October 26, 2011
I was an hour early to the premiere of the ESPN documentary on Chris Herren, the Fall River-born hoops star turned junkie turned comeback story. While the guest list filed in to witness his struggle (and recovery) on the big screen, I reflected on my own addiction and anticipated a fresh fix after a desert dry month. Though Herren was the film’s star, I was waiting for the arrival of a rumored attendee, NBA Hall of Famer Chris Mullin.
Like I said, it was a slow month.
Every approaching Escalade raised my antennae and I squinted hard to spot Mullin’s trademark blond flat top behind the shaded glass. But each rumbled by before disappearing into the Boston night. Then, finally, one stopped. I fished out my Sharpie and slid an 8×10 from Mullin’s induction in August on top of my folder. The doors swung open and I headed straight for the vehicle.
But it was Herren and his family.
I returned to my lookout and plunged shivering hands into my thin windbreaker (NOTE: I’ve never worn too many layers while graphing. I often wear too few layers. I never learn.) I burn the next half hour checking out college girls and telling bums that I don’t have any change.
An Escalade approaches, slows. It was just a few minutes before the film is set to begin. I took a few steps closer just as it turned down a side street and heads off away from the theatre. Another dud. But the silver-haired man with the scraggly goatee riding shotgun looked familiar. Looked a little like Jeff Bridges. I took off after the SUV.
In town filming R.I.P.D. with Ryan Reynolds, I hadn’t yet seen Bridges in person. Even better, I had an 8×10 in my bag (remember what I said about carrying items for your “home team” at all times). My power walk turned into a jog as I crossed the street, Froggering past oncoming taxis. I reached Bridges in front of the hotel as he stepped out of the vehicle. A fan (white male, late thirties) had been waiting and the actor gestured him forward.
The fan handed over a stack of Laserdiscs (Laserdiscs!) and personalized each, inserting the fan’s name in a speech bubble spoken from the actor’s headshot on each item. Bridges signed slowly, drawing the Sharpie deliberately over each sleeve. He looked and moves like a tired man.
“How many you got there?” barked Bridges companion, a middle-aged man with similar rough edges. “We need to move this along.”
The fan had four. “And you?” he said, turning to me.
“Just one for myself.”
He nods approvingly. “Good, that’s reasonable.”
After Bridges finally finished the Laserdiscs I handed over my photo and asked him to personalize.
Yes sir. (By the way, when’s the last time you met a “Mat”?)
On the dark photo Bridges signed over a light area which I appreciated. I asked for a picture and he agreed, his companion pressing the shutter for me. After shaking his hand I headed back to the theatre not caring at all about Chris Mullin.*
The Dude abides.
*I ended up graphing Mullin a short while later. After approaching him with my request (incidentally, I was the only collector there) he didn’t acknowledge me for several minutes while he typed on his phone. Now, I don’t mind waiting patiently for someone to finish a conversation but I was a bit put off by the lack of engagement.