Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Touring Frankens

I ran into Al Franken today in downtown Minneapolis. While my wife was seeing the doctor, I took my son to walk around Minneapolis (as nice as Robbinsdale is, there aren't a ton of sidewalks). As we walked up Nicollet Mall, there was Al Franken walking at a brisk pace. I have mentioned before: I am not star struck. It's very hard to get me to a point where I cannot talk to someone.
We both had to stop at the light as cars flew past. He turned, look at my son in the stroller, and said, "Cute kid."
I said, "Thanks Mr. Franken."
"Oh, you know who I am?"
"We've met before," I replied.
This had his eyebrows reaching toward the sky.
It's true. I met Al Franken while I was a student at Washington University in St. Louis. Franken was looking at schools for his son, Joe (who would later end up at Princeton, I believe). The head of the
department, Jeffery Matthews, wanted someone to show Franken and his son around the school. I was chosen. Why? I still have no clue. Maybe it was because I would answer his questions truthfully without holding back. Or maybe it was a test (I was not good at the political game when I was in college...it got me in trouble now and then).
Jeffery prepared me in his office a few hours before the visit.
"Oook. Make sure you say something nice about his work. Maybe Saturday Night Live or something. Say something nice about his son (his name is Joe). This is VERY important. Do you understand?"
Say something about his work? If this had happened to my parents when I was looking at colleges, they (and I) would have been pissed. Yet here I was standing outside the Performing Arts Department trying to figure out what to say.
So, Al and Joe Franken appeared. They talked to Jeffery for a few minutes, and then we were introduced. I shook Joe's hand first, because this was about him, not his father (Jeffery was not happy about that).
At this point I was looking right at Mr. Franken and began to shake his hand. The first thing out of my mouth was, "You know, sir,
Stuart Saves His Family was underrated and quite good. I really enjoyed it."
"Well...thank you, I guess," was all he said.
It took the Frankens on the tour. Explained everything I could and answered every question I could. Al seemed to be interested in the fact that I was from New York, and that I was a Techie.
"So do you like working with actors?" he asked me.
"As long as I don't have to eat with them," I replied.
There was a slight chuckle.
After a few more minutes, we finished the tour. We shook hands and then I "blew the deal," as Jeffery would and probably will tell me everytime I see him.
Somehow, a photographer showed up. You see, Harold Ramis, who Franken had worked with, had gone to WUSTL. In truth, Ramis based a great deal of Animal House on life at Wash. U (Not Dartmouth and not any other school that claims it). There is a "Wall of Fame" where the professors of the department have their pictures with students and famous people. The head of the department, for example, has a picture of himself with a student and Kevin Kline (he also refers to Kevin Kline as, "Kev.") on this wall.
The photographer was supposed to take a picture of Franken, Jeffery, and myself. However, Joe, the whole reason Franken was there (supposedly), was not to be in the picture. He was told, by the photographer, to, "sit over there (indicating a bench) until we're done."
That didn't sit well with me. The kid was being marginalized in the name of helping the school.
So, I excused myself. Jeffery had a look of terror on his face. I said, "Mr. Franken, it was nice to meet you. Joe, good luck, and if you have any questions, you have my email. I need to get to a lighting rehearsal." Granted, it was only 1 pm, but it could have been true.
Without the student, the whole thing wouldn't work. Why would perspective parents care about a celebrity meeting with the professors? They would want the students involved.
Maybe the blown photo op was the reason why Joe didn't go to Wash. U. I don't know, and I don't care.
I enjoyed showing the Frankens around the school, but it felt weird. It was almost like being part of a show where everyone knows the script except you.
So, with that in mind, I looked into Mr. Franken's eyes and said, "Yes, we met at Washington University in St. Louis when your son was looking at schools. I gave you a tour."
He nodded and said, "Oh sure," which really meant, "I don't remember, but I'll be nice as I am very Minnesotan and will forget this meeting almost immediately after I cross the street, person who is a nobody."
The light changed. We crossed, he much faster than I.
"Have a good day," I said.
"You too," he replied.
My son and I continued walking at our slow pace watching Franken move quickly on to his destination.
The best part? Honestly? Hearing my son be called cute. Makes me a proud papa.
Namaste.

