Eric met Carl

My very cool friend Eric Gilliland is a very cool TV writer.
Last night he met his idol. Who happens to be one of the most awesome artists of the twentieth century.
This is what Eric wrote about meeting him.
Eric, you’re quite awesome yourself.

“Tonight, I saw Carl Reiner interview/have a conversation with Jules Feiffer at Temple Emmanuel in Beverly Hills. Now, admittedly, that’s a heavily proper-noun-filled sentence. But I’ll continue nonetheless. They were both hilarious, engaging, open, honest, and exactly what you want them to be. Amazing night. I was the youngest one there.

They were both selling books/signing books afterwards and I took them up on it. Now… Carl Reiner is my hero. Unabashedly, I say that. It’s trite at this point for a comedy writer (braggy!) to say that he made me want to do what I do because of the daily 6:30 pm reruns on WGN of “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” but it’s true. And, y’know, all the other stuff he’s done.

I was a PA on NBC’s Sixtieth (Seventieth?) Anniversary Show where a bunch of stars are paraded through and there’s much too much time spent on Sharri Lewis. And it was time to take a picture of the gathering of all the stars, all in one place. The bleachers were set up and, bounding to the top were the “Miami Vice” fellas. In the middle were Klugman and Reiner and assorted Golden Girls and the like, Nell Carter looking like an enormous monolith on pullies and shopping cart wheels. And at the bottom, Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, George Gobel, Berle, you know, the biggies.

It obviously took a while to set this shot up. And Klugman was BITCHING about it the whole time. “C’mon! We got things to do! What’s taking so long?!” Disillusioning, really. Confirming, but disillusioning. But on the exact opposite side of the bleachers was Carl Reiner. Making fart noises. And cracking up the stars that were around him. Just having a blast. Making a tedious event fun. For Barbara Eden. And I looked at this epic scene and decided at that moment that that’s the guy I wanted to become. I wanted to be in my seventies, making fart noises. And in three years, that may come true.

So there I was in the book line tonight. Panicked. Do I say something? Do I tell him what he’s meant to me? Or do I just say “It’s to ‘Eric.’ With a ‘C'”? Because this is The Guy. And I’m never this fan-crazed with anyone, except maybe Ernie Banks and/or certain dead people.

And I get up to him… and I go for it. And I tell him (vomit out, more likely) that I’ve been a comedy writer for twenty years and have had a pretty good career I’m sure he’s heard this a million times but I owe a lot of it to him and watching the Van Dyke show and I can’t thank him enough and stuff like that there. Through stutters and stammers and flop sweat. And he looks at me and says that a lot of writers have told him that – how watching the Van Dyke show daily in reruns moved them to write – and it thrills him that that has happened. He just thinks that’s wonderful. And he signs my book.

And I walk out of Temple Emmanuel on such a high, with such tremendous excitement, that I kinda won’t be the same again. Because I got to tell my aging idol that he changed my life. And he really enjoyed hearing it.”

-Eric Gilliland

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2 Comments on “Eric met Carl”

  1. John Orman Says:

    Awesome… I know this isn’t your experience, Jeff.. but reading this made me think of the two times I met John Waters and probably embarrassed myself both times by telling him stories of various reactions I’ve gotten from people whom I’ve shown films of his..

  2. Richard Kleeberg Says:

    WOW! A post that mentions Bob Hope, Carson, Reiner and Dick Van Dyke! I am glad to see that someone still remembers the legends of the 20th Century.

    I wrote my last post about Bob Hope and two other forgotten legends:

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