Recently I mentioned the actor Leslie Nielsen in my post about my day with Debbie Reynolds. He was the co-star in her Tammy movie as the sophisticated, charming, good-looking bachelor.
I had somewhat of a childhood crush on him because, not only did he play the romantic lead in movies, but he also was the stalwart, brave hero in Forbidden Planet and The Poseidon Adventure, along with other roles as distinguished characters in military, government, crime and western movies. His image was that of a handsome man of refinement and polish.
Many years later, I was so very excited to be invited to Los Angeles for the screening of one of his new movies and the chance to spend time interviewing him, expecting that dignified gentleman I had admired for so long.
He greeted me warmly and liked knowing that I had been a fan since childhood.
As I was chatting with him, waiting for our microphones to be put in place and the cameras to roll, an embarrassing bodily sound came from him. He looked startled and a little distressed. I pretended not to hear. What else could I do?! I was feeling a little awkward FOR the handsome star. He mumbled a quiet “Excuse me”. This small town southern girl just smiled and kept on chatting, louder than usual hoping to drown out noises, and pretending not to hear.
It happened AGAIN, a little louder. There was no way I could not have heard it. He apologized profusely saying it must have been something he ate at lunch. It was a cringeworthy moment. I told him it was okay in a sympathetic tone.
The look on my face must have been priceless because suddenly Mr. Nielsen and everyone in the room, camera guys, producers, writers, burst out in laughter. They decided I had suffered enough.
The joke was on me. I had never experienced a “whoopee cushion” before and certainly never imagined it would come from a legendary movie star. I have to say I was tremendously relieved.
My reward for “making their day” was a nice lunch and the chance to get to know the REAL and truly charming and cheerful Leslie Nielsen.
His role as goofy characters in Airplane, The Naked Gun, and other movies and TV series was actually a brilliant move to continue working in an industry he loved. The very popular comedies rejuvenated his career and allowed us to see another talented side of him. He became known for his deadpan comic delivery. I got to know it personally that day.
You may find it as interesting as I did that Leslie Nielsen’s older brother, Erik Nielsen was the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada. The two brothers each had colorful careers.
Mr. Nielsen passed away in 2010, and I am grateful to have met him and made him laugh, as he did for so many millions in his later career.
Tell Me: What’s your favorite Leslie Nielsen film?