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The Summer I Met Al Pacino

The summer of 1999 carried a lot of firsts for me.

It was the first time I was able to perform one of my dream plays on the stage -- as Tom in "The Glass Menagerie".

It was the first time I had ever quit a job -- a job I had held for eight years -- because I was told I couldn't take a much deserved vacation to L.A.

And speaking of L.A., it was my first time on a plane...the first time I had ever taken a personal vacation...

...and the first (ok, and only) time I met Al Pacino.

You have to understand that I had adored Al Pacino throughout my adolesence into my adult life.  His work was a revelation to my young mind.  I found myself fully formed -- I knew what my passions were when I first witnessed him on screen.  I knew, like Pacino, that the craft of acting and filmmaking were my passions.

About six months before that fateful L.A. trip, I had surfed the net and found a listing for an upcoming L.A. stage production of Eugene O'Neil's "Hughie" starring Mr. Pacino himself.  My mind was set then and there.  I took out my 401K earnings and purchased four tickets (to be used over two consecutive nights) and three plane tickets for myself and two of my closest friends -- including fellow Movie Geeks United! radio host Chris.  The whole trip was on me.  I wanted to share the experience with my best film buddies who shared a similar dedication to Pacino's genius.

On the plane, I did something I thought I would never do.  I wrote a fan letter.  It was the fan letter I placed in the stage manager's hand before the first performance.  Sitting out in the house after submitting this fan letter, I was approached by that stage manager.  My heart skipped a beat.

"I gave Al your fan letter.," he said.

"Oh, great...thank you so much," I nervously replied.  My heart was pounding now.

"How would you like to meet Al after the show?"

My heart officially stopped beating.  I stammered, but he got the message.  HELL YES.

The show was brilliant.  Al owned the stage as a somber alcoholic mounring the loss of his only friend.  He was viracious, defeated, funny and touching.  He was everything; mining every morsel the character had to offer.  As the play ended, I made my way outside to the rear entrance of the theatre.  Anxious fans were lined up behind ropes awaiting the emergence of their favorite star, but I had a VIP pass right through those doors.

My friend (unfortunately, not Chris -- be he had his own Pacino encounter the following night) and I told a stage hand we were invited back to meet Pacino, at which time he disappeared around a corner to Pacino's dressing room.  We must have sat on the bench backstage for only five minutes...but it felt like days.  We were constantly eyeing that corner, from which we knew Pacino would appear any second.  As it turns out, I wasn't looking at this corner when he did emerge.  But I heard the unmistakable voice.

"Are you the guys from Florida?" Pacino asked.

We stood and greeted him as he approached with a welcoming open hand and a warm smile. All at once, I was immediately set at ease, because Pacino almost seemed more humbled and nervous than I was.

Something strange occurs when you meet one of your idols face to face.  You elevate and feel like you're living outside of yourself.  You're hovering in mid-air.  It's not surreal so much as unreal.  I mean, I was standing in front of AL PACINO!  I remember my mind was racing through the indelible images of Tony Montana and Michael Corleone as he stood before me.  Most of what he said to me was a blur.  I had stored years of questions and compliments to shower him with.  But I could only stammer helplessly when his reality met mine.

"You know, I was just in Florida shooting "Any Given Sunday"," he said.

"How did it turn out, do you think?" I asked.

"Well, I haven't seen any of it yet, but it's got everything; drama, tension...and it's football - Oliver Stone style."

When he said Oliver Stone's name, he made two fists and slammed them into one another.  It was a surprisingly passionate and unexpected moment -- just like those that infuse his work as an actor.

We made more small talk before he saw the program I was holding in my hand.

"Would you like me to sign that for you?" he asked.  I gave him my program and he graciously gave his signature.  Then, he offered to pose for a picture with us.  Unfortunately, I was stupid (having no idea I was giong to meet Pacino that evening) and only brought a dummy daytime-only disposable.  But he asked the photographer to take one more just in case, as he cradled his arms around myself and my friend.

We said our goodbyes and walked out.  As we reached a safe distance from the theatre, my friend and I looked at one another and stopped in the middle of downtown.  And we both started screaming at the top of our lungs.  And now, eight years that immortal summer, I'm still screaming.

______________________________________________________________

The 2-hour tribute to Al Pacino this Sunday at 6pm eastern on MOVIE GEEKS UNITED! is a very personal one for me.  It is my very true attempt to celebrate a creative talent that has changed my life.  And I know my co-hosts Chris and Jerry feel the same way.

Our guests include Steven Bauer (Scarface), director Jerry Schatzberg (The Panic in Needle Park, Scarecrow), "Salomaybe?" (Pacino's latest directorial effort) co-stars Steve Roman, Geoffrey Owens, Joe Roseto, Poncho Hodges and Corie Lee Loiselle, the author of "The Films of Al Pacino" William Schoell, as well as Pacino's co-star on Broadway in "Richard III" and "American Buffalo" and on-screen in "...And Justice for All", Mr. Thomas Waites.

More guests may be confirmed in the next day or so...we're this close to 100% confirmation from one of the producers of the upcoming DeNiro/Pacino film "Righteous Kill"...and (get this!) Frank Serpico himself.

I am extremely nervous about the show -- afraid, like my co-hosts -- of screwing it up and making an ass of myself.  But, more than anything, I want to do my idol proud.  Please listen in...cheer us on...and enjoy the celebration.

Comments (1)

Lucky Guy.I would die to

Lucky Guy.I would die to meet him and get a autograph. But im from Germany :( Nice report though

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