I had just concluded a fantastic week at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference at the Red Lion hotel in Portland, Oregon when Jeff Goldblum walked past the conference bookstore. I was standing inside, and he walked right by, made eye contact with me from the hallway for a solid three seconds, and then moved on.
I gawked at him, incredulous and unsure it was really him. In true stalker form, I stepped out of the bookstore and stared down the hallway at him as he strolled toward the hotel lobby. My friend and bestselling author Jim Rubart walked toward me, right past Jeff, and I pointed at him. He nodded before I even asked, “Is that…?”
Perhaps you’ve heard of Portlandia. It’s a TV show set in Portland. That’s basically the extent of what I know about it, aside from the fact that Fred Armisen (formerly of Saturday Night Live and currently Seth Myers’s band leader for Late Night) stars in it. Well, apparently Jeff Goldblum was guest-starring in an episode, because they were filming in the hotel lobby.
I sat there in wonder and watched them shoot a scene (Jeff wasn’t in it—he was just watching). That’s when I noticed that a young lady acting in the scene really, really resembled Olivia Wilde, but with pink corn rows in her hair instead of her normal look.
Turns out it was actually Olivia Wilde.
After they finished filming, I mustered the courage to approach the group and request a picture with all of them. They obliged, and we took this beauty—except I totally look disinterested and a little fat, neither of which are an accurate representation of me in that scenario, I swear.
Still, I got a pic with Fred Armisen, Jeff Goldblum, (the other girl in the shot), and I got to put my arm around Olivia Wilde.
Incredible. You’d better believe I let my best friend Andy Mac know about that. For years we’ve had a thing where we say Ooooooooolivia Wilde (because she’s gorgeous). I actually dreamed I was showing her around my hometown of Mequon, WI once. (I have lame dreams sometimes.)
But it only got better from there on out. I haunted Jeff Goldblum a bit and said outrageous things like, “I loved you in The Fly,” and “Can we take a selfie?” He generously agreed.
Then he asked the front desk if he could play the piano in the lobby, the one with the sign that read, “Please do not play the piano.” They gave him permission (of course), and he sat down on the piano bench.
Like the creeper that I am, I asked if I could record him.
“Uh, no. We’re not filming a movie or anything like that. But you can take some pictures.”
So I didn’t record him, but I took this awesome action shot. He must’ve thought I was recording based on the expression on his face, but I quickly assured him that I wasn’t.
I offered to leave, but he encouraged me to sit there while he played. He said it helped to have someone to play for. And then he proceeded to serenade me with some of the most incredible jazz piano and bebop I’ve ever heard, and I actually have listened to a fair amount in my day.
I tried to get some editing work done while Jeff Goldblum pounded out embellished versions of classic jazz standards like My Favorite Things (yes, there is a jazz version) and Autumn Leaves, but it wasn’t easy. He even dropped in a riff from the Jurassic Park theme song a couple of times, and when I asked him about it he said it was sort of a personal signature he liked to pepper into his music from time to time.
I recognized a lick at one point and asked, “Is that Confirmation?”
He stopped and gawked at me for an instant (consider your tables turned, Mr. Goldblum). “Yeah. Do you know it?”
“Sure. Charlie Parker. I used to play alto saxophone.”
“See if you recognize this one.” He played a familiar melody, but I couldn’t place it, and I admitted as much to him. He said, “It’s Thelonius Monk.”
I didn’t catch the name of the song when he said it, but consider the tables turned again, Mr. Goldblum.
He continued to hammer sassy notes from the piano but occasionally stopped to take pictures and slow dance with old ladies who came up to him (I became his default cell phone wielder/photographer), always gracious and fully committed to the pictures, but also eager to jump back in to his jazz. He hummed and half-sang, half-mumbled lyrics and licks and gibberish while he played and it was the best thing ever.
After a solid 45 minutes a girl came up and said they needed him in hair and makeup. He packed up his stuff, shook my hand and said, “Thanks for your help.”
I nodded and thanked him for being so personable, or I mumbled total nonsense. I’m not sure which, but it was definitely one of them.
The whole experience left me with a very positive impression of him. Here’s Jeff Goldblum, an internationally-known, award-winning movie star (and secret jazz piano master), and he let me spend 45 minutes listening to what amounted to a free concert by him. A really good one, too.
It served as a reminder that no matter what level of success I do or don’t obtain with my writing or with Splickety, I need to remain personable and willing to invest in those around me on some tangible level. I think we would all do well to remember how to charm others like Jeff Goldblum did with those old ladies he danced with, and to this bumbling fool who scored an awesome selfie with him.
Also, Ooooooooolivia Wilde.