When I entered college way back in 1963, I wanted to be an architect. A year later, though, I changed my major to theatre arts and became an actor. A few more years went by, and by then I was one of the leading actors at Long Beach State. I was twenty-two at the time and pretty much full of myself, at least from an acting point-of-view.
One day one of my drama professors called me to his office and asked if I’d be interested in helping a fellow student with his cinema project since I was one of the better actors in the department. I hesitated, but the professor said it would help the student and I should at least go talk to him. Reluctantly, I said I would. But really, I was the “star” of the campus stage. It was really beneath me to do menial acting gigs for students!
I met the student in a classroom. He was about my age, thinly built and somewhat awkward in describing what he wanted. I listened but was loosing interest by the minute. Then I asked him what size camera he’d be using. He indicated an 8-millimeter. Eight-millimeter, are you kidding me? My parents used an 8-millimeter camera to take pictures, and serious actors don’t perform in front of such small cameras. I told him as politely as I could that I wasn’t interested. On the way back to the theatre, I was laughing inside. This guy was talking about shooting a five-minute short and he wanted me to help him? Did he know who I was? A strong indication of how self-centered I was back then.
Years later, I met up with a fellow student who had also been at Long Beach State with me. She was also an actor and I had helped her with the student-directing project she’d been required to do; much like the requirement the cinema student had to complete. We were having dinner when she asked if I remembered the cinema student. I thought back. “Yeah, I remember him,” I said, holding back my real impressions of the memory. She then asked, “Do you know who that student was?” I told her no, I didn’t remember his name, not knowing if I ever actually knew it. “Well,” she went on, “I got together recently with some of our fellow drama students from back then, and the student came up in our conversations. One of the men in the group told us it was Steven Spielberg.” “Uh, Steven Spielberg?” I gasped.
Now I was long removed from acting by this time, and had my own consulting firm. One of our clients was Universal Studios where Steven had a special bungalow on the lot for his personal use. This was after he’d directed and produced a number of hit movies. What I learned about Mr. Spielberg while at Universal was how kind he was, especially to those who helped him in his career. All I remember thinking after hearing that was how rude I’d been in not helping a fellow student.
A lot of memories and speculations are included in this reencounter, and whether that was whom I actually met with that sorrowful day, can only truly be supported from his recollection. I was at an event that Mr. Spielberg attended, and actually thought about approaching him and asking if he recalled such an incident. But I didn’t because I always wanted to remember the occasion, be it true or not, as punishment for not helping someone when I had the chance.