Every New York Knicks home game at Madison Square Garden serves as an opportunity to see some of the city's most famous residents out in support of one of the NBA's marquee franchises. Of that group, two stars stand out as particularly devoted fans: film directors Spike Lee and Woody Allen. For decades, both men have supported the team (and the NBA in general) with passion and commitment rivaling their own regularly expressed devotion to New York itself. While the Knicks would be a huge deal even without their presence at MSG, it's also the case that the games would feel a little different without them. At this point, they're a part of the experience.
It's somewhat shocking, then, to learn that one of them is currently embroiled in a minor beef with the franchise. Yet, according to a report from the New York Post's Page Six, Woody Allen has been banned from the MSG VIP lounge over a perceived snub (via EOB):
Sources say [Knicks owner James] Dolan had the Oscar-winning director banned from Suite 200, the VIP lounge at Madison Square Garden, after Allen refused to do any promotion for MSG Network or the Garden of Dreams Foundation.
Allen had been a regular for years in the suite, where models, pop stars and pro athletes gather before games and at halftime for free drinks and food.
“He got a call from someone at MSG saying they had bought the rights to air several of Woody’s movies on the MSG channel and wanted Woody to go on the air and talk about his movies or introduce them,” a Woody source told me.
“Woody said he would not be comfortable doing that. He has never done that for any show or network. They then said that this was a ‘reciprocal arrangement’ and that if Woody couldn’t go on TV for them, he should not eat in their VIP restaurant anymore. Woody said fine and thanked them for the many years he had enjoyed the space there.”
A Garden spokesman politely declined to comment but pointed out that Allen — unlike Spike Lee (who has worked on documentaries about the team) and Matthew Modine — has never done anything to help the team or Dolan’s youth charity, Garden of Dreams (of which Modine is a board member).
The Knicks' request may seem like no big deal, but it's somewhat akin to Oprah Winfrey selecting "The Catcher in the Rye" for her book club and wondering why J.D. Salinger won't go on TV to talk about it. With the notable exception of the 2012 film "Woody Allen: A Documentary," part of PBS's "American Masters" series, Allen makes a point of never discussing his work — particularly the early, funny ones — in a public forum. While it might have been amazing to see Woody talk to Knicks legend and announcer Walt Frazier about his life in film — kvetchin' and award-fetchin'! — this expectation just wasn't reasonable. It's almost as if Dolan and his crew were looking for a reason to bar Allen from the lounge.
So, yes, although the Knicks may have good reason to wish Allen were more involved with the franchise and its charitable efforts, he's also proven over time that this is not a special point of interest for him, even if his onscreen alter egos occasionally wander away from intellectual dinner parties to watch "a group of pituitary cases stuff a ball through a hoop." Allen is nothing if not stubborn and slow to change — some of his characters still speak ill of rock music in the 21st century! — and anyone who expects different is fooling himself. This is just who he is, and if he deserved access to the VIP lounge several weeks ago then he probably does now, too.
The good news is that Allen seems to be taking it all in stride, which I guess isn't so surprising. As Alvy Singer said in "Annie Hall," paraphrasing Groucho Marx, he'd never want to belong to any club that would have someone like him for a member.
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