by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

NEW YORK — Andy Warhol said everyone gets his 15 minutes, and I guess I just had mine.

Actually, it was only five minutes. With Arnold Schwarzenegger. And one minute with Dyan Cannon. And seven seconds with Donald Trump, who really needs a new haircut. I mean, his hair just kind of creeps up his forehead, like a raccoon climbing a tree. I wanted to say, “Donald. Here’s five bucks. Go down to the barber shop, ask for Al. . .”

But I digress.

How did I come to be here, at the mecca of pop culture, Planet Hollywood, standing amongst the celebrities, hoping no one mistook me for a busboy?

Here is how: I have a past.

Not like Bill Clinton has a past. But years ago, before I worked for newspapers, I was a fledgling musician. I lived in New York. I played piano, wrote songs. I like to refer to those as My Happy Years — as in, if someone didn’t throw me out of his office, I was happy. I had as much success as a songwriter as Alfred E. Newman had on the most recent presidential ballot. Eventually, I found more rewarding employment: as a security guard.

When that didn’t work, I tried journalism.

Anyhow, a few months ago, an old college roommate named Stan Brooks — a guy we used to tease back at school for watching too many movies and naturally today is a successful Hollywood producer making zillions of dollars and laughing at us as if we were tadpoles in his toilet — called me up and asked if I wanted to write a song for a TV movie he was making. Which Arnold Schwarzenegger was directing. Which Dyan Cannon was starring in. Which was going to receive massive buildup in the press and be released as a feature film overseas.

And I said, “Who is this?” Arnold’s kind of song

Well, I wrote the song. A big band tune. I got the best singer I know, Janine Sabino, who lives in Detroit, to sing it. And we recorded in the studios of that soon-to-be-world-famous band, DC Drive, who are also from Detroit and, more important, were the only musicians I knew who wouldn’t explode into laughter when I sat down at the piano.

Besides, their studio is near this really good pizza place.

So we sent it off.

The song. Not the pizza place.

And a few weeks later, Stan Brooks called back and said, “Arnold loved it!”

Now. At the time, the only Arnold I knew was Jim Arnold, the balding Lions punter who collects Elvis postcards in his locker. That was about to change. The new Arnold in my life, Schwarzenegger, was the biggest name in Hollywood. The Terminator Man. Pump You Up. I’ll be baaaaack.

And he was going to use our song as the closing song in his movie.

“Arnold and I would love for you to come to the premiere in New York,” Stan said.

“Premiere?” I said.

“Yeah. They show the movie. And then there’s this big party. All the stars will be there.”

“Who is this?” I said.

(By the way. The movie, entitled “Christmas In Connecticut,” airs Monday night at 8 p.m. on TNT. The producers told me to say that, or I couldn’t eat any more of their chocolate-covered strawberries.)

Which brings us to the premiere. Such a big night! And what to wear? Being a sports writer, my wardrobe was fairly limited. I had 1) the blue blazer with the white shirt, or 2) the blue blazer with the pink shirt.

Janine wore a nice black dress.

And we went to New York. And we went to the theater. And our cab pulled up, the door opened — and Holy Hollywood! There were fans behind barricades, and mobs of reporters and TV cameras, and they all seemed to stare right at us and say, in a big, excited show business voice: “Who the hell are you? Where’s Schwarzenegger?” A standing ovation

Thankfully, Arnold arrived, in a limo. And Dyan Cannon, and a bunch of other celebrities. I know this because I heard people screaming while Janine and I were stuck at the front desk, trying to find our names on the guest list.

“They’re not here,” the woman said.

“Are you sure?’ I said.

“Who are you with?”

“Well,” I said, lowering my voice, “I, uh, wrote this song at the end of the movie.”

She looked at me and laughed. I knew I would never record in her studio.

Eventually they let us in — Who would actually make up such a reason for being there? — and we took a seat. And the movie started. And after the final scene, sure enough, here came our song — called “Cookin’ For Two” — blasting over the loudspeakers. I must admit, it was a kick. I got goose bumps. Which is why, when I saw someone get up to leave before the song was over, I yelled “Hey! Sit down!”

It was Dyan Cannon.

So I guess I won’t be recording in her studio, either. Up close and personal

But enough about the movie. You want to hear about THE PARTY at Planet Hollywood, the fabulously popular nightclub co-owned by Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis, a place where, were it an ordinary night, I would not be admitted until 4 a.m., when they needed help with the trash.

Instead, Janine and I were ushered inside and — Bam! Another wall of TV cameras, clawing fans, would-be starlets, paparazzi, all staring at us and saying: “Out of the way! Arnold’s coming!”

And we were shoved past the bar and the tables and past the glass-enclosed memorabilia, which includes the arrow from the movie “Robin Hood” and John Travolta’s white suit from “Saturday Night Fever.”

And suddenly, a publicity person grabbed us and said: “Arnold will meet you now. Hurry up.” And we were dragged through another roomful of humanity that reminded me of an embassy during the fall of Saigon, and with one final push, we were suddenly bicep-to-bicep with the big man himself.


Who was talking to other people.

“Arnold,” someone said, gently tapping him on the shoulder, “I’d like you to meet. . .”

But Arnold turned to someone else.

“Arnold,” he tried again, “I’d like you to meet . . .”

And he turned to someone else.

“Arnold, I’d like you to meet . . .”

And suddenly, he was looking at us. He grinned, and said, “Da song wasss faan-das-dic.”

And I said, “Thank you.”

“You haf a faan-das-dic voice.”

And Janine said, “Thank you.”

The publicity person said, “Arnold, we’d like you to meet . . .”

And someone bumped into me.

And I turned, and it was Donald Trump.

And I wanted to say to him, “Hey, D-man. Can’t you see I’m rapping with Arnold here? Get a job, you bum.” But I didn’t, because I was too busy staring at his hair, which I wanted to whack with a machete. And by the time I turned, Arnold was gone.

And so was Trump. With Marla Maples. Who has a nicer haircut than he does, and a bigger ring.

And soon, I was back at the food table, watching the entire cast of
“Saturday Night Live” come by to chat with Arnold. So this was the Big Time. I thought back to my old days as a piano player, and I figured life has a funny way of working out. Who knows? Maybe Arnold will call again. Maybe he’ll

need another song. Maybe they’ll find our names on the guest list.

And maybe not. Just in case, as I left the scene, I did what any normal person would do if his 15 minutes were coming to an end: I grabbed as many chocolate-covered strawberries as I could. Hasta la vista, baby.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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