Name-dropping in general is highly frowned upon in our society. When you do it, people look at you like a philistine! I don’t know what that means but I don’t like the way it sounds. I’m a notorious name dropper and I don’t care who knows it. I made a list of all the celebrity encounters I ever had and came up with 72 names! These are a few of them.
For over 10 years I worked for a production company/post-production facility called City Lights Media Group. I was a producer and I did sales for the post facility and brought in literally millions of dollars. We (City Lights for those of you not paying attention) had a very successful television division. I was a producer for City Lights Media Group but I had no affiliation with the tv department except that I was always trying to bring them projects because I wanted desperately to have an affiliation with them! They did a show called Movies 101 with former NYU professor Richard Brown. I found out that Martin Scorsese was going to be the guest one day, so I bribed a production assistant with twenty dollars for telling me which door Scorsese would be coming out of.
When Marty came out (I must have called him Marty ten times) he signed a couple of dvds for me: “Goodfellas” and “Mean “Streets” – one day when I was drunk I gave my friend Rob the autographed Mean Streets dvd. The next day he gave it back to me because he knew I wasn’t in my right mind at the time! I hate being a Native American (for those not politically correct-Indian) giver so I’m going to leave it for him in my will. Sorry, I digress!
So finally I asked Scorsese about something that always irked me about Goodfellas. I asked him: “Marty, (again with the Marty, it’s much worse than it sounds) why did you break the fourth wall in Goodfellas; in the courtroom scene? Let me explain briefly, in the second to last scene or so, Henry Hill is in court. He looks right into the camera and delivers his dialogue, “we had everything…bla bla bla”. It’s very jarring when he looked into audience like that. It takes you out of the movie. It’s distracting. It works in comedies like Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, it works for Groucho Marx, even Bugs Bunny but not Henry Hill! So I had the nerve to critique Martin Scorsese on my favorite movie of his because of what I considered a flaw. His assistants where trying to whisk him away into a waiting car but Marty paused and thought for a moment, and pointing up with his index finger he said: “To confront the audience!” I thanked him, dropped one more Marty and they made their getaway. I think they were on their way to court to get an order of protection against me!
One day I came out of the elevator at City Lights where I worked, and I was making my way out the door (reading a Variety) and I saw 2 big, burly, black men standing near the elevator. There was another man down the hall wearing a parka with a snorkel hood on, covering his identity. Intrigued as I was, I leaned in to see who it was. I got right in his face. It was Michael Jackson, the king of pop and I just said to myself, possibly out loud “oh, its Michael Jackson.” Honestly, I was so stunned by his appearance that it shook me. I didn’t talk to him; I just kept on going. A few years later when he died I felt so sad and remorseful. I was sad obviously because he died. I grew up with him and the Jackson 5.
I remember the Jackson 5 cartoon I used to watch and that his snake’s name was Rosie and his mice were Ray and Charles. I just hope he kept Rosie away from Ray and Charles because Rosie would eat them for dinner! I was so remorseful that I didn’t give Michael a big hug. I would have said: “hey Mickey, you wanna go to Taco Bell and then we can go to an arcade to play video games!” We both like video games. But I judged him harshly over the allegations made against him which unfortunately, I believe are true. Even so I should have given him a big hug, I should have told him I love him. Coulda, shoulda, woulda!
When I was 26 or so I got invited to an anniversary function for “Beggars Banquet” the official fan club for the Rolling Stones one of my all time favorite bands. I proceeded to get extremely drunk as I do whenever I go to parties because I have social anxiety. So who was there? You don’t know? Ok I’m going to tell you. Keith Richards or as Mick Jagger calls him: “Keef”. Richards was sitting behind a large table next to an older black gentleman, a musician I’m sure. Everyone left him alone and meanwhile I was getting drunker (is that a word?) and drunker.
So, all of a sudden people began to line up, flocking to Keith’s table so they could meet him.
