My Magical Meeting with Joan Van Ark

By Art Swift

July 30, 2003

It was almost too easy.

This morning I read about Joan performing in the Off-Broadway play, "The Exonerated." I originally misread the post however (it was early) and thought it said, August 29-September 3. This evening around 7:30 I saw the post again and realized it was this week! The theatre is a ten-minute walk from my apartment, I said to myself, maybe I can get an interview with Ms. Van Ark herself. Joan's appearance in "The Exonerated" would be a perfect reason to ask for some sort of interview.

I checked through my contacts and began making a fusillade of phone calls. One call referred to someone else, and to another, from California to Florida and back to California. I found the person I needed to contact, left a voice message, and then went to dinner. I decided I was going to buy tickets for Saturday.

On the way back I realized, "Wait a minute, the theatre is only ten minutes away! And the show is tonight ... why don't I see if I could meet her after the performance?" I went back around 10 pm and waited for ten minutes. Three burly guys who didn't look like the typical JvA fans (in fact, they looked like steel construction workers) were waiting for Joan to autograph their programs and photos they had of her.

Joan emerged wearing a dark raincoat, those violet sunglasses she sometimes wears (you know, the ones where they're sunglasses but you can see the eyes clearly?) and was carrying a duffel bag. She signed the program, signed an 8 x 10 photo and when she saw the next item she paused in wonderment for a few seconds.

"Where did you get this?" She said in awe. "This looks so pretty ... so nice."

The burly bearded man replied, "I got it in the Village."

It was an 8x10 print of what appeared to be a painting of Joan, or some sort of artistic rendering, not a photograph. It looked like Joan's back was to the sun and the light glistened on her face. Even on this dark and not-very-well-lit street, it was radiant.

"Could you get me a copy of this?" Joan asked the man intently. "If you could bring it here to another show I'll pay you whatever it costs."

"Well I can tell you the store you can get it on. It's just across the Village, not that far. I don't think I'm going to be able to come back here."

Joan shrugged and said disappointedly, "Oh I'm only here a week. I'm not going to have the time to get there."

I sensed an opportunity. "Where was the store?" I asked the beefy Sopranos-appearing man.

He told me the location.

"Well, I can get it," I said. "I'm coming to the show Saturday and I can bring it to you."

Joan turned to me rapidly. "Oh would you baby? I'll pay whatever it costs if you pick it up."

"Sure," I said. "I'll get it."

"Thanks so much," she replied.

Joan appeared to be leaving when I said, "Oh and I'm a writer for Knots Landing Net. I was interested in interviewing you about this show. Do you remember us? You did a web chat with us about two years ago? With Colin, an English guy?"

"Yes, I remember," she said, as the apparent reference to "The English Guy" seemed to tip the scales.

I told her I left a message with her people today and that I was hoping to do an interview with her while she was in New York.

"I can't do it this week with all I'm doing here," she said, gesturing to the theater. "But call them tomorrow and tell them you talked to me. Let's not do it next week but how about the week of the 11th? Is that good for you?"

"That sounds great," I said. "And I'll be coming to the show on Saturday with your picture."

"Oh that's terrific," she said with happiness and a bustling smile. "Can't wait to talk the week of the 11th."

And with that, Joan Van Ark walked off into the night alone, carrying a duffel bag and providing the sweeping ending for a magical moment.

Art Swift is a student at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City. Check out www.ArthurSwift.com for additional writings. Please visit www.knotslandingonline.com.

Copyright © 2005 Arthur Swift