I had to tell this story again a couple of days ago, to a friend that I’ve known for years but had not heard My Favorite Celebrity Meeting Story yet.
I’m posting it here for posterity. Everything here is true to the best of my recollection.
It was summer 1992. I was a book clerk at Powell’s City of Books, the flagship store on 10th and W. Burnside, a job that was just cool enough, at least in my hometown of Portland, to overcome the fact that the store was run by control freaks. This was in the days before they unionized, but there was a definite pecking order for the staff and management… Ah, the details of Powell’s politics aren’t really pertinent to the story. Sorry. I was reminiscing. Perhaps some other time.
At any rate I was working one of the many cash registers. There was a long line of customers waiting. Funny how busy it was, but Powell’s is a tourist attraction in addition to being one of the largest independent new-and-used bookstores in the country, so maybe not too surprising. I was just trying to get through my shift.
I saw her in the line. How could I not? Petite, busty, blonde, wearing tight bicycle shorts, a t-shirt, and a baseball cap with the Mötley Crüe logo. I thought she was hot, and hoped that the timing would put her at my register…
And it did. My lucky break. I said “hi” and was almost floored by her pale green eyes. Wow. As she piled a bunch of books and gift-y type items on the counter, I joked that it looked like she was Christmas shopping, which in summer seemed a bit over-prepared. To my surprise, she agreed that these were, in fact, gifts for people, including her boyfriend.
I tried not to let that stop me, and kept chatting with her. She was visiting Portland and liked it here, everyone had been so friendly. I mentioned that Powell’s offered shipping, so that she wouldn’t have to schlep all that stuff back home with her; she liked that idea (plus it earned me a few more moments with her). I filled out the form, took her credit card and got her signature, wished her a safe trip and a happy stay in Portland, she smiled and turned those pale green eyes on me again, causing third-degree burns, and then she was gone.
Before the next customer could come up, Stacy, the artsy lesbian, cashiering next to me, leaned over and punched me on the arm. “Wow! You’re so lucky, man. That was Heather Locklear!”
…whaaaaaaa? I flatly stated “No way.” There was simply no possible way that someone that famous and beautiful could possibly… My mind began belatedly assembling clues. Blonde? Check. Green eyes? Check. Amazing body? Check. Uhhhh… duh! Mötley Crüe? Dolt, she’s married to Tommy Lee (or was at the time).
Stacy explained, “She’s in town filming some movie” (Note: the movie was the made-for-cable Fade to Black) and everybody’s been talking about her being in the store. And you got to help her!”
I was a bit dazed and still didn’t quite believe this stroke of good luck. I helped the next customer, and when I re-opened the till, I dug in and pulled out the one piece of physical evidence; her credit card receipt. This is how oblivious I was: I had gotten her signature, and mechanically checked it against the signature on the card, just like a good little retail robot — without actually seeing the name!
Because there it was, plain as day. Heather Locklear’s signature, and the card, issued to “H LOCKLEAR”.
It was a bit of a let-down — but in another way, it was the best thing that could have happened. If I had known in advance it was Heather Locklear, she of whom Garth and Wayne had said “There is a God! Heather be thy name!”, then I would have been totally flustered and silent. Even as it was, I was a bit reserved, but at least I talked to her as though she were just another person and not the dream of men.
It was an awesome moment of Zen, when I, completely by accident, did exactly the right thing.
I was disappointed that the manager of the cash office wouldn’t let me make a copy of her signature as a memento. But only a bit. I didn’t want the credit card number; just the signature. I laughed it off as a joke.
A day or two later, I overheard two other book sellers talking about Heather being in the store again. They were rushing to catch a glimpse of her. I, full of false bravado after my accidental suavery, shrugged them off. “Oh, Heather’s back? Yeah, she’s cool” and went back to shelving books.
Man, that one incident went so far towards making my reputation at Powell’s. Just a year later, and Heather and Tommy broke up. And another year after, I was fired.
…a story for another time. OK, OK, stories. Those two last facts aren’t connected. Dammit.