Gene Hackman was one of my favorite actors when I was growing up. The French Connection, The Poseidon Adventure, The Conversation; I loved his films.
In 1986, when I was 25, I moved to L.A. I thought I was going to be a famous film director, a female Woody Allen, before I realized what being in the film industry entailed (confidence, hard work, talent).
I was looking for a job when I landed an interview at Creative Artists, “world’s leading entertainment and sports agency.” I arrived early and checked in with the receptionist, who told me to take a seat. Other people were waiting too; we were all nervous.
In walked Gene Hackman. He came over and sat down next to me. I turned into an instant marble statue. With every fiber of my being, I wanted to turn and look at Gene Hackman, say a groovy hello, crack a little joke, smile, ANYTHING, but I couldn’t move.
My hair was pulled back into a ridiculous bun, so I couldn’t hide behind long locks and sneak a glance at Gene.
I don’t know whether he noticed me at all. He might have stared straight forward, like the rest of us, or looked around the room. He could have picked his teeth and I wouldn’t have known. This was the first time I had been close to a famous person (before my interview with Francis Ford Coppola, or the party with Dudley Moore, or waiting on Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, or serving wine to Michael Douglas, or other exciting things that happened to me when I lived in California).
Eventually, I was called in for my interview. I had forgotten why I was there.
I guess people who get flustered over movie stars don’t make great employees of talent agencies. I wasn’t asked back. Didn’t get the job. Only lasted a year in L.A. before moving on to Napa.
If Gene Hackman hadn’t come into my life, who knows where I’d be now.