But did I follow through with my intention to post the Meme of Fame? Hell no. Too busy hanging with luminaries. Oh, and did I mention I procrastinate? Then too, there's the narrowing factor. Too many lucky famous have crossed my path. Whom will I omit? Whose feelings will I hurt? But now Paschal has had the same idea. And he's tagged anyone reading his Seven. How can I not follow through now?
I will do my damndest to pick and choose seven of the most fortunate individuals of fame who came that close to knowing me.
1. Summer, 1986. I'm minding our gallery on Union Street in San Francisco, six months pregnant with my firstborn. An attractive middle-aged woman, elegantly dressed in a tailored suit adorned with a sparkly brooch, comes in. We strike up a conversation. She asks me about my due date and tells me about her own "babies," who are big kids now. She then takes interest in an oil painting of a pink bathrobe on a clothes hanger. "I really love it," she says. "I'll admit I have something of an aversion to the associations I have with the color pink."
"You must mean...the wimp factor?"
"Exactly. But something about this painting appeals to me. A lot. I'll be back with my husband. He's a television actor and is in a meeting right now."
"Oh, have I seen the show?" At the time I really did not watch TV. I didn't know what else to say.
"Probably," she said. I was so out of the popular culture loop, I didn't even recognize the words spelled by the configuration of stones in her brooch. HILL STREET BLUES. (If you're old enough to remember that show, you know it was a hugely popular police drama and was produced and written by Steven Bochco, who has subsequently produced a string of quality hits such as L.A. Law and NYPD Blue.)
The Sikkings became wonderful clients of the gallery. That same day they purchased a small surrealist etching by a German printmaker. The etching was called "Schwanz Pot" and depicted, yes, an intriguing penis-plant growing in a flowerpot. This was a gift for Mr. Bochco. "That is SO him," Florine said. (Another time Florine and Jim honored us by coming to our gallery on their anniversary and purchasing a realist painting as their gift to each other. How is that for sweet?)
Several months later I was home with my new baby Flannery. My parents were visiting. Bennie called from the gallery to say "a few Hollywood people" were, as of that moment, riding in a cab to the studio of an artist we represented. Since we lived near Bill, the artist in question, he suggested I meet them there--after all, my mom and dad could babysit. Correction. He had already informed the Hollywood people I would meet them there.
I began to panic. Not a thing to wear. I was getting my body back into shape and nothing fit. My maternity clothes now swallowed me whole, but I was way too fat for my pre-preggers skinny jeans. When I did pull together an outfit that was vaguely passable--cotton knit pants with a coral top and a sage-colored cotton sweater to wrap around my various lumps, the only pair of shoes that would go with it were these jobs I'd grabbed from the sales rack at Mervyns. Brown sandals with, God forbid, synthetic wedge soles. And talk about a horrific hair day!
Clipping my frumpy, growing-out-perm into a sad clump on the back of my head, I climbed into our VW Golf and raced to Bill's studio. Jim and Florine had arrived and they'd brought Bruce Weitz and his girlfriend Valerie. (At least I think that was her name.) By now I was a fan of the show and so I recognized Bruce right off. He looked much more elegant in person, without that most unflattering knit cap. Everyone looked casually elegant. Even Bill had gotten cleaned up. I was the odd one out, me and my marked-down footwear.
Bill began trotting out his paintings. Everyone oohed. Everyone aahed. Milk began leaking from my nursing breasts. I pulled my sweater as completely around my post-partum body as was feasible. Bill trotted out more paintings. At one point a huge dog ran into the studio, pursued by the tenant from downstairs, Kathy. "Bad dog, Bubbles! BAD dog!" Jesus Christ, was Bubbles sporting a kerchief around his affected neck? I'd never seen Bubbles in such a get-up. I'd never seen Bubbles come bounding into Bill's studio for that matter. What a transparent ploy on Kathy's part to get a glimpse of the Hollywood people. How embarrassing.
Suddenly Jim focused on a charcoal study of a piano that rested on the floor near my feet. "Tell me about this," he said. For one godawful moment, I thought he was asking about my brown sandals.
"Well," Bill said, "That's a study for an oil I'm getting ready to paint."
"I like it," Jim said. "Do you like it, Florine?"
Florine liked it.
So it was agreed that when Bill completed the oil painting, the Sikkings would buy it. We talked about palette. Jim is partially colorblind, so we wanted colors he could perceive. Lots of Matisse, Nice-period blue. We talked about dimensions. We talked about price. We came to terms. Jim and Florine would now return to the gallery and put down their deposit. Bruce and his woman would tag along.
"San, could we get a ride back to the gallery with you?" By now the milk was ready to splash onto my brown sandals.
"Sure," I said, then added casually, "Of course I'm in a Volkswagen Golf. It'll be a little crowded."
"Great! We can sit in one another's laps."
F'in' great. When would this sad ordeal end? I pictured my desperate folks at home, wearing a groove in the parquet floor of our bungalow on 30th Avenue as they walked in circles, passing a starved, red-faced, screaming Flannery back and forth. The milk spurted.
As we walked to the VW, Florine was chatting with Valerie. "When I came into that gallery last summer, she was pregnant and she was just radiant!"
Wow, I thought, what she means is, "What in the hell has happened to her now?" (Now that I'm older than Florine was then, I realize she was empathetic to my situation and was wanting to make me feel better. She'd been there. She knew. She is a genuinely kind woman.)
Everyone packed themselves into my little car and I headed down 19th Avenue, through Golden Gate Park, through the Presidio, and towards the Marina. Coming off the Marina Boulevard ramp, I had a little trouble merging in the mid-day traffic and got honked at by an irate motorist. Well, several irate motorists. I couldn't help myself. I uttered the s-word. I was chagrined to have done so. My passengers remained unperturbed. Then again, they were used to L.A. motorists. They were used to Hollywood directors.
When we arrived at the gallery, I'll admit, despite myself, I felt a measure of pride walking in with the Hollywood people. A little crowd gathered on the sidewalk in front, murmuring "That's him, isn't it?"
And, "Look. That's him too!"
And, "But who in the hell is that one in the bad sandals?"
(OK, I've written this much already and I'm still on my first Famous Person Who Almost Knew Me. Whatta ya say I make this a series? More to come...six more...at least...I'll get around to it...)