know that my mornings will start with full English breakfasts paired with Breakfast with Lorraine. And my days will be filled with tea breaks and double-decker bus rides. And my nights will be spent seeing explosive theatre, dangerously crossing the roads against traffic, and weeping over the exchange rate. I can't wait.
Anglophiles are obsessed. Angloholics are possessed. There's no cure. And I'm fine with that. Who knows? I might even be knighted. And Bob's your uncle. Cheers!
Desperately Seeking the Exit plays The Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2-26 Aug. www.SeekingTheExit.com