Why you should care

Because: Jeff Goldblum!

“Him. Really?”

My friends were not impressed with my contribution to our brunch topic: If you could meet any celebrity, who would you pick? Laura, who had just finished detailing how she dreams of Patrick Stewart officiating her wedding, could not believe I’d set the bar so low.

“You could probably just like … do it. It’s Jeff Goldblum. How hard could he be to meet?”

I was shocked and a little offended. It was like implying you could “just meet” Beyoncé. Or the concept of Time.

But I fell in love with Jeff Goldblum in the summer of 1996, when I was 14 years old. There was a terrible heat wave in my hometown of Great Falls, Montana, in the summer of ’96, and we had no air conditioning. So my mother spent the days dropping me off at the movie theater, with little concern about whether any new movies had come out yet. This is how I came to watch Independence Day over 30 times on the big screen. And how I came to love Jeff Goldblum.

Sometimes I joke that it was Stockholm syndrome: In a particularly vulnerable time in my life, I spent more hours with Jeff Goldblum than with my own parents. I don’t think that’s it, though. I grew up pretty profoundly alone, and I often felt like I was dropped on an alien planet. I was smart, neurotic and introverted in a world where the “smart kids” were also the jocks.

I bought Ian Malcolm and David Levinson action figures, loudly proclaimed at the checkout counter that they were for my nonexistent son and then hid them under my bed like porn …

Jeff Goldblum played characters that were smart and neurotic in ways I identified with, but his signature delivery made every line feel like a secret. We make fun of his “Um” and “Ahh” speech patterns, but they’re the smoke and mirrors to an amazing magic trick: his ineffable charisma, crossing space and time and celluloid to make you feel like the only person in the audience. It is a rare and beautiful thing to feel so deeply understood, even by a fictional character who wouldn’t even know your name.

Here are some of the embarrassing things I have done throughout my life to bring the magic home:

  • I bought Ian Malcolm and David Levinson action figures, loudly proclaimed at the checkout counter that they were for my nonexistent son and then hid them under my bed like porn.

  • I wrote to Jeff Goldblum’s manager and got an autographed picture of him. When it arrived and my mother opened it, I insisted one of my classmates had pranked me, that I had no idea how it got here, and then threw away a national award I’d received so that I could use the frame for the photo.

  • To this day, I have a giant framed print of this painting hanging over my bed.

screen shot 2017 09 14 at 3.41.22 pm

The great John Larriva cuts to the heart of Goldblumian essence.

Source Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Sampat

My friend Elizabeth interrupted my tirade about how, actually, Jeff Goldblum is at a new height of celebrity and popularity right now. “I just Googled him. You know he has a jazz band, right? You could just go to one of his concerts.”

And that’s why my boyfriend and I bought plane tickets from Seattle to Los Angeles, and how I ended up standing in a room with Jeff Goldblum.

“Go say hi!” encouraged my boyfriend.

“NO.” I felt light-headed. I tried to keep from having an out-of-body experience. “Take a picture of us!” I hissed.

This would have been the only picture of me and Jeff Goldblum in existence, were it not for my friend Michelle. With the grace of someone beautiful and the confidence of someone who wasn’t creepily obsessed, Michelle walked up to him and asked for a hug. Like it was cool. Like it was nothing.

Michelle tells him she has to introduce him to her friend Elizabeth, who’s been obsessed with him her whole life. So he turns to me and says, “Elizabeth! At last we meet!” and holds both of my hands. He asks for my WHOLE NAME very flirtatiously. He then SAYS my WHOLE NAME. I timidly ask for a hug. He says, “Get over here this instant! Wild horses couldn’t drag me away!” And then presses his stubbly cheek to my cheek and wraps his body around me like a very tall bird. He then holds my hands once more and says, “PLEASE stay until the end of the show so we can talk more and take a photograph. Can you stay until 11?”

Yes, Jeff Goldblum. Yes I can.

My boyfriend, Adam, gently led me back to our table. I sat down. And I cried for a bit. My brain couldn’t process what happened; he smelled like expensive leather and, faintly, like pine. I could still feel his stubble on my cheek.

“Are you OK?” Adam asked. He rubbed my back gently.

“Are you jealous? Is this weird?” I asked, wiping my eyes.

Adam laughed at me. “Why wouldn’t I help my girlfriend achieve her dreams?”

“Even if her dreams involve being romantically obsessed with Jeff Goldblum?” I whispered, in case he happened to overhear.

Adam laughed and kissed me. “Why not?”

With my boyfriend’s reassurances, I definitely played it cool for the rest of the night.

At the end of the evening, every person in the venue lined up for a picture with Jeff Goldblum. Most people just wanted hugs, but he accommodated every pose request, no matter how strange — even the one from my boyfriend, who wanted a picture of the two of them flexing their biceps.

I got my photo fairly early, but I couldn’t leave. Something stuck with me. I hung around after the long lines ended, so I could ask Jeff Goldblum one last question.

I said I noticed that he started working the room an hour before the show, and that he covered so his band could take breaks but never took one himself, and then he stayed for every drunk photo and meaningful interaction in a huge audience. And I said: “I know that graciously accepting the projections that strangers put on you, and the love they have for you, is intense. And I’m not famous, but I do have some experience with that, and it drains the hell out of me. So where do you get the emotional strength? What’s the wellspring that keeps you powering through?”

He crushed me in another hug and told me I was very sweet to notice. Then he said that he gets enough sleep and that he meditates sometimes, but ultimately, the work is its own reward.

And wow, did I need to be reminded of that.

OZYTrue Story

Good stories from around the globe. Essays and immersion, into the harrowing, the sweet, the surprising -- the human.