With the passing of the most wonderful actor and comedian, Jerry Stiller, I’m reminded of a day back in 1994. I’m hustling down Broadway to get to the West Side Barnes & Noble, where I am one of three contributors to Going Up Country: Travel Essays by Peace Corps Writers to read that night at the bookstore. I looked up and spotted Jerry Stiller coming toward me and as a great fan, I immediately stopped and asked him for his autograph. I was already late, but so what.
Jerry was happy to do it, but neither of us had any paper available. So I held out my copy of Going Up Country and told him about the signing. He was full of congratulations. He said that he’d wished he’d joined the Peace Corps and then signed the front endpaper, ‘To Mary Ann. Good thoughts. Love, Jerry Stiller.’
Then he said he was hurrying somewhere or he’d come to the reading. But he promised he’d go to B & N the next day and buy a copy.
Later, at my reading, my daughter had a laugh attack, but she did get the rest of the audience to laugh too. I’d wished Jerry Stiller could have come. Then maybe I could say he laughed at me just the way I laughed at him.
Years later, my daughter told me that the part that made her laugh had something to do with Dan Rather. What a memory! The scene that made Jene laugh was from my travel story “Piquing the Spirits:
When I was in Cameroon, I met a film location scout from LA. named Warren who wanted to climb Mt. Cameroon. I told him I’d take him but he’d have to pay for the guide. He agreed.
Warren has just arrived at my house in Buea, the town where the trail begins. The mountain is an active volcano, rising 13,000 feet above the equatorial sea. Buea is situated on a ledge 9,000 feet below the cauldron.)