When I was little my mother told me about the time she and her friends climbed up to a beer billboard and threw snowballs at people passing by. Not long after I heard the story a huge billboard of Tom Selleck went up in Times Square. He was dressed in a cowboy hat and a tuxedo and grinned out at me from a red sports car with a Chaz license plate. I wanted to climb up there, not to throw snowballs but just to sit. Alas, neither my mother nor I could find a way to climb up and I figured the police were a lot more observant now than they had been when my mom was a kid. Reluctantly I surrendered my fantasy of sitting next to Tom Selleck.
Fast forward to Labor Day forty years later. I was seated in the American First Class Lounge awaiting my flight from LAX to JFK. Flipping idly through the LA Times I looked up when I heard a familiar voice. Tom Selleck had entered the lounge and taken a seat not ten feet from me. My heart banged; maybe I would get a chance to talk to him and this time, really do it.
See, I had had chances to talk to him before; his television series about Las Vegas shot on Jamie’s lot and whenever I was there I would ask casually whether they were on set that day. Jamie answered every query with a scowl that would have melted the abominable snowman, so I never visited the set.
One afternoon I asked Jamie’s close friend Robert Santoro, a Teamster captain who worked on the show, what Mr. Selleck was like. He assured me that he was very nice and wouldn’t mind signing an autograph for my mother and me. At that Jamie raised one eyebrow. “She won’t get the opportunity to find out,” he stated firmly, facing Robert but really talking to me. “He is on this lot to work not to entertain fans.” As he returned to the papers stacked on his desk, I resisted the urge to stick out my tongue like Lucy Ricardo and instead looked sadly at Robert. He shrugged helplessly.
Well, today was the day to test Robert’s hypothesis. Since Mr. Selleck was not here to work and he wasn’t with his family, I would see just how nice he was. I dug in my purse for a pen and a scrap of paper and approached him. Planting myself directly in front of him, I “ahem”med loudly. He raised his eyes over his reading glasses.
“Mr. Selleck,” I began. “My mom and I have had a crush on you since you were the Chaz man. May I please have your autograph for her?”
He smiled slightly and reached up. “What is your mother’s name?” he asked kindly. I told him. He wrote then handed me the paper.
I accepted it then said, “You know, when I was a little girl there was a billboard of you in Times Square. It was the last shot in the commercial where you roped cows . . .”
“Steer. They’re not cows, they’re steer.”
“Oh. Okay, steer. Then you showered and dressed in a tux and climbed into that red Corvette. . . ”
“It was a Ferrari.”
I squinted at him. “Really?”
“Well, I guess you can tell I grew up in New York and know nothing about either cows or cars.”
He smiled then turned as his name was called. His escort had arrived to take him to his flight.
“Well, ‘bye,” I said. “Thank you.”
He nodded, hoisted his brown leather bag, and turned away.
I looked at my watch and realized that I should get ready to walk to the boarding gate, too. I slipped the autograph into my tote bag and headed for the ladies’ room.
Within about ten minutes I was boarding my plane. Flashing my boarding pass for seat 1A at the flight attendant I turned right and saw Tom Selleck sitting in 1 B.
“Hi Mr. Selleck!” I exclaimed.
He looked up from his script and peered over his reading glasses. “Hey, it’s Corvette Girl,” he smiled.
I tossed my carry on in the overhead bin and couldn’t stop myself from giggling as I plopped into the window seat.
“What is so funny?” my seat mate asked.
I told him about my childhood dream about climbing the Chaz billboard and sitting next to him high above Times Square.
He laughed. “Well, today you will be higher in the air than the billboard was,” he observed.
I looked at his script. “Is that the new cop show you are going to star in?” I asked nodding at the script.
He nodded. “It looks like a really good show. I hope it does well.”
“My mom and I will watch it, although she will miss Jesse Stone. She loves those.”
“Oh, tell her that they aren’t going away. We have three more scheduled.”
“My husband will watch, too, even thought you are no longer shooting on his lot.”
At his raised eyebrow I added, “My husband Jamie runs Culver where your last show shot and I always wanted to meet you and get your autograph but he said he’d kill me if I bothered you. Robert said you wouldn’t mind but I never did, anyway. I remember one day when someone’s daughter hung around the set all day mooning after Josh Duhamel, his agent chewed Jamie’s ear off. I learned from her mistake.”
Mr. Selleck nodded. “Robert who?” he asked curiously.
“Yes, he is friends with my husband.”
“You should have asked him to get it for you. I would have signed. Robert is a great guy.”
So I sat next to Tom Selleck all the way to New York and he was charming. When he fell asleep I thought of laying my head on his shoulder and snapping a selfie but just my luck he’d be a light sleeper and I would turn into Lucy Ricardo yet again when she chats with the sleeping Van Johnson and he wakes, embarrassing her.
When we landed at JFK, Mr. Selleck’s next escort arrived to walk him from the plane to collect his luggage. Just before exiting, he turned and hugged me. He smiled that Magnum smile, turned again, and was gone.