Transforming the pain of rejection into the adulation of screaming fans, that’s the stuff high school daydreams are made of. Last week at The Bell House in Gowanus, those dreams came true for Sara Schaefer, Dave Hill, David Rees, Mike Albo and “Odd” Todd Rosenberg during a party celebrating the release of Jon Friedman’s book Rejected: Tales of the Failed, Dumped, and Canceled. The readers shared stories of being dismissed while a decidedly South Brooklyn crowd cheered them on and rockabilly band The Defibulators rubbed salt in the wounds by covering The Smiths.
That night, Schaefer looked like a model, but back in 1994, she was tall, awkward and dumped with a mixtape. For her act, she read the love letters of a high school crush and then cued up the fateful tape and let Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” come blasting through the speakers. Singing along intensely, she screamed: “Oh, he don’t know/ So he chases them away.” As she hit the last note she jumped up and smashed the mike on the stage floor. The crowd went wild.
Just when we thought she couldn’t do any better, Schaefer brought out the homeroom Romeo who had made the tape—Jared, a stone-faced dude with a receding hairline. After the performance, I asked Jared if Schaefer turned up the teen angst for effect. “I think it was real for her,” he said thoughtfully.
Rosenberg, a gangly, bespectacled cartoonist, had focused on a work-related rejection; a half-hour dressing down from a newspaper editor when he submitted strips about—among other things—a mother’s corpse. “I was sort of shocked when they were turned down. I just thought I was so great,” he said. How did Odd Todd—10 years later—find success with the strip Laid Off? “I was fired from my day job.”
Blond actress Ann Carr—a white fuzzy hat tied around her neck—had lost her job the day before. “As a temp,” she clarified. Is rejection easier on audutions when you get used to it? “Rejection always fucking sucks.”