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Meeting Classic Stars In Person


Det Jim McLeod
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Nearly all the stars of classic films have passed on, (all the ones I listed below are gone) but I wanted to hear any stories of encounters you may have had years ago. 

Here are my stories, I met them all at either book signings or autograph shows.

Charlton Heston

He was signing his 1998 book Charlton Heston's Hollywood. One thing about this was there were instructions that they would hold your coat or purse for you when you met Mr Heston. This was during the time he was with N.R.A., so I guess they wanted to make sure no one had any concealed weapons! He was very nice, flashed that huge grin of his and he shook my hand.

Tony Curtis

This was during his book signing tour of American Prince in 2008. He was known in his later years of wearing toupees, when he was at this event, he was wearing a huge cowboy hat, he removed it to show his totally bald head. The place was packed so they said there would be no pictures or chatting. However when I passed by him, since I was a New Yorker like him, I said to him "How ya doin'?" He winked and smiled and said "Doin' good!"

Farley Granger

He was signing his 2007 book Include Me Out. He was 81 at the time and seemed to be really feeling his age, he was walking very gingerly. I mentioned to him that I had recently seen They Live By Night in a revival theater. "Oh you did?" he said. I told him many younger people are discovering his films of this period. He smiled and seemed very pleased to hear that.

Besty Blair

The ex wife of Gene Kelly and co star of the 1955 Best Picture Marty. She was signing her memoir The Memory Of All That. During her talk someone complimented her on her performance in the film and she got a round of applause, she was very touched. When she signed my book I told her Marty was one of my favorite movies. She said "It IS a great movie, and you know why? Because of the writing"

Anne Francis

This was at a sci fi/horror convention autograph show, around 1995. Most were asking her about Forbidden Planet, but I wanted to hear about A Lion Is In The Streets and her co stars James Cagney and Lon Chaney Jr. She said they were very old school but great professionals. Her honey blond hair was all gray now, but I looked into those beautiful blue eyes and became a lovesick teenager again.

Hazel Court

I think this may have been at the same autograph show around 1995. She was in many Hammer horror films of the 1950s and 1960s. I had read  of a story of her experiences with Peter Lorre on The Raven (1963). She had said he was constantly ad libbing and pinching her behind. I asked her about this and she laughed "Yes! He was such a little devil!" Of course today he would be sued, but she did not seem bothered by it.

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Ach!  The closest I ever came to meeting a "celebrity" was at a local teen dance club called The Chatterbox in '67 and chatted a bit with Robin Seymore, who then was the host of a local popular teen dance show "Swingin' Time" and came to the Chatterbox with a few local music "stars". 

Nowhere NEAR anything like your good fortune.  ;) 

Sepiatone

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Nice post.  While attending a theater production in NYC, I had the opportunity to talk to Jason Robards, Jr. before he passed.  The play was You Can't Take it With You.  He was very pleasant and was a blithering idiot (long story, I want with someone - female - who believed she had a shot with his son Sam).  Mr. Robards was extremely nice and he asked me if I enjoyed the play (Colleen Dewhurst was leaving to go to Sardi's (where Mr. Robards was headed) and her hair was the most beautiful I have ever seen.  By the way, first time I saw J. Robards on film was in A Thousand Clowns with Barbara Harris.

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Great topic!  I've had a couple encounters with classic stars and, sadly, an "almost" encounter.

Jimmy Stewart

Shortly after I moved to DC in 1989, Jimmy Stewart published a small book of his light poetry -- poems he often read during his "Tonight Show" appearances, to the great amusement of Johnny Carson and the audience.  Mr. Stewart was on a book tour and stopped at a small bookstore not far from my office in downtown Washington.  I went over during my lunch break and stood in a very long line of people waiting to see him -- the line snaked throughout the store and outside into the large lobby of the building that housed the bookstore.   When the line finally advanced so that I was in sight of Mr. Stewart, I could see that he was standing behind a tall counter, signing books.  Every once in a while, he'd stretch his legs and arms -- I suppose that he must have been getting stiff standing in one place for so long, even though he seemed to be in pretty good shape for a white-haired guy in his 80s.  When it was finally my turn to have my book signed, I noticed that Mr. Stewart stood very tall and straight.  I said, "We all love you Mr. Stewart," as he signed his name.  He didn't say anything but just looked up and smiled at me.  Sometimes, when I'm watching one of Stewart's movies, I'll remind myself that I once had the good fortune to stand about two feet from Mr. Stewart and look him in the eye as he smiled.

