Americaphiles

The Story Of My Fucking Life

Eighty-one

Posted by ilbebe on January 31, 2012

This is the Tale of The Day I Met Steve Guttenberg.

It was Anna H’s 21st birthday, Sunday, January 26th, 2003. Nine years and five days ago, now. Funny how dates help you keep track of things, and time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future. Who gives a damn about an Oxford Comma now? Philly D don’t, and he’s back in school, Young Dangerfield style. He’s gonna rock it, poe-tee-weet.

Anna, a CCAC classmate of Shawn’s, was dating Casey at the time, so I had gone over to her house on 56th Street to celebrate this momentous birthday. I had recently begun seeing an unexpected pattern of lightweightness amongst Shawn’s classmates, and I was somewhat wary of the potential for a lame time based on these observations, but Hell, I figured, it’s her birthday, this is gonna be fun.

I got there around six PM and Casey was drunk. Anna wasn’t. She was on her second Heinekin of the day; Casey was on his eighth. There were only two bottles left in the twelve-pack, and I took one. I asked Eh, Anybody Else Around? Casey explained that her brother had apparently “dropped by” earlier for about an hour; just long enough to show up without a gift, say happy birthday, refuse a Heinekin, and completely rebuff all of Casey’s attempts at conversation. I have a word for people who make no attempt to get to know the people that are fucking their sisters: Total Shitheads. Needless to say, this info regarding Anna’s brother did not raise my opinion of her much, and within ten minutes of me being there, the beer was gone, so I began to consider my options for the rest of the day.

The following day I was supposed to be driving to Sacramento for another friend’s birthday, and then on Tuesday I was going to begin wrapping up all of the important projects I had been working on during my six-month internship with the City of Brentwood Community Development Department in anticipation of my last day, Friday the 31st. The important projects on the docket for me to wrap up included taking down the picture of a cow I had taped to one of my empty filing cabinets, taking home the sun-with-arms pillow I used to take naps under my desk at lunchtime, and seeing if I could run my FreeCell consecutive-victory streak past thirty. My overall FreeCell record during my time at the CoB-CDD stood at 97-8 going into that last week, but the defeats had been evenly spaced out enough such that my longest victory streak was at a mere twenty-two, a figure unsatisfactory to me. They made me change lightbulbs at this job, for chrissakes. I wanted to leave with a thirty-game winning streak, and also several reams of white paper. Luckily I had four days (read:backpack loads) to accomplish this.

But back to Sunday night: We were out of beer, and I the only fun I saw to be had would have to come at Anna’s expense, i.e. making fun of her for having a lame brother, no other friends over on HER 21ST BIRTHDAY, and a pathetic appetite for beer. This fun-making I was not about to do, and even though the look on Casey’s face read HELP ME BY STAYING AROUND AND DRINKING WITH ME, FORGET ANNA loud and clear, I couldn’t help but jumping at a good excuse to leave. The excuse came in the form of a phone call (to the house’s landline!! It was 2003!!) from Shawn, saying that his useless wet-blanket girlfriend-at-the-time A-train didn’t feel like coming over to the party. She was more interested in going to the downtown Berkeley Landmark theatre, where Steve Guttenberg was going to be presenting a few screenings of the new movie he had adapted for the screen, produced, directed, starred in, and financed!!! This was music to my ears. Meet Steve Guttenberg? Who could begrudge me for leaving a bad party for such a noble cause?

I hastily bid adieu to Casey and Anna, jumped in my ’93 Mercury Topaz, and was walking up to the Landmark lobby twenty minutes later. Shawn and A-train showed up ten minutes later, and we milled about the lobby, waiting for the appearance of He Who Was Mahoney. The info they had was that Newton Crosby himself was supposed to be greeting fans in the lobby, then introducing the film, and finally conducting a Q&A session after the film. Being a bit short of the nine bucks each to see the film, our strategy was to catch him in the lobby. We were hoping for nothing more than the opportunity to shake the hand of the man who could perhaps confirm or deny the explanation that the “ghost” in one scene of Three Men and a Baby was just a cardboard cutout of Ted Danson.

We had our eyes on the theatre closest to the glass doors separating the paid area of the multi-plex from the lobby, and when we saw people begin leaving, we started to get excited. After most of the audience had left, one woman noticed the eager looks on our faces, and asked what we were doing huddled around the lobby exit door.

“We’re waiting for Steve Guttenberg!!”

“Oh, well, you’ll get a chance to talk to him in the theatre.”

“Yeah,” A-train explained, “But we don’t have tickets. We’re all students, and we just wanted to meet him in the lobby.” This was two-thirds true; Shawn and A-train were still at CCAC, but I had graduated from Humboldt State the prior spring. The internship I would be wrapping up in five days, the couple grand I had saved while living with my Mom, and the Junior Night Ranger album (Electric Death Hammer of Death) we had recorded in November 2002 was all I had to show for my post-graduate life so far. I desperately wanted to add “Have Met Steve Guttenberg” to my list of achievements. I was glad that A-train was not shy about turning on the sad puppy charm to get what she wanted, since for once what she wanted did not stand diametrically opposed to my own interest. It was a confusing array of emotions, to say the least. I adopted my best sad puppy look, and wondered: Would this woman help us?

