Flirting With Disaster; or, When Sean Met Sally

Your Big Blue Host

(image courtesy April Muniz)

On May 14, 2014, I had the distinct privilege of hosting the Big Blue Door Jam, a night of story-telling with the theme “Flirting With Disaster”.

If you are in the Charlottesville area, you should definitely plan to attend more of these events, and take Joel Jones’ Telling True Stories classes. Joel is a fine teacher and you learn a great deal about one of the most intrinsic human experiences: telling stories.

As host, my job was to keep things moving, introduce the story tellers, remind the audience of other events, and to announce the evening award winner. While the ballots were being counted, I also had a few minutes to tell a story of my own.

You can listen to me tell it here, or read the text below. It’s one of my favorites.

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Thirty years ago, I was single and a struggling screenwriter living in Los Angeles. Everybody I knew was a struggling something: a writer, a filmmaker, an actor. When you lead a creative life, everything can become fodder. Any experience, good or bad, you can internalize it and say “I can use this someday”. What that person just said to me, how it made me feel, any bizarre situation; if you’re a writer, you can use this in a story; or if you’re an actor, you can use these feelings.

It’s an interesting way to live, but it doesn’t lend itself to stability.

For most of us, as we got older, life is about finding something stable, secure, reliable. But especially if you’re a young actor, honing your craft is about finding the deeper complications in life, and making them real.

All the time.

So though, as I writer, I appreciated the roller coaster ride that came with going out with actresses, as I matured, it only made me dizzy. So I swore that I would stop dating actresses.

I had a friend who was an actress. We went out a couple of times in college, but it turned out that she had been more interested in my roommate. Her name was Daphne Zuniga and she’s since had a pretty successful career on TV and in movies. Daphne was actually sympathetic with my not-wanting-to-date-actresses policy. She agreed with me: “You’re right” she said, “we’re kinda crazy!” And then I met her roommate.

Daphne’s roommate was another actress, she’d had some success in New York, and had just recently moved out to L.A. to see if she could start a movie career. And though I knew I was flirting with disaster, she was so cute, and funny, and wholesome. Yes, she was an actress, but she had a real girl-next-door quality about her.

Her name was Meg Ryan.

Meg Ryan

Yes, that Meg Ryan. This was before Top Gun, several years before When Harry Met Sally. She was just a fresh-faced kid trying to make it in the big city. And when Daphne introduced us, I thought maybe I was being a bit hasty about not dating actresses.

I asked Daphne if she could set something up. She said “Meg’s not really into dating”, but I reminded her that she owed me for that whole going-out-with-me-to-get-to-my-roommate thing back in college, so Daphne setting me up with her roommate only seemed fair.

Somewhat reluctantly, Daphne invited me over to her house one weekend afternoon for brunch. Then when we all sat down, she feigned some pretense to step out of the room for a few minutes, leaving me alone with Meg. I turned on the charm. We chatted about her career in New York, her aspirations, the success we were both looking forward to in L.A., and then I casually suggested, you know, since you’re new here in town, maybe we could get together some time and I could take you somewhere … out.

And Meg Ryan wrinkled her nose in that way we’d all come to adore, and did a little shrug, and said “No. No, because if I went out with you, then I’d have to go out with everyone.”

And as I sat there contemplating the weight of that amazing statement, that going out with me would just throw open the barn doors to every sleazebag in Hollywood, even as I realized that this had to be the worst rejection in the history of guys being rejected, I also thought to myself:

I can use this someday.

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