Debbie Reynolds Says Hello

There's a buzz in the newsroom at Inside Edition, and when I look to find out what it's all about I see a tiny little lady surrounded by my co-workers.

A tiny lady, but a show biz giant. Debbie Reynolds, here in New York to promote her new book, Unsinkable.

I tell myself -- what the hell, give it a shot.

And the shot I'm about to take is a long time coming -- nearly 40 years.

That's how long ago my father, then an art director for the Young and Rubicam advertising agency, worked with Debbie Reynolds on a TV commercial for a dishwasher.

My father worked with a lot of famous people over the years, but this one was special. I can still hear him talking about it in our house in Queens, as soon as he got home from the airport.

"We shot the commercial in Debbie Reynolds' house in Malibu," he said, "and she personally made lunch for the whole crew. She made us lunch! The biggest star I ever worked with, and she fed us! What a great woman!"

After that, Debbie Reynolds was royalty in the Carillo home. Every time she popped up on TV in The Unsinkable Molly Brown or Singin' in the Rain, my father repeated his Debbie Reynolds tribute.

I always liked hearing it, but after a few decades these things have a way of morphing from stories into mythology. Did it really happen the way my father remembered it?

Well, here's my chance to get a second viewpoint.

Debbie Reynolds has just finished giving a delightful interview to Les Trent, and she's saying her goodbyes. It's now or never.

One of the few good things about getting older is the way you become unembarrassable. Twenty years ago I could never have done what I'm about to do. Gray hair becomes your passport to clumsy behavior.

I walk right up to Debbie Reynolds, all five-feet-nothing of her, and I clasp her hand.

"Debbie Reynolds," I begin, "around 40 years ago you made a TV commercial in your home for a dishwasher."

At this point she's either going remember the commercial or call security. Debbie Reynolds nods and smiles. Radiant is a corny word, but it's the only one to describe the look on her face at that moment.

"I sure did!" she says.

"Well, my father, Tony Carillo, was the art director on that shoot, and he'll never forget the way you made lunch for the entire crew."

"Yes I did," says Debbie Reynolds. "It was beef stroganoff."

Now I don't know what to say. My father never mentioned what Debbie Reynolds made for lunch. The family legend has just acquired a new detail.

I put my arm around Debbie Reynolds and Les Trent takes our picture. I thank her for the wonderful way she treated my father, all those years ago.

"Tell your father I said hello," says Debbie Reynolds, and then she is gone.

Well, hell. You can't deliver a message like that over the phone.

So after work I head out to the house in Queens, the same one my father returned to from his shoot with Debbie Reynolds. He's outdoors as always, doing yard work. My parents are delighted to see me, wondering why I didn't call first.

I wait until we go inside to break the big news.

"Got a message from an old friend of yours," I tell my father. "Debbie Reynolds."

His eyes widen in wonder as I tell him the story, including the beef stroganoff detail. My mother does what she always does in situations like this -- she weeps happy tears.

"One more thing," I say to my father. "Debbie Reynolds says hello."

All he can do is shake his head. "She remembered," he says.

Yeah, Dad. She remembered.

Charlie Carillo is a producer for the TV show "Inside Edition." His novels "Shepherd Avenue," "My Ride With Gus," "Found Money," "God Plays Favorites" and "The Man Who Killed Santa Claus: A Love Story" are available for 99 cents on Amazon Kindle.