47. Starry Eyed

Hey, there, everybody. I was telling my husband Anton about some fun things from my past when he said that I should include them in a post. So, here goes.

What follows is shameless name-dropping.

A few months ago, I was sad to learn that Dame Diana Rigg had passed away. She became one of my favorite actresses since her time on the British television show “The Avengers.” Her Emma Peel was an important role model for me in my tween/early teen years. Many a time I would ask myself ‘how would Mrs. Peel handle this,’ and I would model my behavior accordingly. And I wasn’t the only EP admirer in my circle of acquaintances. One of my schoolmates wanted so much to be like her that she signed up for fencing lessons!

In the 1990s, I was finally able to see my idol in person in a production of Medea in New York City. After the play, I hung around the stage door, along with six or seven others, all men. Maybe I imagined it, but Dame Diana seemed pleased to autograph the sole woman’s program.

Another favorite of mine from the same era of television was David McCallum, whom I first noticed as Illya Kuryakin on “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” I got his autograph after seeing him in a stage production of Amadeus. That show was a star-gazing goldmine for me because it also featured David Suchet and Michael Sheen (who looked worried when I said I liked his performance in a TV show from years earlier; maybe he thought I was some crazed stalker-fan).

Once, as I waited outside an off-Broadway theater, Jacqueline Onassis, dressed in white, exited the theater and walked right past me. I gazed at her until she and her small entourage entered the restaurant Chez Josephine that was down the block.

Then there was the time that I “ran into” the musician Paul Shaffer twice in one week. The first was at an Italian restaurant on 57th street in NYC where we both happened to be dining. The second time was at a two-story night club where I spied him in the crowd. That same night, I was standing near a bar on the second floor when someone who looked like a hip Norse god with his long, white mane, glided past me to enter the elevator. He turned around, and there stood the reason that Paul and I were there that night: the legendary Leon Russell.

Leon, still in good health, was a tremendous performer. What a fun night of music!

My youngest sister and I are separated by a generation – in more ways than one. I left home when she was still a baby, so we never grew up together. Even now, it is a challenge to find interests in common.

Years ago, during one of her overnight visits, I took her see Metamorphosis, a bizarre play based on the novella by Franz Kafka. Not the easiest of shows, but I knew that my sister was familiar with its main actors. I was there to see a long-time idol and heartthrob, Mikhail Baryshnikov.

After the play, my sister was eager to return home, but I persuaded her to go back to the stage door. There, anyone who wanted Baryshnikov’s autograph had to hand their program to an assistant so that the star could autograph them in his dressing room. When the signed programs were distributed, Baryshnikov finally came out. He was very handsome, in a hurry, but polite. After a photo or two, he jumped into a limo.

A few minutes later, as if on cue, his co-star came out of the stage door. “Oh my God, it’s Clayton!” my sister said, referring to the role in the TV show “Benson,” played by René Auberjonois. He was a tall, imposing figure (unlike his distant blood relative, Napoleon Bonaparte). No one approached him.

Not wanting to pass up the chance, I went up to him and asked, “Will you sign my program, Mr. Auberjonois?” Never was I happier to have majored in French in college. He huffed a little, pleased but pretending to be put out, and signed my program. Then the other fans, including my sister, surrounded him with pens and programs in hand.

I could go on and on with the name-dropping – Kevin Kline, Gary Sinise, Joanne Woodward, Joe Frazier, Giancarlo Giannini (was he staring at me?) – but I won’t. I have never taken any of this seriously. For me, star-gazing is a bit like bird watching. Fun, a little exciting, but a fleeting pleasure.

I hope we can all return soon to normal times and our guilty little pleasures.

From a balcony: Hawaii Five-0 filming – Honolulu, Hawai’i courtesy of “Anton”

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