.Talking Pictures

Not Talkin’

the ones that got away

By David Templeton

For three years writer David Templeton has been taking famous people to interesting movies in an ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation–a strange, difficult-to-explain quest that occasionally results in misunderstanding and confusion, and often in cold, unflattering rejection.

The charter bus bumps and rattles its way down the Waldo Grade, progressing noisily toward the Golden Gate Bridge. The bus is crammed with geologists–all associates of my wife, Susan, herself a geologist–and we are on our way to her company’s annual Christmas party, to be held on a yacht out on the windy bay.

“You’re a writer, aren’t you?” asks one tuxedoed fellow, bouncing in his seat as we rumble onto the bridge. “You do that movie thing. I always wondered how you actually get all those people to go to the movies with you.”

It’s a question I am often asked. Having recorded nearly 100 post-film conversations with various authors, musicians, and the like, people often wonder how some busy celebrity was cajoled into spending an afternoon at the movies with a total stranger. My usual response to say that I get on my knees and beg.

Tonight, however, in the spirit of corporate civility–and the knowledge that we won’t reach the boat for another 15 minutes–I offer my new friend a significantly longer explanation.

“First, I call them up,” I explain. “I try to sound sane, and I talk as fast as I can before they hang up on me.” This, I must admit, is not far from the truth, though neither was the part about begging.

“Sometimes they’re kind of charmed at the very idea, and they say yes right away,” I go on. “But it usually takes more work than that.” I think of Ram Dass, the famous spiritual teacher and author of Be Here Now, who called me one afternoon after I’d placed the umpteenth message with his assistant.

“I guess I’ll have to do this just to get rid of you,” he said. I still like to think he meant that as a joke.

“1996,” I continue, “has been the Year of Larry King.” I describe how I called up the publicist for the world-renowned talk show host last February, inviting Mr. King to see the news drama Up Close and Personal. He agreed to participate, but asked to wait to see one of the big summer blockbusters, either Eraser or Independence Day.

“Summer came, I called, they said he’d be busy until the election was over–but to keep trying,” I laugh, as the bus comes to a stoplight. “The day after the election, I called back. They said he still wants to do it, maybe with a big Christmas movie, either Jingle All the Way or Space Jam.

Christmas has come and gone–and it looks like Larry King may end up on my Ones That Got Away list. For every famous personality that has deigned to meet me at a theater, there have been at least three that said no, or “Try again later,” or “I don’t go to movies!” That third one was Garrison Keillor of the Prairie Home Companion, whom I had invited to see Fargo. “He never goes to movies,” I was told. “They make him cranky.”

Folksinger Holly Near, though admitting to movie attendance, insists that she hates talking about them afterwards. “I don’t even like seeing movies with my friends,” she apologized sweetly. “Because they always want to talk about them.”

Some of the others that got away include writer Isabelle Allende, professional female Ru Paul, former Secretary of State George Shultz, folksinger Joan Baez, writers Anne Lamott and John Gray, and Bozo the Clown. (“I am a lawyer who represents Bozo,” said the message on my machine. “I am calling to say that Bozo did not understand your request. Therefore he feels he must decline.”)

Of all the ones that got away, however, a special place is held for the psychologist/writer Gerald Jampolsky, author of the best-selling spiritual guidebook, Love Is Letting Go of Fear. After receiving a message from me inviting him to see Fearless, he called right back.

“I prayed about you,” he told me. “I told the Holy Spirit that you wanted me to go and sit in judgment of a film. I do not feel peaceful when I judge things. So the Holy Spirit told me to stay away from you.” A rejection like that is one not easily forgotten.

“Well,” offers the man in the tuxedo kindly, as the bus arrives at the pier. “Don’t give up on Larry King.”

Two days later a voice on my machine intones, “I’m calling for Larry King. He’s decided that he’d like to see either Jerry Maguire or the new Woody Allen movie. And he’d like to do it soon.”

Well, hallelujah!

He must be trying to get rid of me.

From the Dec. 26, 1996 – Jan. 1, 1997 issue of the Sonoma Independent

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