Luncheon with Kate Mulgrew
By Chris Limbach
February 10, 2013

I am sure we all have at least once during a get together with friends, had the topic of ‘who would you love to sit down and have a drink and shoot the breeze with’ come up. I was very fortunate to have mine come true.

Through much bidding and nail biting, I was thrilled to find out that I was the winner of the RFK charity auction for a luncheon with Kate Mulgrew. I was so excited and quickly knew just which of my friends would be going with me.

The process of setting a date and time that was good for everyone was done very quickly, along with a restaurant.  The final outcome was Feb 9th.  Much to my dilemma, Blizzard Nemo arrived and I was dab smack in the middle of it with over 2 ½ feet of snow. Thankfully everyone was extremely accommodating and it was pushed back to Feb 10th. 

The day began with a 4-wheel ride to the train station 30 miles from my home just to get a train to NYC, and then waited for my friend Connie Bell to arrive. We settled in to her hotel room to change and get ready. As we were ready to leave the room, she asked, “Are you nervous?” My reply, “of course, if she doesn’t like me, this will be the fastest lunch you have ever had!” She chuckled and replied, “Be prepared to be peppered with questions”. I wasn’t scared because I was more focused on remembering all the questions I had for Kate.  We walked out of the room and into the beginning of a day I will never forget.

We arrived at the restaurant early and gave the reservation information. Next thing we know we are seated at a tiny table squeezed in amongst others. We literally had to move ours when the woman next to us wanted to leave. As we are trying to get ourselves settled, I was looking around and glanced out the window. Who should be strolling down the street but none other than Kate. Before I could even think to wonder about it all, Kate was standing by our table. Hand out stretched to introduce herself. After a few minutes of being jostled around she asked the waiter if there was a table available away from the traffic, told the waiter to tell the maître d’ that it’s for Kate Mulgrew and if there isn’t one, no problem. Next thing I know, we have the waiter and the maître d’ helping us all with our belongings and being escorted to a table in the back corner away from the main traffic of employees and customers. It was a quaint round table set in the corner with a booth bench in the back and two chairs to the front, Kate slips in on the booth side to the left and then proceeds to tell me to slip in on the right side. Connie was facing us. (The tables to the left and right of us were kept empty the entire time we were there.)

As Connie warned, the next fifteen minutes were spent with Kate peppering me with questions, about where I live, my family, am I married, what do I do for a living, who am I dating, why am I using a cane. She was extremely interested in my plight and asked informative questions and was interested in my answers, which brought about more questions on what I was going through and what was to come next. She wanted to know how I weathered the blizzard, knew about the area I lived in and wanted more detail about the place. She is very familiar with the town I work in and we spoke of it in detail. I answered honestly and as forthright as I could. (She puts Barbara Walters to shame.) I noticed a subtle shift in her demeanor after a few minutes. Her shoulders dropped a bit, and her smile was more relaxed. I felt like I had passed some internal test. I finally realized that she was getting to know me with all her questions and now she felt comfortable with me. 

Armed with questions in my mind of what I wanted to know, I was ready to start asking them, when lo and behold, she started to tease Connie about choices of food. Next thing I know we are chatting about what we all are going to order and the waiter shows up for our order. To say Kate was making sure we all got our fill of whatever we wanted is an understatement. I wasn’t sure our table to could hold all the food and drinks that were ordered. 

The luncheon turned into what felt like a get together among friends who are playing catch up. I kept cracking up with all the teasing Kate did to Connie. She has a wicked sense of humor and a quick wit which keeps her one step ahead of everyone else. The first thing she told us was that she will be participating in the Bernard Shaw reading on St. Patrick’s Day.  She talked about her family, her children, brothers and sisters, her mother and her artwork. I had no idea that her mother was engaged to Ethel Kennedy’s brother briefly. She spoke about the siblings she lost throughout her life, her dear friends who tease her. About employees of hers who are in love whom she is thrilled for.  This was all before the food arrived. She has a way of keeping the conversation and laughter flowing. Try and order a light lunch with Kate present. It simply isn’t happening. Next thing I know, the bread basket is on the table, sparkling water is being poured, and drinks are being served.>

Once the food arrives, dishes, plates, baskets, and utensils are being re arranged. We settle down to enjoy the lunch. But wait! Kate is still at the table and she is asking me did I watch any of Star Trek. OMG, did I swallow quickly and blush. No I have not, which brought a big discussion on why I am not a huge fan of sci-fi.  This in turn brought about a big conversation about her time during STV. Things I have never read about, things I am sure she has never discussed publicly. This brought me to Star Trek and Sci- Fi cons. We talked about which ones she has enjoyed, which are her favorite and which ones she will be attending. This in turn brought about how I became a fan of hers. I mentioned that I have been a fan since the Mrs. Columbo and Heartbeat days. She spoke extensively about Heartbeat. Said it was one of her favorite shows to work on and that her character and show was based on her personal gynecologist.

