From the “Awkward Moments with Anne” series, a story.

I can’t remember exactly what year it was because frankly, it probably should just be forgotten. Unfortunately, my brain holds on to the details of the horrifying moment much more clearly than dates. But for the sake of the story, I’m thinking this happened about 10 years ago.

Wil was doing a stage show with his friend, J. Keith van Straaten,  down at the Acme Comedy Theatre in Hollywood. It was set up like “The Tonight Show.” J. Keith would start the show by telling some jokes, then he’d sit behind a desk and chat about funny, current topics with Wil, who was his sidekick, seated across from him in a chair. They would then have a guest come out and be interviewed, followed by a performance from a band.

J. Keith would always have really great people be guests on the show. One of my favorites was John Ritter. He was so kind and funny and personable and told really great stories. One night, they were going to have Henry Winkler be the guest. We were all SO excited because we absolutely loved “Arrested Development” and couldn’t wait to meet him. I didn’t take the kids to every show because I think they were around 11 and 13, and the show ran pretty late, but I made an exception this time because hello, it’s Henry Winkler.

Wil went to the theatre early for rehearsal, so I drove down with the kids just before the show started. On the way there, I was telling them about this show called “Happy Days” that Henry Winkler was on that I used to LOVE when I was a kid. I demonstrated how “The Fonz” would do his signature “Aayyyy” move and give the thumbs up. Then I had this horrifying thought that I would make an ass of myself fumbling over what to say to him when I met him, then saying or doing something “The Fonz” would do.

“Mom?” the kids said after I apparently stopped mid-sentence while I lived this potential scenario in my head. “Oh, what? Sorry. I was just thinking…” As I told them my concerns about how my conversation would turn out when I actually met Henry Winkler,  they looked mortified. “Mom, do NOT do that.” Ryan said with the look of fear in his teenage eyes. “Don’t worry. I’ll play it cool. *aayyyyy*” I joked,  giving a thumbs up, inches from his nose.

Henry Winkler turned out to be such a sweet, wonderful guest on the show. He was generous with his stories of working in Hollywood over the years and just being grateful for working on such amazing shows, and loving how much people enjoyed his work. As the show ended, my heart starting racing and my stomach filled with butterflies as I was about to meet “The Fonz.”

The theatre lights came on and the audience made its way out, filtering onto the street. I made my way down to the stage like I did after every show to wait for J. Keith, Wil, and the rest of the guests to come back out on stage to take a group photo together. I stood there nervously clinging to the kids, worrying I was going to somehow screw up the only interaction I would ever get with Henry Winkler.

When they finished with the photos, Mr. Winkler came down the steps of the stage, and straight toward us. He introduced himself, holding his hand out for me to shake, which I did. Trying to appear calm, like I’d met people like him a thousand times, I casually introduced Ryan and Nolan. He shook their hands, asked them how old they were, what grade they were in, and if they enjoyed the show. The kids seemed so calm. How could they be calm? They’re meeting Henry Freaking Winkler?!

Mr. Winkler turned back toward me. Now was the time. I decided I wasn’t going to say anything about “Happy Days” because he’s probably heard that a million times. Calmly and casually, I said “We absolutely LOVE Arrested Development.” While he was graciously thanking me, Nolan interrupted, practically yelling “MOM!”  while looking at my hands with wide, terrified eyes. Apparently, while I professing my love of the show he was currently on, both of my hands had met up in front of me, BOTH giving the thumbs up.

I looked down at my hands, then to my children, who had both covered their faces with their own hands in embarrassment. I looked back at Henry Winkler, hands still in the thumbs up position, face cringed in a state of fright. “Oh my god, I can’t believe I just gave you the thumbs up. I JUST GAVE YOU THE THUMBS UP.” I threw my hands to my side, trying to figure out just how long they had been in that position. “It’s ok, dear.” Mr. Winkler said, trying to reassure me. “IT’S NOT OK. I JUST GAVE THE FONZ THE THUMBS UP.” I exclaimed, way too loud for how close he was to me. He laughed, tousling Nolan’s hair, attempting to calm the kids of the horror they just witnessed, and headed backstage to grab his belongings and drive home.

On our own drive home, I just kept repeating “Oh my god. I gave The Fonz two thumbs up. Who does that? WHO DOES THAT.” At first, the kids tried to make me feel better. “It’s ok, Mom. It happens.” After saying it a dozen times, it started to get funny to me, and my horror turned to laughter. “OH GOD. I GAVE THE FONZ THE THUMBS UP”, tears streaming down my face in uncontrollable laughter as I made our way home. “Ok, Mom. We get it.” The kids were not amused.

Since that fateful day, ten something odd years ago, there have been a couple of times where we’ve attended the same event as Mr. Winkler. I’ve seen him across the room, my heart once again races, stomach fills with butterflies. I re-live the conversation and the thumbs up, cringe while laughing way too long at myself, and stay as far away from him as possible.

