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A personal anecdote about a favourite actor–Gene Hackman–who is 90 today.

The plan was to meet in Manhattan.

I was flying from London and Meredith from Snowmass where she was doing a few downhills  with the family.

I arrived first on a beautiful early Spring afternoon and checked into the hotel on the south side of 58th street between 5th and 6th Avenues. I’ve forgotten the name but it was known as an actor’s hotel because of the location and the reasonable rates; no room service though!

[It’s no longer there.]

After parking my stuff I strolled out into the sunshine and had my shoes shined on the corner of 6th Avenue and 57th Street. As I sat sunning myself looking forward to Meredith’s imminent arrival, I remember thinking the cherry on the cake would be to take in a new Gene Hackman film that evening.

Shoes gleaming, I twinkled–toed back to the hotel to wait for Meredith.

From my room I spotted a coffee shop directly opposite the entrance to the hotel and decided to pop over, get a coffee and bring it back to the room.

As I was crossing back, coffee and a sandwich in hand, out of the hotel heading for the cafe, wearing a beautiful Hawaiian shirt and looking like he hadn’t a care in the world, to my utter amazement, came–Gene Hackman.

I managed not to drop my comestibles and continued into the lobby of the hotel.

End of anecdote, sadly.

I should be able to recount how I sat in reception and waited for the return of my hero and how I went up to him and told him how much I had enjoyed his performances over the years since Bonnie and Clyde.

No, sadly, I took the lift to my floor and sat rather dazed and ate my sandwich and drank my coffee like a gobsmacked idiot.

I had form in this regard–and Meredith just can’t understand my reticence–so un-American!

I’ll put it down to shock and shyness–but it’s silly.

He is one of the big beasts of cinema–actors you can’t take your eyes off.

Ineffable presences: Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, my Mother’s pin-up–Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Jimmy Cagney, Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery….

Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Ginger Rogers (I’m surprised each time I catch the breathtaking brilliance of Fred and Ginger–how drawn I am to her effortless concentration), Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman….

Name your own!

But Gene Hackman is also an imposing character actor.

Contrast Detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle in The French Connection and French Connection 2:

with The Conversation.

So–from across the pond and about thirty years late–THANK YOU, Gene Hackman and MANY HAPPY RETURNS!!

 

 

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