|One day, entering the corner wooden engawa structure that proved ambiance was irrelevant when you had the freshest fish, Gwyn saw the look on my face and said, “I can tell somebody’s here,” referring to the stupidly dazed expression that came over me when somebody I loved or respected from the business was in my midst. She knows me very well.
“Yup,” I smiled.
“Who is it?” she asked, looking around.
“Who do you think?”
She landed on a face and guessed. “That old man,” tilting her head at a man in his 70s, sitting alone, enjoying his fish.
“Yup,” I said.
“Who is that?”
As the hostess showed us to our table, she asked me to remind her who, exactly, he was. My father played me the first 2000 year-old man album when I was, probably, 8. He told me that it was a routine that Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks used to do at dinner parties, and it got to be so popular that their friends urged them to record it. And they did. From the moment my father played me that first album, it solidified my own comedic sensibility. I felt I knew what funny was then. And, as we were seated at our table for that lunch, I regurgitated that history and then did some highlights from the 2000 year-old man.
Gwyn finally interrupted me and said, “Why don’t you go over and tell him!?”
No way. I wasn’t going to interrupt his lunch to fawn all over him. But, she persisted, until I bashfully rose from my seat and meandered over. “Mr. Reiner?”
He looked up. “My name is Gary Marks and I’m a screenwriter writing my first movie, and my father played me 2000 year-old man when I was 8 years-old and it’s been the best—
“Funny you should mention that today!” he suddenly lit up. “I just came from the studio with Mel, putting the finishing touches on “2000 Year-Old Man in the year 2000.” We talked animatedly for ten minutes. He couldn’t believe that a kid loved his routine that was so old. I wasn’t a kid. But, in Hollywood, you take that description for as long as possible. And after ten minutes, I felt flushed from having taken up so much of his time. So, I shook his hand, thanked him, and excused myself.
I returned, glowing, to Gwyn at the table, and we ordered Omakase, thankfully, because I was incapable of making a decision. I described what had just happened as best as I could, when in the middle of one of my sentences, Carl rose from his table, finished with his meal, and strode up to our table. He introduced himself to my partner, thanked me for making his day, shook Gwyn's hand, shook mine again, and left. I couldn’t believe it. I had just met one of my favorite comedy legends and he was an amazing guy.
I basked in the afterglow for a few minutes, until out of the corner of my eye, I saw a Cadillac Seville pull up to the curb outside. Carl Reiner jumped out and vaulted back into the restaurant, on a mission. “Oh, no, he forgot something,” I thought. But, the door flew open and he rushed right back to our table.
“When are you kids finished with lun—?”
“NOW,” I said quickly, as our server promptly delivered our full plate of sushi.
He laughed and said to the server, “I can see they’re not done, but they’ll be right back.” He waved at us to follow him. I was already on my feet, and Gwyn rose and followed at a normal human pace, out to his white Cadillac Seville, where I sat in the front seat and Gwyn sat in the back seat, and he popped in the cassette tape of “2000 Year-Old Man in the Year 2000,” and he sat and watched us enjoy it and laugh out loud. And he laughed at us laughing at it. And all I could think was, “I can’t wait to tell my Dad.” And I did tell him, and he thought the same thing I did: I'd arrived. I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd probably never finish this screenplay I'd just sold. As we exited the car, Carl mused, "I can't wait to call Mel and tell him I played it for some young people and they liked it."
It was my greatest celebrity encounter in Hollywood, to this day. And I’ve met or worked with just about everyone I care about. But he was SUCH a good man. He reminded me so much of my own father, his goodness. In fact, so much, that it isn’t even the end of the story of his goodness.
About two years later, I was dating an actress, who, although she went on to become a famous comedy star, was at that time, Rob Reiner’s assistant. And, of course, I told her my all-time greatest brush with celebrity, which unbeknownst to me, she clocked carefully. Some months later, it was my birthday, and she, an amazing heart herself, brought me a wrapped gift. I opened up a shiny new hardback first edition of “2000 Year-Old Man in the year 2000.” Turning the first page, I found an inscription: “Dear Gary, Thanks for being our first audient. Carl Reiner.” It remains one of my most prized possessions. And that encounter was not only inspiration enough to fuel the endurance necessary to finish my first screenplay, but all the ones that followed.
| Who was the actress?
Did he sell any screenplays?