An Evening With Charles Grodin
Some of you may be saying “with who?”….
Charles Grodin is a famous American actor, comedian, writer, and talk show host. He began acting in the 1960’s, and won numerous awards throughout his career. He played the lead role in The Heartbreak Kid, and became a familiar face as a supporting actor in many 1980s Hollywood comedies, including Midnight Run, Taking Care of Business, Seems Like Old Times, The Great Muppet Caper, The Woman in Red, The Lonely Guy, Ishtar and The Couch Trip. He is probably best known for his role as George Newton in the 1990s John Hughes comedy franchise, Beethoven.
OK, I’ve dropped enough bread crumbs. If you still don’t know who he is and want to know more, Google him.
Anyway, Charles Grodin appeared at the Mahaffey Theater in St.Pete recently, giving a one man performance. I received an invitation and free ticket to the event from a friend (thanks again Mara), with little knowledge about who I was going to see. Please forgive me for my description of the audience but I’m just trying to give an accurate depiction of events. When I first walked into the theater, I thought I was in an elaborate auditorium at a nursing home. The average age of the audience members was 65, so I felt like a toddler in comparison. After the initial shock, I settled into the advantage of being in my present company such as: No rowdy outbursts, minimal entrances and exits during the show, and no mad dashes to the exit when the show was over. If I had been following Charles Grodin’s career more closely, I would have better understood who his “groupies” were.
Charles Grodin is 76 years young. He walked onto the stage in a black velour sweat suit, sneakers, and a baseball cap. His quiet, humble demeanor surprised me since I was expecting someone brave enough to do a solo performance to be more…I don’t know, bold maybe. Charles took his seat on the stage and began sharing his journey from an aspiring actor, to having an opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in show business. As he recalled memories of working with actors like; Robert DeNiro, Sybil Shepard, Charles Bronson and others you weren’t left feeling like you needed to get a broom to sweep up all the names he dropped.
He spoke of his experiences with a genuine and sincere way which left me marveling at his recall ability. Throughout the performance he also showed clips of interviews, and skits which demonstrated his acting and comedic genius. As he stated to “wrap up”, Charles spoke of his passion for fighting for the rights of the wrongly accused. He spoke of past and current campaigns he’s involved in to bring justice back to our dysfunctional justice system. Charles encouraged the audience to raise our level of awareness about injustices that are happening in our own backyard. I was a little embarrassed to learn about a case he’s advocating for that’s currently being taken to the Supreme Court in Tallahassee. Note: Charles Grodin resides in the New York area.
At the end of the show, my friend Mara asked what I thought of the show and my response surprised even me. I realized Charles Grodin had mastered the art of “Taking the Time”. He took the time to select from what is possibly hundreds of reels of footage to coincide with the stories he wanted to recount and share. He took the time to have personal experiences with many of the people he worked with; they were more than “famous people he acted with”. He took time off from his career to be a say at home dad to his children. He takes the time to care about people less fortunate than himself and is active in advocating for the rights of people he doesn’t even know. Mostly importantly, he took the time out to celebrate his accomplishments and all the blessings he’s received throughout his lifetime.
So many times we get caught up doing and moving on to the next thing. People come and go in our lives with little reflection as to how much better we are since meeting them. We tend to focus on the things that affect us directly. That evening, Charles Grodin reminded me to continue to challenge myself to maximize every experience I am blessed to have. One day my life as I know it will end and I pray I will have really lived well, loved much, and laughed often.
Spending the evening with Charles Grodin was a wonderful stroll down Memory Lane and I’m glad he invited the audience along for the walk.