In college, I dated a celebrity. He wasn’t famous at the time. Far from it. He was a guy tending bar and enrolled in grad school. We went out a few times. He was such a nice guy that when he found someone else, he actually apologized. Who does that? I’ll admit. It stung a little, but I got over it. He was 24, a Marine back from Viet Nam. I was 18, one semester removed from the high school cheerleading squad. In spite of my lack of worldliness, we became friends.
That friendship led to the stage, where we played opposite one another in a student directed production of a Ray Bradbury short story, The Small Assassin. I’m pretty sure the show was awful. How could it not be? A demon possessed baby kills its mother by leaving toys on the stairs. The highlight was my pratfall off a platform, painted modular-set-piece gray. Despite the fact that I masticated scenery, he wanted to put together a real production of Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie. He asked me to play Laura Wingfield, but the work never panned out.
Instead, he left for California. He wrote plays and screenplays, married, and became a character actor with a billion TV and movie credits. Ironically, he shared billing, more than once, with a former student of mine, Abby Brammell, but I didn’t realize it was him until I turned on a re-run of Supernatural to watch Jared Padalecki, who I knew from high school speech tournaments. Whoo! That’s a lot of name dropping for one sentence.
His wife died from lung cancer, and he wrote a best selling memoir about it, Life’s That Way. I cried reading it. The book is beautiful, sad, and hopeful. And although I don’t have a single picture or playbill from the time we knew one another, I recognized the young man in the photo section of his book.
I follow him on Twitter along with a 622,000 others, mostly women. But I don’t feel comfortable tweeting at him, “Hey, remember when…” I’m way past the fangirl stage. I remember when we called them groupies. If we met again I’d say,
I’m sorry you lost your wife. We have daughters the same age. Success couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. It’s great to see you again, Jim.