The Night I Met George Carlin
George Carlin came to Bellingham, Washington on Sunday, September 21, 1997 to perform at the Mount Baker Theatre. Elisa (my fiancé at the time) and I couldn't afford to get tickets to see him, but we decided several days in advance to try to get an autograph from him at the back door. I had a copy of one of his albums, Indecent Exposure: Some of the Best of George Carlin. (I had tried to have him sign it when he was here about a year earlier, but I missed him that time.)
This time Elisa and I decided to "scope out" the theatre in the afternoon before going shopping. We walked around the back, spotted the back entrances, and noticed that the rear door to the stage was open. Elisa peeked into the door, but since the show was still nearly two hours away, we knew he wouldn't be there yet. So we went shopping.
We finished shopping and arrived home at 6:00pm. We put away the groceries, and I grabbed my Carlin album and four index cards, and grabbed a few of my best pens. And 6:15 we walked the two blocks to the theatre, and stationed ourselves beside a metal rail near the rear stage door (which was now closed). The show was to begin at 7:00pm.
We waited and waited as the night grew cooler. Stage hands were occasionally going in and out, and a few kept looking outside with impatient looks. By 6:45 we grew pessimistic and Elisa suggested we go home. I said we would not leave until 7:00. Just a few minutes before showtime, a woman in a formal suit and blouse hurried past — obviously someone working for the theatre. "Are you waiting for George?" she asked, smiling nicely.
"Yeah," we replied.
"He won't be here for a while," she told us, and she went into the stage door. Several minutes later we could faintly hear the opening act.
We waited, and the sky began to grow darker. The faint clouds began to turn orange as the sun set. A man dressed in black pants and a black turtleneck came out and began pacing impatiently — the stage director, Elisa guessed. The director paced impatiently, and went back in. He came out again a few times, looking more and more impatient.
We were alone at 7:40 when a silver sedan pulled into a parking lot. "Maybe that's him," Elisa suggested. A minute later the car door opened, and the driver casually hummed a melody to himself, "hmm duh duh..." The driver grabbed a jacket and a couple other things and stepped out.
I didn't recognize him right away. (Actually, I think I did, but couldn't believe it.) Elisa knew it was him. Before we said anything he turned towards us and said, "How ya doin?" Woah — it was really him. The voice was unmistakable; I knew it very very well!
"Great!" I replied. He started walking towards us, very receptively.
Elisa asked, "Can you take a moment to sign a couple autographs for us?"
He said, "Sure, but it's got to be quick; I have to go in."
"Wonderful, thank you!" I said. I handed him my copy of his album, and produced my best black ball-point pen. He signed his name across the picture of him in his trench coat, which was the only light-colored spot on the cover. "There," he said, "at least you can read it."
"Thanks!" I said, feeling buzzed with the adrenaline rush.
"Have a great show!" Elisa called as he turned back towards the stage door.
"You have a good night," Carlin said, and we turned and left.
Elisa and I were pretty hyper on the way home, tingling with the thrill. I still can't believe I really met him, right here in Bellingham. I've met quite a few authors (probably around a hundred) but this was a different experience.
It was wonderful to see such a well-known celebrity still being so receptive to his fans, and even approaching them before they move towards him! I was more of a George Carlin fan than ever before once I saw what a genuinely nice, approachable human being he was.