MY ENCOUNTER WITH BRAD PITT!
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I MET BRAD PITT!
It was when I worked at The Hollywood Reporter years ago that I had the pleasure of meeting Brad Pitt. He was box office roses at that time and had just gotten closer with Angelina Jolie. I just happen to be hanging around by the reception area when he meandered in from the elevator and no one was around to meet him but me.
I felt like Scotty greeting a new alien ambassador in the transporter room when the the new arrival expected Captain Kirk. It was good for my already pooped and wilting ego from working at the biggest Movie/Actor trade newspaper in the world. It was not easy for my wild child side, and after 3 years there, things were on a tightrope for me, being held up by a thread.
I did my job and I did my job well. I was never late, always ready to help out, nice work ethics and always honest about my banter and excitement levels, which were quite high back then.
The newspaper office occupied a whole building on Wilshire Blvd. and the pace was relentless and no nonsense. It was one of those rare, lazy, non busy days after the Academy Awards were given out and things were winding down to a crawl. I assumed Brad was there for an interview with one of the movie reporters.
While he was waiting in the lobby for his interview, I recognized him right away and went right up to him like we were old friends. “Do you need anything? Water? Soda?”
He turned and smiled brightly at me showing his white even teeth and said, “Tea please?” He looked so much smaller than I'd imagined and even his clothing was normal, not flashy.
“Sure, I'll be right back, don’t move!” I said with excitement. He playfully put up his hands. "Oh, I won't move an inch." He again smiled brightly at me as I suppressed a swoon, my cheeks turning a pretty pink. I think he noticed as I ran to the kitchen and made his tea.
I was back in seconds with his drink. “Thanks, I appreciate it," he said politely.
As I handed it to him I asked, "What time is it?".
He sat up and saw the clock on the wall, which read 12:02, but looked at his phone instead and said, “12:07".
I laughed. “You ever notice how everyone has a different time? I wonder why that happens?”
He looked at me, and at first didn't know what I meant, then he seemed to get it and smirked, probably wondering if I really knew who he was. I continued playing out my role of pretending I didn't know who he was, which I really did. I never let on and didn't intend to.
A few people were making their way to the reception area, having heard somehow that Brad Pitt was sitting here with me, so I thought it might be time to vamoose and get back to my desk just as Donna, who wrote for TV, walked by.
I looked Brad's way, got his attention and said, “Watch!” I stopped Donna and asked her what time she had. “12:04," she said, then kept on going. Then I looked at Brad again, as if we shared some secret., “See what I mean?” We both lightly laughed. He seemed a little shy, but definitely approachable.
He chuckled and his eyes sparkled like a little boy in a candy store. "I see what you're getting at. I never thought much about it," he admitted. I go by my own clock," he added. He stared intently at me and I could almost hear his thoughts screaming, "Boy she sure looks like Janis Joplin!"
"Well, I better get going," I said, knowing I'd probably get in trouble for this if I was caught fraternizing with Brad Pitt. Before I could leave, he seemed to become a bit intrigued with my "what time is it" concept.
It was almost like he DIDN'T want me to leave and was seeing me as a person, so it seemed at that time. I saw his baby blue eyes go from bright mischief to disappointment. "Can't you stay awhile, you're cool.
I was planted to the spot and felt a strange vibe coming from him, so I stayed.
"So, what do you do around here?” He asked. It almost sounded like he had a bit of a Southern accent.
"I'm, an Editorial Assistant in the Bull Pen," I told him.
"The Bull Pen? What's that?" He asked curiously.
"It's where all the reporters write their stories when they are on deadline." It seemed like I was hearing my own voice, but not really talking.
As I was about to say goodbye and scram, the reporter that was to interview him came up and gave me his best dirty look, as if to say, “You again, what's this?”
“I guess this is my cue to exit stage left,” I said, trying to lighten up the mood a bit.
I began to walk away, Brad said, “Oh, thanks for the tea!" Then he turned to the reporter who was watching me. "By the way, what time do you have?"
The reporter looked a bit confused, but looked at the clock on the wall. "It's 12:12. Are you in a rush?"
"No, I was just asking," Brad said, looking my way. He threw me a wink and a sparkling smile. He seemed to dig my personality. Most people fell all over him or just stared. This chick is playing it so cool. He was impressed and wished she was interviewing him instead of this clod with the sour breath and fake smile.
It looked for a split second as if Brad was going to ask the reporter if I could be in on the interview, but he thought better of it, knowing I could lose my job. "Thanks again Janis Joplin," he kidded.