10 comments:

Jason DeRusha said...

How funny, Leab. As a dad, I think touring a college would be something I'd remember. But maybe they toured a million schools.

cat said...

That is good Leab!And he is correct, Little Leab IS cute! Extremely cute!

Liar_Liar said...

Actually what i pulled out of the story most is the exact reason i have been hoping the man does run for office. Franken is not personable, nor is the man funny, witty, charming, or give a damn in the least. As anyone who has actually read his writing beyond the political agenda the man pushes full force, Al Franken is about Al franken. no one else, and apparently from your story, not even his own children. Politic aside, the man is clown shoes, Always has been, always will be.

Anonymous said...

That's a really unfair judgment. It sounds like he was perfectly civil. Obviously you don't need to agree with his politics, but the fact that he wasn't glad-handing in the street doesn't mean he isn't sincere about them. What do you want from the guy?

Admin Worm said...

Cool story.

I'm not a huge fan of Franken's work but would probably be a bit star-struck if I met or saw him. His book, "Oh, the Things I Know" is just about the funniest thing I've ever read, and that's saying something.

I saw Garrisson Keillor at a restaurant once and though I can't stand him, it was still a bit of a rush seeing him in person.

Liar Liar's comments may be a bit harsh. Sounds like Franken was cordial, and in his defense I'm sure he gets approached by hundreds of doofuses each day wanting to snap a camera phone picture of him. He was probably a bit surprised (and grateful) that Leab didn't act like a tourist.

Civil or not, however, I hope the man doesn't win a Senate seat. I've read his "platform," and it's nothing but platitudes. He has no clear agenda, he's just against a lot of stuff. Sadly, that's probably all it will take.

Leab said...

Look,
the point of the post wasn't his politics (Liar_Liar) nor the fact that he was so nanchalant.
It was the idea of seeing someone again after a few years.
He was nice to me and didn't have to be.
Hell, when I met Dick Ebersol, he was an asshole.
Now the whole "Wall of Fame" thing wasn't his idea. It was the schools. Look at St. Thomas for example. They use the fact that an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue was shot there. I don't think A&F uses St. Thomas.
Jason, do you remember every single person you've ever met with clarity? This was over five years ago. He's been to many colleges, and he's seen many people in that time. And, if you read Lying Liars, then you know he even took his son to religious universities.
The bottom line is this: He was civil. That's all I ask. I mean DeRusha flat out ignored me, which was heartbreaking. Ok, in all seriousnes. He was a nice guy. I don't care if he remembered me or not. Somehow I don't think Katie Couric or Don Shelby is going to remember me either. It's not a knock against them.
There's a great Saturday Night Live skit where Paul Simon remembers all these random people from concerts and life events...then he runs into Art Garfunkel and can't remember him.
In everyday life, it usually goes the other way.
This is not about politics. I don't do politics usually as most of my readers can attest.
Maybe he'll remember me if we run into each other again. We'll see.

Arthur Willoughby said...

Why do you hate Al Franken so much? Because he's a Democrat?

Leab said...

Not funny Tom. Not funny.

Admin Worm said...

Sorry, man. Just trying to stir the pot.

Liar_Liar said...

I completely disagree, A good politician remembers EVERYONE, or at least the face if not the name. Bill Clinton is very famous for this as are most sucessful politicians. And yes i have run, and yes i have worked on campaigns. In fact most famous people i have met more than once have this 'ability'

My point stands that Al Franken is a joke, possibly the most unfunny comedian ever. And i do agree, he can write, he should NEVER, EVER SPEAK.

Last, i do agree, zero platform, Which adds to my clown shoes comment earlier.