When I was in college, way before he was linked with Mia Farrow or Soon-Yi, I thought Woody Allen was a genius. He wrote erudite essays, did stand-up, and had made his first few movies. It was common knowledge that every Monday night in Manhattan, he played the clarinet at Michael’s Pub. So one night I came down with a few friends from New Haven to see him in person.
He did just that: he played the clarinet. Nothing else. He didn’t introduce any songs. He didn’t say one word to the audience. He didn’t even make eye contact.
I didn’t need him to speak. I was happy just to watch him up close in such an intimate setting. I had my close encounter with Woody Allen—and I didn’t care if I ever saw him in person again.
If only I had quit while I was ahead.
Cut to 7 years later. I’m a TV reporter in Miami. I’m still wild about Woody. Because I’m a fan, my boss surprises me by sending me to New York on a movie junket, even though I’ve never reviewed a movie. I’m wined and dined with a group of movie critics—and I get to see a preview of the upcoming Woody Allen movie: Annie Hall.
The weekend is like a dream. I know it really happened— since there’s a picture to prove it.
Woody seems to be shrinking away from me—and he has good reason. I have a high fever that day, but Woody doesn’t know that. I’d like to blame drugs for my temporary insanity during our interview—only I’m not taking medication.
I’m an experienced reporter—-by this time, I’ve met movie stars and two presidents. Yet somehow, sitting down with Woody, I’m intimidated. I’ve never been so nervous. I’m unprepared, flustered, I ask dumb questions. And that’s not even the bad part.
No, that comes at the end of our 5-minute interview—still on-camera—-when I ask Woody for a kiss. He’s slightly stunned–but he gives me a peck on the cheek.
I have the interview in the can. And it really IS a can— which the movie people hand me to take back to Miami. I sit on the flight home, panicked by the can on my lap, wondering if I will still have a career once the film in that can airs on TV. I get off the plane and stand in Miami International Airport, holding the can over a trash container, about to drop it in and invent a story that the film was lost by the airline.
I can that idea; the interview is broadcast, and nothing terrible happens. I remain a fan of Woody Allen. Very soon, another Jewish filmmaker, Mel Brooks, introduces me to my future husband. After a whirlwind romance, I marry Mel’s personal manager and move to Hollywood. Cut to Act 3.
A few months after our marriage, my new husband and I are in New York. One night we go out to dinner to meet some of his friends. We’re led to our table at Elaine’s. As I sit down, I turn to my right. Sitting at the table, in the chair next to me is…..Woody Allen.
Of course my husband has no idea Woody and I have a past. I can’t get up and switch seats. I try draping my hair to hide my face but it’s too short. So I barely speak through the entire meal, trying to ignore Woody. Only Woody is too courteous to ignore me; he’s also too courteous to remind me of our previous encounter—- if he remembers it.
What irony. If someone asked me to name my fantasy dinner partner, Woody would have been at the top of my list. Now I have two hours to get to know him. Only I don’t . I spend the evening—as much as humanly possible and socially acceptable— in the ladies’ room.
Finally the night is over. This time, I don’t ask Woody for a kiss goodbye.
I still don’t know if he remembered the lunatic who kissed him. By now, 3 decades later, I’d be over the humiliation and able to laugh about it. Maybe.
I haven’t had a fourth encounter. So no epiphany. No happy ending. And a little disappointing—-which by the way is my review of Woody’s latest movie.