Of course I wasn’t the first. He was a big deal. He knew that. It didn’t matter. He wanted to be nice right back and worked hard to make sure he was.
I’ve met a lot of famous people. That was especially true when I used to fill-in on Good Morning America¹. Stars–real stars–were coming through that studio every day.
They were working. I was working. Often we’d just pass in the hallway or when they were placed in my area waiting to go on. I was the fill-in weatherman, not exactly a major player.
“Are those children’s drawings?” A short trim man with a deep Texas accent asked that one morning while looking over my shoulder.
“No Mr. Perot. They’re weather maps.”
Any respect I had for H. Ross Perot disappeared in that one instant! He was in the studio promoting a book he surely didn’t write.
I’ve already chronicled my biggest celebrity disappointment. I might as well tell you who was best.
First though, honorable mention to Ron Howard. Holy crap I watched this man my (and his) whole life. He could not have been nicer. He was promoting Apollo 13 and I’d just been with him two days earlier in Houston at the Space Center.
Under any other circumstances he’d be number one. He’s nice and a Renaissance man.
The winner is Dennis Franz. Remember him from NYPD Blue?
I can’t even remember what Franz was promoting, but he was walking down the hall near Spencer Christian’s dressing room (which became mine for the day) as I walked out.
He was paunchy and rumpled–just like TV! His accent screamed Chicago.
I introduced myself and told him how much I enjoyed watching him on TV. He thanked me for my kind words, but it wasn’t just a thank you. He was speaking as if I was the first person ever to say something nice to him. His response dripped of humility and sincerity.
Of course I wasn’t the first. He was already a big deal. He knew that. It didn’t matter. He wanted to be nice right back and worked hard to make sure he was.
I have never forgotten that short meeting. It is still vivid in my mind.
I’m sure I have been short with people who come up to me asking for an autograph or photo or just wanting to say hello. No one is perfect–certainly not me. But I always try and remember Dennis Franz and use him as my guide in how to be when someone has taken the time to give me a compliment.
It was a little tiny thing which took so little effort on his part and yet it was so meaningful.
Hey Dennis–I hope you get to see this. Believe me, the pleasure was all mine. I meant every kind word then and now.
¹ – Still available. A decade between appearances isn’t that much.