Sunday, March 2, 2008
Fool for Melanie
So the other day I'm at my local small-town, big-university Ohio coffee shop, when who should walk in but Melanie Griffith.
My celebrity sightings have been few. In college I once shared an uncomfortably silent elevator ride with Rodney A. Grant, the Native American actor who'd just had a major supporting role as the temperamental Wind In His Hair in Dances with Wolves. (The unnervingly intense Grant, who was on campus for a cultural heritage event, had an entourage of fellow American Indians packed in that elevator, though he looked like the last person who needed help with anything.) A year or so later, a friend dragged me to a thirty-second stump speech by his hero Pat Buchanan during one of the Patster's runs for president, after which Buchanan mingled in passing with the crowd, shook my hand, got distracted by a hollering hippie, then shook it again. ("You got two!" my irked friend said.)
Yesterday, I was at a table in the corner of the coffee house, when I noticed a couple of women with Hillary Clinton buttons enter. One of them approached the guy sitting at the table directly in front of me and asked if she could discuss the election with him. Assuming I was to be next, I recoiled and grimaced and said to myself, I don't want to talk about the election! Then I turned and noticed, lo' and behold, Melanie Griffith, tall, striking, and dressed in a charcoal-grey striped suit, approaching his table. And my immediate thought was, But I will talk to you....
For about fifteen minutes I was the only person among fifteen or twenty who recognized her -- including the guy she was talking to, who didn't care who she was and in an agitated voice said he wanted only numbers, actual figures as to how much on taxes a self-employed musician like himself would have to pay on his non-income with Clinton as president. Eventually, the place started buzzing, with "She was in Working Girl" and "She's married to Antonio Banderas" the two main identifiers. I was trying to think of an opener and didn't want to mention Working Girl as it was too obvious, so while she was trapped with the sullen musical artist I scrolled through her filmography. I had to scroll quite a ways down because, Jesus, she's made some bad movies. I couldn't mention Bonfire of the Vanities or Milk Money because they sucked, Night Moves seemed too obscure, Body Double too inappropriate somehow. As for her recent foray into television, Viva Laughlin was a big red flag.
Then I happened on Nobody's Fool (1994), a little-seen gem directed by Robert Benton and based on the novel by Richard Russo, starring Paul Newman in arguably his last great performance as a down-on-his-luck small-town rogue who endures one of the worst days of his life that ends up being one of the best. It's a lovely comedy with a great cast that includes Jessica Tandy (taking a final bow), Bruce Willis, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Philip Bosco, Dylan Walsh, Jay Patterson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Griffith, who turns in one of her best performances, funny and vulnerable, as the wife of Newman's boss. It was the right movie to say to Griffith, who beamed and sat down at my table and told me why she was voting for Hillary: "She's a woman. She's a friend. And she's got experience, and we need experience right now because our country's so fucked up." For some reason, hearing Melanie Griffith say "fuck" in person was very funny. And who was I to argue?
I was holding out hope that she'd get around to saying, "I have a head for business and a bod for sin," but before long she got up and left with the rest of the Clinton crew to a rally in Akron. (Probably for the best, since I'd hate to get Zorro'd.) Still, it was the most enjoyable conversation I've had with a woman all year. I'll have to return to that coffee shop soon -- maybe Diane Lane will show up.