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November 15 at 9:57am

10 Embarrassing Brushes With Celebrities

By Ted Hope

By Jack Lechner

1. 1985. I’m taking the bus from my job in Manhattan to my shared walkup in Hoboken. The guy who plunks down across from me is none other than John Sayles, one of my heroes on Earth. I know I should say something to him, something clever and charming – but I can’t, because I begin to shake uncontrollably at the very sight of him. I’m still shaking when he gets off the bus in Hoboken.

2. 1987. I’m on an awards jury in LA. Before the meeting starts, someone mentions seeing a crappy summer movie. “Have you ever seen SUMMER LOVERS?” I ask. “It couldn’t possibly be worse than that.” Right on cue, a man sits down to join us. It’s Randal Kleiser – the director of SUMMER LOVERS. (He’s surprisingly gracious about it.)

3. 1987. I watch a brilliant short film from Columbia University, by a young director named Nicole Holofcener. Her agent sends me her screenplay, and we meet to discuss it. I give her notes — something I haven’t done very often yet. I do it badly. I am also the first movie executive to give her notes. She begins to cry. It’s the worst meeting either of us have ever had. (Years later, we become friends, and apologize to each other.)

4. 1988. I’m writing an article for Premiere magazine about John Travolta’s manager, Jonathan Krane. I meet Travolta at Krane’s house, and he gives me his phone number to call him later for a quote. Later, I call the number, and hear this message: “Hi, it’s John. I’m not in my car right now, but if you leave your name and number …” It’s the answering machine for his car phone.

5. 1989. At a restaurant, a friend introduces me to Dennis Quaid. I tell him how much I loved his performance in THE BIG EASY, and ask if he did alligator exercises for the role. He stares at me blankly, so I explain: “You know, the way Marlon Brando did cat exercises for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE and lion exercises for THE GODFATHER.” He stares at me blankly. “You know, the way your character had that big wide smile, and … “ He stares, etc.

6. 1989. I’m working for producer Art Linson. A guy enters our office, and I’m pretty sure I know who he is – the director who just did NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION. “Pleased to meet you,” I say. “You must be Jeremiah Chechik.” “James Spader,” he replies. He is not pleased to meet me.

7. 1990. Sam and I throw a party in our Hollywood bungalow. (I know that’s in a Doors song, but it really was a bungalow and it really was in Hollywood.) A friend of a friend shows up with her date – Alec Baldwin, whose movie THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER has just opened big. Our not-at-all-famous writer and actor friends are somewhat uncomfortable at having a Movie Star in the room – but the Movie Star is more uncomfortable. He bolts in fifteen minutes flat, having established that this is not the kind of Hollywood party Movie Stars attend. (For years afterward, our friends call us every time they see “our pal Alec” on screen.)

8. 1991. Attending the Cannes Film Festival for the first time, I watch a thousand people cheer and scream for Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas as they ascend the red-carpeted steps of the Palais for the premiere of BASIC INSTINCT. With sadness, I realize that I am now officially jaded, having met enough movie stars that I no longer give a shit. That night, I go to a party, where I am introduced to Jerry Lee Lewis. I know I should say something to him, something clever and charming – but I can’t, because I begin to shake uncontrollably at the very sight of him. Despite the shaking, I feel better, because I realize I’m still not jaded about musicians – only movie stars.

9. 1991. Walking down Charlotte Street in London, I see a familiar face headed my way. As often happens, I can’t remember her name – so I determine to greet her generically, hoping she’ll say something to jog my memory. “Hi, how are you?” I say with a big smile. She responds with a look of total alarm, and hurries past me. Then I remember her name. It’s Emma Thompson. Whom I’ve never met.

10. 1992. At a party in London, Dennis Potter takes an instant and vocal dislike to me. I’m a TV executive, and he’s spent his entire career battling people like me who want to eviscerate his writing. As it happens, I haven’t even given him any notes; he just hates me because of what I do, and probably because I’m American. Although I still think Potter is a genius, I can’t help disliking him right back. I leave the party early.

Jesus Christ, I’m only at 1992. I can probably come up with another ten without even getting to the year 2000, but not tonight.

Jack Lechner has been involved in the production and development of dozens of movies, including The Crying Game, Good Will Hunting, and The Full Monty. He is currently an executive producer on Sunset Daze for WE; Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys for the Sundance Channel; and Blue Valentine, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, which will be released in December 2010. He was an executive producer on the Oscar-winning documentary The Fog Of War; the Emmy-nominated Left Of The Dial for HBO; Parking Lot for Trio; and a number of documentaries for Showtime. He co-produced the pilot of the Emmy-winning AMC series Mad Men. His book Can’t Take My Eyes Off You: One Man, Seven Days, Twelve Televisions was published in 2000, and his picture book Mary Had A Little Lamp in 2008. He wrote the lyrics for the musical The Kid, which premiered off-Broadway in May 2010.

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  1. John Joseph Andrucci / Nov 15 at 9:57am

    Thank you! You’ve made me smile and I laughed out loud as I remembered similar experiences. I look forward to reading the next ten…. John

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    Ach, I love your stories! Reminds me of one. In 1976, I was a film student in Bucharest. A radio station asked me if I were willing to give them an interview. Of course I said yes. On the way out of the interview, I saw this man, and he looked at me. He was coming with a gorgeous woman, lovingly hanging from his arm. We were walking towards each other and when we were in front of each other, we said hello. I was desperately trying to remember who he was and, like you, I thought I’d say something that might giggle my memory. So, very politely I asked “How’s the family?” He let go of the woman’s arm in a hurry, and answered me anxiously that they were all doing well. Right after that we parted, still puzzling over it, I realized the man was the most important Rumanian comedian and I did know him- from TV! A couple of years later, when we met, we felt awkward until I began to laugh. Until his dead, we were very good friends!

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    His name was Toma Caragiu.

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