Archive for April, 2007

My Life with George Clooney

George Clooney was in Tobaccoville the other day to shoot some scenes for his movie “Leatherheads.” The name comes from the leather helmets that players wore in the early days of professional football.

The publicist for the movie told us that no outsiders would be allowed on the set so the photographer and I drove out the day before to hunt for a good base of operations. The production people had clearly been hard at work. The plan was to shoot some scenes inside two railroad cars. The cars were there on the track. Assorted trucks, trailers and vans were parked between the track and the road. And a giant tent like you might see at a posh outdoor wedding was set up across the road.

We turned onto a side road and parked. The fact that we were outside of the set’s domain didn’t stop a security man from crossing the road and demanding to know who we were. To save him some effort, I told him that I knew it was a closed set. That didn’t stop him from delivering a little lecture about how, if we crossed the road, we would be trespassing.

Our destination was a house down the main road a bit that appeared to offer a fine vantage point for watching the proceedings. We had spotted a bunch of kids out in the front yard. The plan was to introduce ourselves to the pertinent adults and see if they would be willing to let us watch from the yard the next day.

We soon learned that the house belonged to the Fontaines – a couple with four boys. They not only invited us to set up shop there the next day but also to park in the back yard.

Now that you have the background, I’m going to jump ahead to the next day. I had been hanging out for four hours talking to people who had come to see what they could see. So far, Clooney had waved to fans from the set twice. Once, from a railroad car. Once as he walked from the railroad car to his trailer at the lunch break.

As far as we knew, that might be it. But, after about an hour, Clooney came out of his trailer and walked across the road to patronize the lemonade stand that the three oldest Fontaine boys – who are 10, 6, 5 – were running in their front yard. After getting a cup of lemonade and wowing Mrs. Fontaine, Clooney, who didn’t have any money on him, went back across the road and sent a representative over with a $20 bill for the boys.

Clooney didn’t want any change, which boggled the mind of the 6-year-old. He kept repeating to people that Clooney didn’t want any change. With more funny quotes from people than I could use, I already felt fine about the story but Clooney giving the boys $20 for a cup of lemonade definitely took it to another level.

After the story showed up in the “Winston-Salem Journal” the next day, The Associated Press took off my name, discarded everything not connected to the lemonade anecdote and sent it out over the wires.

Curious about where the story had been picked up, I checked later that afternoon and found it listed on 145 news sites. Most of them were in the United States but the story had also made its way to such places as Canada and Croatia. By the next day, the story was showing up in England, South Africa, China, Australia and New Zealand.

The story was morphing as it went. All the stories had the basics – one George Clooney, three boys, one cup of lemonade, one $20 bill. Everything else was up for grabs. On one entertainment-news Web site I found a by-lined story by a woman who had Clooney whipping the $20 bill out of his pocket. I guess she thought that made for a snappier story. In a story that ran in San Francisco, Clooney had been riding down the road and had his driver pull over when he spotted the stand.

Fabrications aside, a story that I was responsible for was zipping around the world, and it wasn’t doing me a lick of good. It was maddening.

I’m thinking about writing a book called “My Life with George Clooney.” Perhaps that would get me some much-deserved attention.