Of course I went on line too! When it came to be my turn I just freaked out on him: “you’re the f-ing best man!! Bla bla bla. He raised and waved his arms mocking my radical style. But I didn’t care; I just met Keith Richards! A few years later I went to my friend Wayne’s wedding and Billy, the guy that founded Beggars Banquet was there. He just looked at me and in front of everyone said “I’d love to punch you in your face!!!” Obviously I was taken aback but in reality he is the third person in my life to make such an offer. Truth be told one of the three actually said “I’d like to punch you right in the nose!” I know that Billy still held a grudge over my behavior with Keith Richards at his event. Then he went on stage on the boat my friend was getting married on and did an imitation of Mick Jagger. I was embarrassed for him and I never saw him again since.
I worked with the actor Danny Aiello a couple of times. Once, I worked with him and the actor John Tuturro (I actually shot second camera but I don’t believe any of the footage was used). Since I mentioned Tuturro let me tell you a quick story about him. I used to go to Richard Brown’s course Movies 101 where we would watch a movie and they would bring in actors and directors to interview and open it up to questions.
Tuturro was the guest that day and he was promoting one of his movies. So I bumped into him in the hallway and I told him that I worked on the HeartShare PSAs with him and Danny Aiello. And he got very excited and said “oh yeah!!” as if he remembered me, and he shook my hand. I knew he had NO IDEA who I was and he gave one of the worst performances of his life. Now I laugh about it but at the time it was very creepy. He’s still a great actor though except for that one performance!
So back to Danny Aiello: we were in the studio ready to shoot an intro for our documentary “Unforgotten: Twenty-Five Years After Willowbrook.” I was associate producer for that one. Willowbrook was a mental health facility on Staten Island in NY. Robert Kennedy described it as a snake pit. Geraldo Rivera got his big breaking case when he got the key to Willowbrook to film the abhorrent conditions there.
It’s what put him on the map as they say. Remind me and I’ll tell you more about Geraldo. When Danny Aiello walked in, there was a movie poster of Al Pacino’s “Scent of a Woman” on the wall. He pointed to the poster and arrogantly said: “he’s been doing me for years!” Oh boy, what an ego on this guy! He almost walked out on us because he didn’t like the script. The CEO of City Lights, Danny Fisher talked him back in and we got our footage. I got to speak to Danny Aiello about some of the films he was in especially one of my favorites “Once Upon a Time in America” a movie by Sergio Leone, famous for his spaghetti westerns. I also got a really nice photo of him and me and another time a big group of us went out to eat with him at an Italian restaurant. It was fun!
Let me get back to Geraldo Rivera who I mentioned. The first time I met Geraldo Rivera, this is before working with him, he was in front of the nightclub “Elaines” which was right down the block from where I lived on the upper east side of Manhattan. I said “hi Geraldo” and he totally ignored me. I know he heard me, I was right in front of him. So obviously I felt slighted to say the least. The same thing happened by the way when I ran into Paul Shaffer of Letterman fame who I always really liked. It reminds me of a scene in Scorsese’s movie “The King of Comedy”. Jerry Langford played by Jerry Lewis is walking down the street in NY and construction workers cheered and others waved to him to say hello. Then he was approaching a woman on a public phone, remember them? The woman told him how much she loves him, that he is the best etc. Then she tries to hand him the phone and says “please say hello to my husband, it will be such a thrill for him”. Jerry said he couldn’t because he was in a rush and she turned to him and said: “you should die of cancer!!!” That’s kind of how I felt being dissed by Paul Shaffer and Geraldo although I don’t wish cancer on anyone, but that shift from love to hate is very funny! So years later we interviewed Geraldo for the documentary about Willowbrook I mentioned.
There’s a very funny scene where he recounts the story and cries like 2 crocodile tears. Then instantly he changed gears and went into his “shpiel”. Spell check doesn’t recognize shpiel for some reason, I guess because its Yiddish and they’re anti-Semites!! His fakery was very funny and told a lot about him. Months later he came to the premiere of the documentary and we saw him intently looking at the movie poster. He was searching for his name which couldn’t be found because we did not include him, even though it was he that broke the case wide open originally. Yeah, karma is a bitch!
I have 66 more encounters to tell but we don’t have time or the room to fit them all. All these experiences taught me that celebrities are just like us! No, not really!!