Band Geeks. Drama Nerds. Jocks. Pretty People. Stoners. There are really only two types of people in this world: those who actually enjoyed high school, best-years-of-my-life style (appx. 7 people), and the rest of us, for whom the experience is a lot like one of Dante’s rungs of Hell (4th? 9th?). Ten years after graduation this drama nerd took matters into my own hands. To tell my story I sat down for an interview with me. No softballs.
AW: Unlike people who suffer from PHSSD (Post High School Stress Disorder), you hadn’t actually thought about or kept in contact with anyone from your hometown for years. And you weren’t even that unpopular. I’d say you were whole body horrified by the invitation to attend your 10-year reunion: “Oh God, no! Ew ew ew!” Followed immediately by confusion and dismay: “How old am I? How’d they get my address?” Is there anything you’d less like to do than be shut inside a Marriott hotel ballroom with a bunch of people you haven’t seen or spoken to since you were at your most nascent, their SOs (significant others), one (1!) bartender, and a DJ playing the 90s Preservation Society’s Greatest Hits Collection?
AW: Nope. Well, maybe read Dante again.
AW: So why do more than three people actually show up to high school reunions? Do you remember that lady you met who told you she’d had plastic surgery, went on a crash diet, and bought a designer dress the price of rent just to go back and dazzle her classmates? Was she crazy or normal? Or is crazy normal now? Why bother trying to impress people you don’t care about?
AW: Exactly. Do ex-cons go to prison reunions? No.
AW: Not enjoying high school seems like a pretty universal notion, regardless of the details, sort of like hair removal. But it is pretty amusing that your high school bought it’s own Breathalyzer and had “random” breathalyzing after lunch because of the “let’s go home, break into our parents’ liquor cabinet and drink as much as we can in 42 minutes” epidemic.
AW: If getting sick all over yourself in fifth period is what it takes to be cool, I’ll take geek, thanks. I draw my line at throwing up, so I wasn’t very good at the eating disorder craze, either.
AW: Walking to the beat of your own personal inner-ear drum?! Dangerous for a place where different = ridicule. But you grew up with two older brothers who beat the fear of ridicule out of you (literally) at a very early age and left you with an incredibly strong defense mechanism; a sarcastic tongue that has gotten you out of and into a lot of trouble.
AW: Mostly just into.
AW: True, remember that time in grade 10 when you-
AW: I told you that subject was off-limits, next question.
AW: Ok… So the invitation resurfaced a few days later and you thought; this is going to be a room full of people who don’t know each other at all, but should — all vying for the “I turned out the best” honor. How ridiculous! And then that cartoonish idea light bulb appeared over your head: What if you proudly put your worst foot forward? What if you hired someone else to go and pretend to be you? What if Andrea Wachner grew up to be…
AW: A stripper.
AW: I still like my idea of sending a 500-pound lady and a dozen kids, or a dude but the idea of someone stripping at a reunion does make me laugh. You describe it as being “the hardest sell.” That if someone knew you at all, they’d never believe it. Why?
AW: Sure, people can change, but two downbeats on the dance floor and you’d know those are things I can’t do with my person.
AW: And if they knew you, they’d know this prank is straight out of your brain. Out of a class of about 800, you bet that your former friends wouldn’t go, for all the same reasons you didn’t want to, and were right. That left 788 pseudo-strangers, so you were already afforded a certain anonymity.
AW: Most of who didn’t come, either. I wonder if more or less people will show up to our 20-year reunion.
AW: You found your better half, Cricket, at a bar called Jumbo’s Clown Room in Hollywood. There are black velvet paintings of clowns, I’m pretty sure one of the other dancers was in her 70s, and Courtney Love got her start there, if that’s any indication. The second Cricket took the stage your tour guide turned to you and said, “That’s it, we’re done. She’s the one.” After her laws of physics defying turn on the pole, Cricket came over to talk to you. You were in mid-explanation when she said, “I’m in!” Having never been to either before, which was more b-a-n-a-n-a-s, the reunion or going Stripper shopping?
