There were good things and bad things about working the reception desk at a Hollywood management firm. You have to deal with the constant ringing of phones, but you get to pass along the problems that come with those phone calls to assistants. You get to meet all the clients, as they have to get through you in order to get to the people they need. That’s fun. Being Los Angeles and the entertainment industry, even the delivery people are more attractive than you. That’s not as fun.
The best part is the walk-ins though. We were listed in all the entertainment directories, so oftentimes people would walk in off the street to try and solicit reprensentation. We would get tons of fan mail for the actors we represented too. I wonder if this day and age people still send fan mail via snail mail, but that is neither here nor there.
Our offices were located on the second floor of a three floor building we shared with a dentist and some sort of office, maybe casting? We all shared a courtyard with a communal elevator. The elevator opened up on one end of the courtyard, and from my desk I could see out the glass doors that someone was headed our way.
Sometimes, that offered me the chance to warn people folks they didn’t want to hear from were on their way. Other times, it gave me 15 precious seconds to primp before Justin Chambers from Grey’s Anatomy walked in. Then there was the time I had 15 seconds to process that Jaws was coming straight towards me.
I didn’t know him as Jaws at the time. I immediately recognized him though. It tends to happen when a seven foot tall man with very distinct features steps off an elevator. People just say to themselves, “Hey, that is the guy with the nail gun nail in his head from Happy Gilmore.”
You may know him as Jaws from the James Bond movies or by his real name, Richard Kiel. Either way, he lumbered off the elevator, then had to walk with his head ducked, as he was too tall for the patio walkway. He ducked his head even deeper to walk through our front door, then approached my desk.
“Good afternoon, does Guymon Cassidy still work here?”
He did not. He left before I even joined the company, but it was a mistake people made all the time. I explained he was no longer with the company, so Kiel explained what his purpose was.
But first, he dropped a paper wrapped package on my desk with a thud that had me immediately jumping to the conclusion a human head was inside it. I braced myself, fearing what was coming.
Turns out Kiel’s mission was an innocuous one. He was a big James Dean fan and trying to fundraise to get a nonprofit performing arts center built in his name. In order to drum up interest, he brought a brick.
Yes, a brick.
But not just any brick.
He unwrapped the paper package to reveal a brick certified to be from James Dean’s high school in Marion, Indiana. It had papers to prove it and everything, though I do wonder how one certifies a brick. He asked if there might be any talent on our roster that would possibly be interested in donating. I suggested a couple of names on our top talent manager’s roster. Kiel responded enthusiastically, as he was quite the Ted Danson fan, and suggested speaking to his manager.
“I’ll leave the brick with you,” he said with a smile. He then thanked me again, smiled the friendliest smile as he shook my hand, and left, off to deliver another brick to another building. I smiled to myself, both at the gentleness of his demeanor and at the absurdity of the situation.
I IMed my boss:
“Nail gun guy from Happy Gilmore just gave me a brick from James Dean’s high school.”
While I waited for her to respond, another manager came in and saw the brick.
“You building a house?”
I explained the story, and he became super intrigued, offering to take the brick to the top manager’s office, clearly intent on presenting it as a brick he discovered specifically for a special client. As he did, my boss appeared in the doorway.
“Drop the brick,” she barked.
For the next three months, it was a back and forth battle of brick thievery in our office that was my favorite thing to kepe me sane in an otherwise high stress position. There were ransom letters, undercover after hours operations, and the kind of hijinks straight out of a James Bond movie.
so, when I heard Kiel passed away today, my mind immediately went to nail guns and bricks, two of my saving graces when trying to tackle the wild world of Hollywood.