I got my Mel call this morning.
It was surprisingly early – only 6 AM in Hollywood, 9 by me. Of course, I just assume West Coast – Mel could have been calling from anywhere. It was a 666 area code, a cell phone I guess. But the signal was five by five.
"Hello, is this Jonathan?"
See, right there I knew it wasn't somebody I knew. My friends call me Jon, my family, Jonny. But something in the caller's voice told me it wasn't a sales pitch or collection agency. (They usually ask for "Mister Sobble.") Also, the guy sounded strangely familiar.
"Speaking," I said redundantly.
"This is Mel Gibson. We've never actually met, but – maybe you've seen some of my movies?"
Actually, we had met. Mel had stolen my girlfriend during a locally famous dust-up at the Wyoming State Fair back in the 80s. But I couldn't really expect a big star like him to remember – it was probably nothing to him. Anyway, water under the bridge and all that.
"Sure," I said. "You're that crazy guy from Lethal Weapon."
"Right, right, good on ya. Anyway, I got a lot of calls to make so I'll get straight to the point." He took a deep, sexiest-man-alive kind of breath. "I'm calling every Jew in the world to personally apologize for my recent conduct. It's not a plea bargain or community service or anything like that – I just feel it's the right thing to do."
"Thanks, Mel," I said, tearing up. He might be a crazed anti-Semitic non-Holocaust-denier-denier, but I've always said he's a great actor.
"I said some things," he went on, "well – you've said some things, we've all said some things" – here he barked one of those cute little half-Aussie, half-nuts giggles – "but I really stuck my foot in it this time and I wanted to personally apologize to you. Ah, Jonathan."
"I appreciate the gesture, Melvin," I said, "but you know, in my experience, what people say when they're drunk and angry is a reflection of what's in their deepest soul. They don't blurt out things they don't mean. It's exactly the opposite. They say things they really think but normally would put a lid on."
There was a long pause. I could hear Mel breathing. I was imagining him with face paint, on a horse. What a guy. What a stand-up, sit-down guy.
"What's that you say?" he mumbled. I heard a clattering noise, like a pint of Australian-for-beer hitting the floor.
"Mel," I said. "Mel, are you drunk?"
"Well, sure," he replied. "A little. You know how much pressure I'm under, mate. It's like, probably the worst thing that's ever happened to me. I mean it could be my career at stake here. So, ah – are you, ah – gonna accept the apology?"
I stroked my weak Jewish chin. Mel probably couldn't hear the stroking – but I did wonder if maybe he could. I hadn't shaved in two days so I was kind of stubbly, and you want to look cool when you're talking to Mel Gibson. Stubbly, or something. Even just on the phone. Wouldn't you? Guys?
"Let me think about this a minute, Mel," I said slowly. "You're apologizing for making some fairly vicious anti-Semitic statements. Are you also apologizing for not speaking out against your father's Holocaust denials? ‘Cause, you know, we haven't forgotten about that. What do you say, Braveheart? I'm not one of your groupies. With me it's all or nothing."
"Jonathan," Mel said. "Will you hold on a second?"
"I'm pretty busy – will this take long?"