copyright Bil Lepp 2014
I met Dave Barry. Well, I met a guy with a nametag that read Dave Barry. So, I either met THE Dave Barry, A Dave Barry, or just some guy wearing a Dave Barry nametag. I hope I met the writer Dave Barry.
I read a thing about how Kinky Friedman showed up at a Texas writer’s event and put on Larry McMurtry’s name tag, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet Kinky Friedman in Dave Barry’s name tag.
I’ve had brushes with fame before. Madonna flipped me off. Gene Simmons pushed me out of an elevator. And Steven Tyler spit on me, but not all of my celebrity encounters have gone as well.
Here is my evidence that I met Dave Barry, the humorous writer. I was at a book festival, I was in Miami, the guy looked like Dave Barry, and he was funny. Evidence against: he was just standing there, not writing.
My father-in-law once told me, “I think you are funnier than Dave Barry.” Or maybe he said Lewis Grizzard. Or maybe he said, “Funnier than beriberi.” But I think it was Dave Barry. It sure suits this piece better if he said Dave Barry. Praise from relatives is, well, relative. We need to consider the source. Had my mother told me I was funnier than Dave Barry I might not be so impressed. She used to tell me I was cute, and then upgraded to handsome. Neither of those turned out to be true. However, fathers-in-law tend to be less effusive with praise to their sons-in-law then mothers are to their own children. And I have a great father-in-law. I know this because he says stuff like, “You are funnier than Dave Barry.” Or did he say Larry David? Whatever he said, it was a compliment.
The thing about compliments is that they aren’t always true. I am not funnier than Dave Barry. Barry is not just funny, he is consistently funny. Year after year that guy is funny. Anybody can be funny once, but Barry just keeps dishing it out. He is a dedicated writer. That guy has written more books than I own.
I was in the Green Room at this event. I am, by the way, so low on the Author totem pole that I had been at the event for two days before I was even told there was a Green Room. The crowds parted, and there was a guy wearing a Dave Barry nametag.
I said to my buddy, “That’s Dave Barry.”
My buddy said, “Who?”
I said, “That guy over there.”
My buddy said, “No, who is Dave Barry?” I punched him.
People tell me occasionally, “You sound like Jeff Foxworthy.” They don’t say, “You are as funny as Jeff Foxworthy.” Not even my mother has said that. Just that I sound like him. Sometimes I drift off to sleep dreaming of a scene in which a person has just told Jeff Foxworthy that he sounds like me and Jeff says, “I sound like who?”
Green Room etiquette establishes a sort of “Gushing & Fawning Free Zone.” I know this because people in Green Rooms never gush and fawn over me, so it must be a rule. But I couldn’t help it. I went over to the guy in the Dave Barry name tag and gushed and fawned. I flattered and prattled in a concise and succinct manner. I began with how I read him as a kid, then as a young adult, then explained how my children now love him as well. This kind of nattering helps remind those we admire of exactly how old they are. I wrapped up my babble in under thirty minutes.
But I wasn’t done! I ran from the room, secured a copy of my own book, a children’s picture book of all things, and then presented it to the guy in the Dave Barry nametag. I explained, “I have enjoyed reading your stuff, I hope you enjoy reading mine.” And then I added. “I’m sure this is just what you want. A picture book to lug around all day. You don’t have to keep it. You are welcome to leave it on the coffee table as soon as I turn my back, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to put one of my books in the hands of one of my heroes.” And the guy in the Dave Barry nametag laughed a real laugh.
Here is why I hope I met the real Dave Barry, funny writer guy. He was incredibly gracious and exceptionally kind. Not all our heroes turn out to be nice. The guy in the Dave Barry nametag said, “No, no. In fact, will you autograph it for me?” And, as far I can tell, he did not leave it on the coffee table.
And if I met a guy who just happened to also be named Dave Barry? Well, he was a heck of a guy too.