Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Dinner with Brooke

or The Name-dropping Post

Brooke Shields has been on my radar since she was 16 and in that Calvin Klein commercial telling the world that nothing comes between her and her Calvins. Essentially she was telling the world that she wasn't wearing underwear, according to the youth minister at the First Baptist Church of Hurst, Texas, and that was both disgusting and indecent. Then, of course there was Blue Lagoon, which I saw with my mother and sister. Sitting through that with them was embarrassing.

And I watched her when watching was just about hearing something now and then. These, children, were the days before the Internet. How did we manage? I could spend an entire afternoon reading about her these days, and then find another afternoon's worth of stuff the next day. Refreshing to be inundated by trivia, isn't it?

I had talked about Brooke to my then-boyfriend, Tom; it was around 1995. Not at length, just about the special connection I felt. We were about the same age. I thought she was interesting.

Tom had been friends for years with the photographer, Greg Gorman, who is pretty big in LA, but was not a name to drop in NYC. (I mean you could, it just didn't get any reaction.) Greg was a very nice guy, friendly, knew how to schmooze and talk to people. Loved Tom, put up with me. A little full of himself, but that's probably the LA-influence. And every time Greg was in town, he called Tom and they would meet up for a really expensive dinner. And since I was in the picture, I was invited along. So Tom told me where to meet (Sparks Steak House) and that there would be a "very special guest." I knew Greg was amazingly well connected, but I had no idea who it could be. Tom only said that I would really enjoy meeting this person. Of course by this point in the story, you know more about it than I did.

The manager of the restaurant where I was waiting tables made sure I was dressed appropriately and let me off early so that I wouldn't be too late. When I arrived, I mentioned Greg's name and the waiter gestured to the table. As my gaze followed his arm, I saw a table for four with Tom, Greg and Brooke and an empty seat between Tom and Brooke.

Cool as a cucumber, I walked up, kissed Tom, shook Greg's hand, introduced myself to Brooke and sat down. She was absolutely lovely. She talked very openly about her life and what was going on. She was apparently very big in Japan at the time, doing commercials and stuff. (Sort of Bill Murray's character in Lost in Translation.) She talked about her childhood and her father and her mother, who was just being "let go" as Brooke's manager at the time. And one of those moments I will always remember is when she turned to me, put her hand on my right forearm and said, "Where are you from? Tell me about yourself." (I sigh.) I found out that she is only two weeks older than me.

It was just absolutely surreal. She was so open and not like you'd think a famous person would be. She just talked about her life like it was any life, which I suppose in the big picture they all are. I was raking my brain trying to think of every question I wanted to ask her. Here was my one chance and she had a few glasses of an expensive red wine running through her veins and was talking. Of course I imagine she's just open like that. She was wearing an unfortunate Christmas sweater that hit right below her behind, sort of to hide it. This was a few years before Suddenly Susan, so she was in that state where she was well-known, but not really working much. We did have a couple of guys come to the table and ask her to pick one of their American Express cards to see who would pay for their dinner. When they left, Greg whispered, "Green American Express cards. Please."

At the end of the evening, she even asked Tom and me if we would like to come to her apartment and help decorate her Christmas tree. I was totally into it, but Tom declined for us. Can you imagine? When I was walking away at the end of the evening, I gasped and said, "I forgot to ask her about Michael Jackson!" A magazine article had just come out with Michael Jackson trying to prove that he was not insane or gay (or both) by claiming that he was dating Brooke Shields. Poor Michael.

I don't think Greg was that thrilled with me. Sparks is known for it's steaks and I insisted on not eating red meat - I had a tuna steak. I was also not drinking any of that red wine. (I was in the midst of taking a year off drinking.) Then, because I knew it would either be many years until I saw Brooke again or it would be never, I asked Brooke for her autograph to prove to my co-workers that I had dinner with her. It's sitting safely somewhere written in green pen. (Can you imagine a waiter only have a green pen on hand?) She wrote that I was a "great dinner companion."

The next year, I think, Greg wrangled us an invitation to John Waters's Christmas party at his house in Baltimore. Interesting experience. You know, he takes pictures of everyone who comes in his front door, even if it's the UPS guy. So I'm in his files somewhere. Not that many famous faces at that party, but it I did meet Traci Lords and Debbie Harry and I saw the newly slimmed down Rikki Lake from across the room. (This was right after she got her talk show.)

New York City was fun. There are famous people everywhere - I have several other stories. There are here too, but I don't recognize them so much.

I still think of Brooke. She's had quite a life since 1995. I know she wouldn't know me and wouldn't remember our special dinner, but it's one of those memories I will always treasure. I think she handles the whole fame thing very well and that's a really attractive quality in a person.


Alyssa said...

You know I live in NYC and I never see famous people. Friends come and visit and they see people but I never do. I think I need to pay more attention.

Andy Baker said...

Get a job waiting tables. Having a real job is no way to meet famous people! Then there's the neighborhood you live in. That's important. Keeping your eyes open is the most important thing of all.

Elemmaciltur said...

Wow....talk about big names. :-) Can't you get me in touch with Ricky Martin?