Tony Curtis

A few years later, I was in the same DC bookstore where I'd seen Jimmy Stewart, just browsing around.  I didn't know that Tony Curtis was about to show up for a book-signing event.  Suddenly, there was some commotion, and I looked up with surprise to see Tony Curtis striding directly toward me.  He was shaking hands with everyone he passed as he moved through the store.  When he was about three feet from me, reaching out to shake my hand, the person accompanying him guided him off to the side, where the book-signing was to take place.  Even though I didn't get to shake Mr. Curtis's hand, it was pretty cool to see him so close up, and to have it be a total surprise on top of that.  I recall that he wasn't very tall and had a much fuller head of hair than he'd had as a younger man.  With a shining smile that reminded me of his character in The Great Race, Mr. Curtis exuded charisma.

Cary Grant

This was the sad "almost" encounter.  Cary Grant has long been my favorite movie star -- it was seeing him and Katherine Hepburn in Holiday on late-night TV that turned me into a classic movie fan.  When I was in my last semester at the University of Iowa in late 1986, I learned Mr. Grant was going to bring his "Conversation with Cary Grant" tour to a beautiful old theater in nearby Davenport, Iowa, on November 29.  I sent away for tickets so that my wife and I could attend, and we couldn't have been more excited.  In those student days, we had little money for extras, so it was such a treat to drive over to Davenport on a Saturday night, have a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant, and then go to see our favorite movie star, Cary Grant, in person.   Everything went as planned until we got to the theater.  There was someone standing out front, telling the approaching audience members that Mr. Grant was ill and wouldn't be able to appear.   I remember the disappointed looks on the faces of our fellow audience members as we turned away.  One young woman clutched a book about Mr. Grant, which I imagined she was going to ask him to sign.  My wife and I drove back to Iowa City, hoping that the event would be rescheduled.  

First thing the next morning, I tuned in to the "CBS Sunday Morning" program.  At the top of the show, Charles Kuralt reported that Cary Grant had died the previous night in Davenport.  Disappointment turned to profound sadness, and I wrote a short appreciation of Mr. Grant for the university newspaper that day.  Several days later, we learned that Barbara Grant had asked that proceeds from the ticket sales be donated to the Davenport theater where her husband was about to appear.  (They also offered a refund, but I'd guess that most audience members donated the price of their tickets.)  I sent a copy of my newspaper article to Mrs. Grant, care of the theater.  I few weeks later, I was very surprised to receive a handwritten note on monogrammed stationery from Mrs. Grant, thanking me for writing the appreciation of her husband.  I wasn't so much surprised that Mrs. Grant would be so gracious in writing to a complete stranger, but surprised that my article had ever reached her.  I still have our tickets and Mrs. Grant's kind note.

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Love these stories.

I lived in West LA from 73 to 96, you see stars frequently but there's not often an opportunity to interact, and if there is they tend to make it clear they'd rather not.  I did spend a few minutes talking to Drew Barrymore once at El Coyote in the  early 90s. Pleasant, unpretentious and quite cute in those days.  The bulk of my celebrity encounters are of the Rockstar variety having been in that business and those stories are boringly predictable, 

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I have had numerous encounters with celebrities through my veterinary practice. I've recounted several in other threads before. Only one would probably remember me.

Christine Baransky 

She was a long time client with both dogs and cats. I repaired a fracture one of her dogs suffered from an unfortunate encounter with a car on the little, backwoods road she lived on. She was forever grateful. We would occasionally cross paths at the local grocer. I remember many cordial conversations.  She never failed to recognize me and greet me fondly. She is a very kind, neighborly person. Not a hint of pretense. Her late husband, Matthew Cowles was also charming and witty. He did not enjoy the career that she did but they were clearly connected. 

