Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We Meet Again

Before we moved to Hollywood, we had come to visit a few times. My mother's sisters were here, and my uncle, Kin, was in a folk group, The Back Porch Majority. Some of the members in the group lived together in a house out in the valley. They called it the folk house. We went there one time with my uncle, and met some of the other people in the group, and others who also performed at the club, Ledbetter's in Westwood, owned by Randy Sparks, of the New Christy Minstrels fame.
One person really stood out to me, and I always remembered meeting him. My uncle said, "Girls, meet John Denver." I will never forget his beaming face, as he said, "Well, I am so happy to meet you," as he shook our little hands. I learned later this was called charisma.
Back in Arizona, some of the folk house gang were on the road, passing through, and stopped off to visit. My mother's cousin, Diane was visiting from Detroit, with her 3 kids, and the 4 of us girls, so we had a houseful. Diane made John and the others grilled cheese sandwiches. Later, he inquired to my uncle, "How is Diane and all them kids?"
When we moved out to LA, we would go the the club to see my uncle and the group perform. They really put on a great show. The handsome guys in suits, and the girls in their pretty frilly dresses with big full skirts, picking and singing their hearts out, and they did some comedy bits too. They had a very loyal following on the college circuit.
One night, we were getting ready to go to the club, and my Mom said tonight there were going to be this really funny guy on the bill, Steve Martin. We couldn't wait to see this new act.
Yes, he did have the arrow through the head. Some things just always work. He probably started that back when he was at Disneyland. He was billed as "Just another banjo magic act".
Not many people knew for a long time, he is an excellent banjo player. He did put a CD out recently.
So, before the show, he was talking with my aunt and uncle, and my sister and I were standing there, and he mentioned that he forgot to get a newspaper. He needed a newspaper. And wondered where to get one before the show. "We'll go get you one!" we exclaimed, excitedly. We ran out of the club, and up the street to the Westward Ho market on Westwood Blvd. There were several newsstands out front. "Hmmm, do you think he'd want The Times, or the Examiner?" We got them both, and ran back to the club, and gave Steve the newspapers.
Onstage, during his act, he did "magic tricks". He comes to the newspaper trick. He elaborately unfolds the paper, and re-folds, and tears, and turns, it and folds, and tears, and folds, all with a flourish, and finally the newspaper page is all folded up very small , and he holds it up to the audience, and bends down, and puts it under the leg of the table next to him onstage.
Every holiday, my Mom would cook a big feast, and we would have a party, for family and friends, and she would invite all the people from the club who had no family to go to. One Easter party, Steve was in attendance at our house. My sister and I were taking a photography class is school, so we took some of the guys out in the yard to take pictures of them. Steve stood on his head, and his love beads draped across his nose. Snap!
Years later, I got to work with both of them in the movies.
On "Oh God", I had a vignette with John in the opening credits of the movie. When I met him on the set, I told him of our first meeting, when I was just a little girl, and how I always remembered him, and how he said he was so happy to meet us. He said, "Well, I'm even happier to meet you now!"
In the movie, John plays a grocery store manager, and I am having a hard time getting the shopping carts apart. He comes over to assist me. Ever since then, every time I get a shopping cart, I think of it.
I ran into Steve Martin on several of his movies. I would always say "Hi", and remind him of meeting him at Ledbetter's, and mention to him, how my uncle was, and what he was up to, and we'd have a little chat.
I think the last time I worked with him was on "The Man With Two Brains." I was standing on the street on Vermont Ave. across from a European style apt building, my little Audi parked in the shot, in front of the building. I was going to be crossing the street. The scene was supposed to be in Germany, so I got the job because they could use my car.
He came up to me and said "hello", and was chatting me up, and asked about the family. Knowing I would be seeing him again, I had dug out the photo I took of him in my backyard, when I was in high school, and brought it for him to sign. Later, when I took the picture over to him, He looked at it, turned it upside down, and said, "This is me?"
"Yes, it is", I said. "You came to a party at our house, I took it for my photography class." Maybe he forgot his hair wasn't always white.
He signed it, "To Terry, You made me what I am today."

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