My daughter calls me Forrest Gump. She has this theory that I’ve not only met most of the world’s famous people, but that I (accidentally) caused most of the major events of the 20th century. Silly, I know. All I can say is, “Daughters are like a box of chocolates…”
I did once meet a motherlode of celebrities in a single night, however.
As a young actor trying to drum up a career, I’d launched a street theatre group called The Right Pithee Players. We performed at a few Renaissance festivals, but weren’t setting the medieval (or modern) world ablaze. Until one day…
We got a call from Walt Disney Studios. They were planning their 50th anniversary celebration and had chosen a Renaissance theme. The back lot would be inundated with maypoles, minstrels and mead. Someone at Disney had seen me do my Right Pithee Players character, a boastful bard named Peter Pratfall, and decided he would be the perfect host. So “he” was hired to emcee, as well as mingle and amuse with the Pithees. I quickly re-wrote the script in my schticky style, and was in the performers’ tent getting ready, when I ran into…
Mickey Mouse! Who was, in fact, a cigar chomping four-foot-tall guy with a gravelly Brooklyn accent (you can’t make this stuff up). It was his first night back on the job after a two month suspension. It seems he’d been “leading” a marching band and stopping to shake hands. And each time he did, the real drum major would march on, forcing him to run to catch-up. Mickey had had enough. So he raced up to the drum major and—in front of roughly 10,000 fans—kicked him where the sun don’t shine.
During my emceeing, I began to name some of the celebrities present (Julie Andrews, Robert Redford, Carol Burnett, the Mickeys: Rooney and Mouse), and boasted that I could do a spot-on Cary Grant impression.
Later, as I mingled, a little girl sitting on her father’s lap asked me to talk like Cary Grant. So I did. She giggled. And then her father, whom I hadn’t looked up at until then, remarked, “Say, you do me pretty well.” We traded Cary Grant impressions until Mr. Grant finally conceded that mine was superior, and promised to do it my way from then on.
Call me Forrest.