Alfred Uhry

He too was a client, with cats. I knew him before DRIVING MISS DAISY made him famous. He too, was always extremely friendly and respectful. I remember I got his cats through a short and not terribly bad infection, but Mr. Uhry was quite concerned. After they recovered he incredulously asked me "How did you do that?" and I responded, "Well, I can ask you the same question about what you do"....he nodded and we had a nice chuckle.

Glenn Close

My wife knew her step son-in-law and his wife. We were in Portland, Me. traveling on vacation and stopped at their house for a visit. We did not know that Glen Close was a relation. She and her husband (I believe they are now divorced) lived in a larger house across the back yard. We're having brunch with the kids and in through the screen door strolls Glen Close! "Oh, let me introduce you to my mother-in-law", our host says. "Hi. I'm Glenn." , she says in the most matter of fact way. After a bit of "Oh..we're huge fans....blah, blah, blah..." We have a wonderful 30 minute cup of coffee. At the end, my daughters, who were about 8-10 years old were asked, "Do you know who this is?" and they shake their heads no. Ms. Close puts her hands up by her face like claws and screeches in her Cruella DeVille voice, "Puppies!!!" My daughters immediately squeal in delight as they then know exactly who she is. True story.

Art Carney and Peter Benchley

Treated their pets. Met them each one time. Very matter of fact. No acknowledgment by either of us as to who they were. Just a normal office visit. They both just brought their pets into the vet. Just as normal as could be.

Richard Widmark

Crossed paths with him on the golf course, one time. He was having a bad day.

My first job after college was in Norwalk, CT. My boss had a bunch of celebrity clients from the Darien to Westport area. I would see them but never interacted with Mary Tyler Moore and Grant Tinker, Richard Thomas, JoAnne Woodward (Newman never, ever came in). I once spoke with Anne Morrow Lindbergh on the phone. She always sent an employee in with her dog. Not a movie star, but a celebrity nonetheless, I took care of Annabella Batistella's dog. She was also known as "The Tidal Basin Bombshell". Remember who she was?

 

 

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No movie celebrity for me.  Just met Henry Winkler at a children's-book signing, and he signed it "Stay cool."  👍

My sister, though, used to teach Liv Tyler sixth-grade math in Maine, and thought she was an annoying attention-hound.  (I should add that my sister was also a Tolkien nut, and I can remember her look when she first found out who was playing Arwen in the Peter Jackson movies...)  😒

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33 minutes ago, chaya bat woof woof said:

Christine B. is a favorite of mind (liked her better than J.M. on The Good Wife); plus she grew up here (not same suburb).

My Mom met Richard Widmark and other celebrities in NYC because she was a friend of Judy Holliday.

Ms. Baransky donated her talents to a local fund raiser for a town library. A number of area celebs performed. She did some Broadway tunes. She has a wonderful voice and without any kind of orchestra she belted out several wonderful songs. It's funny how when you know someone in every day life then see them up on stage....amazing. It's like they flip a switch. She was like a totally different creature on stage.

As an aside, when I pulled into the parking lot the guy parking next to me got out of his car...and....it was Arthur Miller. This was the early 90's. "Why, Mr. Miller," I said, "how are you this evening?" He smiled back, and said..."Just wonderful and I hope you are the same." I smiled and nodded in agreement. My 5 seconds of basking in the glow.....

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18 hours ago, Moe Howard said:

I lived in West LA from 73 to 96, you see stars frequently but there's not often an opportunity to interact, and if there is they tend to make it clear they'd rather not.

That's been pretty much my experience. I used to spot John Lennon (& Yoko) around town and just gazed from afar. It's so very hard not to stare, since you almost can't believe your eyes they're right in front of you.

Back in the 70's Universal Studios Tours would have "upcoming celebrities" meet & greet thing, anyone recall that? I met Leif Garrett who was adorable and Nick Nolte who was kind of weird. Many a convention I'd enjoy meeting a movie star, but again that's an arranged situation. Most notable for me was Chris Sarandon, Deep Roy, Linda Blair, George Romaro & the MST3K guys.

