Main > Series > Fanzone > Encounters > On Meeting Gene Anthony Ray and Not Meeting Erica Gimpel



One day in the late '80s I was walking my bike down the concrete boardwalk at Venice Beach. I happened to look back and there was Gene Anthony Ray walking along behind me, accompanied by a buffed-out guy who I would guess was his bodyguard. Just at that moment, a young girl yelled out "Aren't you LeRoy?". He replied, a little shyly, "yeah". She said "I thought you were taller!" He laughed and said "naw, I'm just a little guy!" He was right along side me at that point and I had to throw in a smart-ass comment: "they call it creative staging!" He busted up laughing, and we spoke for a few moments. He was blown away that I had recorded the entire series on VHS, with the commercials edited out, saying "damn, I don't even have them myself!"

That was one of the rare times I've broken the rule that you learn early while growing up in L.A. -- if you see a celebrity, you don't SAY anything. You might lock eyes with them for a moment, nod and smile as if to say "yeah, I know who you are but I'll let you have a life...."

One day I was eating with a friend at Chan Dara, a hip Thai restaurant, when I realized that Erica Gimpel was sitting at the next table. When her eyes met mine, I just smiled and nodded. The big smile she shot back was more than a sufficient reward for letting her and her friend eat in quiet anonymity.

Robert Helfman

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