I said, “No problem!" It was as if we'd become great friends standing there asking the time. I have to say it's a great ice breaker with celebrity types and it seemed to work for me. Who knew, he may even mention it to Angelina at dinner when he got home. And if I ever met her, I could use the same ploy and see if she notices.
"I'm glad you did come over. You calmed me. I had a lot on my mind today," he offered. Then turning to the reporter, he asked, "Is she in any trouble, because if she is, I can assure you, it was my fault. I just asked her what time it was," he said easily.
"Well, you looked a bit lonely sitting there," I said to him, as if we'd known each other forever.
I did have that trait and it served me well. As I started to walk away, I added, "By the way, good luck on your job interview today." Yup, I knew full well who he was and why he was there, but I played it up with gusto.
He gave out another one of those adorable chuckles again and said sort of slyly, “Why thanks kiddo. I hope I get the job too!" He turned to the reporter who looked like he was chomping at the bit like a race horse.
“Hey, you think I have a chance to land this job?" He asked the reporter, who looked like he was turning to jelly right before our eyes. It was hard not to smile and I had to bite my cheeks together to look serious.
The reporter just shook his head, trying to hold back from yelling at me. It was really uncomfortable and bordered on unprofessional in his eyes. But there I was messing with a big news guy with Brad Pitt. It's comical now that I think back to it.
Brad picked up on the reporter's bad vibe directed at me. “Hey, please don’t be mad at her she was giving me tea, that’s all."
The reporter motioned for Brad to follow him, shaking his head at me. As they walked down the long hallway, the reporter turned and glared at me.
It didn't really bother me because Brad Pitt, the real Brad Pitt, the one and only Brad Pitt, stuck up for little ol' me. Now that was something to talk about.
I floated back to my little desk in the back of the Bull Pen. Many writers were on deadline and it was my job to pick up their copy, type it up and run it to Production, so by the time I got back to my desk, my 'in box' was overflowing and I could feel the anger of about 20 bulls.
By the time I plowed through all the paper, ran it over to Production with seconds to spare, I heard my name being called over the P.A. system. From the tone, it seemed I was in hot water again. It was nothing new at this place. I came in a peon, I'll leave a smarter peon. I walked up to Gwen's desk out in reception.
Gwen was like everyone's mother. She knew everything that was going on at any given time. She'd been there 20 years. I didn't think I'd make it to 1 year and sometimes I wished that they'd left me in that little switchboard room where I started out.
One day I was plucked from obscurity by the Assistant to the Editor Candace. She was an actress and I remember only one movie she was in. It starred a young Jody Foster. It was called "Foxes" and was about 4 best friends and their last year of high school.
"What's up Gwen," I asked innocently. I knew she already knew what was going on.
"Don't 'what's up me' Lady. I just got a call from the Publisher's office and he wants to see you pronto," she said, looking down at me standing there. I felt like she was the judge and I was going to be sentenced to hard labor in the unemployment line.
"I talked to Brad Pitt," I said, trying to be witty when saying it.
"Brad Pitt, what? I don't understand why you do these things?"
"He was sitting right there while you were at lunch. I saw him alone, and asked if he wanted something," I admitted, sort of feeling proud.
"Well, you best get your butt upstairs and tell them. I thought you knew better than that. You know the rules," she scolded.
So, to the Publisher’s office I went. Going to get a reaming for my conversation with Brad Pitt. I walked as casually and calmly into the Big Man's office, which seemed so huge to me. I felt like Homer Simpson meeting with his boss Mr. Burns, but this was no funny cartoon. I could really lose my job over this. Why do I get myself into so much trouble over nothing?"
The publisher sat at his desk looking none too happy. It brought back memories of when I got in tangles in 5th grade and I had to see the principal.
He was a big man, with black curly hair, a long beard and a 3 piece suit to match. He tapped his letter opener on the the huge desk piled with all sort of papers and party invites, reporter's copy and empty coffee cups.
Finally, he opened his large mouth. I could see his gold fillings when he began his tirade. “We can't have this happening here," he said. "You've been here long enough to know the rules, so why did you do it?" He began tapping the letter opener again. It had a snake handle and shiny silver blade. He did it when he was really upset. This was nothing new, and I was sort of getting used to it.
"He was sitting all by himself. Gwen was at lunch. I just asked if he wanted anything," I stammered. I wanted to lash out at him, remind him of all the times I came in early to empty the fax machines and clear out hundreds of faxes before the reporters got in. Did he forget what he said to me at the Christmas party last year? He said, "One day you will be running this place!" I was floored when he said it right to my face.
