My wife's career has been in the Television & Film industry, mostly working in a post-production capacity. Her career has placed her in contact with a large number of people over the years that are considered celebrities. From world famous Actors to powerful Producers, Creative Directors and talented Editors, she works with a wide variety of people who many consider celebrities.
My wife is not the type of person to be a celebrity groupie / fan. She's been doing this work for a while. It's her career. So you could say she's pretty calm when a major celebrity walks into her area and interacts with her. It happens with the type of work she does.
My wife is also well read. She reads and reads and reads when she gets the chance. She's Canadian. I think this has a lot to do with it.
She's cool, calm, collected, busts her ass when she works, and knows how the social game works in her industry. She knows how to be pleasant with everyone she comes into contact with, and she knows how to get the job done. All this, and she knows: don't freak out if you bump into a celebrity.
All this experience. All this exposure to people that other folks kind of go gaga over. All of this… and I saw her lose it on a very cool and special day. In a way that in retrospect, makes me feel like the luckiest man on the face of the planet to be married to her.
I was working on an IT contract at Fannie Mae, living in the D.C. Metro area at the time. My wife was living in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. We would get together every couple of weekends, and some times she would come down to spend a week. It was a different way to be newly married, I tell you.
It was January 20, 1997. My wife was in town. Most of the time on this visit was spent with her head in a book that she was engrossed in. If she was near the couch, she was reading.
We had decided to go down to see the Presidential Inauguration. It would be the first one either of us had attended. We drove from outside the beltway, into downtown D.C. We found parking. Paid the money. Walked forever. Got as close as we could to where the parade would end for the general public. The rear area of the White House was all sectioned off. You had to have some special ticket to be in the area where the President / Vice President would get out of their vehicles and walk / talk to the crowd.
We saw the Inauguration Motorcade drive by. That by itself is a totally different story that is best told elsewhere. What occurred afterwards is relevant. Here and now, from this little slice of one unknown man's life.
The main event was over, and the crowd was beginning to
disperse. One thing you learn if you are near downtown D.C. during an event of
any size: if you try and leave with the crowd after an event ends, you are going
to sit in traffic forever trying to get over one of 3 bridges to get to
We happened to be very close to The Dead Guy Bar and Grill. I asked my wife if she wanted to grab something to eat. She agreed. We proceeded to walk through the mob, towards the restaurant.
When we arrived, we discovered the front doors were locked, and a sign was posted that stated "Closed for Private Party". Great. We were standing there, trying to figure where to go to get something to eat that we could walk to. And who walks out the door?
It could have been Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, or Al Pacino. Or any number of famous Hollywood celebrities, and my wife would have been calm, and said nothing, or just kind of mentioned it as I stared at the wrong person and said "That's really so-and-so? Are you sure? Kind of short and bald to be them… are you sure?"
It was HIM.
Jack Nicholson might have gotten a stir out of my wife. At least I would have recognized Jack. She would have said "Oh, look, it's Mr. Nicholson" and I would have said "I don't know a Mr. Nicholson. Is he Canadian?" But she would have pointed him out to me. And then I would have recognized him.
No. It had to be HIM.
Maybe if it was Stanley Kubrik I would have said "I though he never left England" or something. See… I'm kind of slow about this celebrity thing. I still wouldn't have known what he looked like.
BUT NO! IT WAS HIM!!!
It was Ben.
No, NOT BEN AFLICK!
Ben Bradlee, former editor of the Washington Post, came walking out the door with his son in tow.
Ben, "My book is sitting on your couch because your
wife bought it and hasn't dropped the silly thing as she rereads it for the
second time" Bradlee.
Ben "Real Life American Patriot: putting me and mine up against the shadow government to expose the truth" Bradlee.
Ben "The Pentagon Papers are what we are going to talk about at your house for a week before and especially after the inauguration" Bradlee.
Ben "I helped expose Watergate, and you are going to hear all about me for a while now Sean" Bradlee.
So it's Ben Bradlee, walking out of the Occidental. Big deal.
Then my wife stepped in front of me, RAISED HER ARM, POINTED, AND LOST IT, 110%, ALL THE WAY.
"OH MY GOD! IT'S BEN BRADLEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.
(You could have heard a pin drop…).
Ben kind of looked up and gave a nervous smile. I don't think he's used to groupies. Ben's son grabbed his father's arm and defensively placed himself between Ben and my jaw gaping, finger pointing, glazed eyed and spittle flying wife.
Yes sir, she may not have been Ben's first groupie, but by GOD! She had become BEN'S GROUPIE in that instant! The moment passed. My wife shot her arm down to her side, fist clenched. She turned around and looked at me, shocked. Closed her jaw. She had turned a funny shade of beet-red. It was weird to see her that way. She was mortally embarrassed, to say the least.
Ben was still kind of looking up, kind of half-waving, kind of half-smiling in a worried way, looking kind of confused. His son had made a decision and was hustling his father out of there as fast as possible. Just in case. Who know what was about to happen. Guns shots from crazed Republicans or Democracy-crazed Canadian groupies mobbing him, it wasn't expected. Whatever the real deal was, it was time to secure the Dad!
To make matters worse, their escape route was in the same direction we were going for the first few blocks. I told her "OK, we got to stop following them up this street or they will have us locked up as stalkers or freaks or worse". Maybe it was the menacing looks his son kept shooting over his shoulder. I don't know. So we stopped and they lost us in the crowd of people searching for their cars.
My wife finally relaxed a little. She had been saying things similar to "Oh.. I think I need to apologize". Me, I was all for just going up to Mr. Bradlee, explaining the situation and getting a photo of him and my wife together. Why not? Then we would have a family memento to celebrate this epic moment in my wife's otherwise composed world.
When I think about her reaction, why she reacted the way she did… it makes me so damn proud. My wife believes with every fiber in her body that yes, there is a thing like Democracy and also a thing like Justice for All. And yes, there are people out there that help this keep these principles alive. And yes, Mr. Ben Bradlee was one of those people who at a critical juncture in time put his ass on the line to make it happen.
I have a high opinion of my wife. She gets it. She gets it all. More so than what I believe the average American gets, from what I can tell.
Regarding Mr. Bradlee: Ben, you rock. It's time I break down and read your book. It's time to further my personal education, and I've selected you as required reading. It's on the shelf, in the living room, and I'll start making the time to do the reading. And if you do remember the event, just realize that there are a lot of people out there that think highly of you and what you and others did.
For the rest of you out there: I can't currently write a review of Ben's book. I have yet to read it. But you know you should have read it, or should be doing so. Men like Ben Bradlee were Newsmen. Perhaps better in their time than anyone we have now. Only time will tell.
Read the book. Learn something. Expand your mind, or at least get a view on Ben's Life.
A Good Life:
Newspapering and Other Adventures