Although many people think that hanging out with musicians and actors is one of the most glamorous and enjoyable parts of my job, I actually don’t spend much time with the people performing at the arts center.
In fact, I usually avoid the green room and backstage.
Sure, I’ve met Garrison Keillor twice, shook hands with both of the Indigo Girls and bumped into a bunch of other stars, but it’s not like I ever spend enough time with them that they’d remember my name after they leave the building.
The most meaningful contact I’ve had was when I drove the phenomenal blues musician Joe Bonamassa to a master class and had to explain frost heaves to him.
At last that was the case until we presented Bill Cosby.
I didn’t start the day thinking that I’d even say a word to the man.
I watched The Cosby Show, like everyone else in the world, but I’m not a particular fan. I was happy to let him have the green room to himself and simply pass each other as I came off stage after the curtain speech.
That plan changed when he invited the President of the local community college to stop by for a chat and an autograph. Someone needed to escort the man backstage and that someone was me.
Once in the green room, I was given little opportunity to escape.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that Bill Cosby held me hostage. He didn’t tie me to chair or anything like that. He just really likes to talk to people.
And he’s a good listener too.
After he told a story about performing with Johnny Cash at a famous casino in Las Vegas, I shared that I had recently made a trip to my very first casino.
I said it conversationally, to be polite. But it didn’t end there. He asked me why I had gone.
I could have said it was just for fun or made up some lie about a bachelorette party, but something made me say that it was research for a novel I was writing.
I don’t share that information with many people. (In person, anyway. I know I’m always blabbing about it on this blog.)
He inquired about the plot of the book and before I knew it he was giving me movie recommendations that would help me research professional poker and offering other writing advice.
Ahead of his arrival at the venue, we were told that Mr. Cosby doesn’t have or use a cell phone. We even had to install a land line for him to use while he was there.
(And he really used it. He conducted three or four phone interviews in the few hours he was at the theater.)
But while he may not like using a cell phone, he certainly likes the access to information one provides.
During our visit I googled who sings “Cool Clean Water” (The Sons of the Pioneers), what grain is like grits but healthier (quinoa), the name of the chef at the Saint Regis hotel in Houston (John Signorelli) and a whole host of other trivia.
He’d be in the middle of a story and say, “look up such and such on your phone.”
When Bill Cosby says to look something up, you look it up.
He also likes to share recipes. I learned how to prepare grilled salmon in grape leaves; beef tenderloin with maple syrup, radishes and jalapenos; and steamed kale.
And that’s just the beginning of the things I learned and stories I heard.
I have to admit that the whole thing was fun, certainly a one of a kind experience.
Over the past few months I have become convinced that Bill Cosby is one of the most recognizable and beloved people in the country.
And who could possibly resent spending a few hours with America’s favorite performer?