The Jerk and The Dude


‘The Summer I went out with two Wild and Crazy Guys’

Yup. One of the two Wild and Crazy Guys I went out with that wild and crazy summer was indeed Steve Martin. The other one, though, was not Dan Aykroyd. (For those of you who are Very Young, or were living under a cultural rock during the late 70s, I have included links so that you can find out who the heck I’m talking about. But if you need to click on them, you probably won’t ‘get’ this story, so might as well stop reading now and go to your hot yoga class.)

This story is all about my date with Steve, who was famous, besides being a Wild and Crazy Guy, for his role in a seminal film called ‘The Jerk’.  And whose phone message, incidentally, I kept on my answering machine (remember those?) for years. (‘Hi Alice. It’s Steve. Please call me. I really want to go out with you. [Phone number goes here.] Click.’)

Classy art-house poster for Steve's most famous early film.

Classy art-house poster for Steve’s most famous early film.

Anyway. It was summertime, just about now-ish, in fact. Early August. I was working at Ogilvy, which in those days was still located between 5th and Madison (yes, the ‘Madison Avenue’) on 48th Street. I was living on 93rd Street between 5th and Madison in an amazing Beginner’s Luck sort of apartment. (My story of finding it includes a reference to yet another cultural icon, Vladimir Horowitz.)

Back to my Steve Story. Those of you who like to play with Google Maps will see that it’s rather a hike from 48th to 93rd. But, being young and feisty, sometimes I would walk all the way home after work. Which is what I was doing that fine summer evening when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a guy sort of, well, trailing me. He didn’t look scary. In fact, he looked vaguely familiar. So I decided to ignore him.

We get to a stoplight. And stop. He pulls up, pedestrian-style, right next to me.

Steve: ‘I’m not really following you, you know.’

Me: ‘I know.’

I walk on; he’s still kind of lurking behind my right shoulder. We’re starting to attract attention by now. Or, at least the kind of attention New Yorkers pay, which consists mainly of sidelong glances. We pause at another stoplight.

Steve: ‘Well, okay. Maybe I really am following you.’

Me: ‘I know.’

By now we’ve reached 76th Street, which is where the Carlyle Hotel is. This is the hotel where John F. Kennedy used to stay, and where, it is rumored, he entertained ‘friends’ like Marilyn Monroe. (I absolutely refuse to provide links for Marilyn or JFK.)

It’s also the hotel where Steve kept an apartment.

Steve: ‘Want to come in and have a drink?’

Me: ‘I have a date.’

Steve: ‘What time is your date?’

Me: ‘Seven.’

Steve: ‘You have time.’

So, hey. Why not? The doorman of the Carlyle tips his hat and says ‘Evening, Mr. Martin’, thus dispelling any doubt as to who this tall, good-looking guy with the white hair was. And yes, Folks, he was indeed good-looking. Don’t let that unfortunate plastic surgery job he got before ‘It’s Complicated’ throw you off.

I take it back. Steve looks pretty good here. At least Meryl seems to think so.

I take it back. Steve actually looks pretty good here. At least Meryl seems to think so.

So there I am, in Bemelman’s Bar, sipping a cocktail and entertaining Steve Martin. Yup. I was entertaining him. He was actually sort of quiet, almost shy. Or maybe guys like him who are funny for a living just kind of turn it off when they’re not working.

I’m regaling him with Tales of Advertising, some of which I’ve shared with you readers, like ‘Old MacDonald Had a Silo’. And I must have been doing a pretty good job, because he takes a break from laughing to ask me if I’d like to have dinner with him the next night.

Now, believe it or not, not only did I in fact have a date that night (I wasn’t telling even a ‘white lie’ to Steve about that. As you know by now, I never actually lie.) But I had a date the next night too. (Yes, Kids. I dated a lot. But then, most people my age dated a lot then. It was really fun. You should try it sometime.)

Anyway, when I tell Steve that I’m already ‘taken’ for the next night, his little face falls because he’s got to fly to Europe to promote his next movie (‘Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid’; kind of a dud, but we didn’t know that yet.) and he’d really like to see me before he goes. He makes me promise that I’ll try to move my date, and I give him my number and leave.

