The Corner

When the Audience Turns

Well, this was kind of interesting: There was hissing and booing at the New York Philharmonic last night — for reasons having nothing to do with music. Alec Baldwin, the actor, is sort of the voice of the Philharmonic. Its mascot. He is on the board. He is the host of the orchestra’s radio series. He gave the orchestra a million bucks.

Also, he recorded the little announcement that tells people, right before the concert, to turn off their cellphones. The announcement begins (as I recall), “Hi, this is Alec Baldwin.”

The last few times I have covered Philharmonic concerts, audience members have hissed. (Not at me!) Last night, some booed, too. The reason? It must be the actor’s alleged homophobia. He has always been a perfect liberal — absolutely perfect, Central Casting. But there is this wrinkle.

As longtime readers know, I despise hissing, almost above all other human sounds. (For my 2008 essay “‘A Perpetual Hissing’: Notes on an Unfavorite Practice,” go here.) I despise it no less against Baldwin. I’m not sure I would have guessed there would come a day when a New York audience hissed this liberal icon.

When the hissing and booing occurred last night, several orchestra members shook their heads, wearily. I imagine they’ve been hearing this before every concert.

Chances are, the Philharmonic will have to change the cellphones announcement. But it could be very awkward, given Baldwin’s relationship with the orchestra — particularly his board membership and his philanthropy.

Sometimes, when you get a perfect liberal, he may turn out to be a little imperfect. Again, awkward.

P.S. In an earlier post, about Rush Limbaugh, I had occasion to quote a lyric from South Pacific. Funnily enough, I saw Alec Baldwin in South Pacific once — this was a concert performance at Carnegie Hall. He was just about the best thing in the show. Hang on, let me Google my review. Okay, here.

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