On our way into the NYC Ballet fall gala last week, we encountered Matthew Settle asking a staffer if there was an ATM anywhere inside the David H. Koch Theater; alas, there is not. “Want to buy me a drink? I don’t have any cash,” Settle said as we made our way through the crowded lobby toward the bar. We spotted him $20, and as he sipped white wine, he reminisced about sneaking out of church at the age of 10 and ending up backstage at a Nutcracker production — where he fell in love with the prima ballerina. “I went dancing around after that; I got ballet shoes, and I would wear them around. This is how backwoods I was. My parents thought I was off my rocker. Everywhere I went, I would try to do what I had seen onstage; I’d do pirouettes and pliés.”
On our way into the auditorium, Settle offered us his spare ticket — his girlfriend was out of town. He insisted he loves the ballet and would definitely not fall asleep during the performance. He hummed and air-conducted as the orchestra launched into Bernstein’s “Candide Overture.” “This is how the Three Tenors opened at Dodger Stadium in 1994,” he whispered. “I get goose bumps,” he said when the music stopped. At intermission, we offered to loan him more cash to buy a drink. “Nah, I still have $10 left, thanks,” he said, grinning.
After the performance, we wandered upstairs to dinner, only to find we were seated at the same table, next to one another. Settle proceeded to charm everyone at the table, most of whom had never seen — or even heard of — Gossip Girl. Mind-boggling, right? So we explained to everyone how Settle plays the father of someone who is actually only eighteen years his junior, but, you know, it’s TV. Our tablemates included conductor Faycal Karoul and dancers Ashley Bouder and Tyler Angle, with whom Settle made dates for a behind-the-scenes look at the ballet. “My shooting schedule is only three days a week, so I have the time,” he shrugged. He chatted up everyone, danced with some Botoxed ladies, and kept insisting he’d repay us the $20. At evening’s end he made the rounds saying good-night — he was on hugging terms with everyone by then — and left.
When we left the building shortly thereafter, there was Matthew Settle outside, posing for photographers. We walked a few blocks together, chatting amiably. “What do you think you’ll write about tonight?” he asked — and then he flagged down a taxi and we went our separate ways.