Well. Flattered as I was, I got to thinking that it’s really not cool to move one guy’s date to go out with another guy. Even if the other guy is Steve Martin. But when I call Steve back (remember that call on my answering machine?) to tell him this, he says he’s come up with an idea. He’s got dinner plans with some friends the night before his trip, and why don’t I join them? It would be four of us instead of an intimate evening a deux, but still. Not being a Total Idiot, I accept.

So. It’s Date Night with Steve. I show up at the Carlyle, say ‘hi’ to that doorman, and I’m told to ‘go on up to Mr. Martin’s apartment’. Well. I am definitely not a Total Idiot. But I do go up, find the apartment, and when Steve opens the door, I say ‘Just so you know. If you attack me, I will be able to describe you quite accurately to the police.’

Well, that broke the ice. He laughed, poured me some wine, and showed me the artwork he’d bought on that trip. (Yes, he’s an art collector. He also invented the ‘air quote’, which I didn’t know till I googled him for this piece.)

He also took a couple of phone calls. One was from Neil Simon, who must have asked him what he was doing, because I heard Steve say ‘having a glass of wine with a beautiful blonde’, whereupon I proceeded to lift the couch cushions as if I were looking for something. Which made Steve laugh even more.

We eventually went to the restaurant. I think it might have been Les Pleiades. But whatever it was, it was pretty fancy, and, alas, now long gone. When Steve and I walk in, the first person we see is Kevin Kline. So of course we stop to say hello. Then, when we get to our table, I see that Steve’s ‘friends’ are Lorne Michaels and Paul Simon. The inventor of Saturday Night Live? The short half of Simon and Garfunkel? Yup, those would be the guys.

This post is getting super long, so I’ll fast forward through dinner. But I do want to remind you that celebrities really are very very short, which I have written about before. Paul Simon was wearing a little motorcycle jacket so tiny it looked like it came from, like, a biker boys’ department. But they were all perfectly nice, and appropriately attentive to the Only Girl at the Table (me).

Afterward, as we’re leaving, (me bending waaaay down to intercept Paul’s peck on the cheek), a limo pulls up and Paul and Lorne invite me to a party ‘downtown’. But Steve pulls me to his side and says ‘Wait a minute, guys. She’s my date.’

Then he asks me if I’d like to go back to the Carlyle to ‘finish the wine’. Well, of course. (I must admit that, by now, visions of tabloid celebrity are starting to dance in my Little Lutheran Head.) But alas. We do just that. And only that. Then, wine gone, Steve puts me in a cab, gives the driver a twenty (which would be, like, a hundred now) and says he’ll call when he gets back from Europe.

Which did not happen. Because, while he was in Europe, he met Victoria Tennant and married her. End of story.

Well, not completely. The real end of the story is that the guy I had the other dinner date with — the dinner date I felt bad about moving — was The Dude. But you saw that coming, now didn’t you?

New York City. August 2015

69 thoughts on “The Jerk and The Dude

  1. Oh how I loved the matterafact way you just happend to meet, turn down, flirt with, eat and drink wine with, one of the most well known comic actors on the planet. But I secretly was more impressed with shorty himself and would have melted at his feet. Jus sayin. Dude is one lucky guy

  2. josypheen

    I was going to type that I love this post, but someone above wrote “awesomesauce” and I think that is a better response.
    So …+1 for awesomesauce!

    • Why Em! What a nice compliment. I must admit that my daughter encouraged me to start this blog because she was ‘sick and tired of hearing my stories’ (hah!) So glad I’ve found a new audience. xoxo

    • What an awesome compliment! So glad you enjoyed the story. Come back any ole Tuesday — that’s the day I post a new one. And next time I see Steve, I’ll tell him what you said (!)