25 thoughts on “From the “Awkward Moments with Anne” series, a story.

  1. *double thumbs up* On the bright side, instead of just having a memory of meeting Henry Winkler, you have a memory of meeting Henry Winkler that makes you chuckle just a little when you think about it.

  2. Oh my God. Nah, don’t worry about it. Everybody says something stupid to their idols, and the bigger they are (at least, in our mind’s eye), the worse we fumble. Only in the last few years have I grown to be at least marginally less silly around the so-called “celebrity element”. Let me tell YOU a story…

    Obviously you can skip this if you have no time for such stories of other people acting like fools.

    Maybe 8 years ago, I was on my second date with my then-girlfriend at MegaCon, which is a huge nerdfest they hold in Orlando. We were in line to meet John Schneider; Bo Duke to the older generations, Clark Kent’s dad from “Smallville” or That One Guy from “Secret Life Of The American Teenager” to the kiddies. We paid the extra dough for a picture with him. The whole time, she had been going on and on about how sexy he is, especially given his age. We get up there, he signs our DVDs, we gush about how awesome he is like amateurs. Then, while we’re waiting for the paid aide to take our picture, I blurt out, “Confidentially, she thinks you’re sexy.”

    I’m convinced that, among other things, that look of shock and embarrassment she shot me contributed heavily to our eventual breakup 7 years later. Mr. Kent just laughed, of course.

    As an aside, he wears extremely soft shirts. Do with that information what you will. :)

    ~D.

    1. You should always do something embarrassing to someone…eventually, it goes from embarrassing to a seriously funny story. My husband has pulled that on me a few times. I’ve been married to him for 18 years. ;-)

  3. It was your duty as a mother of teenagers to provide them with a few facepalm moments. 2 thumbs up AAAAAAnnne

  4. Pah. Children are so devoid of humor, really. I think Mr. Winkler really would love to talk to you again. I betcha he remembers being on the receiving end of two thumbs up for a change from a nice lady like you are!

  5. Oh, don’t sweat it, Anne. Did I ever tell you about that time I was chatting up Kato Kaelin in line at TJ’s and acted like he knew who I was? ;)

  6. I met H.W. this past September at SL Comic Con. He was the nicest guy ever. I, too, was nervous. After all, I grew up with Fonzie.

    When I lived in LA., I used to see celebs often at the mall, grocery store, etc. I would bed nervous, but I didn’t want to intrude on their daily lives, but I was starstruck..

    When I meet Wil, I promise I’ll keep my cool. :)

  7. Hmm, I could tell you a story where I was worried about what I’d say or do and if I’d be mortified. :)

    Back in October I heard that Wil Wheaton and his wife Anne (who I knew from Twitter was hilarious) were going to be in Alexandria. I wasn’t even really clear on what the show was going to be about, but I’d recently resolved that I needed to meet some of the Star Trek folks I admired, something I had last seriously done in 1997/1998.

    Being terrible at navigation and sense of direction, I gave myself a LOT of time to get there because I was factoring in the “you will get lost” time. I made it there, but as I was walking to this unfamiliar place called The Birchmere, I was wondering if I was even going to have an opportunity to meet or talk to EITHER Wil or Anne. If I was going to go to this show and that was pretty much going to be it – close but no cigar type stuff.

    In the evening that proceeded I found out that the place was already super-full so I was going to pretty much have a side view of the action. I saw the horse mask in person, though, and I was having a good time. There was a story about red peppers and a lawn and post-bathroom pain I’m still telling friends and family members. At the intermission I saw that I was in a line to meet up with Anne, but I wasn’t sure what to say beyond Hello, especially since it seemed as I got closer that credit cards weren’t working and I had no cash on hand. Still, I had a good conversation with Anne, and to my surprise she semi-recognized me from Twitter. I was really taken aback by that given that celebrities are often getting tweeted at enough that it’s impossible to keep up even if they wanted to. But I was happy! So it was a good conversation but I went back to my seat wondering if I’d have a chance to get a calendar, or to meet Wil, or so on.

    Fast forward to after the show, when I was in line. First there was a story that Wil and Anne weren’t going to be signing, and I wondered if that was it for my evening other than getting myself lost on the way home. Then I heard that they would be signing. I waited in line patiently. When it was finally my turn at the table, I’d been trying to figure out how to say hello without being weird about it, and what exactly I could say in the understandably brief window of time we’d be talking before I’d surrender the floor to the person behind me in line. However, Anne Wheaton shocked me again by grabbing Wil’s arm to get his attention and INTRODUCING me. Brain freeze, reboot, jump on talking to Wil about how I didn’t mind Wesley Crusher as a kid (when I was a kid myself, of course) and small-talking about the episode “Final Mission” with him. Surrender my place in line after that. End up with a photo that I could wish was a bit less blurry and had me leaning back in an odd way but hey I’ll take it. I realize I didn’t quite say ‘goodbye’ to either Wil or Anne, but feel stupid (and can’t be sure if they heard me) when I try to surreptitiously loiter the end of the line and call it out out of turn. If I’d had my equivalent of Ryan and Nolan – my own siblings – with me, they probably would’ve been mortified or ushering me along. But that’s what I managed!

