Sunday, May 14, 2023

Another friend gone: Anne Hagman McDermott

The photo above shows Anne Hagman McDermott as I most remember her, in the company of a group of friends. I'm at the right, in my Mets cap (Annie was a Mets fan); she is behind me and to my left in the photo, with a hand on Jeanine Flaherty's shoulder. Her husband, Joe McDermott, is to her left. Others in the photo are, left to right photo-wise, Jack Deacy, Barry Murphy, and Ethan Eldon. The occasion was a gathering of Lion's Head alums  several years ago at the White Horse Tavern, a Greenwich Village fixture known in its heyday, like the Head, for attracting writers and artists.

I was introduced to Annie by my friend Allen Sack sometime around the cusp of the 1970s and '80s and we maintained a friendship that was a steady source of joy for me. We were with friends at the Head watching a Mets game when she proposed a version of West Side Story featuring the Mets instead of the Jets. She suggested,"When you're a Met, you're a Met all the way, from your first training camp to your last ball in play." Allen came up with "Ojeda, I just met a lefty, Ojeda!" My contribution was to have the players' wives and girlfriends get together during preparations for the World Series and having them sing, "They don't know how to play in the American, pitchers don't bat in the American, etc." That's now obsolete with the unfortunate universalization of the designated hitter rule.

Annie once unwittingly almost got me into a fight at the Head. It was a bitterly cold night. I came in and took the only vacant stool, at the corner of the bar nearest the door. To my left was a man I'd never seen before. Annie was around the corner, seated next to the wall. The stranger kept giving Annie, who was single at the time, pick-up lines, to which she responded politely but noncommitally. After a while, Annie said good night to all around her and went out the door. The stranger followed her and held the door open while he implored her to stay or to go with him. Annie continued to respond politely, though negatively, while freezing air billowed into the bar. Someone, probably the bartender, yelled, "Close the goddamned door!" Annie, hearing this, skedaddled. The stranger slammed the door shut and confronted me with "F--- you!" I was about to give a response along the lines of, "Sir, I'm not the one who complained, but I'm grateful to whoever did." Just then Nancy Duggan, a tough as nails redhead, came in and took the seat Annie had vacated. It was a classic instance of drawing fire. The guy turned from me to Nancy and deployed a line of breathtaking sophistication: "Hey, babe, you ever think about using your equipment?" Nancy shot back, in a voice approaching a snarl, "Ye-e-eah, I use it ALL the TIME." I decided this was a terrific time to visit the men's room. When I came out two minutes or so later, the guy was gone.

Yes, Annie could be, as the saying goes, kind to a fault. I don't doubt that, if she or someone for whom she cared (which was just about anyone) was in danger, she would have responded appropriately. She was a vital component of the Lion's Head scene, which proved vital to her in that she met her husband, Joe McDermott, there.

Goodbye, Annie. You are sorely missed.