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Tuesday
Mar172009

My Apologies To Helen Buckman

Martha Plimpton has opened up a wormhole in my universe.

Shortly after I spotted her the other night, I noticed that Parenthood was playing repeatedly on HBO. I had forgotten how much I love that film. Last Friday, J came home to find me sobbing, clutching tissues and reciting lines to the ending of a film I hadn't seen in over a decade. I obviously never realized how much it affected me. Last night as we were getting ready for bed, J noticed something taping on the DVR and brought up the menu.

"You're taping Parenthood AGAIN?"

"Oh yeah! I forgot. Let's put it on." I batted my lashes. "Just the beginning."

We watched for half an hour, finally turning it off because J couldn't stand to watch the lost retainer scene. And then I happened to mention online that I once scared the crap out of Dianne Wiest.

I should know by now that you can't allude to something online without being prepared to tell the full story. I was asked to elaborate, and I only wish it had been as exciting as I made it sound. I did not jump out at Dianne Wiest from behind a rock. I did not put snakes in Dianne Wiest's luggage. If anything, I may have made Dianne Wiest feel a little bit uncomfortable. The truth, apparently, doesn't sound as good on Twitter. So forgive me if this story goes nowhere. (Last Sunday I learned that if you're telling a story that's going nowhere, you should end it with "And then I found five dollars." Apparently, the worse the story is going, the lower the value you tack on to the end of the story. This could come in handy.)

In the summer of 1990, a film crew rolled into our sleepy town to film scenes from Jodie Foster's directorial debut, Little Man Tate. They held casting calls for extras and stand-ins*, roped off streets, and raised lighting rigs to light up various buildings around town. I'm sure the local paper ran a headline along the lines of "Hollywood Comes To Southwestern Ohio." On hot days when there was nothing better to do, we townfolk milled curiously around the perimeters of the set, hoping to catch a glimpse of Harry Connick Jr. changing his t-shirt.

One day I was loitering with the rest of the town, navigating a maze of duct taped cables and catering tents, waiting for someone to shout "action!" Dianne Wiest was nearby, playing with her daughter during a pause in filming. This was before I knew much about Dianne Wiest, Academy Award Winning Actress, Star Of Woody Allen Films. But I knew she was a star, and I was in awe of being in proximity to a star. I had, after all, seen Parenthood.

She handed the girl to a sitter and sat down in a director's chair to review her script. I was trying to build the nerve to ask for her autograph; the mother of a friend of mine innocently suggested I use a conversation starter, such as asking her what her daughter's name was. And so I walked up to her.

"Um, what's your daughter's name?"

"[Daughter's Name I Can't Remember.] Why do you ask?" She was on guard, but politely signed my stray piece of paper. Apparently fourteen seemed like an odd age at which to be naturally curious about the name of another child.

I pointed. "That lady over there told me to ask you."

When I looked in the direction of my friend's mother, however, she wasn't waving cutely like a curious and empathetic mom, but leering expectantly at the two of us. The expression on her face made her look as if she could be anticipating either a celebrity's acknowledgment of her question, or the fingerbone of a small child to help her build her house in the woods. She might as well have been dangling a poison apple. She noticed us looking in her direction and tried to slip behind a nearby tree. Poor Dianne Wiest smiled nervously at me and I walked away.

I doubt her daughter came to the set much after that.

And then I found a nickel.

(*Look carefully for the boy running pigeon-toed away from the camera in one of the scenes with the group of genius kids. That would be my brother, aged ten.)

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