“Oh geez, that’s great! Lemme go talk to somebody.” She turned and walked back to the door of the theatre, where she spoke to an usher. The usher turned and disappeared inside, returning a moment later accompanied by a big goon dressed all in black. The woman pointed out the three of us standing on the lobby side of the glass. The big goon nodded, ducked back inside the theatre, and a minute later re-emerged following a similarly all-in-black Steve Guttenberg.

He strode up to us through the glass doors and said “Hey, I heard I had some fans out here that wanted to say hello!”

“YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH, that’s us!!”

“Well great, what are your names?”

We introduced ourselves, and that’s when we began to realize that SG had been drinking.

“It’s so good to meet you, ” I said, “I remember seeing some of yr more obscure stuff on USA Up All Night, and it was awesome when they mentioned you in the Stonecutter’s song.”

“Oh yeah, Stonecutters, I get that one a lot. What did you say about USA?”

“I saw you guest-host an episode of USA Up All Night in 1993!”

“Huh, I don’t remember that.” Clarification: SG was hammered. Later, A-train would say “My GOD, he stunk of booze.”

In all fairness, it must be noted, I may be wrong about this guest-host-ography entry. Why I would have remembered a Steve Guttenberg guest-host spot instead of the boobs that every Up All Night movie boasted in abundance when I was 12 is beyond my current comprehension or recollection of how my mind worked at the time.

“So, you guys are from around here?”

“Yeah, we go to art school,” Shawn replied.

“Oh, studying film?”

“No, painting.”

“I’m an illustrator,” A-train chimed in.

I had had enough of the small talk.

“That was really a cardboard cut-out of Ted Danson in that scene in Three Men and a Baby that people say is a ghost, right?”

“Oh yeah, totally. I don’t know why it was there.”

“Thank you so much for clearing that up, Steve. So, why are you premiering yr movie here? Are you from the Bay?”

SG looked hurt. “No, can’t you tell from accent?” We stared at him blankly. “I’m from Brooklyn!” Oh. It seemed we were losing him.

“Well, hey, it was great talking to you guys, I’ll see you inside the theater.”

Back to A-train. I should remember this moment more often these days when I’m shit-talking her.

“Oh, we’re not going in. We’re all students, and we don’t have the money for a ticket.”

SG looked appalled. “Oh, that’s not right at all!” You would think that as the Emir of the movie he would have been able to simply wave us in, but instead he rushed over to the box office and plunked down twenty-seven dollars for us to get tickets. He shoved the tickets into our hands, and said “Hey, I hope you enjoy the film. It’s been a dream of mine for twenty years to get this made, and I’m really proud of it.”

Stunned, we found ourselves seated in the theater a few minutes later, waiting for SG’s reappearance for the film’s introduction. The lights came down, and then a spotlight came up, and then there he was again. Now I knew why he was all in black. He looked cool, and authoritative, and hopefully no one in the front row could smell the hooch on his breath. There were probably about forty people in the theatre.

He explained that this film had been a labor of love for him, which is why he had taken on nearly every important role in getting the film produced, including putting up the money. Then he said he would be available for Q&A and maybe a few autographs at the end. “So, without further ado ladies and Gentlemen, P.S. Your Cat Is Dead.”

The movie was pretty good. I laughed, I cried a little, I felt I had learned something about the human experience by the time the credits rolled. I was ecstatic about asking SG a few questions about the process of adapting a stage play for the screen. The lights came up. No SG. After a minute or two, a theatre employee explained that SG had to leave, and was very sorry he couldn’t do the Q&A. We knew the truth. I hope that at that moment SG was either sleeping it off or indulging in a reasonably priced escort, whichever would have made him happier at that time. I will never forget his generosity, or his genuine enthusiasm for a project he believed in and had committed so much of his soul to. I am so happy to see that his acting career has made a small comeback in the past several years, and happier still that he looks healthy and happy.

Here’s to you, Steve Guttenberg. Nine years and five days later, I still remember the spark in yr eyes as you made me realize for the first time that celebrities were people too, and as capable of casual acts of kindness and inspiration as anyone. Here’s to yr continuing success.

Peace.

-12:54PM, 1/31/12, home, thinking about how you can be a pepper too, and also Los Locos…

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2 Responses to “Eighty-one”

  1. I didn’t realize he was ONE OF THE MEN of ‘Three Men and a Baby’!!! And then the amazing, ‘Three Men and a Little Lady’! I appreciate this story so much more now!

    • ilbebe said

      Indeed, many people are unaware of the full extent of our man SG’s filmography. He was also the star of the awful 1990 romantic comedy ‘Don’t Tell Her It’s Me’, which film critic Leonard Maltin once cited as the worst movie he had ever seen. Maltin’s comment is what led my friend Justin to buy me a VHS copy for Christmas one year, and I still have that tape if you ever wanna come over, sniff some glue, and dig in.

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