AW: Technically, I’ve still never been to a reunion or a real strip club.
AW: Describe Cricket. If she were an animal, what animal would she be?
AW: Head Unicorn. That’s also her professional aspiration.
AW: After talking with her for eleven and a half seconds you agreed she had everything necessary to pull this off: she’s smart– so smart she graduated from high school early in order to get away from angry Christians. She’s funny—that requires no explanation. She’s not afraid– of anything, so far as I can tell, but especially not of people. And mostly, she’s always up for shenanigans like this…and has the wardrobe. So movie-length story short, and for spoiler’s sake, (here’s to hoping you’ll have a chance to see the movie on a screen near you) Cricket attended the Palos Verdes Peninsula High School Reunion as Andrea Wachner. She had a tiny earpiece in her ear, a microphone in her cleavage and two cameras following her around all night (replete with backstory). Meanwhile, you were holed up in a hotel room on the third floor, watching the live-feed on a monitor and feeding her crucial bits of information. The evening begins with a cocktail reception in the hallway. Everyone is so awkward and nervous they pound drinks and just don’t know what to make of Cricket, “you look so…different!” We hadn’t had any practice with the earpiece, and surprise! They aren’t easy to use AND appear sane. I had to remind Cricket at least twice not to talk to me lest she look like a psychopath (I also had to correct her pronunciation of my name a couple times…oops!). I saw these people on the screen I recognized and the hermetically sealed floodgates of my memory were opened and I found myself struggling to keep my “voice of god” (as Cricket called me) information succinct. I wanted to tell her, “oh my god that’s so and so, we’ve known each other since kindergarten and he did this and that and the other thing.” But I knew she couldn’t listen to me and talk to him so out came, “He had puppets.” And Cricket, ever the pro, translated that into, “Hey, whatever happened to your puppets, those were so sexy!” Everyone goes inside for dinner and it’s like high school cafeteria all over again; “this table’s full” says someone surrounded by empty chairs. She finds a spot with the band geeks, one of whom proclaims he’s, “still a band geek.” After the awards ceremony (Cricket takes home the award for Most Tattoos, revealing those in her bathing suit area) people get drunk enough to overcome the social anxiety disorder they never knew they had and get aggro. They start “The Andrea Challenge” – Easy: One lady covered her name badge and tested us, “What’s my name? If you’re Andrea, you’d know.” This might’ve been more challenging had she not been the only African American girl in my class. Medium: “What song did you sing at the 8th grade talent show?” I gave Cricket the answer, Cricket repeated it, but that wasn’t enough. I had re-written the chorus lyrics, apparently a memorable number,“No, no, but how did YOU sing it? Hard: “If you are really Andrea then whose Bat Mitzvah did we kiss at?” Um, I never kissed that guy, A. B, I was in Mitzvah jail every weekend of 7th grade. I insisted that Cricket not back down on this one, and it nearly devolved into a fistfight; me wanting to smash my fist through the screen. How very strange to be told that if “I was Andrea, I would know.” But I am Andrea, and I did not know! Finally, we agreed that he would give the first name and I would have to supply the last. Holly. … I felt the clock ticking. There were multiple Hollys, and I couldn’t remember any of their surnames. My gut said Snyder, and you know what they say about your gut. I blurted it out after what felt like an eternity, but Cricket made a convincing, “I’m scouring my brain for the answer” face. She said ‘Snyder’ and the look on the guys face was priceless. Yes! Cricket asks if he’s going to refresh her memory with another kiss, when his wife joins them! She asks him if she/I was a good kisser, and his wife says, “must’ve been if he’s still hung up on it after all these years!” After dinner, Cricket mingles in some laps, causing a particular classmate to decide he didn’t care where I was, he liked her better, livens up the dance floor to what I thought would be the funniest song from our high school years to strip to: Lisa Loeb’s Stay, and some classmates who had found Jesus since graduating (why does that guy hide?) give hotel security something to do. The range of reactions is huge but it was pretty convincing. Nobody ever knew for sure, one way or the other whether that was you or not. Was your favorite moment when Cricket unsuspectingly, and unprovoked by you, kissed your first kiss on the mouth, “for old time’s sake.”?
