‘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.’)
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?’
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.
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
p.s. If you click on ‘wild and crazy guys’ in the first line of this story, you can watch them do their Wild and Crazy Thing on SNL in a sketch from 1978. (I’ll also put it here in case you don’t want to scroll all the way back up there.)