Meredith Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
It’s not as if I plan on taking credit for the number of shiny gold trophies that the film “127 Hours” seems poised to win come awards season, but I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my admittedly minor, although not necessarily insignificant, connection to the 162nd hour (give or take) of the saga.
No, I didn’t write the screenplay (but I can see how my prose could be easily confused for that of the Oscar-winning duo that also penned “Slumdog Millionaire”). And no, I didn’t give Aron Ralston the knife used to cut off his arm when it was trapped under that boulder in a Utah canyon for, apparently, 127 hours (although I know someone who once found a knife that belonged to him in a stream). Nor am I an ex-girlfriend of either Aron or the film’s star, James Franco (if I weren’t married, however, I wouldn’t mind being trapped in a canyon with the latter for a few hours).
Nearly six years ago I interviewed Aron for a radio news story prior to his appearance with Tom Brokaw at the Wheeler Opera House. After we finished, I mentioned how I watched him talk about his ordeal with David Letterman shortly before I moved to Aspen, and was deeply moved by his trying yet inspiring experience. I also distinctly remember telling him that what left the biggest impression on me – as a former TV booker and producer – was how he was Letterman’s first guest of the evening, and Tobey Maguire’s publicist must have been livid that the A-list movie star, who also appeared on that night’s show, had to play second fiddle to a human interest guest.
So imagine my surprise when Aron sat on stage at the Wheeler and told the legendary NBC anchor in front of a sold-out crowd how “people like Meredith [Carroll] moved to Aspen because of [him],” in response to a question about the scope of his story’s impact.
My then-boyfriend, now-husband turned to me with a raised eyebrow precisely as I turned 19 shades of mortified and asked, “You did?”
I’m not expecting to hear him utter my name again, like during an “I’d like to thank the Academy speech,” but clearly Aron’s Q rating has been on an upward trajectory ever since his association with me. And at the risk of sounding immodest, it wasn’t the first time I influenced a person of note. (Or a person of influence noted my presence. Either way.)
There was the time in 1989 when my parents took me to see Sting star in a preview of a Broadway revival of “The Threepenny Opera.” On the hunt for an autograph after the show, I hopped over the police tape and sat on the trunk of a Jaguar parked directly in front of the backstage door of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Sting emerged and made the rounds with a Sharpie, dutifully signing Playbills.
He finally made it over to me, looked deeply in my eyes and placed his hand on my shoulder. At that moment my suspicions were confirmed: He really knew me as well as I did him because he had, indeed, sensed I was floating somewhere in the universe all this time.
“Are you OK?” he asked gently.
Speechless, I nodded.
He looked at me searchingly. “Are you sure?”
“Uh huh,” I squeaked.
“Then would you please get off my car so I can leave?” he said kindly.
Sure, the show closed before opening night, but I’m told Sting went on to enjoy a fair amount of success, as is often the case when the shoulder of greatness is touched.
And how could I ever forget attending the Republican National Convention with NBC News in 1996 and seeing former Vice President Dan Quayle strolling backstage at the San Diego Convention Center.
“Mr. Quayle,” I called out, eager to take a photo for posterity (or, as it turns out, a future social media gag profile picture).
“Mr. Quayle,” I said again louder, even though I wasn’t more than 2 feet behind him.
“Mr. Vice President?” I tried. Bingo. He turned to face me, grinned broadly and I snapped away.
I’m not insinuating it’s because of me, but at around the same time as our encounter, he also released a memoir. It was almost as if he needed assurance that at least one person out there knew he still existed (and to the late night talk-show joke writers, circa the mid- to late-1990s – you’re welcome).
Speaking of late night shows, I worked on “Saturday Night Live” for seven seasons, but never, ever spoke to the show’s resident Jesus, Lorne Michaels. But he spoke to me. Once. It was right before a show was set to go live in a scene at the desk just outside of the studio, and I was silently leaning up against a wall while a hive of activity swarmed around me.
Lorne’s unmistakable shock of white hair came into sight as he hurried uncharacteristically down the long hallway two minutes before air. He looked around and his gaze landed directly at me as he hissed accusingly over the din, “Don’t you think it should be quiet here?”
Sure, his eyes shot venom, but it was clear to me he was thinking, “Hey, it’s that girl from the music department whom I’ve long sensed could be my heir apparent.”
Since my instinct is rarely off, I’m still expecting a call from my agent any day now.
More at meredithcarroll.com