This is the story of how I wound up appearing in the HBO documentary “Nine Innings From Ground Zero,” which was shot in early 2004, premiered later that year and is now shown yearly around the 9/11 anniversary.
Everything happened very quickly. One minute, I was writing a post about being a rabid Yankee fan on a message board and the next minute I was sitting in front of a camera being filmed for an interview in a documentary. A producer from MLB productions had posted a message about an upcoming Yankees/Red Sox Rivalry special she was in the process of making. She wanted to hear from Yankee fans, she wanted to know why they were such big fans and why they should be in it.
I wasn’t going to bother at first because I didn’t think I’d be picked. Then I figured what the heck and I wrote about six or seven paragraphs about how big of a fan I was. In one of them, I spoke about the 2001 postseason. I described what it was like being at the games and how being at the Stadium was an escape from everything that was happening that year.
Now, it was either later that day or the next day, I don’t quite remember the exact time frame, the producer sent me a private message through the message board and told me that another producer friend of hers was doing a 9/11 baseball documentary for HBO. She wanted to forward him the paragraph I had written about my experiences during the 2001 playoff games. She then asked for my email address and said that he would probably want to get in touch with me.
I gave it to her thinking he’d never get in touch with me but wouldn’t you know it, the producer, Joe Lavine, did get in touch with me!
We exchanged a couple of emails and arranged a phone interview. Joe called me at the office – after work hours – and we spoke for maybe thirty minutes. He asked me a number of questions about my experiences at Yankee Stadium during that Fall and I had no problems answering them. As my friends and family would tell you, I have no issues talking about the Yankees.
His last question was, “Would you be interested in speaking on camera?” and if I remember correctly I answered “Yes,” before he even finished the question.
Fast forward to the morning of March 26, 2004. I’m pacing back and forth in my apartment and I’m a complete wreck. I’m mostly worried about sounding like an imbecile on camera. I’m nervous that I won’t be as comfortable in front of the camera as I was on the phone.
It was important for me to do well that day. I may not have lost anyone in my immediate family on 9/11 – I knew a lot of people who did – but I witnessed everything on TV as it unfolded and I was deeply affected by that day (I still am).
I wanted to make my fellow New Yorkers and fellow Yankee fans proud. I wanted to represent Yankee fans as a well spoken, articulate woman and not as a rabid, foul mouthed New Yawker – which is how I usually came across back then.
A black town car came to pick me up around 8:15a that morning. As I walked out of the building and the driver opened the door for me, I felt a little like Mr. Big from “Sex and the City.” I was then driven to an apartment building on Riverside Drive at the corner of 111th street.
When we pulled up to the curb, I saw two people waiting for me. They were Joe and his assistant – whose name escapes me right now but I can remember what she looked like.
As I stepped out of the Town Car, I noticed Joe’s reaction which was a mix of surprise and relief. I think he was expecting me to show up in a Yankees cap and jacket. I was dressed for work – a red dress shirt, gray trousers and black high heeled boots. I had gotten my hair done the night before and had it blown out straight and I was actually wearing a full face of make up which is something I never did. I bought foundation, eye shadow and mascara the night before and asked a friend’s wife who was a makeup artist for a famous late night show in New York for some tips. I wanted to look nice and not quote like my normal self.
We all shook hands and walked into the building. Joe explained to me that the apartment we were going to was owned by an older woman who frequently rented it out for local shows and movies.
It was a huge prewar apartment with big windows and lots of bookshelves.
When we walked into the large living room-dining room combo, I noticed there was a chair with a scary light pointed at it. In my head, I heard Gizmo from Gremlins screaming “Bright light! Bright light!” Then I noticed the filter and was less worried.
I was nervous up until the moment I sat down in the chair. I had taken acting classes in college so in my head I just told myself, “You’re just an actress doing a press junket. You do this all the time.”
Once I made sure I was in a comfortable position, the sound guy came over to put a microphone on me. I had to be in a good position because the wire was almost wrapped around me. The sound guy didn’t want to be fresh and stick his hand up my blouse. I, on the other hand, didn’t care (He was cute and it had been a while since a male hand had been up my blouse.) So I stuck the mic up through my shirt and he secured it for me.
Joe’s assistant then powdered my face and we were ready to go.
The actual interview is a blur which is funny because I usually remember everything. In fact, I didn’t even remember most of the stuff I said or did and was surprised when I watched the documentary for the first time. I spoke for about 45 minutes and when it was done, I was sweating so badly, I had to excuse myself to grab some tissues and stick them in my armpits.
