I was sitting in a fancy-yet-understated bar overlooking the West Side Highway, watching the lights go down over the classy-yet-understated New Jersey shoreline. I was sipping my Heffeweisen, even though I was an urban, hip young woman, because I come from a small, rustic town where the women can do things like fix a tire and drink beer, while still being feminine. I could do neither of those things, but I could drink beer.
It was Christmas Eve, but I was Jewish, which also added to my personality because there were not a lot of Jewish kids in my small, tire-changing town full of women. The bar was empty, or so I thought, so absorbed was I in contemplating how close, yet how far, places like where the Jersey Shore took place. That was right around Manhattan, right? Either way, I thought I was alone until I felt a small, dark presence next to me. “Can I just get a coke, and let’s top off whatever this young lady is having,” said Robert Downey Jr. as he leaned his muscular frame over the bar before hopping on the stool next to me.
Robert Downey Jr. looked me straight in the eyes and smiled his signature cockeyed smirk, raising one part of his mouth while rolling his eyes as if to say, “Hey, can you believe you’re meeting me? And yes it is me, and not just some other 40-year old with a less awesome body that you might have confused for me one time when you were pretty drunk.” I knew that the protocol here was to be cool, to be professional and act like it was no big deal to be sitting next to the star of such films as Iron Man, Natural Born Killers and Soapdish. But I couldn’t help it, and I ducked my head to try to stop the flow of words coming out of me:
“I really loved you in In Dreams.”
“Thank you,” Downey said, apparently taken aback, “people sometimes don’t realize what Neil Jordan’s vision was for that film. I mean, this was the guy who made The Butcher Boy and The Crying Game, so he was really trying to make a sympathetic character out of this psychotic telepath, which is what he told me when I got out of rehab in 1999 and took on this role.”
“You know, most people always approach me about Tropic Thunder, or if they think they are real connoisseurs of my work, Chaplin or Less Than Zero. I can tell you know a lot about my work, and I have to say, I find that very attractive in a young woman.” Robert waggled both eyebrows and picked up his coke in a mock toast before settling his glass down at the bar. He leaned forward, conspiratorially, and making me lean in closer so that our toned calf muscles brushed against each other,
“You know what my favorite movie of mine is?” RDJ whispered, looking around in an exaggerated way as if anyone was listening in.
“A toss-up between Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or The Singing Detective?” I said demurely, our eyes locking, “the first because you really got to showcase your talents as an enthusiastic, fast-talking actor even without the cocaine, and the latter because you got to sing and the source material it was based on, the 70s BBC show of the same name, was so good and you did it justice, despite Katie Holmes’ cameo?”
This time there was no wry irony in Robert’s expression as he involuntarily jerked back, “That’s…that’s exactly right. Either that or my one season on Saturday Night Live, which no one really knows about because I barely got any screentime. Even though I was the third youngest cast-member to ever be on that show.”
I smiled, “I know, Robert. I know. But it wasn’t your fault, Lorne fired like half the cast that year.”
Robert shook his head and smiled resignedly, “Look, you obviously know a lot about me, which I’ll admit would be somewhat creepy in someone that wasn’t as beautiful as you and frankly sort of reminded me of myself, you know, with all the frenetic energy and manic charisma. Do you ever get that? Anyway, I live a couple blocks from here, and I’m only out tonight because the paparazzi has taken a night out from stalking me about Sherlock Holmes, which opens tonight. Would you like to come home with me and we can talk entirely in quippy remarks while I pace around the room a lot?”
I sighed, “I’d love to Robert, but I know you are married and have a kid named India, or Little Master India, because I watched the Inside The Actor’s Studio episode about you. In fact, don’t you have a tattoo of your son’s name somewhere?”
“Yes, yes, I do. Somewhere like my back or shoulder or something, I can’t really remember right now, it’s not that important to remember every little thing about yourself, you know? Well, I am sorry, really really sorry you don’t want to hang out with me, especially since it’s something that so many young women would jump at the chance at.”
“Well, I’m obviously not many women,” I quipped back (we were very good at verbal sparring) while getting on my coat.
“No, and even though no one is here to witness me saying this to you and I might deny this if anyone ever asks me about this, but you are the coolest 20-something living in New York or L.A. right now, and for what it’s worth, you remind me a lot of myself and maybe if you had continued with your acting career after middle school instead of giving up because a bitchy drama coach who said you were too fat to play an ingenue or a femme fatale and not funny enough to be the best-friend comic relief, we could be starring in movies together as we speak.”
“Goodbye, Robert Downey Jr.,” I smiled sadly as I walked towards the door.
“Wait, I never even learned your name, you can’t just leave, you know, without a name or anything.” Robert touched his hair in the self-conscious way that he does a lot.
“Good luck with Iron Man 2, and tell Sam Rockwell I’m sorry,” I called in response as I walked out the door.
–By Drew Grant
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