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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Meeting Dr. Lizardo

A little before Christmas last year, I started watching Dexter from the beginning. Matt has every season that's available on DVD, so it was natural to watch. Since The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad are on break, I figured I could fit some time in to get up to speed on Dexter Morgan's world.

A few days ago, I finished with the fourth season, aka, the season with John Lithgow as the "special guest star." I truly enjoyed seeing Lithgow show his entire range of acting skills, from friendly and genuine to psychotic to broken. Not many can do that without looking hammy, but Lithgow is a guy who's effectively played complex villains many times before.

I've seen Lithgow in a lot of movies and TV shows before, but while watching this season of Dexter, I couldn't help remembering the time I met Lithgow in a New Orleans airport. I'm not sure if it was 1985 or 1986, but I certainly remember the circumstances around meeting him.

At the time, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension was one of my favorite movies. As in, watching it on a Betamax cassette tape a few times on a weekly basis, along with Star Wars, Back to the Future, and The Muppet Movie. Something about a hero who could travel to other dimensions, fight aliens, and play in a rock band excited me. My babysitter gave me a Buckaroo Banzai shirt that fit me perfectly, so I wore it quite often. (I still have it, by the way.) 

Lucky for me, I wore the shirt while my family dropped off my uncle at the main New Orleans airport. A very kind woman approached me, crouched down, and asked, "You recognize that guy?" She pointed towards Mr. Lithgow sitting down and reading a magazine. She then said, "If you ask for his autograph, that would make his day." I was transfixed. This was Dr. Emilio Lizardo/Lord John Whorfin to me, not necessarily an actor. My mother gave me a small piece of paper and pencil and I approached him.

Here's the thing about Lithgow: he's tall. At 6'4", he was taller than anybody I really knew when I was six, so his kneecaps in the sitting position came to my forehead. I simply asked in a cracked, squeaky voice, "Can I have your autograph?" He looked down at me, smiled, and said, "Oh sure!" He wrote his signature on the purple piece of paper my mother gave me and I walked away, buzzing.

Even though the autographed piece of paper eventually got lost (my mother fears that she accidentally thew it away, but I forgave her many years ago), the experience has remained in my memory. I see it as an example of being kind to people who appreciate your work, even if you don't know them. And no matter what kind of work you do, chances are good somebody somewhere will take great pleasure in what you do. John Lithgow might play a lot of villains, but he wasn't one to me.

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