While lunch was winding down, we had an extensive discussion on what movies we all have seen. For a woman who is as busy as she is, she has seen quite a lot. Recommended quite a few and they are now on my ‘to be’ watched list.  I explained that I have an ex-employee that keeps me in bootleg copies and she cracked up. She is really up on TV shows that are on the air or set to go off the air and shows of yesteryear. She was very interested in what Connie and I watch and why.

To which brought me to say, “I know what I wanted to ask you.” Her reply, “ You can ask me anything you want.”  I brought up the latest audio book she has done and she asked how we knew about it. We explained how the author tweeted about it. She was excited to talk about it. She went into detail about the 20 plus characters she had to create for this book and proceeded to give us a preview of quite a few. How thrilled was I to sit there and listen and watch Kate transform for each of them. She gave life and depth to each character. The killer’s voice gave me chills. I am so looking forward to purchasing this. And I am sure there will be more books in the future. She said that reading audio books is her passion. It’s just her, a mic, the director and sound technician, lots of fun and lots of creative leeway. What fascinated me was I learned that as she is contracted to do a television show, a play, or a reading, even though she wants her fans to know ASAP, it’s not possible. The studios, companies assign the press release exclusives with certain entities. In turn everyone involved with the show or play must wait for that and then their personal web sites or FB etc. can start to post. She brought up her other passion which is writing. She had said earlier while we were discussing her mother’s artistic talent that it usually skips a generation and it’s evident in her family. I beg to differ since she is artistically talented and a talented writer.

Next up, we discussed Orange Is The New Black. She is very excited about this role and she went in depth about her character and told us of a few episodes and what to expect and how her character deals with certain situations in some episodes. Spoke about what to expect and how the writers worked around some situations from the book. I am looking forward to watching the episodes she discussed so I can visualize it while I remember what she said about the filming and her thoughts on it. She is thrilled to work with Taylor Shilling again as she is a gifted actress and they have a great friendship and chemistry on screen.

Now mind you, as we are chatting about all of this, she is still teasing us about not eating our French fries that came with our meals. Connie and I just kept looking at each other and smiling.

The waiter clears the table and asks about desert. Connie and I just stare at each other, which was for naught, because Kate is pushing for desert. While we are waiting for our deserts to arrive, I believe her phone went off because she started to dig around in her handbag and comes up with it exclaiming that she has a message from  Tom Oppenheimer and needs to listen to it. So we wait while she does and then she calls him back. While she has her phone out, she gleefully tells Connie that she is texting more and has she noticed. We tease her about her lack of technical knowhow. Twitter is brought up and she states, “Ok, show me how to tweet” She is looking at her phone waiting for instructions. We proceed to tell her she needs to download an app for it. Which she is not thrilled about. Then we tell her she needs to create an account for it, which turns her off even more. Then we explain that people will be constantly tweeting and she will need to keep abreast and to respond to some. She looked at us like we were nuts. I just smiled and said, “You have rabid fans.” She leaned in to me and gave me that half smile and goes, “I have rabid fans?” I just laughed and claimed you have no idea. And we both laughed. Making me believe she does know. We were close with the Twitter folks, but no good.

More food arrives at the table! The topic of what we are doing afterwards is brought up. We explained we had tickets to the Stella Adler Conservatory Stellabration. She was tickled! She spoke in detail about Tom and his wife and how wonderful they are. Every time the wait staff came to take our plates, she would say no, they are still picking. I had a little bit left of my Crème Brule and said yes to take it. “Are you sure, you are not finished?” I could not eat another bite. She excused herself and I looked at Connie and exclaimed, “She is like an Italian Mother Manga, manga!” Kate looked over Connie’s head and smiled at me. Bat ears I tell you!  We look around and notice that the place has pretty much cleared out.

Once back at the table, she is gracious enough to take a photo of me and her. Next thing I know, she is handing Connie some rolled up money and saying that we are to take cabs. I am not to walk around the city while disabled in the snow. She bundles up and tells us to stay and finish our food and she will see us in a little bit and leaves.

Needless to say we bundle up ourselves and leave to grab a cab back to the hotel to freshen up before the Stellabration. In the cab, Connie asks me well? I had to laugh! “I guess she liked me. Over two hours enjoying good food and good company.” A lot of things were discussed off the record and I wish I could. Suffice it to say, she has a very busy year ahead of her and we all will be very happy with it.

It seems my luncheon is to be extended. Next up: Stellabration. Stay tuned.