OK, some of you may have had an occasion or two to see a young cowpoke named Clint Eastwood. At least he was considerably younger back in 1970. I was a location consultant to his film, “The Beguiled” starring Eastwood and Geraldine Page.
Page and I became good friends during this shoot. We talked about theatre, which she loved much more than film (as do I) and we talked about Tennessee Williams. One of the roles she most enjoyed was that of Alma Winemiller in “Summer and Smoke.”
Anyway, one day I was contacted by Peggy Cangelosi, wife of Theo Cangelosi (ref: my John Wayne post of May 2012). Peggy was an officer with the Louisiana Cancer Foundation. She asked if I would ask Clint if he would appear this coming Friday (5 days away) at a big formal fund-raiser to be held at the Capitol House Hotel on Lafayette street in Baton Rouge. Because I was indebted to her husband, Theo, I felt duty-bound to satisfy that debt by helping his wife. And because Peggy was not one to take “no” for an answer, I said I would ask him. She said “We’ll be expecting him.” The next day on the set I asked if he would attend this fund-raiser. He said that he was going to be off that Friday and was planning a 3 day weekend in New Orleans.
Remembering Peggy’s “insistence”, I said “We really need you there.” He looked at me with a long “hmmm” and then said “Let me check with Simon and I’ll let you know.” Simon was his business manager. I knew I had to await an answer that may never be forthcoming. But, surprisingly, Simon contacted me the next day and asked for details. I told him the time and place and that Clint need not come in a tux (I made that decision on my own initiative). I figured Peggy wouldn’t quibble over that little detail. So on the night of the event Gloria and I dressed in our formals and arrived at the Capitol House about 8:30.
Peggy asked if Clint was coming and I said to her “He said he was coming, Peggy. At this point we can only hope.” She said “Well, we’re all expecting him.” I gulped and prayed for a successful outcome.
At about 9:15 the style show was getting underway. No Clint yet. Peggy kept looking my way and I kept shrugging. Then, looming big in the doorway was the man himself, Clint Eastwood. I went over to him and escorted him to our table, introducing him to Gloria and Peggy. Peggy then introduced him to her entourage and I was now able to breathe again. Clint put us all at ease, thanking us for the invitation (boy, was he a diplomat!).
Then Lee Edwards, the Emcee for the style show, introduced Clint to the audience and Clint graciously stood and acknowledged the introduction. The style show then continued. During the show he and the rest of us at the table small-talked about movies, Louisiana, New Orleans, etc. Then something on stage captured his attention. He gripped my arm and said “Who is she?”, indicating one of the models. I’ll not give her real name, but she was Miss Louisiana for either that year or the year prior. I’ll just call her “Ann”. He then asked if I thought it would be possible for him to meet her. Duhh! … to which I said “Sure. When the show ends, I’ll see to it that you meet her.”
Soon the show ended and he grabbed my arm and, like an anxious little kid, he said “Can we meet her now? I don’t want her to get away.” I said “Let’s go.” We got up and approached the apron of the stage. I introduced him to Lee, then asked Lee if he would summon Ann. He did and she came out to the apron all ga-ga. I introduced them, then excused myself and returned to our table. At the end of the event he thanked me profusely for the invite.
The following Monday morning on the set Clint spotted me and waved me over to his side. He said “Jerry, I can’t thank you enough for inviting me to that gala.” He said this to me while winking and indicating a chair in which Ann was sitting.
Afterwards my wife, Gloria, said “Well it looks like your debts are settled with Theo, Peggy and Clint.”
How right she was.
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