AW: Today, yes. Tomorrow it might be when one of a set of identical twins (Peter? Jaime? I could never tell those guys apart) invited her home with him.
AW: The low point must’ve been when you got distracted for one single minute, talking to a crew member. You didn’t notice that your 7th grade boyfriend of two weeks (7th grade boyfriend is defined by never speaking other than to say, “will you go out with me,” and then never going out) was lying to her in order to trick and expose her. You felt horrible for leaving Cricket hanging, and missed out on an opportunity to discuss your failed relationship through a medium.
AW: But how interesting that a guy I never shared more than three words with, and none since middle school, was The Doubter.
AW: So much has happened because of I Remember Andrea. Three to seven standouts include:
1) Knowing Cricket. She has had a profound affect on you. You’ll forever be in awe of how Cricket interacts with people. This woman walked into a lion’s den and not only held her own, but had a genuine interest in each and every lion.
*) Further Thickening Of Your Skin, from XL to Prescription Strength. Please to note: if you are going to make a movie, put yourself in it, and upload any portion of it onto the Internet you better be dang secure because you are inviting criticism and scrutiny of the unconstructive kind. I’m not talking “this video sucks,” I’m talking “this girl is an ugly sad stupid scumbag pathetic ass douche loser Jew.” (Sampling of adjectives from I Remember Andrea’s youtube comments). Whether people are connecting to it for positive or negative reasons just begs the question that there’s something there they are connecting to, and that thing is you!
C) The Never Ending Reunion. This has been an ah-mazing personal and professional journey. You set out to make a funny short film to help get comedy writing work someplace other than the Cartoon Sweatshop where you had been employed (lookin’ at you BBC, heeeey!). You never dreamt you’d be tapping into something so universal and relatable as to land your face on my CNN. The irony is that this whole journey began with you thinking, “I don’t want to reunite” and that’s pretty much all you’ve been doing ever since. Your reunion experience was much more grueling than if you had just gone, it wasn’t over once you left the hotel…it was just getting started, and you have no one to blame but yourself.
Lastly) Fan Fic. Letters you’ve received are amongst your most prized possessions; soon-to-be framed and hung on your bathroom wall. Here’s a fav not written in the language of Lawsuit:
I thought having a stripper posing as a former student at our reunion was entirely inappropriate. I also thought the manner in which consent to be filmed was obtained was coercive and unprofessional. I felt the filming was completely disruptive, and I probably wouldn’t have gone if I had known about it ahead of time. I think it was an exceedingly poor choice by the reunion committee to allow it. I live in Colorado so unless you’re going to fly out here, you’re not going to get any more of me in your ‘documentary’. And I don’t remember authorizing you to have my email address.
oh. and p.s. YOU DO NOT HAVE AUTHORIZATION TO USE MY EMAIL IN YOUR FILM.
AW: You’d think I recreated the prom scene from Carrie and poured pig’s blood all over their reunion!
AW: Are you the Anti-Christ of your cohort?
AW: You’re not doing comedy right if someone somewhere isn’t offended by it, so I wear this as a badge of honor. I earned my comedy stripes, if you will. They’re horizontal, so you better have the bod’ to pull them off. I love the angry overreactions, especially the ones from my classmates—they don’t realize they are just helping prove my point of why I didn’t want to go.
AW: Are you suuuure you’re not just so insecure about who you are that you couldn’t face them yourself?
AW: Yes? I don’t know, are YOU sure?
AW: Are you suuuure you’re sure?
AW: Oh my god I don’t know anymore…SOB.
AW: To be fair, I’ve– I mean you’ve– gotten way more letters like these:
I have been dying to know what the story was behind “Andrea” at our reunion!!! Nice plastic surgery from the “Accident” Great job….really made the reunion one to remember! It was the talk for a long time. Not sure I will want to go to the 2oth…..unless you have something up your sleeve for that one. Your stripper was the highlight of the night. Honestly, we said that it is the only thing that made that night worth the $90!!!