  3. This was the best story I’ve read at Susie’s Party! It was cracking me up! I felt like I was on the date journey with you. Plus I loved your opening line when he opened the door! Great story!! So glad you were at Susie’s party don’t know if I would have found you otherwise 🙂

    • Why, thank you! So glad you enjoyed the story. And the best part? Every word was absolutely true. Sometimes the strangest things happen; and sometimes when they happen, you write them down (!) Of course it wouldn’t be any fun writing this stuff down if nobody read it. So I really appreciate that I found some new readers courtesy Susie and her party. Come back any time!

  4. Stopping by after Susie’s party. It’s not that I am following you. Well, yes I am. I absolutely I followed you to your blog.

    That is one great story. No beautiful blonde here, but I would have liked to been at the table also.

  5. Hopped over here from Susie’s party. What a fabulous story. Yes, life is indeed stranger than fiction, and way more interesting. I love Steve Martin, and so cool to find out that he really is a nice guy.

    • Well, hello there! So glad you hopped over (Susie’s party is swell, yes?) And yes, Steve really was/is nice. I believe he’s married now (but not to Victoria) and even has a child. So happy for him. And so happy to ‘meet’ you; come back soon — I post a new (funny) story every Tuesday.

  6. This story tops all! Wow. Steve Martin and the Dude. Were oto ably about the same age, 30ish. 🙂
    So nice to meet you! Thanks for coming to the party! I hope you meet a lot of new bloggers.

    • Ah, Susie! Good thing you weren’t thirty-something at the same time I was…or Steve would probably have trailed you up Mad Ave instead of me (!) Thank you so much for hosting the party. I met lots of new and interesting people (er, bloggers). And had a very good time, too!

  7. Steve Martin had plastic surgery?? I wasn’t under a rock in the 70s (well, maybe I was), but apparently I have been since then. And I have no idea what the air quote is. That must have been post 70s also. Your story make me wish I hadn’t blown off a date I had committed to back in the 80s. That guy could have been my Dude. Great post. .

    • Well. I don’t know for sure that he had plastic surgery. But if you watch ‘It’s Complicated’, his face looks well, um, shall we say ‘polished’? And, trust me. I love the guy. No hard feelings that he married Victoria Tennant. As for the ‘air quote’, that’s when somebody says something ironically, and adds the words ‘quote unquote’ while making sort of commas in the air next to each side of his/her head with their fingers. (hard to describe; sorry) As for blowing off the date…well…

    • Hey! ‘even believable, sort of’?? My stuff is absolutely true. Which is why it seems so incredibly unbelievable. Truth really IS stranger than fiction. Funnier too. Anyway. I’m really really glad you like reading my stuff. And yes — please do read other posts. It’s more fun to write stories if you know someone is actually reading them (!)

    • Hahahaha! I wish! Actually, my husband got that nickname even before the Duderino. He wore a tie to his freshman mixer at college, so was dubbed The Dude. I call him that in my stories to (hah!) protect his privacy. (Hmmm. I wonder what Jeff Bridges’ wife calls him in her blog????)

  8. Another awesome flashback story! My mom and I used to play a Steve Martin album over and over with the main purpose of irritating the life out of my father. “Born in Arizona…moved to Babylonia…” Thanks for the memory boost! 🙂

    • Hah! I can just imagine driving my own Dad nuts with a Steve Martin album (!) Now The Dude’s Dad would be a different story. His favorite movie was (I kid you not) ‘The Man with Two Brains’, which I highly (don’t) recommend. Thanks for reading and for commenting. Memory Lane can be so much fun!

  9. teresa

    Lovely love story, Alice! You really were quite the hob-nobber, kiddo! But I think you landed the right guy. I’ll take the Dude over the Jerk any day. xx

    • Why, thank you most kindly for saying so. I’m very pleased that my story got a reaction after all this time. I also love that the cute little icon of your face has your mouth, quite appropriately, hanging open (!)

  10. zamanskym

    Love this post.

    Last I saw Steve Martin was a year ago at a Pete Seeger tribute at Symphony Space. After his lead up talking about how music can change the world, I was disappointed that he never actually played his new song – “Screw you music, thanks for letting us down.” 🙂

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