Thursday, July 5, 2007

My Meeting with Steve Carell

On June 27, 2010, I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet Steve Carell at the Despicable
Me after party held at LA Live downtown Los Angeles.

The planning for the big moment began the morning of May 25 when I discovered that
Despicable Me would be the Closing Film for the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) in June. The
LAFF site indicated that (1) the movie’s world premiere would be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 27,
at LA Live’s Nokia Theater followed by a Closing Party and (2) I could attend both if I bought
the Cinemania pass or higher. This was all sounding way too good to be true. I even began to
wonder if the stars of the film would show up beforehand for a “red carpet” event. I found a
phone number on the site, called it, and talked with managing director Gloria Campbell who told
me that the answer to my question was a “yes”! I was in total shock at the thought of seeing
Steve in about a month, so I bought the Cinemania pass online before the morning was up. Since
the pass gave me access to many of the festival’s other events, I decided to make the trip to LA
my summer vacation as well.

I arrived in LA on June 23 and began by attending various independent film screenings and
panel discussions. To my surprise, one of the panels included the Despicable Me writers whom I
got to meet after the discussion ended. For me, this was such a great warm-up for the 27th
which seemed like it would never happen.

The day finally arrived, and I walked down to LA Live that Sunday morning excited about the
day’s events yet uncertain as to how they would actually play out. About 12:30, I finally got over
my first hurdle by picking up my tickets for the movie and after party at the will-call booth
behind the Nokia. Then I raced around to the front of the theater for the yellow (instead of red)
carpet event that was to begin at 1 p.m. Black SUV’s began arriving shortly thereafter, and
finally Steve got out of one of them! He began walking down my side of the carpet posing for the
cameras sometimes with and sometimes without his sunglasses on. I began jumping up and
down a little and managed to take a few pictures of him myself. Unfortunately, my camera’s
batteries were acting up a bit, and my picture-taking ability was somewhat limited. Plus there
was a buffer zone between the carpet and where I was allowed to stand, but, even from a
distance, he was still very striking. He slowly made his way down the other side of the carpet as
well. He appeared open to the attention from the numerous photographers and interviewers, yet
he seemed to handle all of it in his typical, modest way. I realized this may be my only chance to
see him since the lady I called at LAFF was unsure if the stars would attend the after party. At
this point, I was fine with either outcome.

At about 10 minutes until 2 p.m., I had a second hurdle: getting seated in the huge Nokia
Theater before the film began. So I left my spot in front of the carpet and entered the theater
through what seemed to be more like airport security than a place to have fun. Next, I had to
turn in my digital camera to the theater staff and fill out the necessary paperwork. Then I picked
up my 3-D glasses, free diet Coke and popcorn, and scurried up to the second level to row D seat
106. The movie lasted about 90 minutes and proved to be a top-notch 3-D film with some heart
that I would recommend for ages 5 to 95. Steve did an awesome job, of course, as the voice of the
main character, Gru. Even though I was enjoying the movie, my mind was racing wondering
what was going to happen at that after party.

Once Despicable Me ended, I conquered my final hurdle by hurrying back downstairs to pick up
my camera and then venturing to the top of the parking garage behind the Nokia where a huge
tent was set up for the Closing Party. Game booths and decorative props were set up inside and
outside the tent that were indicative of the movie’s theme. The Wolfgang Puck Restaurant of LA
Live catered all the food, but I wasn’t ready to feast just yet. I went straight into that tent with
one mission: to find Steve. There were lots of people in there, but I was still able to move around
freely. It was kind of dark. The music was a bit loud. This was all beginning to feel like a dream.
First, I ran into Kate Flannery of The Office who chatted with me briefly and assured me that
Steve was at the party. Then I walked around some more and found some round tables with
chairs at the back of the tent. There were place cards on the tables with last names such as
“Carell.” I found Nancy in this area, went up to her, and introduced myself. She said that Steve
would be coming soon and that he was probably outside playing games with their son. So I kept
milling around nearby trying to keep calm. I even found a friend of the family to talk to. Some
kids came running through the area and mentioned something about Annie (the Carells’
daughter) coming, too. Then, finally, Steve arrived, and I made my way over to him and Nancy.
He and I shook hands and introduced ourselves to each other. I said something along the lines of
the following:
I’ve been watching/keeping up with you for the past 2 years, and it has been so
much fun. Last year, I visited your general store (in Marshfield Hills, MA), met
your sister-in-law (Tish Vivado, Nancy’s sister, who manages the store on a daily
basis), and left a picture of you behind for you to sign and return to me. Seven
weeks later, it came back to me (thanks to a self-addressed stamped envelope).
You did your job well. Best of luck to you in the future. Do you mind if I have my
picture taken with you?

Fortunately, Nancy offered to take the picture of Steve and me. You will never know how
relieved I was when she handed the camera back to me and the photo was on the playback
screen. I have to admit that this whole meeting is such blur. Therefore, I don’t really remember
what Steve said to me. However, I do remember his sweet spirit, down-to-earth quality, and
appreciative attitude. It’s so great to find out you are right about something, especially
something like this! In fact, I felt at tremendous ease with both of them.

Nevertheless, I didn’t want to wear out my welcome, so I mingled some more and ran into one of
Steve’s co-stars from Get Smart, Ken Davitian, who had great things to say about Steve as well.
After this, I finally had to step out of the tent and call my good friend back home in Texas and
tell her what all had just happened. She advised me not to wash my right hand, by the way.
However, before I could end the call, I saw Mindy Kaling of The Office and another lady walking
toward me. I hurriedly finished the conversation with my friend and then caught with up with
Mindy and the lady who happened to be a writer for the show. I visited with them for a little
while and basically told Mindy she talks much lower pitched than her character, Kelly. I thought
later that was such a lame thing to say, but I was meeting these people quicker than I ever
dreamed possible.

After departing LA Live, I went straight to the Walgreen’s downtown LA and printed several
copies of Steve and me. Then I returned to the Wilshire Grand where, for the remainder of the
evening, I mostly paused and reflected in my hotel room. The next day, I returned home to
Texas full of an experience that stopped nothing short of priceless.

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