Then I realized why he'd said it. There was a silent war of the big powers at that newspaper, and whenever he went through the Bull Pen, he would say something similar to me as he passed my desk. I think it was to upset the Business Editor Howie, who had a very hot temper. That guy could fry bacon with it. And he saw me as a huge slab.
There was also a silent, seething war going on between Candace and Howie. Mr. Publisher and his cronies were the cheering section. I wasn't exactly sure they were cheering for Candace or the Hot Headed Editor. In the end, it was Mr. H.H.E
I was starting to realize I was being used as a catalyst, but for what, I didn't see it then, and for who, I had no idea at that time. It was a tricky business filled with traps and spikes. Backstabbing, gossiping, multiple firings and shaming, which I heard was not the worst of it. I was starting to feel all of it being directed at me. Tempers were rising and falling and it made the "ship" tilt. I was starting to feel sea sick.
I sat ramrod straight with my hands in my lap, trying to look brave and unconcerned, like I didn't know what I had done this time. I stared right into Mr. Big's big brown eyes. He was not smiling, he was smoldering. I felt like Mary Tyler Moore at that moment. Ed Asner was yelling at her but promoting her at the same time. I was being yelled at, but I didn't get any promotion.
I realized what Candace was trying to tell me about working there. I had sparkles and diamonds in my eyes over the job, but that's when I was in the switchboard room, where it was safe. No one left there in tears like I saw many do in the Bull Pen and beyond in the Publisher's quarters.
I wished at that moment that the publisher had acted more positive about my encounter with Brad Pitt, and how I made him comfortable, and pretended not to even know him, not even asking for a lock of his hair, as others may have done under normal circumstances. I wanted him to think I knew how to handle myself with celebrities who came for their interviews for the Special Issues section on the other side of the partition.
For the longest time he just looked at me, drilling into me, trying to break me down. He finally said with slight malice, "No more of this, or we’ll have to let you go, and I mean it!”
I wanted to defend myself, but felt weak in the my knees, knowing with him, there was no winning. He was like the big chief of the tribe, and you never talked back to him.
"May I say something, Sir?" I asked humbly.
"No, you may not," he barked, not appreciating my manners and demeanor.
He saw right through the hack whiners or the yelling back ones, even the blatant liars denying their crime or misstep. It could be as small as stealing supplies, or just goofing off in the Bull Pen, having too many breaks, even missing a deadline and then causing someone else to miss their deadline because of all the bantering and carrying on, which he said I was doing. That was my biggest hurdle at this place. I had a very high energy and it didn't turn off like the people that worked there when things became slower paced and that's why I kept getting in trouble.
"Get a hold of yourself, Girl," he said in frustration.
I knew that someone, probably Howie and his minions were complaining about me to Mr. Publisher. That hot head had lots of help, as well as the majority of 'haters' that did his bidding. I wouldn't put it past him to try and sabotage me, even if I could type 100 words per minute with those odd, two knuckled, crooked fingers of mine that everyone seemed to notice.
I began my plea slowly and made every word count. “Sir, I didn’t even know who he was!”
The publisher wasn't budging, or biting, but I saw a hint of a smile trying to come through at the corners of his mouth. “Oh, you played the age old trick, so don't think he didn't know that you knew who he was.”
I hung my head, trying not to cry or fidget. "Gwen was at lunch. He was sitting there by himself. I just got him tea."
He moved his huge body that barely fit into his suit toward me. "I don't care if it was the president, you stay on your side of the line and let the people in that section take care of it, understand, he said with clenched teeth. "If I let you get away with it, then everyone sees that and I lose control and the next thing you know, everyone here and their mothers would be bringing him tea."
Yup, he did make his point clear. I wasn't thinking about that. Just to talk to him so I could tell my family and friends as a gag. Just for fun. And it seemed Brad had fun too. I wanted to say all that, but instead I said, "I know and I'm very sorry. It won't happen again, Sir,"
"Well it better not. Because this is your last chance to shape up," he warned. And he meant it. "This is not a game, this is real life. These are real people, making serious money. I think you get it, right?"
"Yes Sir," was all I had left in me. He had a way of making you feel like you've committed a serious crime, and I surmised that I had better just go along with it and listen good.
Okay then, we understand each other," he said. Then he leaned way forward. I could see the blood shot whites of his eyes as they bore into mine. "Listen, I see good things for you here. You have talent, you work hard, you're loyal, all good things. But I won't have you running around like a groupie at my expense,"
"I can tell you honestly that this will never happen again," I promised.
