THE PACKET
(Canada)
May 14-20, 2001

 No Brainer
by Barbara Dean-Simmons

I made a big mistake two weeks ago.

I brought a man along with me when I went down to New Bonaventure to try   to get a story about the Shipping News, the Hollywood production that’s being filmed in the Trinity Bight area.

Not just any man, mind you. But a young man barely out of his 20’s who’s done nothing but talk about the movie and Julianne Moore ever since we heard they would be shooting in these parts.

I usually prefer to do these assignments solo. But my decision to have him tag along was purely logical.

I wouldn’t know Kevin Spacey or Julianne Moore if I tripped over them. I haven’t been to a movie in 10 years and the last time I had control over the VCR at my place, I watched A Fish Called Wanda.

Since 1992 my video rentals have been limited to animated Disney films which, I have come to realize, are psychologically disturbing. In every one of them the kid character – whether it be a fox, a hunchback, a deer or a lion — becomes an orphan when a parent meets a gruesome end at the hands of a) a pack of hounds; b) the evil manager of a cathedral; c) red-necked, gun-toting humans or d) the parent’s evil twin.

Among the list of the Hollywood elite, there are not a lot of actors and actresses that I would instantly recognize if I met them in the street.

I thought it best to bring along a friend who goes to movies, reads about movies, and who would be able to spot the prop guy from the lead actor among a crowd.

Besides, I can’t stand to hear a man whine. And if I hadn’t dragged him along to allow him to at least get a glimpse of Julianne Moore, I’m pretty sure I would have had to listen to him sniveling for the rest of the week.

He constantly laments the fact that he didn’t get to the Random Passage site last summer to get a close-up look at the flame-haired Irish actress Aoife McMahon. Seems he has a fantasy about redheads.

I couldn’t help but notice he grew more animated the closer we got to New Bonaventure.

He was helpful, all right. Spotted Julianne Moore and Kevin Spacey at a distance of about 500 yards . . . with the sun in his eyes, no less.

I squinted.

All I could see were cameras, and big white screens, and a bunch of people milling around who all looked pretty ordinary.

Except for the tall, distinguished, gentleman, head and shoulders above the rest and looking quite at home in outport Newfoundland. It was, unmistakably, Newfoundland’s own icon, Gordon Pinsent.

My friend wandered over for a closer look, his face taking on that kid-in-a-candy-store expression, while I scanned the scenery wondering the best angle to get a photo of the show business that had descended on this little village.

I soon discovered that cameras were not welcomed. Closed set and all that stuff.

Soon my friend and I were heading back the road, leaving behind New Bonaventure, minus the photo I had hoped to get.

But in my friend’s mind, the trip wasn’t entirely wasted.

“I was this close to Julianne Moore,” he said, holding his fingers apart in a Maxwell-Smart-like expression.

“My God, she’s stunning!” he exclaimed.

He should have stopped right there.

He didn’t.

“I can’t believe she’s nearly 40 years old!”

It wasn’t so much what he said, but the way he said it. He made it sound as though good looking 40-year-old women were a rarity.

I checked to see if he was wearing his seat belt.

He was.

Pity.

The act of slamming on the brakes didn’t have quite the same appeal knowing he wouldn’t catapult forward and slam his head against my windshield.

I guess the look I gave him must have said it all.

“Oops,” he said, a little sheepishly, realizing he had committed a deadly male sin.

I was almost ready to forgive him. Being just a young man he is incredibly, stupidly, naive. After all, a well-educated, worldly-wise man would know better than to mention age in the company of a woman, or dare to comment on the beauty of a Hollywood actress while in the closely confined space of a car driven by a woman of similar age who was not wearing makeup.

Then, he managed to find space for his other foot.

“That’s right. You’re nearly 40, aren’t you?” he mentioned, in mock surprise.

The gloves were off.

My Minolta sat on the front seat, sporting a hefty 400 mm lens.

I remembered reading somewhere that people who suffer damage to their right frontal lobe can undergo drastic personality changes – like going from shy to sexy, or devout Protestant to casual Catholic.

A little devil whispered in my left ear.

“Just a little tap, not too hard, above the right eye,” the sly voice suggested. “Who knows, perhaps he’ll go from crassly stupid to politely courteous in one blow. C’ mon, give it a shot.”

I decided against it.

If I tapped him too hard, there’d be blood everywhere. DNA evidence would link his ditched body to the scene of the crime, my car. My fingerprints would be all over the weapon. And I can’t get rid of the Minolta. I need that for work.

OK, OK, I exaggerate.

Of course I wouldn’t do anyone bodily harm.

But it did put me in a vengeful mood.

And in the spirit of “the pen is mightier than the sword” I remind my friend that I may be nearly 40, and I may be discovering the odd strand of grey on the old noggin, but I still have all my teeth and — unlike some younger men I know — pretty much all the hair I was born with.  ∼
Barbara Dean-Simmons would like to thank Bernie Weinheber for pointing out last week, within earshot of my aforementioned friend, that I look young enough to be my own daughter. I didn’t protest. At my age, you don’t argue those things.