    Then I proceeded off into the dark October night to try to find my car and go home.

  8. This reminds me of one of my more embarrassing moments. When I was in high school, I often watched Star Trek after school. I didn’t have a TV (or live in North America) when the original series was on, so I had only watched TNG. Then there was a Star Trek convention in our city. My friend was a much less casual fan than I was, and somehow talked me into going, even though the entrance fee of $20 seemed rather expensive to my early teenaged self.

    My younger brother and his friends were going too, and I remember being rather taken aback when they showed up in costume. I didn’t know this was a thing.

    Anyway, we get there, we queue in line for a ridiculously long time, pay what seemed an exorbitant amount for admission and settle into a theatre. They start playing video clips and some of the actors come on stage to tell stories etc. I remember a lot of speculation and teasers about the “next” Star Trek.

    Everyone keeps talking about this guy, whom I had never heard of. Finally, I lean over and ask my friend to fill me in. As luck would have it, it had been quite noisy, but there was a lull just as I asked. You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium as several hundred intense and mostly costumed fans all stared as I loudly demanded “Who is William Shatner?”

  9. I think this is just the effect he has on people of a certain generation. When I was in college a friend of mine, who was working that year as an RA in the dorms came in mortified. I asked her what was wrong. It was freshman move-in that day, and she’d had her turn covering the Res Hall desk. She was having a really stressful day, and Mr. Winkler came in to ask a question, as his stepson was a freshman who was moving in. My friend, much to her horror, suddenly found herself just pouring out her bad day to him, because her brain went, “It’s Fonzie. Fonzie will listen to my problems.” while on another level she realized that she was unloading on a total stranger who just wanted to move his kid into school. So it’s not you, it’s him! ;)

  10. I’m too young enough to remember anything from ‘Happy Days’ (except that it was filmed before a live audience). I’m more likely to embarrass Mr. WInkler by calling him Eddie (from his ‘Royal Pains’ role) than anything childish the Fonz might do.

    Nyah Nyah ;-P

  11. If you go talk to him again you might end up being decent friends with him. Look at how well it worked out with Nathan Fillion! :). Doing goofy things makes life enjoyable. :)

  12. Jason Momoa was the first celeb I ever met – paid for a photo op at a Con a couple of years back. Was so nervous. I just said “Oh, you’re so tall” like an absolute knob. I mean, he knows he’s tall. Afterwards I forced him to shake my hand and I said “nice to meet you”. He barely even grunted!

    Turns out he’s kind of intimidated by fans – he said so at his panel – so I felt less bad. Got the photo afterwards and I looked like a stunned mullet. Awful pic of me, but he looks great of course!

    My husband and I also met a bunch of actors from Supernatural (Sebastian Roche, Chris Heyerdahl, Jim Beaver, Mark Pellegrino and Aldis Hodge). That was an awesome couple of minutes. My husband fanboyed massively over Jim Beaver. Jim rested his hands and head on my husband’s shoulder in a very Sears Portrait style pose, while the others also posed in silly ways. I love the pic so much :)

    Cons are great, but I think the photo ops aren’t necessarily the best way to interact with your favourite actors, as the photographers are on the clock and just want to push you through. Next con I’ll pay the extra for autographs because you seem to get a bit more of a chat that way.

  13. Anne, I just want you to know that you are not alone in your woe of awkward celebrity meetings!

    10 years ago, I met Ric Ocasek (front man of The Cars, a really amazing 80′s and beyond band from Boston). When I went to shake his hand, I had planned on saying something along the lines of, “Your music is fantastic and has been an influence in my life. One of the reasons why I sing is because of you.”

    Instead, what I said was:

    “My mommy used to play your music in the car.”

    He smiled and said, “That’s nice.”

    I think of that moment and cringe every time I hear “Let the Good Times Roll”.

    Le sigh.

    Angela

  14. The mark of a successful parent is how often you can have those embarrassing moments with your teenage children. It steels them for life ahead. “and makes for the best stories!” Give Wil a hug, sounds like he’s having a few down days. Been going through that here this week. Must be in the air.
    Dave

  15. I don’t normally comment on things like this, but that entry made me do a real-life laugh out loud. it sounds like the kind of thing I would laugh about, except I think my kids would understand.

    Bravo.

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