My Jimmy Stewart Story
I know some of you have had some pretty cool encounters with a favorite movie star. No doubt these are moments you deeply cherish. However, I bet my Jimmy Stewart story will top your story. If I’m wrong, then I really want to hear from you.
I work in the film industry. Sometimes as an Assistant Director on set and sometimes as a Coordinator in the production office. Because of the nature of my work I have had the opportunity to meet some very interesting, and sometimes very famous people. I’ve had the pleasure of actually touching Harrison Ford as I repeatedly gave him a cue, and I held the hand of Robert Wagner as I guided him through a crowd of extras. I’ve helped Tyne Daly with her crossword puzzle, and I delivered wardrobe to Ed Begley Jr. who stopped long enough for me to chat a little about his Oscar winning father (Ed Begley). I’ve shared my love of movie trivia with Michael McKean between scenes, and Christopher Guest challenged me to identify a photo of George Raft at Sony Studios (previously the site of MGM).
I even had a long running joke on my sister started with the help of Yoyo Ma. A little prank that continued with many of our mutually favorite character actors who would graciously pose with me for a Polaroid (remember those) and then sign it, “Dear Cecelia, its true, your mother does love Carrie more than you”, or something to that effect. Among the list of participants are Scott Bakula, Tom Bosley, Dick Van Dyke, Tom Poston and Thomas Gibson. Of course, there are lots of other incidents I could tell you about, but none of these experiences (or any I’m ever likely to have ever again) can compare to my very first encounter with the glamorous world of Hollywood. You see, I once kissed Jimmy Stewart. He actually kissed me - while on his hands and knees - in front of hundreds people.
This happened a long time ago when I was a student at UCLA. The university had a habit of giving out awards to famous individuals just so they can get them to come and appear in person. In this case it was the Spencer Tracey Dramatic Award, and it was given to Jimmy Stewart. Obviously, I am a big fan of classic movies. And I am a huge, huge fan of Jimmy Stewart’s, ever since I first saw “The Philadelphia Story”. So, on the day of the ceremony I called in sick to work, I showed up hours early to make sure I was first in line, and I positioned myself carefully in the audience so I could quickly make it to the microphone for the Question and Answer portion of the show.
I had absolutely no idea what I was going to ask Mr. Stewart, but I just knew I had to ask him something. I had to speak to him. I mean it was Jimmy Stewart, a living legend, and an icon of Hollywood’s golden age of cinema. At the time he was arguably just as big as you can get. When it came time for me to ask a question I started out very intelligently asking him if it was ever a burden for him to be a representation of the All-American image, both on and off the screen… and then my baser instincts took over and I added a part B. “Since you’re an All-American kind of guy” I said, “and I’m an All-American kind of girl would you mind giving me a kiss”?
The place exploded. People were clapping and yelling so loud, Mr. Stewart had no idea what was going on. I waited nervously at the audience microphone as he turned to the ceremony host and asked what was happening. The emcee waited for the audience to calm down before saying, “Mr. Stewart, the young lady would like a kiss.” For a moment I thought he might simply laugh off the request and move on to the next question, but he quickly answered, “Why sure”, and began to approach the edge of the stage. Once again the crowd went crazy. Cameras were going off everywhere, and as I made my way to the foot of the stage I realized that he was about 5 feet above me. It became obvious that he was going to have to kneel down in order to kiss me.
Now, Jimmy Stewart was about 84 at the time, so a wave of fear swept over me as he began to kneel. I thought, “Oh, great! Jimmy Stewart is going to fall and break his hip and it’s going to be all my fault”. But actually, he was still quite spry and managed to get to his hands and knees with no problem. Then he leaned out with a big pucker, and at this point I thought I might just get I nice peck on the cheek, but no, he went straight for the lips. I was so thrilled, and absolutely overwhelmed that all I can remember from that moment are a set of lips and a big ole eyeball coming at me with flashbulbs going off all around. Someone actually tried to interview me afterword, but I was speechless and unable to say anything coherent. I think I said he had very soft lips - not exactly quotable.
The sad part is that I have absolutely no proof. I didn’t see anything about it on the news, and the next day the University paper reported that an “unidentified” young woman was kissed by Jimmy Stewart. I know there are photos somewhere, but I don’t have any. And this was in the late 80’s, a few years before the start of the Universities database records now available on computer. Fortunately, my best friend from high school was there. Someone, who like it or not, will remain a friend for the rest of my life, if for no other reason than to stand as my witness to one of the most thrilling and unforgettable moments of my life.
Since that first Hollywood kiss I have managed to collect a few more. Anthony Quinn graciously kissed my right hand, and Peter Falk kissed the other. And eventually, I captured a small peck from one of the targets of my adoration, Kirk Douglas. The clock may be ticking on some of our older ambassadors from the Golden Age of Hollywood, but I will continue with my quest. What can I say, I have a weak spot for elegant, older men. But, if I should never capture another kiss again I certainly have nothing to complain about. I kissed Jimmy Stewart. You can’t do any better than that.