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My Brush with Greatness

Back in 1978, I left Madison, Wisconsin and moved out to LA.

Though I had no aspirations to be a performer, I ended up living in Hollywood where you see what
used to be called actresses and actors everywhere you go - and nary a 'freelance photographer' in sight.

It was fun to turn around in the drug store or the grocery and see a highly regarded public person
standing there in sweat pants and sunglasses trying to decide between two different cans of beans.
Just like everyone else - and nobody pestered them or made a fuss, although a little polite staring
was not considered ill mannered.

In 1979 worked for an interior designer with offices on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City. We seldom
had clients in and we didn't sell retail, but the space had a display window facing the street, so we had
a little display in there that included a very lovely antique Windsor chair. One afternoon I was in the office
alone when I hard the front door open.

I looked up and there was Walter Matthau, wanting to know about the chair in the window.
I explained that it was one of a kind and he said he needed six of them. I invited him to sit down
while I called the boss to find out if he knew where we could purchase five reproduction chairs to
more or less match the antique.

My boss was the most star struck person I met in all my years in LA, and rather than simply provide
the information, he insisted on coming back to the office to 'help Mr. Matthau personally.' Fine. Whatever.

So I got to sit and chat with Walter Matthau for about 40 minutes. I asked what he was going to do
with the chairs and he had me laughing with stories about his poker nights, which included some very
prominent members of the business and entertainment communities. He said they were all big fat guys
and the chairs he had weren't big enough to accommodate their asses, so he'd been looking for new ones.

He was just as funny in person as he was in his movies, and very gracious and charming. Just before the
boss finally arrived, Matthau looked at his watch and jumped up saying that he'd lost track of the time
and had to leave to pick his son up from school. He took our number and said he'd call back about the
chairs, and off he went.

The boss arrived a few minutes later and was furious with me for 'letting him get away.'
We did sell him the set of chairs, but all further contact was through his housekeeper,
who was also a delightful person.

If you've never seen The Odd Couple with Matthau and Jack Lemmon, you've missed a comedy classic.
  -Joanne From Wisconsin Bart

Joanne, that was a good one - thanks.


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