And the Winner Is

by

03/28/2002

Terrace Dr, New York, NY 10021

Neighborhood: Central Park

I’m not much of a TV person. I am completely unfaithful to any one show or annual event, certainly anything like the Academy Awards. My theory has always been, why watch a three-hour awards show when I can watch E!, or some other all-celebrity network, and get the highlights in thirty minutes? But this year was different. Still suffering from an early March break-up with my boyfriend of nine months, I let myself get coerced into watching the Oscars with my best friend, Melissa. I figured any activity that took my mind of the break-up was worth pursuing. The Oscars was perfect. Three-plus hours of mind-numbing spectacle. Melissa and I had gone out that afternoon but rushed back to her apartment to catch the pre-shows.

Lounging on the couch, we flipped back and forth between the Barbara Walters and Joan Rivers shows. Barbara had her mini in-depth interviews with Tom Cruise, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Halle Barry. We joked about whether Barbara could squeeze some tears out of any of them in only ten minutes. We wondered with sick fascination how Joan Rivers could criticize anyone’s outfit when she herself always looks freakish. Then I saw him. Thoth, dancing and spinning right there on the red carpet.

“Oh my God, it’s Thoth,” I said.

“Who?” Melissa said.

Thoth is my favorite street performer. He plays near the Angel of the Waters Fountain, in the tunnel by Bethesda Terrace. I discovered him a few summers ago while wandering through Central Park and had been captivated. Obviously of a racially mixed background, he had golden skin and an ageless body; his thin well-kept dreads held up an elaborate feathered headdress. He wore a gold loincloth, a red silk robe, and had on high-heeled sandals with bells. But what really got me, what made me stay and watch, was his voice, operatic and beautiful. As he sang, he played along on his violin and danced, swooping back and forth.

There are other regular Central Park street performers that I like, but Thoth has always been number one. I’ve dragged many people to see him, including my now ex-boyfriend. Hailing from a conservative suburb of Buffalo, and new-ish to the city, my boyfriend was fascinated by Thoth and told me he’d never seen anyone like him. After all, Thoth sings about being a spiritual hermaphrodite (though you have to visit his web site to figure that out). We called him the Singing Thong Man and visited him often.

The first time I took my boyfriend to see Thoth, it was a rainy fall Friday. Thoth was wearing a black leotard under his usual get-up. His singing seemed to fit perfectly with the light rain and the smell of wet leaves. Later, we listened to him explain to another couple the meaning of all the items in the portable alter he had set up in front of his performance area. Even his speaking voice was calming.

To see him on TV, dancing down the red carpet, was kind of shocking. It felt like someone had opened the door on me while I was dressing. What was Thoth doing at the Oscars?

Of course, had I been an Oscar buff and done my reading, I would have known that Thoth had been nominated. Not Thoth himself, but Sarah Kernochan, in the Documentary Short Subject category, for the film she made about him. I didn’t figure this out, though, until the movie actually won. Sarah Kernochan and Thoth himself ambled onto the stage to pick up that little golden statue. I cheered loudly from the couch. Thoth had won an Oscar! I was happy for him, though I instantly feared I’d have to share him with more and more people this summer. And in a moment of goodwill, I hoped that my ex was watching, and that he remembered the sweetness of that Friday, and the beautiful song that Thoth had sung and that we had loved.

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