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Hugh Jackman at the Whitney

January 6th, 2007 by Jeff Simmermon

The Whitney’s elevator beeped and we all shuffled off on the Picasso floor — at the entrance to the Picasso and American Art show. Some guy, buried in the crowd, was standing there reading the entire text of the show’s intro, aloud.

There’s always somebody trying to read something too loud at every art show.

Except this time, it was a little different. The guy reading aloud was Hugh Jackman, reading to his kids, and I am not lying.

It took me a second to grasp it. The cool thing is, nobody was looking at him or Deborah-Lee or paying them much of any mind at all. Suffice it to say that at least one of his kids was not the least bit into Picasso, much more excited about sprinting around the gallery. When he got scooped up and asked to behave, he complained, loudly.

I thought about offering Hugh Jackman a plastic bag and sharing my disciplinary tip with him, but thought better of it. They moved ahead in the gallery.

You know you’ll be at an art gallery and off in another room someone’s kid will be hollering all loud and you’ll think “PLEASE. Would somebody just break out the narcotic lollipop already?”

This time I caught myself thinking “Dag, Hugh Jackman. Get on this, please.” But you know what? He did. He scooped the little screamer up and they went off into the stairwell for a bit of quiet time, and it totally worked. They had nannies, friends, etc with them, and he could have passed that task off to someone else. But he didn’t.

I have no idea why that makes me like the guy, but it did. One of the world’s biggest movie stars was frazzled by his squirrelly toddler and dealing with it with good cheer.

At one point, I was checking out a Kiki Smith piece and I turned to walk away and nearly bumped into him. Our eyes caught each others’ for a second — his said “Come on, man. Please be cool here — we’re just trying to have a nice time.”

We nearly collided again, in the lobby, on the way out. Jus ton the same cycle in the gallery, I guess. He had his toddler high over his head, looking up and laughing at her … and his fly was very, definitely all the way down.

“Mister Jackman,” I mumbled quietly, almost in his ear. “Your fly is down.” He looked nervous for a second, seeing a stranger that close, then looked down to confirm my statement and broke into a huge grin, saying “Shit, thank you!!”

The whole afternoon my camera had been itching. If I had a photo for this post, it would have been a shoo-in for Gawker, TMZ, other celebri-tainment sites. I’d have gotten apeloads of visitors, maybe gotten a bump in actual readers, too. And you couldn’t have blamed me. Maybe.

But something about the guy being so normal, affable, and that nervous look whenever I almost bumped into him a few times … I couldn’t bring myself to do it. So yeah, I’m doing the right thing here and preserving a privacy that he is sort of choosing to give away by being a public figure in the first place. And as usual, the high road doesn’t carry a lot of rewards. But I feel good.

Now though, now that I’ve taken the high road and written a whole blog post about myself and what a great guy I am … what does THAT mean, exactly?

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