Years ago my pal, Greg Perloff, was attending UCLA and was involved in an event there that included music, theatre, dance and celebrities. He hired me to be one of the musical performers on campus and I, along with all the other artists, was assigned a trailer to use as a dressing room. As the number of trailers was limited, we were all requested to share a trailer with another artist.
It turns out that I was to share a dressing room with James Garner.
You cannot imagine what a fan I was of James Garner. When Maverick came on TV, I became a TV junkie. I never missed an episode of this gambling ne’er do well, Bret Maverick. I bought the poker instruction book, Poker According To Hoyle, and at the ripe old age of eleven, renamed myself Bret Stanley…my pal Steve Mills was Brother Bart. For the next several years, I signed all my homework with that name and everyone graciously called me Bret. You can see I was besotted with the Maverick character and with Garner.
Consequently, the idea of sharing a dressing room with him was the thrill of a lifetime.
For those of you who are unaware of Garner’s political leanings (and at the time I was completely unaware of them), he was somewhat conservative and back then, when we were all covered in hair (instead of tattoos) and dressing anachronistically, he regarded the hippie youth movement with some disdain.
Of course, at the time I had a full beard, shoulder length hair, and was wearing cowboy boots, jeans and a Clint Eastwood like serape with fringe dangling from it. The quintessential young hippie.
As I parked my car, Greg came up on a golf cart and we loaded my equipment onto it and went to the stage, unloaded and then he took me to my trailer and on the way, informed me that James Garner was my trailer mate. I thought my head was going to explode. I was so thrilled, I could barely talk.
As we pulled up to the trailer, Greg told me that Garner was already in residence, so before entering and even though it was my dressing room, I knocked. That recognizable voice bid me enter and, heart pounding, I did so.
He was stretched out on the sofa, legs crossed, feet on the table, looking very relaxed and clearly the king of his domain. A great big handsome fellow with amazing presence. He looked up as I entered and said, “ohh, shit”.
I could tell he wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of sharing a room with a liberal, fringed, guitar slinging cowboy.
I smiled back at him and said, “Mr. Garner, I have been a fan of yours since I was eleven years old. If you would like to have this trailer to yourself, I can just warm up outside.” I tipped my hat and stepped back outside, went over to a tree stump and sat down with my guitar and started warming up.
After about two minutes, he came out of the trailer and walked over to me. “Hey, you don’t have to warm up out here. I was having a bit of a bad day, but that shouldn’t impact you. Come back inside.”
I did and we talked a bit (he laughed that I changed my name to Bret) and he was charming, funny and ascerbic. We hung there until it was his cue to be on stage and he left. Shortly thereafter I did my show on another stage on the other side of the campus and when I returned to the trailer he was gone and there was a note reading,
“Good to meet you” –James Garner
I loved that guy. He was one of the real old time Hollywood leading men.
I’ve got to find some Maverick reruns on TV.