[Photo via Kathryn Cooper]
By James Maher
Name: Shari Albert
Occupation: Actor, Writer, Producer
Location: The Immigrant, East Ninth Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue
Time: 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8
I'm from Philly. I moved here to go to NYU. I was a kid actor. Nothing big, some local Philadelphia television and a lot of commercials, and then I came to the city and went to NYU and got some training.
I moved to this block my sophomore year, and I've been here ever since. I remember… it might have been my first day in New York. Everybody was like, 'Don't go to Avenue A. Don't go to Alphabet City.' I'm like, 'First thing I'm gonna do is go check it out!' So I remember walking down here, going more toward Tompkins Square Park, and I saw a drag queen. I was like, 'Ooh a drag queen, that's exciting!' Then I saw another drag queen and I'm like, 'This is amazing.' Then I saw more and more drag queens. I was like, ‘These are my people. I love this place. This is fantastic!’ I didn't realize that it was Wigstock, back in the day when they had it in Tompkins Square Park. I just knew I was home at that point. It was absolutely magical.
I did a movie in 1995 that won the Sundance Film Festival called "The Brothers McMullen." I was Susan, the youngest brother's fiancé. That kind of start the whole… well, I had the bug before, but now the bug was actually being fed. That started the whole professional career.
I do mostly movies and television. I also love theatre, I just haven't been able to do a lot of New York theatre because right after college I got "Brothers McMullen" and so my career went by the way of film and television, but I did a lot of musical theatre growing up. I had to drop out of NYU for a semester to go to Paris to do a musical, but after that my agents and I went more toward the film and television side of things. I mean, I'd love to do a play. There's nothing like doing a play in New York City — it's kind of the best thing in the world, but it's been awhile since that happened.
I play a lot of women from Long Island and Brooklyn for some weird reason. I'm not really sure why, because I don't have an accent in real life. Turning on the accent now is like turning on a water faucet. I play lots of best friends, lots of sisters, lots of neighbors.
It's pilot season now. It happens right after Sundance, late January through the end of March. That's when the new television shows are auditioning for the following season. You get it the night before, they say, ‘Oh here's 15 pages that you need to memorize and work on for tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.’ You're like, 'Oh, OK, I guess I have to cancel everything tonight.' That's kind of how you have to roll. Look, there's nothing better when it's good. It's the best thing in the world to be able to be paid to be creative and to create characters, whether you're acting them or writing them.
I'm also a writer. I'm a freelance writer by trade, and I have written a bunch of television sitcom spec scripts, so I'm trying to get into TV writing, which is how I want to transition. I'll always be an actor, but I want to get into the creating aspect of things. I did a Web series that I shot in New York called "Good Medicine." It's about a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles, but we shot it here. We raised $20k through Kickstarter and shot five episodes.
I love my neighborhood. I've been on the block for a long time and I've seen a lot of changes, and some of them are great and some of them... Like everything, I have a love-hate relationship with it. I might be biased, but I personally think that East Ninth Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue is the most beautiful block in the East Village. I love it because there are beautiful little boutiques and shops, and it's just really nice to come home and greet everybody.
My favorite thing about Ninth Street and the neighborhood was when my dog Sid and I would walk around. We met so many lovely people. Everybody knew Sidney, everybody. She had one eye. She was an achievement. She would go into different places and run around, into Fabulous Fanny’s or when this was Change of Seasons. I had her for 16 years and she just passed away last April.
I made so many really good friends through her. When she passed, the outpouring of love from the block was overwhelming, and I got beautiful condolence cards. It was very touching because people that I would see on a daily basis, we would stand on the corner and we would cry together. It was really touching and beautiful. I just think that this block is super special. That's the good aspect of this neighborhood.
The bad aspect is all the bro kids who move in — the same kids who do SantaCon and dress up as sexy Leprechauns on St. Patty's Day and throw up in my hallway. I just loathe the new regime of the bro coming in. It's the worst. The 13th Step, that used to be Telephone Bar, which was fantastic. You could meet somebody there and have a decent conversation. Now it's like, oh my God, children. It's frat boy city. I've called 911 more times in front of that bar about fights or people who are passed out in front of there...
Especially with Coyote Ugly around the corner, who I have like a raging one-woman campaign against. I hate them. They are a pox on the neighborhood. I have a real war going with Coyote Ugly because of my bedroom. They have a courtyard where they empty and recycle at all hours of the night, so they're emptying glass bottles at two, three, four in the morning, and then they open up their backdoor and you hear Jon Bon Jovi, 'Shot through the heart, and you're to blame.' Look, I like Bon Jovi as much as the next girl. I'm from Philly. I totally am down with Jon Bon Jovi, but I don't want to hear that shit at four in the morning. And then 'Woooooo!'
I'm like, 'Was I like that when I was in my 20s?' I don't… I'd like to think not. I was living in this neighborhood, and it was so different because we didn't have those kinds of bars. We got drunk in our apartments, respectfully.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.