...Mr. Eugene Levy.
First, some clarification. Greatness can appear in all walks of life - but this blog is in the business of show biz. We're always talking about what makes a 'great' script, a 'great' TV series, a great actor, a great writer, a great director...what makes something/someone 'great'? Yes, it’s a subjective thing...something slightly different to everyone...but when in the presence of such a thing, it will perhaps be intimidating, but can also be inspiring. That's all these 'presence of' posts are supposed to be, entertaining...maybe even inspiring (but certainly not intimidating).
Anyway...Mr. Levy, or 'Gene' as some call him, was an idol of mine while growing up. I don't have to tell anyone in Canada, or North America for that matter, who was drawn to good smart clever funny television about the SCTV series. I watched it religiously from its inception up at the Allarcom Studios in Edmonton, Alberta to its subsequent move to Toronto and NBC and prominent rise in public awareness and popularity. And I loved every minute of it.
John Candy, Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin, Catherine O'Hara, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, Martin Short were some of the well known SCTV alumni, but Eugene Levy was always my favorite. Now I've had the pleasure of dinner with Dave Thomas, and the pleasure of directing Andrea Martin...both very smart and very funny people....but these were 'work' situations, and they were 'on', or in 'on' mode. I put my encounter with Mr. Levy in another category because it was outside the work element...
It was a week long golf trip...to Las Vegas...
Think of the possibilities.
When it began to look like it just might happen I will admit I was damn near beside myself with excitement...
How do things like that come together? Well, a producer friend of mine happened to be good friends with Mr. Levy. My producer friend and a writer friend and I were talking about a week of golf in February somewhere south - and decided upon Vegas and surrounding area. My producer friend mentions this to Levy, who says he will be in LA just prior to our trip...maybe he'll join us.
Cut to a week later, me and my producer friend and my writer friend touch down in Vegas and there standing by the baggage carousel in sunglasses and a ball cap is Eugene Levy...waiting for us.
Remain calm. Treat with courtesy and respect. Don't fawn.
Little is said as we hop in a rental van and drive an hour or so to first resort/casino/golf course complex we plan to stay at. I drove. Tried real hard not to dwell on the embarrassing ramifications if I should suddenly pass out and crash the vehicle.
We arrive, quickly check in, and race for the first tee to get in a game before the sun sets. Again, very little is said. Eugene Levy is anything but 'on'. We hit away.
Now, I believe I've mentioned I used to be a pretty good golfer. And can still hold my own. And I don't think I'd be dishing any dirt if I acknowledge that as much as Mr. Levy loves I mean really loves the game of golf...he's not very good at it.
So here I be, tromping up and down the fairways with a comic legend, one of my all time idols, and the first words of any real substance that come out of his mouth and are pointed in my direction are: "...damn, you got a hell of a swing."
Uh, thanks. And you're pretty...er...talented, also.
He continues to slash his way along. A couple shots later (I think I birdied the hole) and I get: "...geez, you are good! Come here and tell me what I need to be doing."
Okay, what's wrong with this picture....?
Ever ask yourself what you'd do or say if you ever met someone you really admired or respected? All I wanted to do is gush and heap praise on the man, and he's asking me for golf tips because he thinks I'm good. Not the way I would've seen it going. Not at all.
Nevertheless, we all got along and a fun and entertaining week of much golf and relaxation subsequently followed. I'm not for a moment saying I ever felt in his league or anything, but you can reach a relative level playing field with a lot of people if allowed to take it outside of the work arena. Like playing golf at Banff.
What was my point again? Ah yes...greatness.
So not to drudge up a minute by minute play by play, but two meals stand out in particular.
The first was the evening of the second or third day there. Everyone was getting used to each other, guards were being lowered, people were relaxing....Mr. Levy was relaxing. And we were heading into the buffet for our nightly gorge fest on mediocre food (this wasn't a high class trip...pretty low-key/modest all around)...and with the din of the slots 'ding dinging' away not twenty feet behind us, Mr. Levy got on a roll. About the people in the food line, about the food, about certain people glued to their stools at particular slots or card tables, about the musical entertainment, about the obvious regulars, about the waitresses, about the dealers...he was just riffing on what we'd all been seeing, but was one of the funniest hours I've ever been privy to.
The other was near the end of the trip, and over dinner, he was asked about what he was working on in LA. After some thought, he proceeded to go through in much detail this 'notion' of an idea that he and Christopher Guest were kicking around - a sort of improvisational feature - and they'd just finished a couple weeks of outlining a story. He was planning on playing a dentist with a lazy eye (proceeds to depict what he's talking about - much laughter ensues).
And at the time, hearing about an improvised story, with characters developed by the actors and filming it all (albeit with a loose structure) seemed pretty cool but also pretty radical. In fact, I didn't know quite what to make of it, other than to feel very privileged to hear about it --- and very inspired by how excited and passionate he was about it. Something he and Guest were thinking about calling 'Waiting For Guffman'....
Say no more.
EDIT: saw "Monster House" tonight - a pretty solid little flick. I'd say its between it and "Cars" as the best movies I've seen this summer. Hopefully 'Miami Vice' won't disappoint.
SONG & ARTIST? - "Now for ten years we’ve been on our own
And moss grows fat on a rollin’ stone,
But that’s not how it used to be.
When the jester sang for the king and queen,
In a coat he borrowed from james dean
And a voice that came from you and me."