Mel Brooks makes a match

This post is part of a BlogHop (see below) about “How I met my husband”

Meeting celebrities is just part of the job when you’re a television reporter; so this was a fairly typical day at work when I was in my twenties.   I was sent to  the Fontainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach to cover a press conference with Sophia Loren, Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler and Mel Brooks, all being honored by the National Organization of Theater Owners.

My station had arranged  a private interview with Mel Brooks; my cameraman Larry was a big fan and brought along a box of Raisinets which he knew Mel loved.

After the interview, the guy with Mel handed me his card and asked me to send a videocassette copy of the interview to him in Los Angeles.  I was used to guys like this: I figured he was Mel’s publicist; and either wanted to represent me, or he was hitting on me.

Pretty soon I had the answer.  And somehow I found myself agreeing to meet him back at the Fontainebleau for a drink, after I finished the late news.

“I don’t know why I said ok; I couldn’t think of a fast excuse,” I told my producer when I got back to the station from the interview.  “I’m not gonna show up.”

“You should go, ” my producer urged me.  “Maybe Mel will be there, too.”

Nah,  I said.  The Fontainebleau was a half hour away; plus this Hollywood guy wasn’t even my type.

I was heading up to the studio to do the 11 p.m. news when my date called to confirm.  Who confirms a date that’s in an hour?

The call caught me off guard;  and now I couldn’t stand him up. So after the news, I headed back to the Fontainebleau.

The Hollywood guy was waiting outside the hotel, and he climbed into my car.  Now I found out he was Mel’s personal manager; he had made plans to go to a popular nightspot; he had mentioned his plans to Mel; and Mel had invited himself on our date.

Score for my producer.

Sure enough, Mel was waiting when we arrived at the Cricket Club.  The management made a fuss and took lots of pictures.

When you’re on a date with Mel Brooks, the laughs and the patter and the  jokes never stop.  He was working the whole room.   I could see Mr. Hollywood had a great sense of humor; but we barely had a chance to say two words to each other.

It was 3 a.m. when we finally got up to leave; and then we found out that  Mel had dismissed his car and driver, assuming we’d take him back to the Fontainebleau with us.

So the three of us headed back in my car–me driving, Mr. Hollywood next to me, and Mel in the back seat.

Even with jet lag, Mel was wired in the middle of the night, and continued entertaining us as I drove towards Miami Beach.  I still knew next to nothing about Mr. Hollywood.

And then Mel got semi-serious—and a new side of him emerged.  He leaned way forward between the two bucket seats,  and aimed a pointed question right at me.

“So.  You got a boyfriend?”

It was the Jewish Inquisition.

I hesitated.   Then I mumbled the truth:  “Um.  Kind of.”

Mel pounced.  “Well, you  don’t sound very excited about him.  You should dump this boyfriend, marry my manager, and move to California.”

I was so flustered I missed the turnoff and had to get off the highway—the guys had no idea where we were, but I did— in the most dangerous neighborhood in Miami. I could just picture the newspaper headlines:  Miami Newscaster Causes Injury to Beloved Comic Legend Mel Brooks.

Little did I know that there would be headlines– of a very different kind– in Liz Smith’s syndicated column when I took Mel’s advice —four months later, I married his manager Howard Rothberg, and moved to California.


Howard and I got divorced 13 years later; and the story of how I met my second husband  (18 years so far) isn’t nearly as romantic.  Still I feel enormously grateful to Mel Brooks for being our matchmaker—–giving me the treasure of life-long friendship with Howard, and our two fabulous kids.

Also posted on the Huffington Post

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  1. says

    What a fun story! I can’t imagine an evening with Mel Brooks – such a sense of humor. And some wisdom too – playing matchmaker. My “how I met my husband” story with first husband was more romantic than with my current husband which was why i shared it – so I can relate. It’s a happy ending when you meet someone you love – romantic beginning or not. BTW – how adorable you are in that picture!

  2. Helene Bludman says

    Great story, Darryle. Mel Brooks has always been a favorite of mine. How cool that he played an important role in your life!

  3. says

    Thanks so much Barbara. Totally agree that no matter how cute you meet, it’s the happiness that matters most. I will say Howard and I had great laughs before, during and after our marriage. Which fits since anyone who’s around Mel has to have a great sense of humor. A night with him really is one of life’s great rewards.

  4. says

    How can anyone not love Mel Brooks? He’s completely endearing and adorable; and I feel nothing but warmth and humor for Howard and for Mel. Really enjoyed reading your post; and thanks for commenting.

  5. says

    Thanks, Bonnie; it always made a great story when Howard and I told it; and we enjoyed telling it even after we got divorced—we both always felt the happy ending was having our kids.

  6. says

    Absolutely,Mel played a HUGE role. Funny enough, back when I first met Mel, he was always compared to Woody Allen—and I felt kind of guilty since I had always preferred Woody! (but don’t tell anyone I said that!) Feel really lucky that I had the chance to know both of them. Thanks so much, Helene.

  7. says

    Yes, and he sure wasn’t shy about it, either! We were out of the country but we sent him a telegram when we decided to get married, thanking him and letting him know he was absolutely right.

  8. says

    Adorable story, and quite an adorable couple! How wonderful that you could still be friends after the divorce. I remember reading about your first husband in another post. Very sad. And you have two wonderful children to remind you of all the good things about him.

  9. says

    I guess that’s when being around a celebrity really comes in handy; everyone wants visual evidence they were there. How lucky we were to have that moment captured when we met.

  10. says

    We had a fairly small wedding in Miami. Though he got credit for the match, I don’t think Mel got an invitation. My producer did, and he came. By then he was one of my closest friends; and in fact, we’re still friends!

  11. Julie Simon says

    Ahh — I remember the NATO convention at the Fontainebleau so well. And of course, the best thing to come out of it — your amazing romance and your two children!

  12. says

    Wonderful story….how many people can say that the 2,000-year-old-man was their matchmaker? I’ve always loved Mel Brooks, and now I have one more reason to love him: he has great taste!

  13. says

    Thanks, Mindy, for your sweet words about Howard. I think he’d get a real kick out of seeing that so many people enjoy this story of how we met. And I like that it keeps his memory alive.

  14. says

    Wow; I love that someone else remembers that convention! Were you there? Would love to hear what you remember about it! Before going, I was mostly excited to see Sophia Loren in person. And she didn’t disappoint.

  15. says

    You know, what–until you said that about Mel’s taste, it never ever occurred to me–ever–to ask Howard if Mel had ever tried matching him up with anyone else!

  16. says

    After the Beatles blog hop I saw Mel’s picture and thought “what????” I love Mel. So I had to read your post.

    OH MY G-D!!

    First that you met Mel Brooks at all is astounding to me. I love Mel and his craziness.

    Second, the entire story is fun and funny and wonderful.

    I love the pic of you – you look GAWgeous.

    Thanks for sharing!

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