Celebrity Encounters, Part 1

My very good friend, George Harrison.

My very good friend, George Harrison.

Did I ever tell you about the last time George Harrison and I spoke? Back in 1973ish, a friend who was in the market for an electric guitar rightly figured he’d have a wider selection to choose from in New York City than in Putnam County, New York, where we lived.

I accompanied him to Le Grand Pomme and we wound up in either Sam Ash or Manny’s Music.  Maybe both, but I think it was Manny’s.  Anyway, my friend was playing any number of guitars at the back of the shop and I was walking around looking at this and that, picking things up and putting them down, when I saw a guy, maybe two aisles over, who was a dead-ringer for George Harrison.

He looked like an outsized garden gnome; baggy pants and floppy jacket, big boots, floppy hat, beard (not floppy).  I skulked around, stole furtive glances and otherwise spied on the man while I did an internal monologue to the tune of “It’s him… nah, it’s not him… oh, that’s definitely him… too frowsy, he’s a bum… it might be him… nah, too short… how do you know how tall he is?”

Mr. X made his way to the counter with whatever it was he was buying and I fell into line behind him.  I had nothing to purchase, of course, but I wanted to hear his voice so I would know that I was mistaken and I could get on with my shoplifting, or whatever it was I was doing.

The guy behind the counter was all efficiency and normality… no fawning, no goggle-eyed gushing, nothing like that.  He simply took the money offered, rang up the purchase, bagged the dingus and handed it and some change back with a polite “Thanks very much, Mr. Harrison.” To which Mr. Harrison replied “Cheers.”

Well!  What does one say?  What sensible thing could a complete stranger say to one of the most famous people in the world, relatively speaking?  A sensible complete stranger would say nothing at all, or take a good shot at eye contact and follow up with a knowing nod that states very clearly that “I know exactly who you are but I’m not one of those idiots who harass and harangue the rich and famous with insipid and irrelevant idolatry and aren’t you immensely glad that it’s me behind you instead of the bottom-feeder standing behind me who’s dying to knock me over and grab the hem of your robe?”

All things being equal, he’d pause, nod back and toss in a double blink and a crooked smile that would wordlessly say “I can’t possibly express my gratitude enough”

I didn’t do that. I started to do that but got lost somewhere between the eye contact and the knowing nod, which left me and George Harrison staring at each other, toe to toe, like two people definitely expecting something of each other but neither of them knowing what or why.

One second. Two seconds. He glanced to my hands, which were empty, and instantly and accurately surmised that he had locked eyes with, and was standing right next to, someone who he was so far away from exchanging knowing glances with that it wasn’t even funny. Sweat blossomed on my head, pooled greasily in my palms and poured down the center of my back like the Zambezi over Victoria Falls on a very rainy day.  And I don’t even know if the Zambezi flows over Victoria Falls.

“I really like you.”  I said.  “I really like you, too.” He said back.  And that was the last time I spoke with George Harrison.

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~ by The 1955 Hudson on April 2, 2010.

4 Responses to “Celebrity Encounters, Part 1”

  1. Hey, I also knew a guy, and he talked to John Lennon (this was before he was shot by an arraigned fan). He called during a show when Lennon was being interviewed by Pete Fornatale on WNEW FM. And, this guy was also from Putnam Valley! So top that!

  2. This guy had a MOOSEHEAD hanging from his wall!!! Those kind of people DIDN’T LIE!!! Unless of course their parents asked them where their Kents were…

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