Each Sunday morning I look forward to watching Charles Osgood on CBS. Recently I caught up with a man on whom, like the rest of America, I had had a crush: Clint Eastwood. He was promoting his next film, The Hereafter.
Eastwood does not lose his appeal with age. In fact, his values belief in himself add to his appeal.
"What happens to us in the afterlife?" Katie Couric asks him, as if he might actually have the answer.
"Death is only a beginning," Eastwood replies, eyes flashing as a slight smile crosses his thin knowing lips. "No one is in a rush to find out. Everybody is curious about the hereafter. In Sunday School, we are taught that if we are really good we get to stay there forever." He laughs, not in disbelief of what he has said, but as if he too is recalling his early Sunday morning indoctrination, which he, like many of us, partly still believes in.
I recall the one time I met Clint Eastwood in a discotheque and how foolish I had behaved. In my years in Hollywood, I had always been plagued with the problem of asserting myself, and this night was a prime example of my doormat days.
Pips was a discotheque frequented by the Hollywood party set. Red leather banquettes lined the walls and soft shaded lighting caste a romantic air. One room was a disco and another was a dining area. One night, about 10 PM, I was invited to join Alana Hamilton and a group of her late night cronies. Our clique included a man who resembled a young Dean Martin without the voice. This would-be crooner wore gold chains and was dapperly dressed. Where there was
any late night action, he was there drinking to the point of intoxication. No one talked about what he did for a living. He flirted with every woman in the clique, and I was no exception. This night he was alone.
I was seated at a booth with this group when a tall handsome man came up to the table, extended his hand and said to me, "I'm Clint Eastwood. Do you want to dance?"
Stunned, I followed him to the dance floor. "Who are you?" he asked.
I introduced myself as I put my arms around Clint, who towered above me.
Clint Eastwood was a smooth dancer and his height did not bother me. To the contrary, I thought I was dreaming. Clint was being a gentleman and treating me with respect. He was one of my favorite actors. The music was slow and romantic. Sinatra sang, "Strangers in the Night" as Clint held me tightly. His voice was soft, sensual and intelligent.
"Where are you from?" he asked.
"Suburban Philadelphia," I said.
"Are you an actress?"
"How did you guess?" I said with a smile.
"Have you done anything that I might know?"
"I"ve just filmed Killer Elite."
"I hear that's going to be a good film. What's Peckinpah like to work with?"
"O.K. when he isn't screaming."
Clint laughed. He was adorable. His teeth were a bright white.
His lips were filled with promise.
"How did you get into acting?" I asked.
"Had no intention of being an actor. Piano was my passion. Wanted to go to Seattle University for music. In high school I would play the piano until my fingers bled"
"I played the piano, too, for six years," I said, laughing.
"How'd you get your first film?"
"Had been working in a gas station and a man liked my looks and introduced me to the producer of Rawhide."
"Did you click right away?"
"No. In fact they said I was lazy, too laid back, that I didn't like hard work. That I spoke too slowly and was too soft spoken."
"But these are your assets."
"Just don't give up. New actors get criticized. They said I was cold, stiff and awkward. Then America needed a hero at a time when authorities were losing the battle against crime."
"And you said, 'Do you feel lucky, punk?'"
"Something like that." Clint laughed.
"Did your parents want you to act?"
"My father did. He used to say, "Show 'em what you can do and don't worry what you're gonna get. Say you'll work for free and make yourself invaluable."
"Great advice," I said, feeling his hands squeeze mine.
"My father died in 1970 of a heart attack and I stopped drinking all hard liquor. I've adopted a regime and remedies to stay as young looking as possible. I value my career and don't want to throw it all away on booze and bad living."
"What brings you here tonight?"
"Lonely. And you?" he said with a twinkle in his eye.
"Same reason. To meet people."
"What do you do when you're not acting?" Clint asked, smiling languidly.
"I try to read," I said
"Me, too. Books, not screenplays."
A man tapped on Clint Eastwood's shoulder and cut in.
I became nauseous when I realized who the man was.
Clint released me from his embrace, glared at "the crooner" and stormed off the dance floor. Clint's eyes were filled with contempt. He went out the closest door in a huff.
I never saw him again.
Will I dance with Clint Eastwood in The Hereafter?