I actually paid to meet William Shatner and throughout the pandemic quarantine, thanked my lucky stars I did, because fat chance of that happening now. Shamelessly waited backstage to get Debbie Reynold's autograph. Boy, she sure was gracious, never made anyone feel like they were a bother to her in any way.

Like a previous poster, most stars I've met are rock musicians from working at a radio station in the 70's. Looking over my framed backstage passes there's Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, ELO, The Eagles, Blue Oyster Cult, Jethro Tull, The Jam, Heart, etc. But my favorites were meeting Mel Tormé and Cab Calloway.

Oh yeah, then there was the time I was asked to escort Bruce Campbell to his dressing room and wait with him until show time. I had zero idea who he was and actually a little scared by the crowd response. I'm sure having an escort who was unaware of his celebrity helped calm his nerves before going on stage. He seemed a little scared and actually kind of sweet. 

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I went to a TIFF showing of Vertigo a few years ago which was attended by Kim Novak. She had a question and answer session after the screening and, as she was leaving the stage, a few people rushed up to ask her for an autograph. This was not on the schedule but she graciously stopped to hand out a few. I bolted to the stage like a jack rabbit and, as I pulled out a photo of her from Vertigo to sign said, "I just happened to have this with me." Miss Novak looked at me for a second and then laughed before signing the photo.

I also went to a Kirk Douglas book signing which was attended by hundreds in a very crowded room. The  signings went on for a solid hour or so but no one could get near Kirk as he signed the books on a stage with security standing around him. After a while, though, I noticed a section to the side of the room being yellow taped off (no one else seemed to notice as they were all watching Douglas). I made my way to the yellow tape on a hunch and, sure enough, about 15 minutes later Kirk was leaving through that secured area. I stuck out my mitt as he passed by and got a Spartacus handshake, one of a tiny handful in that packed room to get one.

I saw Joe Flaherty of SCTV sitting on a bar stool one day. I walked up to him to tell him how much I enjoyed his work as Count Floyd and other characters. Unfortunately at that moment a friend with me (who was in a foul mood for some reason) returned from a washroom and gave me a shove in the chest, telling me not to block her. Flaherty's eyes popped out of his head like a cartoon character, not knowing what was going on. I tried to shrug her off like I didn't know who she was but he, rather understandably, seemed eager to see me move on. So much for meeting Count Floyd.

I once sat at a keno bar in Vegas and saw people with pens and papers swarming the person who was sitting on a stool beside the girl sitting beside me. It was Rodney Dangerfield. The girl beside me asked me who he was and when I provided his name it was apparent from her facial expression that she had never heard of him. I told her to dump her drink on him as he didn't get any respect anyway. She didn't but Rodney got up to leave and as he passed right behind me I heard him say, "Give me a break. I'm just trying to have a drink." He wore bermuda shorts that day and his legs were not pretty.

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just my opinion but I think that one of the things that made Richard Widmark so unfriendly torwards his fans is that he was probably asked many times why he never reprised Tommy Udo.

everybody wanted him to but being a hoy-faloy prima dona was more important.

he coulda done a sequel and get knocked off at the end.

:)

Movie Quote of the Day â Kiss of Death, 1947 (dir. Henry Hathaway) | the  diary of a film history fanatic

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17 minutes ago, NipkowDisc said:

just my opinion but I think that one of the things that made Richard Widmark so unfriendly torwards his fans is that he was probably asked many times why he never reprised Tommy Udo.

everybody wanted him to but being a hoy-faloy prima dona was more important.

he coulda done a sequel and get knocked off at the end.

:)

Movie Quote of the Day â Kiss of Death, 1947 (dir. Henry Hathaway) | the  diary of a film history fanatic

He lived in Roxbury, CT and near Walter Matthau and his weekend home. From others I know who knew them both, they said Widmark was actually quite nice and neighborly. The day I met him it was very hot and I suspect Widmark (we were all walking the course) was not playing well and just didn't want to be there.  

