When I heard the news that actor Hal Holbrook died at 95, I mentioned it to my wife in the kitchen. She had her usual line when someone old dies, "I thought he had already died." Perhaps she was thinking of his wife of 25 years, actress Dixie Carter, who died 10 years ago.
The first time I saw him was in CAPRICORN ONE. I was a kid, and was in New Jersey. My mom was marrying my stepdad there and it was on TV. It's a shame it's not his co-star OJ Simpson that died (but that's another rant for another time). When I met Elliot Gould at a Lakers game, I said to him, "I just loved Capricorn One. I don't know why the critics didn't like it." He snapped at me, "Critics liked it! It got some good reviews." Not sure why I told him that. But, I did end up making Gould laugh before he signed my ticket stub. He was doing these weight loss commercials, I think for Slim Fast. I said, "Your performance is amazing...in...those Slim Fast commercials." His manager (I think it was his manager), standing there with a cigar in his mouth, threw his head back laughing. Gould called me a smart ass, as he smiled and signed for me.
Anyway, of all the great performances I've seen Holbrook in over the years, the one that really got me was around 2007 when he did "Into the Wild." An okay movie, not great. But him playing a lonely widower, that really enjoys the company of that young man, and asks him, while looking down, "Maybe I can adopt you." Oh my god. Just typing it has me in tears!
I bought that soundtrack, and loved the Eddie Vedder song on it. When he came for a concert in San Diego, his hometown, I brought it for him to autograph. There were about 15 fans and his manager said, "He's only signing one autograph a person." I was first, and as he signed, I brought up a mutual friend of ours. He smiled and said, "Oh, I hope he's going to be at the show tonight." And as Vedder signed for others, I kind of made my way to the back of this line. The manager dude yelled at someone else that tried to stick a second item out for him to sign, so I figured I'd get the same tongue lashing. I didn't, and he signed my Pearl Jam "Ten" CD. Well, when Holbrook came to town to play Mark Twain (a one-man show he's been doing since the '50s), I talked my way backstage and had him autograph it. After he signed it, he accidentally smudged his thumb on the signature while holding it, and said, "Oh no! I'm so sorry about that."
I laughed and thanked him. I heard Al Roker on the morning show talk about how Holbrook first played Twain in the '50s, and played him up until he turned '90, saying "I don't need to put on as much make-up anymore to make myself look old."
Now he's up there talking to the real Mark Twain (and hopefully Larry King isn't bugging him for an interview).