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I Remember John Ritter

by Barbara Wood last modified Nov 03, 2012 06:02

(image of pink birthday cake with feathers on top

I watched a gem of a movie last night called, “Sling Blade,” starring Billy Bob Thornton in a stand-out performance. But even more memorable, I think, is John Ritter’s role in which he gives us a performance worthy of an Oscar.

I remember meeting John Ritter in real life.

In 2003 I was invited to an event in Beverly Hills where I was to receive a Brandeis University award for my latest book, “The Blessing Stone.” The event was a fabulous banquet at the elegant Beverly Wilshire Hotel (opposite famed Rodeo Drive) and my fellow honorees that day included a stage actress, a biographer and actor John Ritter.

Prior to the luncheon, which was held in a vast ballroom and attended by many guests, the biographer and I were invited to put our books on display in the outer lobby for sale and autographing. I was just getting into my morning coffee when one of the hostesses came up to me and said, “Mr. Ritter would like you to autograph your book for him.” I nearly lost my coffee.

I had been a fan of John Ritter for years, all the way back to the Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1975 when he played the hilarious Reverend Chatfield. I autographed my book for him, and then discovered to my delight that Mr. Ritter was sharing our a table during the luncheon. He sat next to me and was a marvelous conversationalist with fascinating things to say. He asked me questions about myself and seemed to be genuinely interested in my responses. Of the many celebrities I have met over the years, John Ritter was one of the warmest, most down to earth I have ever met. Chatting with him over chicken and peas, one would not know that this charming gentleman had made hundreds of movies and TV shows, was one of television’s most popular comedians, and had been nominated for countless awards (winning Golden Globes, Emmies and Screen Actor’s Guild). He even had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Besides honoring me with his request for my autograph, John Ritter gave me two gifts that memorable day. The first was how he went to great lengths to put me at ease when we were backstage, waiting to give our speeches. I am not the calmest of speakers, and as it was such a large and stellar event, my fright was through the roof. But as we waited our turn to speak at the podium, Mr. Ritter kept me in stitches with funny stories. His relaxed manner was contagious to the point that when it was my turn to face the audience, I actually walked out on the stage chuckling.

The second gift he gave me was something he shared with me at the luncheon table – an interesting personal philosophy. John Ritter told me that he believed a golden thread connects all human beings together. A golden thread that goes through him to me and out to the others at our table, and from there to everyone else in the ballroom, coming back to him. He said we all have this golden connecting thread and that when we pluck it, we affect everyone else. We can make them laugh or cry or give them something to think about. A golden thread, he said, that he “plucked” when he was acting, and that he believed I “pluck” through my writing. The golden thread of humanity, he called it.

It gave me a lot to think about, and when news reached me of his sudden death, just a few months after that memorable luncheon (he was only 54), I thought of the golden thread that had connected me to John Ritter.

 

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Copyright © 2007 by Barbara Wood. All rights reserved.