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Thought I would post this again for anyone who didnt see it....

 

I think I wrote this before a long time ago, but I'll post it again. One celebrity, who was said to be a real pompous snide when it came to an autograph, was Jerry Lewis. After the performance of "Damn Yankees" in Kansas City, I waited at the stage door exit of the theater for them to exit and HOPEfully get his autograph. It was blazing cold, lightly sleeting and he had a nice warm car waiting for him at the curb directly outside the stage doors. 

He emerged and I gently approached him and said "Mr. Lewis?" He stopped and looked at me and I asked for his autograph. He grinned without saying anything. I gave him my program, the full color booklet souvenir program, and an ink pen I got from a police woman. He went to sign it and the pen had FROZE! I kid you not, he made the motion to sign the J and it wouldnt work. He kept spinning the ball point on the cover over and over and then looked at me like "You got to be kidding?" He handed me the pen and I almost panicked! I started trying to get it to write on my pants! As I am doing this, I looked up at him and he held out one finger like "Wait." I stopped on my pants and he produced a red Sharpie from his coat. He signed my program and I told him, flustered, "Thank you so much, Mr. Lewis." He grinned and mouthed "You're welcome" and went to his car just a few feet from me. 

The police woman let me keep the pen and I found a few days later, that when he adjusted the program in his hand to sign Lewis, he stuck his thumb in the fresh red ink of Jerry and left his entire thumbprint in the J of Jerry! Pretty cool bonus and all in 11 degrees and sleeting after a performance.

That night, he shattered that pompous reputation. 

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21 hours ago, MrMagoo said:

Richard Widmark

Crossed paths with him on the golf course, one time. He was having a bad day.

I have heard stories of Widmark being "surly" at times with fans. 

On the old IMDB message boards somebody posted a story of an encounter they had with him. The fan followed Widmark's car right up to pulling into his driveway. Widmark got out and screamed "WHAT DO YOU WANT??" The fan started saying what a big fan he was, etc. He says Widmark narrowed his eyes at him and said (rightfully) "You're invading my privacy".

I have a feeling this story may be true, since it makes the fan seem like the jerk here. He even had the gall to say "I wish he had been nicer"

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Well, once again, have I ever told you folks about the time Kirk Douglas and I had a little chat while I was working at Los Angeles International Airport?

Oh, I HAVE?! Well then, never mind.

LOL

But besides him, and in regards to "classic stars" and not any of the newer ones I'd often encounter at said airport, among them were...

Bob Hope...who it seemed pretty much felt the same way about his fans as the previously mentioned  Mr. Widmark did, and although I would occasionally see Ol' Ski Nose sign an autograph for the star struck air traveler, and while he was waiting to board the short flight from LAX to PSP. ("PSP": Palm Springs, CA)

Ginger Rogers...and who like Mr. Hope was also a frequent flyer to PSP and where she also owned a home, was always very accommodating to her fans whenever they'd spot her seating in the boarding area.

Vincent Price...and who not only did I have an encounter with at LAX, but also just a few years before his death would again meet this wonderful and gracious gent while attending a showing of "Champagne for Caesar" at the Director's Guild Theater in Hollywood. I remember telling him how much I enjoyed him in this comedy and how funny I thought he was in it the first time I happened to catch it on TV years ago, and that whenever I'd tell someone about how funny he was in it, their reaction was usually something such as, "Vincent Price? In a COMEDY???". And to which Mr. Price chuckled at and told me that he had always wished he had done more of in that genre.

 

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30 minutes ago, Dargo said:

Well, once again, have I ever told you folks about the time Kirk Douglas and I had a little chat while I was working at Los Angeles International Airport?

Oh, I HAVE?! Well then, never mind.

LOL

. . . 

I probably should remember your story, but don't.  Would you mind repeating it?  Sounds like it could be a good one!

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24 minutes ago, BingFan said:

I probably should remember your story, but don't.  Would you mind repeating it?  Sounds like it could be a good one!

