You know how some people just happen to be in the right place at the right time, and as a result they meet someone famous? Well, that has happened to me on a number of occasions. The thing is that I’m too much of a doofus for it to know it and/or appreciate it at the time.
There was the time in college when my roommate, Diane, was helping with the Miss Mississippi State pageant and her job was to take care of all things related to the judges. One of them was none other than John Grisham. That’s right, y’all. Cutie of all cuties; that slightly unshaven, still fresh-from-the-frat-party-looking author who went on to make Katie Couric blush right on national TV. As I recall, this was late January/early February 1991 and A Time to Kill had been published, but remember — it wasn’t a really big seller until well after The Firm. (Hang on, because I have a story about the film version of that one, too.) What I’m saying is that John Grisham was well-known to some, but he was not yet a household name, and I hadn’t a clue who he was.
As it turned out, Diane had an extra seat at one of the dinners during all the pageant to-dos and invited me to come along. Never one to pass up a free and delicious meal, I happily tagged along. Diane did her dead-level best to tell me that I was eating supper with a soon-to-be-famous author. I prepared to dine with a pompous, self-impressed, attention-hog. Hellooooo, he was a lawyer and an author. We sat across the table from the Grishams, and let me tell you what. He was as down-to-earth and laid back as anyone you’ve ever met, and so was his wife. I couldn’t imagine having met two nicer people. Famous, or soon-to-be-famous, or even mildly famous people cannot be this…this….real, I thought.
Diane later loaned me a copy of A Time to Kill. After reading it, I knew of what Diane spoke. Yes, this man was on his way to literary fame. A few months later, The Firm was published and all you-know-what broke loose.
Had I been given the gift of hindsight, I don’t know what I would’ve done differently. It might have occurred to me to buy my own copy of his first book and take it along to be autographed. It might have occurred to me to mention that I was majoring in public relations and inquiring how one might go about applying for jobs at a publishing house after graduation. (Actually, that would have been a suggestion from my parents. Good one, huh?) It might have occurred to me to try to say something more interesting than, “I do hope one of tomorrow night’s contestants wants to inspire world peace through interpretive dance, don’t you? BWA-HAHAHAHA!”
Now. On to The Firm. My first job, straight out of college, was with an advertising and public relations agency in downtown Memphis whose office overlooked the Mississippi River. It just so happened that our offices were being used for several scenes in the movie version of The Firm. I know! Scenes involving — oh, yes — Tom Cruise! This was before he was the couch-hopping Tom Cruise we see today. (I’m not judging, I’m just sayin’.) And, I was 22, so, hello!
There is a scene in the movie where he’s standing outside some elevators and he impatiently pushes the button about 5 times, waiting for the doors to open. Ta-da! Our offices, folks! Off-camera, there are about five of us standing on phone books so we can see over each other, watching that dramatic scene. Nerds, right? I’ll just bet you think that’s my one near-brush with Tom Cruise fame. Ah, but you would be wrong.
In another scene, he walks down a hallway and goes through a door. That’s all he has to do. And there was supposed to be NO ONE in the hallway on the other side of the door. You see where this is going, right? Well…. I was trying to get into the stairwell and didn’t hear the ACTION! call and there I was when the door opened and there he was and I kind of jumped and he just laughed. Y’all, he could not have been nicer. I was mortified, so I went across the hall, into my office and promptly threw up.
They also used offices in our building for scenes involving Holly Hunter’s character, but they didn’t use our company’s offices, if that makes sense. You saw Broadcast News, right? You’d recognize Holly Hunter, right? That’s the Holly Hunter I was looking for the whole time they were filming in our building. People kept saying that they’d seen her. ”How could you miss her?” they’d ask. And I’d feel so stupid, because evidently I was missing her all over the place.
Do you remember what Holly Hunter’s character looked like in The Firm?
Well, heck yeah, I’d seen her, too, but I didn’t know THAT was who she was! For Pete’s sake! I’d ridden up in the elevator with her about 12 times in 3 days and spoken to her at least twice. You know, the usual chit-chat stuff. ”How are you?” ” It’s really cold this morning.” ”That wind is really something, isn’t it?” Sometimes I am so stupid that it’s a wonder I get through the day.
Okay, but at least I didn’t do THIS. My boss got into the elevator with her (and a bunch of other folks, too) and said, “Oh, you’re Holly Hunter, aren’t you?” She confirmed her identity, which I’m sure she immediately regretted. My boss then said, and I’m slightly changing her name, “Well, I’M Darb Brabowitz!! And I’d like to invite you to come to my daughter’s Girl Scout meeting tomorrow night at my house and be the guest speaker!” (Way to go, Darb. I bet she’s still waiting for Holly to show up.)
It’s a pretty safe bet that if you’re a celebrity you don’t have to worry about me running after you for a picture of an autograph because I’ll be the rather confused person in the crowd, standing stock-still, with the expression that says Hmmm…..wonder what he did to make all those people run after ‘em like that? He kinda looks familiar, but…..