In the early 80s, I attended a performance of the Second City in Chicago with a group of close friends. We were seated next to two gentlemen that we recognized immediately as John Candy and Eugene Levy.
It was around the time of the release of the The Blues Brothers movie and John Candy had a supporting role in the film. Eugene Levy hadn't hit it big by the time we sat down to watch that evening's performance on Wells. Nonetheless, he was known to us through his work on the brilliant TV show SCTV, but, it was Candy, the rising star, who took our breath away.
The question at our table was how to get John Candy's attention. I came up with a plan. I told everyone at the table to sign a napkin with some schmaltzy autograph-type line like "All the Best" and "To A Great Friend" and so forth. I gathered up all the napkins and toss them on Candy's table. Candy thought the idea was hilarious; Levy not so much.
John Candy waived me over. A moment later I stood in front of the two comic geniuses. Candy was smiling and Levy wasn't. I shook Candy's hand and sheepishly told the star how much I admired his work. I knew Eugene Levy and was a fan of his also, but, for some reason, all of the energy and attention was coming from Candy.
John asked if I'd like a drink as the waitress came over to the table. Facing Candy, I asked, "Orange Whip?" He nodded in recognition of his great line from The Blues Brothers. "Three Orange Whips!" I said to the waitress. Without missing a beat, she snapped, "There's no such thing as an Orange Whip." Candy laughed. He told the waitress to bring beers instead. Candy, pointing to the pile of signed napkins, asked if he could return the favor and present me with an autograph. Shook up by the waitress and overwhelmed by the actor's kindness, I was having trouble forming complete sentences. I just nodded and said something like, "...thank you, yes, thanks." He presented me with the autograph featured in the post. On the napkin, he wrote, "Where's the money you owe me?" and signed it.
I glanced at Eugene Levy. He had an odd look on his face: a mixture of hurt and insult. I'd failed to even acknowledged him in those brief moments. I'd been absorbed by John Candy and his warmth, humor, and charm. Levy looked disappointed and angry, and I felt I'd intruded enough, so I thanked Candy again for the autograph and excused myself without waiting for the beer to arrive.
I'm sorry Mr. Levy for that slight. My nerves, the excitement, and the thrill of that moment got the best of me. I wished I'd asked you for your autograph. To this day, I cherish the Candy autograph--it's one of the great pieces of ephemera from my life.
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