I recall Joe’s assistant saying how “freaked out” she was as she was watching me in the monitor. When she saw the terrified look on my face she assured me that I looked great. She said that I reminded her of her best friend both in appearance and my mannerisms. She kept saying, “I can’t believe how much you look like her!”
After everything was over, I went on my merry way to work and a couple of weeks later Joe told me how great I was in the movie and how he couldn’t wait to have everyone see the finished product.
I didn’t think much of it. I mean, who was I in the grand scheme of things? Like I said, I didn’t lose anyone, I just was some Yankee fan who was helped by baseball and by being at the Stadium during those dark days of Fall 2001.
In July of 2004, I received an invitation to the premiere of the documentary. It was going to be held at the Museum of Natural History on August 11, 2004.
I took my best friend with me that night and when we walked into the screening room, I stopped in my tracks. She asked me what was wrong and I said, “Look at how big the screen is!” She said, “Um yeah, it’s a movie screen.”
While we sat and waited, I looked around at all of the people. Mayor Guiliani was one of the hosts of the event. Since it was an HBO movie, most of the cast of the Sopranos was there – minus Jim Gandolfini. Lots of other baseball personalities were there but no actual Yankees. They were on a road trip. I’ll admit I was a tad disappointed about that. I was hoping to finally realize my dream of meeting Derek Jeter.
When the lights turned down, I became nervous again. I was nervous about what I was going to watch – footage of 9/11 always made me cry – and nervous about how I would come across on screen. Again, I wanted to be respectful because as much as it was about baseball, it was about 9/11 as well.
About 18 minutes in, I heard a familiar voice and before I could see myself on the screen, I sunk down onto the floor. My best friend whispered loudly, “What are you doing?” I was hiding from myself. I hadn’t seen any clips and had no idea how I would look on that giant screen. She assured me I looked fine and I peaked through my fingers and there I was talking about how scary it was to be living in New York during that time in history.
There is a moment in the documentary, in which I describe what Game 7 of the World Series, and more specifically what Mariano Rivera’s “meltdown” in the ninth inning, was like to watch. I apparently couldn’t come up with the right words to describe exactly how I was feeling so I made a stabbing motion with my fist and twisted an invisible knife into my chest.
To this day, I don’t even remember doing that. But I did it and it was amplified by the fact that my mic was right near that part of my chest. Right after that moment occurred, I heard an older lady’s voice behind me saying, “I like her. She’s feisty.”
I think that moment also provided some laughter in a documentary that was filled with a lot sad moments.
After the movie ended, we all went into a banquet room for a reception and when Joe saw me, he did the stabbing motion. Then he introduced me to about five people from HBO who said that they played that part of the movie on a loop while they were editing it and that I was famous in the halls of HBO.
I was so embarrassed and yet, still proud of being a part of everything.
When the commercials started running, I had hoped I wouldn’t be shown but in the second version of the ad, I was prominently featured saying, “Please God, please!” with all of my fingers crossed. It was another moment when I was describing how I felt while watching Game 7 of the World Series.
The first time I appeared in the ad, it happened to run right after “The Sopranos.” Talk about high exposure. My house phone and cellphone rang at the same time and my call waiting was going off on both as I was trying to juggle all of the calls from people.
The next day, a coworker of mine, who apparently didn’t know I had done the documentary, ran up to me and screamed, “What the hell were you doing on HBO last night?!!?” (Okay, so I’m lying, she said the f word.) It was a hilarious moment because not only was she shaking me but she said she nearly fell off her couch in shock when she saw me on TV.
I attended one more screening at Bryant Park right before the documentary finally premiered on HBO. That night in the park, I had some friends with me and my cousin and his girlfriend were there with their friends.
Afterward, my cousin told me how proud he was of me. He said, “You sounded great! So articulate.”
Ironically, I was alone in my apartment the night it premiered on HBO so I watched it while on the phone with my mom and I was laughing hearing her and my dad saying, “There she is!” “There she is again!” “My God how many times are you in this thing!?”
I’m glad I didn’t embarrass my friends and family. I’m also glad I represented my fellow Yankee fans well.
To this day, I still cringe when I watch some parts of it – mostly the 9/11 images – and I still won’t look at Luis Gonzalez’s hit – I shield the screen with my hand or I turn away at that exact moment – but I am very proud to be a part of that film. I’m honored that Joe Lavine thought I was worthy of an appearance in the documentary and I’m glad that more and more people have gotten to see it in the years since it first premiered.
If you haven’t seen it, you can stream it on Netflix.