Close Encounter of the Iconic Kind

It’s not likely to go through life without having some form of contact with someone well-known, whether it be a professional athlete, a politician, television personality, or some kind of celebrity. I have been fortunate over the years to have known and even become friends with some very famous, popular, and well-known individuals, but the biggest by far was an encounter with a particular screen icon!

Checking the news this morning, I knew as soon as I saw her image, she had passed. And it brought a tear to my eye.

olivia de havilland

In 1987, I spent several months on assignment in Houston. The client my teammates and I were working for was the University of  Texas Health Science Center at Houston. The first couple of months of the engagement, I was put up at the Wyndham Hotel – Medical Center, directly across the street from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Center and the Medical Center Complex.

One evening after work, I sat in the dining room to have a sandwich. When the waiter/waitress (can’t remember which) came to my table, they whispered – “Do you know who is at the table next to you? Olivia De Havilland!”

I tried not to turn my head to look, at least, for a few minutes. Sure enough, it was Olivia De Havilland looking very stunning even in her elder years. Silver-haired and well-coiffed, she was wearing librarian-style glasses, with the chain attached to each earpiece, and was writing in what appeared to be a journal.

Finally, my modest meal arrived at about the same time hers was served to her. Mine came on a plate, while hers came in a silver-domed platter on a cart. I was trying very hard not to gawk, even though she seemed pre-occupied with her activities at her own table, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she was aware that I was, in fact, gawking even though it was kind of out of the corner of my eye.

I finished my meal fairly quickly and then went to the bar area of the restaurant to have a beer and catch a little bit of the baseball game that was on. The small area was adjacent to the elevators in the hallway with no partition at all.

After about a half an hour, I noticed Miss De Havilland in the hall by the elevators carrying her purse and a satchel. She pressed the button for the elevator and then started looking at herself in the mirror at the end of the hallway. While she was making a couple of adjustments to her hair, her elevator came but then left.

Noticing this, I got up from my chair and walked out into the hallway and pressed the up button again, saying to her – “Sorry ma’am, you seem to have missed your ride!” She looked at me and smiled and replied – “Why thank you! You’re such a nice young man!”

My heart literally jumped in my chest and I had to go back to my seat, unable to even speak any further!

Her elevator quickly arrived and when she entered and turned towards the open door of the car, she smiled at me and gave me a little wave with her hand with her satchel in the crook of her arm!

I don’t believe I have ever been so awestruck from interfacing with another human being in my life. I was literally in shock, and the real impact didn’t even hit me until after the fact!

One of most memorable moments of my life was that brief encounter with the last living star of “Gone With the Wind!”, half of the legendary feud with her sister Joan Fontaine, one-time interloper with Errol Flynn, and the last link to the Golden Age of Hollywood!

Still WOWs me to this day!

Rest in peace Olivia De Havilland! I’m sure your elevator is going up!

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