Five years ago this morning, Keith pulled up outside 2240 N. Gower St. in a yellow Ryder van… engagement ring in his pocket.
Let me back up.
In early 2001, Keith’s life as he knew it fell apart. His marriage ended and he was downsized from his computer job. On his 35th birthday, his wife, son, and dog were gone. Left to live alone in a large, empty house in Michigan, he took his suddenly abundant free time and began exploring soccer league, community theatre, and Internet groups. Online, he met the editor of a now-defunct humor magazine for which I was writing at the time. And at the suggestion of that editor, Keith joined the Yahoo Group that was the humor mag’s staff and fan interaction forum. And he started to realize that I knew something about this business.
He started asking me about his interest in community theatre (he wasn’t sure that’s what it was called, though. He had done a play in college years before and knew he liked that, but really didn’t know where to begin). I had been working for the Sundance Institute and Back Stage West, so I had plenty of advice to give (and just like I did when anyone would email asking for tips on how to get started, I would suggest this book or that book, provide information on his local film commission, warn him about typical scams newbie actors face, etc.). Eventually, we began flirting pretty hardcore. (What can I say? We’re both big flirts.)
And by June 2001, we had come up with a plan to meet “on neutral ground:” Salt Lake City, Utah. He had a business trip (switching the bank’s computers over in one of the last tasks before his severance package kicked in and he was officially unemployed) that would take him there, and since it also happens to be Sundance’s home base, I scheduled a business trip too. And we met in person for the first time at the gate outside his flight (United 631) on 13 July (two days after my 31st birthday). We had already fallen in love emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. It was just a matter of answering the “physical” question. And really, that’s the easiest one to answer. You’re either hot for each other or you aren’t. And because we hadn’t had the physical distraction clouding our deeper feelings for one another in the beginning, we knew that was all it would take (and we would also be okay if the heat wasn’t there).
But of course there was heat. And we flew me to Michigan after our weekend in SLC. I got to see Keith’s life, meet Quinn, and prep Keith for his upcoming community theatre audition. I basically gave him a week-long course in Self-Management for Actors (long before there was such a book) and when I left, I told him he’d be moving to Hollywood before the year was up. A few weeks later, Keith came to LA and met my friends (all of whom were very protective of me and suspicious of Keith… many still feel the same way… heh heh). It was set. We knew he would show up here after his job officially ended and the play closed.
On 21 October 2001, Keith’s play closed. He had shown up to the theatre in the yellow Ryder van, his house closed up and ready to go on the market. After striking the set, he said his good-byes to his Michigan friends and drove for 41 hours straight, ending up at the exact spot where he would propose (under the Hollywood sign) seven weeks later.
It’s been an amazing five years, baby. Congratulations on all of your many accomplishments and thank you for your constant love and support. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than at the wrap party for the Hallmark Channel movie you shot earlier this month. We’ll have a blast tonight, celebrating with your cast and crew. And every time they raise a glass to cheer the end of the project, we’ll know it’s also a toast to celebrate your anniversary… five years in Hollywood.