There are all kinds of cultural heroes, and Fred Plotkin belongs in their rank.
Mr. Plotkin, 46, is one of those New York word-of-mouth legends, known by the cognoscenti for his renaissance mastery of two seemingly separate disciplines: music and the food of Italy. He is the author of "Opera 101," an operaphilic perennial since it was published in 1994, as well as five cookbooks-cum-social histories about Italy.He is a very hands-on legend, and one of his best anecdotes involves a cellphone story which is hard to top.
The New York Philharmonic was playing energetically, but the gentleman on the aisle in Row M of Avery Fisher Hall was bored. He wasn't that much of a gentleman, either, for he actually pulled out his cellphone and began talking. "Hi, how are you?" he announced in a Texas drawl. "What's going on?"But wait, there's more.
Here is what was going on: Kurt Masur was conducting the Brahms Second Symphony in front of a hushed full house, and Fred Plotkin wanted to listen.
"I was incensed," recalled Mr. Plotkin, a onetime performance manager of the Metropolitan Opera who was also seated in Row M. Mr. Plotkin sprang from his seat and snatched the cellphone from the yapper's hand, turned it off and pocketed it. He returned it only at intermission. Our hero.
There was the night he politely, but firmly, asked Imelda Marcos to leave a 1986 "Tosca." ("After she was seated in Row H, she began offering patrons $1,000 in cash to buy extra tickets for her entourage, and I ejected her for scalping," he said.) Then there was the time Mr. Plotkin barred a tardy Prime Minister Indira Gandhi at a 1983 "La Boheme" until she could be seated at intermission with her eight security guards. ("Nobody is above the law," he said.)Oh, and we'll definitely vouch for his understanding of Italy and Italian food.