Well BF, in a netshell let's just say that Kirk wasn't too pleased with me after I told him (and in a congenial and diplomatic manner) that it was against a newly created FAA and airline policy to devulge to another (and other than law enforcement personel) if someone (his wife in this case) was aboard an incoming flight or not. And, information of which I also would have no immediate access to, I might add.

(...and thus counter to the ol' saw that says, "Celebrity will be served, and because they're 'special' people")

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Does it count at all that I did not meet an actress and her renowned actor-husband because I was thickheaded? 

A boy I had known a few years before was standing near the rear of the car when I boarded a train. It would have been nice to speak with him but he is of the type who reads more into such gestures than is warranted and I had no desire to renew the relationship. He was in a good suit which fit well and there was a man in an identical suit standing behind him. The only other people at that end of the car were an older couple. I felt vaguely as if I should know them but they were of a type who have a common  look at that age. I gave the boy a little wave and braced myself to go to say hello but a person in front of me approached him and I took his distraction as an opportunity to slip into a seat unnoticed. 

I saw at times during the trip that a person would go there and be either turned away by him or allowed to speak to the older couple. 

I met the boy nearly a month later at a train station. He explained that he had become a bodyguard with Studio Ekran to keep fans at bay while stars travel to film locations. His suit fit so well because it had been made for him by studio's wardrobe department. He was quite proud of it because the fact that he was well-dressed was the only reason a certain girl let him talk to her. She was now his wife and they had a baby girl. I had to ooh and ahh over a good two dozen pictures he carried of them.

The couple he had been guarding that day was an actress who I loved despite she had not made a movie which I liked in several decades. Her husband was a considerable name and was making a television movie for the studio because the couple needed the money and had to fulfill a favor. 

He said that he would have allowed me to speak with them for a little while had I approached them.

The fact that I did not recognize two luminaries of the cinema world and I did not want the boy to think I remained interested in him caused me to miss a grand opportunity. 

It is far from the only time when my thickheadedness proved my undoing but it is high on the list.

 

 

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I've just remembered that I had another and my first encounter with Vincent Price before meeting him in person at LAX. Well, kind'a sort'a, anyway.

Before working at the airport for Hughes AirWest, I worked at the TWA reservation office in downtown L.A., and doing one THE most monotonous jobs that one can do...answering phones.

Well anyway, this one time a guy calls into TWA "Res" and says, "Can you tell me if your Flight 61 from London Heathrow is arriving on time into Los Angeles?" And because I IMMEDIATELY recognized the voice on the other end of the line, I replied, "SURE Mr. Vincent Price. I can tell you this. Just give a second here and I'll look this up for ya."

The voice on the other end of the line then chuckled and said, "So, you recongnized my voice, did you?!", and I replied, "Well, it's certainly not hard to recognize that great distinctive voice of  yours, Mr. Price. I've been a fan of yours since I was a kid."

(...always the true gentleman, he thanked me for that comment and then again after I gave him the answer to his original query)

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10 minutes ago, SansFin said:

Does it count at all that I did not meet an actress and her renowned actor-husband because I was thickheaded? 

Oh I have one of those... I visit Philly a lot for research and love to stretch out & walk the dog through around the old cemeteries & historic areas. A friend suggested we go to The Eastern States Penitentiary, they're filming a movie over there. I thought, "no one wants me hanging around a working set" and went elsewhere.

It was 12 Monkeys. I blew my chance at possibly meeting Terry Gilliam, one of my idols. I would have liked to have seen hotties Brad Pitt & Bruce Willis with my own eyeballs. My big beautiful golden retriever would have brought more "aww"s than ire. Stupid me.

I was once invited to the set of DEATH TO SMOOCHY but blew it off as "Canadian". It's now one of my favorite movies and at least got a Robin Williams autographed photo out of it. But still, it's the personal experience that makes memories, not a scribbling on paper (unless the bottom of a check) ba-de-boom. 🙄

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1 hour ago, SansFin said:

The couple he had been guarding that day was an actress who I loved despite she had not made a movie which I liked in several decades. Her husband was a considerable name and was making a television movie for the studio because the couple needed the money and had to fulfill a favor. 

Who was the couple?

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