When a modest Kiwi gave Sandra Bullock his autograph

By Peter Bromhead

Herald writer Peter Bromhead once gave Hollywood actress Sandra Bullock his autograph
Herald writer Peter Bromhead once gave Hollywood actress Sandra Bullock his autograph

"Have you ever met anybody really famous?" Asked the host in a recent radio interview, while reviewing my latest book release.

"Well, that depends by what you mean as really famous?" I warily responded, with my usual caution to open-ended questions.

"Well..." He continued, like pop-stars or actors?" "Well, I've never personally met a pop-star!" I replied with relief, recollecting my recent experience of listening to Madonna blabbering on, between songs about her personal problems.

"I wouldn't want to be stuck sitting next to that particular singer on a long flight, unless you find child custody and dietary matters particularly interesting."

"Have you ever met anybody special on a plane trip?" The interviewer continued.

"Well, yes, that's happened twice." I replied, thinking back on overseas flights.

"I sat next to the film star Robert Duvall, when travelling from LA to Chicago and on another occasion with the late Gregory Peck."

"Wow! What did you say to them?" Asked the interviewer, smiling broadly.

"Absolutely nothing." I responded. "Gentlemen flying business class, usually have no reason to speak to each other, unless acquainted.

Although, I did break this rule with Peck, as we exited the aircraft, by muttering 'Twelve O'Clock High,' which he acknowledged with a brief smile and a thumb's up."

"Twelve O'Clock High?" replied the interviewer, "I'm sorry, I don't understand the significance of your comment?"

Of course, when conversing with today's youth, one has to accept that jargon from World War II is beyond comprehension. "Twelve O'Clock High donates the position of enemy fighter planes intruding on the box patterns of Flying Fortresses carrying out a bombing operation.

Clock numerals were a simple indication of the location of incoming enemy aircraft, for example, Six O'Clock Low, gave the underbelly turret gunner of a B-17 an indication of where to fire.

"So why say twelve o'clock high to Gregory Peck?"

"It's from the title of the 1949 film, featuring Peck as a tough flight commander who flew daylight missions over occupied Europe." I said wearily, adding, "I'm surprised you've never heard of the film?"

"I wasn't even born." Came the reply, stated with the sort of smug smirk, anybody on the wrong side of sixty now has to put up with.

Sensing I needed to feed the interviewer with a few more tit-bits, I was about to acknowledge that I'd been involved with the late Dudley Moore and Peter Ustinov in a couple of television shows and had enjoyed dining with these two very witty actors, but cynically realised I would probably receive the same blank looks recalling entertainers who have long gone to their maker.

In one last effort to close the historical time warp that existed between us, I casually mentioned Sandra Bullock's name.

"You've actually met Sandra Bullock!" Exclaimed the interviewer, his face lighting up. "Did you get a selfie or her autograph?" He added.

"Well no..." I responded, "It was actually the other-way round." I continued.

I was in a lift at Los Angeles International airport, with a couple of other people, when an elderly lady turned to this other younger lady and exclaimed; "I know you, and you're famous!"

I joined the conversation, by staring at Sandra and muttered, "Well, if you're really famous, you'll want my autograph."

And with that, I pulled out my pen and scrawled my signature on a torn-off piece of paper from my flight ticket and handed it over.

I must say, this reversal of roles took Miss Bullock by complete surprise and she burst into hysterical laughter and was still chuckling away as we walked away in different directions to catch our respective flights, with her yelling back, "I'll treasure this!" Waving the bit of paper in the air.

"Wow! That's such a weird thing to have done!" Said the commentator, closing the interview.

I agree, with hindsight, I should have thrown myself at her feet and proposed marriage, having learned recently that Sandra Bullock is now acknowledged as one of the most successful and wealthiest persons in Hollywood's film industry.

- NZ Herald

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