This is how the story goes :
Me to my kids: “I once met Clint Eastwood while horse-riding in the Hollywood hills with your father. He was coming towards me on his horse and as he passed by he tipped his hat and said “Howdy, Miss”.
My kids to me: “Yeah, right Mum! Sure that was Clint Eastwood!!” to peals of laughter.
I blame their father for telling them that it wasn’t him. So I gawped, open-mouthed like an idiot for nothing as my hero, he of one of my all-time favourite films, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, sauntered on by. An English girl horse-riding in the Hollywood Hills – it had to be Clint, right? It’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
As you might have gathered by now I’m a bit of a film buff and I do enjoy the Oscars but that isn’t my only reason for thinking about my tenuous claims to fame. Something in my lighthouse keeper post jolted a memory which further reminded me of this fascinating thing we call ‘six degrees of separation’, defined by Wikipedia as:
Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world, so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps. It was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy and popularized by a play written by John Guare.
One Saturday afternoon back in the 70’s when I was all of sweet-sixteen, I was sitting in a pub somewhere in Hampshire with my dad. Life revolved around the pub (for those who have recently started reading my blog, my dad, now 81, is an alcoholic who has spent most of his adult life in prison for numerous drunken and failed attempts to rob banks).
While Dad held court with his fellow revellers, I found myself listening to a one-sided conversation with a rather eccentric man wearing yellow, ‘Rupert Bear‘ trousers and a very ‘loud’ cravat. Typical wear for the 70’s come to think of it.
I couldn’t possibly tell you what he was talking about, although I do vaguely remember something about Shakespeare. Later on when I asked my dad about him he blithely replied, “Oh, that’s Freddie Jones, a famous actor!” Well, you could have fooled me! I had never heard of him.
I’m sure he was/is a very nice man but why oh why couldn’t it have been Steve McQueen, the King of Cool, the u l t i m a t e?
I would have to settle for Clint. It’s a tough world.
Rumour had it that this same pub was frequented by a handful of famous musicians, Mick Fleetwood being one of them (no pun intended, ha!). Although it must be true because for some reason my dad acquired Mick’s jacket and I really don’t want to know how, although I can hazard a million guesses. A plaid, lined thing it was. Somehow my brother ended up with it and I can remember wearing it while out walking through Suffolk fields. Sorry Mick, hope you didn’t miss it too much!
I don’t know what it is about my Dad, skirting on the edge of some kind of shadowy celebrity life-style. I remember him telling me that he once met Elizabeth Taylor in a pub in London (always the pub). He said she was incredibly beautiful – from the waist up. He also once snogged Joan Collins at a party, or so he says. I wonder if Joaney remembers that?
Back to Freddie Jones. Dad of course knew him from playing the part of Alex DeLarge’s probation officer in A Clockwork Orange. The film meant nothing to me then and it would be many years before I watched it. When my own grown children did so decades later I at last gained some celebrity kudos with them when they believed my story about my chance encounter with an actor.
(Incidentally, today Freddie Jones plays Sandy Thomas in Emmerdale, I had no idea as I don’t watch soaps.)
Then one-day my middle boy, Nicky, told me something very interesting about a work colleague and friend of his who casually mentioned of a lunch time that his brother happens to be Toby Jones, a well-known actor who has starred in many films including playing Alfred Hitchcock in The Girl and Waddington in The Painted Veil, a most exquisite and moving film based on the book by W. Somerset Maugham. I highly recommend it.
Nicky made the connection first and this is what I love most about this entire Freddie Jones story: He was proud to tell his friend that, “My mum met your dad in a pub when she was 16!” Now that’s some pretty cool street cred for an old mum don’t you think?
Nicky had his own encounter with a famous actor, when, during a visit with his dad in California a few years ago, ‘Liquid Metal Guy‘, (correctly known as T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day played by Robert Patrick) casually walked into the same shop as them. Nicky is a huge fan of the Terminator films so he was thrilled to have a chat with him and get his autograph.
When celebrities take the time to talk to ordinary folk like us sometimes they can make a real difference to our lives without realising it. This is what happened to Aspie D (my daughter’s nickname).
She had a very rough time of it last year. By April she was cheered up enough for our trip out to California and so there she was with her father ambling along Hollywood Boulevard towards the Chinese Theatre when next thing she knew she was standing on the red carpet at the première of Oblivion with Tom Cruise stepping out of a limousine and walking towards her. He chatted with her for a few minutes, shook her hand and gave her his autograph. No photo though!
Still, some hours away I was with my lovely friend eating the best guacamole I’ve ever had in my life at a Mexican restaurant (miss those so much!) when the call came.
“Mum, you will never guess in a million years who I just spoke to and shook hands with?”
To hear the joy and sheer thrill in her voice was the best gift I could ever have had and for that I thank you, Tom Cruise.
Finally, there is another celebrity I would like to thank.
Eldest son, while in his senior year of high school back in 2001 (in California) was in the throes of putting together a movie production for its final grading. He stayed late after school many an evening in an attempt to get the editing done but the very archaic and limited equipment at the school made the task frustrating if not impossible.
A friend of his, a girl he had known all through his high school years, offered for him and his friend to come to her home as she was sure that her step-dad could help them out as he knew a little bit about sound production.
So one evening, as arranged, I drove son and friend out to the girl’s house. It was out in the middle of nowhere and I dropped them off at the top of a long drive, the house partially hidden behind a forest of trees. Hours later, upon picking them up, I heard the story.
Turned out that the girl, Vanessa Rivers, was the daughter of a certain Johnny Rivers, the American rock-n-roll singer – think ‘Secret Agent Man’, ‘Poor Side of Town’ and ‘Memphis’ – but since her father and mother had split up, she now lived with her mother and her step-dad who happened to be Todd Fisher, son of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher (who left her for Elizabeth Taylor), and brother of Carrie Fisher, the one and only Princess Leia.
So much for knowing ‘a bit about sound production’. Todd Fisher had his own recording studio. I wish I could have been there to have witnessed my son’s face when he walked in the room. In all the years that he had known Vanessa he said that she had never given any inkling of her Hollywood connections.
Getting down to business with the very helpful and pleasant Mr Fisher, my son and his friend tried to pretend that everything was normal when the phone rang. It was Princess Leia. Both huge Star Wars fans, the boys couldn’t believe it. There was one more interruption. This time it was his mother, Debbie Reynolds. I’m not sure what was said during their conversation but I think that Todd might have had a ticking off because after he hung up the phone he said something like this:
“Boys, if there is one piece of advice I can give you it is this, and it has nothing to do with sound production. When you leave home and wherever you go in life, always, always, make sure to remember to call your mother!”
My eighteen year old boy-man was about to launch out into the world and I would miss him terribly but he took these words to heart. My son’s movie gained him a grade A but more importantly, in all the years since he has always kept in regular touch with me. I wonder if Todd Fisher realises the power of his words that day?
As for Clint Eastwood, well, I know it was him and for this impressionable young English girl who had already known pain and loss by the time I watched him go by on his horse as he smiled and tipped his hat to me all those years ago, I want him to know this:
“Clint baby, you made my day!”