Brushes with Fame
My first brush with fame was when I was a very little girl, and my parents took us to see a concert of Bobby Vinton. Now this wouldn’t mean anything to most of the people who read this blog, but Bobby Vinton was actually a pretty successful crooner singer of the 1950s. Think Bobby Darrin and Eddie Fisher. His biggest hit is “Blue Velvet.” But he also had other hits, like, “Mr. Lonely,” and, “Roses Are Red.”
My father probably got tickets for my mother. After the concert we went out to eat, and there was Bobby Vinton, eating at the same restaurant we were. This is obviously a sign of bigger things to come. I remember my father didn’t approve that he flirted with the waitress. Maybe he was just being friendly. I don’t know. I couldn’t have been any older than the first grade. I wouldn’t have been a good judge of such things.
I had to wait a while for my next brush with fame. I was twenty-three, and I had flown to Albuquerque for my cousin’s wedding, the same cousin that I described in my post, “Out, Damned Spot!” [https://gooseberrybush.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/out-damned-spot/] Cathy got married the first year that I lived on my own, after I graduated from college. I was flying back from the Albuquerque airport to Dallas when my mother spotted Anne Bancroft in the same terminal where I was waiting for my flight to board.
The next thing I know, my mom, who’s actually super shy, walks right over to Anne Bancroft, shakes her hand, and tells her what a great actress she thinks she is and thanks her for her performances. Ms. Bancroft, in turn, thanks my mom, and she goes on her merry way. The astounding thing about this is that my brother and I are seeing that, since they were married in real life, there was Mel Brooks in the same airport.
My mom comes back, and my brother and I say, in unison, “That was Mel Brooks!”
And my mom says, just as sweetly as you please, “Yes. I saw him. I don’t like him.”
My brother and I gape at each other. “Springtime for Hitler?”
“May the Schwartz be with you?”
“The Inquisition, the Inquisition,” I sing.
“Blazing Saddles?” says my brother.
“Horseshit,” says my father. My father does not approve of scatological humor, unless it’s done by men with British accents, like, say, for instance, Benny Hill. Then, it’s okay.
About a year later, I have my third brush with fame. I am working in a penthouse office in Dallas, near the Merrill Lynch building. The company does retirement planning, and it’s owned by a very dear, sweet man who employed me as his receptionist. This man used to own a large and successful insurance agency, and he’s now retired and comes into the office only very occasionally. I spend more time working with his daughter and the three other females who do the daily administration for our clients, mostly small business, a lot of doctors’ and lawyers’ offices.
The girls in the office tease me because they say that the receptionist position at the company is destined for greatness because one of the receptionists at the old insurance agency went on to become a New York City fashion model who made the tabloids for dating Emilio Estevez. And John Hinckley’s brother-in-law once worked for my boss as an insurance agent. Also, the limo driver that used to drive the boss around became a local radio celebrity. Yes, sirree, I am going places.
One day the boss is actually in the office, and a man calls in and asks for him. I am paid to screen calls. Not just anyone gets in to talk to the boss. His time is valuable.
“Who may I say is calling?” I inquire in my most pleasant gatekeeper voice.
“Tom Landry,” he says.
Hmm. Tom Landry, Tom Landry. Where the hell do I know that name from? Oh, yeah. The retired Cowboys coach.
“Tom Landry?” I repeat, after I take the time to scan my brain for just why that name is familiar to me.
“Yes, “ he says.
“Hee, hee, just one moment.”
Now, in all fairness to me, the boss did have a friend who liked to call in and pretend to be other, sometimes famous people. So, I was used to these kinds of “tricks” being pulled on me.
After I announce “Tom Landry,” I patch him through. About five minutes later the boss comes out of his office with a twinkle in his eye, and I am really lucky the man had a sense of humor.
“Did you just laugh at Tom Landry?”
“That was Tom Landry?”
“Yes, I’ve known him for years. We’re friends. He might come by and visit sometime. He used to do that lots. Did you just laugh at him, on the phone?”
Oh, I thought I was going to be in big trouble.
“I didn’t think it was really him.”
“That’s cute,” he said. He got a really big kick out of it, and I turned seventeen shades of red.
The next time I have a brush with fame it’s in person again. I am in my mid to late twenties. I’m at the movies with a girlfriend of mine. She’s in line for the ATM at the Plano Tinseltown Theater. I am in the line with her, even though I don’t need money. The line is roped off, and we are near the front of it, by the doors. It’s near Christmas time. A burst of cold air brings a very good looking and tall couple through the door. I recognize both of them as being familiar, but I can’t for the life of me remember where I remember them from. At first, I just think I know them both from my real life.
And then it occurs to me. No, I don’t know them from real life. These aren’t any friends of mine. She’s on TV. What the hell is her name? Oh, well. And the guy, that guy is so familiar. Oh, my God! That’s D. B. Sweeney from The Cutting Edge. Later, I would remember that the woman was Angie Harmon, but right then, since I just hit Chick Flick Gold, I only remembered that that was D. B. Sweeney, the man who plays the hockey player turned pairs figure skater for the implausible romantic comedy, The Cutting Edge. That may actually be redundant: implausible romantic comedy. Sort of like saying: unrealistic James Bond spy caper.
I point out my find to my girlfriend. She doesn’t recognize him.
“C’mon. The actor. He was in The Cutting Edge.”
“What is that?”
“I’m going to take your girl card. It’s only maybe the best romantic comedy ever made. “
I can’t remember if My Best Friend’s Wedding had come out by then or not.
“Well, why don’t you go and say hi to him if you think he’s so great?”
Now, obviously, Angie Harmon and D. B. Sweeney were on a date. And since it was near Christmas time and Angie Harmon’s folks live in Dallas, this was probably a pretty serious date. I did not want to interrupt their date, and I was stuck behind a red velvet rope in the line for the ATM. He was several feet away from me, in the snack bar, alone. I think Angie had probably left for the little girls’ room. Believe it or not, I was actually trying to be considerate and unobtrusive. So, I grabbed my chance.
I cupped my hands around my mouth like a megaphone, and I yelled across the theater, “Excuse me!”
No response. I take a deep breath in preparation for another stab at it. After a few seconds he turns to look in my direction. Somehow, amazingly, because I’m pretty sure I withdrew the impromptu megaphone, he looks straight at me, and I have his undivided attention.
I say, “I loved you in The Cutting Edge.” This differentiates me from the typical nut who yells the length of a football field in the middle of a crowded movie theater. At least I recognize that he is an actor and not a failed hockey player named Doug Dorsey.
Thus, seeing that I am trying to pay him a compliment and not attack him like the Kathy Bates character from Misery, Mr. Sweeney rewards me with a slow and secret grin that becomes a full blown smile and thanks me. Now I still have his attention. Ms. Harmon has not yet returned from the restroom. And I could have said something more, like a conversation. But no. Instead, I turn my back to him, grab both my girlfriend’s hands, and jump up and down like a monkey.
This is by no means the end of my brushes with fame, but this post is getting impossibly long. I will save the other ones for a post called Brushes with Fame II: The Squeakquel.