"Good, that's what I want to hear. You know I really like you. You are not afraid of confrontation, and when you're wrong, you are quick to admit," he praised. At least it sounded like praise. "Now we have a few big deadlines to make, so I want you back in the Bull Pen and at your desk working."
As I left his office, I could feel sweat running down my back. My head was spinning and I needed to use the bathroom. I headed to my little desk on the side of the editorial dept. I looked way down to the last office, all in glass. There was Brad and the reporter talking. I wished it was me in there interviewing Brad. At that exact moment Brad saw me looking his way and smiled a bright one my way. "Wow," I whispered to myself. "What is his game?"
I was certainly no Angelina Jolie, that was certain. So why all the dazzle for some lowly assistant like me? The answer came within a half a second! "I'm an underdog and Brad loves the underdog. Even Janis Joplin was a sort of underdog.
By that hour, my in box was totally crammed with faxes, notes and story copy that needed attention. If anything, I did my job well, so I attacked that pile with a vengeance. This was my stack of work.
When the interview was concluded, they came out and walked right in my direction (lucky me). I didn’t say anything, but Brad stopped at my desk, as I knew he would. For once, I wished he hadn't. He was giving me that sparkle smile again. I never knew if it was faked or he really was being that nice. “Hey, thanks for the tea kiddo, take care!”
“You too, take care, thanks for giving me the right time. I hope you corrected your watch," I said, as if we shared a private joke. The whole room fell into silence and everyone was looking at me. As Brad and the reporter drifted out of the room, all conversation started again. I heard one reporter say to another, "When are they going to fire that loud assistant?"
But it didn't bother me, because Brad chuckled and gave me his 4th dazzling smile. Then he turned to the reporter. “I want to thank you, the interview went really well.'
The reporter took the praise well, and puffed up a bit. "Thanks for your, ummm, time," he said, finally getting the joke between Pitt and I.
Brad looked my way and rolled his eyes and actually made them look cross-eyed. "What time is it?" He joked again.
"Time for you to get back to work," said the reporter when he saw me looking up and smiling back at Brad. "I see you've fallen a bit behind. Maybe next time you'll think twice before brewing tea," he said nastily as they reached the door and were about to leave.
Brad picked up on that fast. "Listen, she wasn't doing anything wrong. I asked her first if she would get me the tea," he said, seeming a bit miffed. "I hope getting me tea isn’t going to make her lose her job. Will it?"
The reporter turned bright shades of red. He looked very uncomfortable. “Why, ummm, no Mr. Pitt, no harm done!”
Brad looked at me again and winked as he said, “Oh wow, I just saved your job!” I turned bright red and pretended to drop a pencil. "Don't worry, I'm not in any danger," I lied. “Thanks for being nice,” I said. He waved as everyone looked on wondering why.
They both walked out the door. Things got back to normal very quickly and in a few hours I was done as my phone rang. I picked it up. “THR, good afternoon!”
“Is that you, the same gal that got me the tea?” I looked around to make sure no one was looking or listening. "Hello?"
“Yes, it's me! Thanks for being nice to me, whoever you are!”
He broke out in serious laughter. “You really don’t know who I am? Come on Janis!"
“No,” I lied for the 4th time. I was getting good at it. And it was too late to go back on that.
"Well, you tell that snot head reporter I enjoyed meeting with him and I hope I get the job," he joked.
“I’ll tell him and thanks for speaking up for me…. what’s your name?” I asked, almost peeing in my pants and having to stifle a laugh.
“Brad,” he said.
“Great Brad. Good luck to you. Hope you get the job and then I'd see you every day," I said, playing it way up. "You look like you should be in acting!” I looked around very carefully before saying, "...Listen, you don't want to work here, you are a good looking guy and very nice, you should be in front of the camera or something! Anyplace but here!"
"OK, I'll take that into consideration, Janis." He chuckled again, said his goodbyes, then hung up. My heart was beating very fast. “Wow,” I said to myself. “I just talked to Brad Pitt and he saved my job, I hope!
But from that moment on, I was going to watch every move I made. I was going to watch what I say and do. And I would not be talking to any famous stars anymore. Enough was enough. They were people, just people with a name attached to them. Fame is fleeting.
I went though my box and got everything out in record time. It had been a very good day, except for having to see Mr. Big. But even I could tell he liked me. It would really take more than talking to Brad Pitt to get me out of here.
Just have to watch out for the haters. I turned and saw Howie watching me. When he spotted me looking back, he abruptly turned away from me. I guess things were getting back to normal around here.