It was sometime in the mid-1990s, I was about 18 or 19 years old. I was at Chuy’s on the corner of Kirby and Westheimer, in Houston, Texas, with a few friends.
Our table was near the center of the restaurant, where we had a good view of pretty much everything. I do not recall there being any kind of commotion before I got up to wash my hands before our meal arrived. I went to the lady’s room where I washed my hands, dried them, and stepped back out into the restaurant. And there, just outside the bathrooms, was Geraldo Rivera.
I remember thinking his mustache was just unbelievable – very big and bushy. He looked hairy and tan. His dark, wavy hair looked great though. A few people had crowded around him, and as I stepped out, he must have thought that I was somebody who was wildly interested in shaking his hand, when in fact I just wanted to get to the table and have my chile relleno, because he stepped over to me, said, “How are ya?” and said, “Smile.”
He put his arm around me, and a camera flashed.
I had no idea what was going on. Clueless. Utterly confused. “All right,” said Geraldo, “Nice to see ya.”
I began walking as fast as I could to the table where my friends were laughing at me.
“What the hell was that?” I asked. “Geraldo Rivera?”
“Just think,” my friend said, “somebody has a picture of you with Geraldo Rivera.”
I still think of that sometimes. Geraldo Rivera with a big cheesy smile, his arm around my shoulder, and me, looking completely confused.
But what amuses me the most is that Geraldo Rivera must go around thinking everyone is interested in him. I was not. There are very few celebrities (can we even call Geraldo Rivera a celebrity?) I actually would be impressed to meet. (And I’ve met plenty – Madonna, Cindy Crawford, Barack Obama, George Bush, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Oliver North, Tom Clancy, etc etc. Not even they seemed to have the sense of “I’m a celebrity” as Geraldo Rivera had.)
I think it’s fascinating having that worldview, though. Imagine living in a world where you just assumed everyone wanted to shake your hand, hear from you, have their picture snapped with you. Imagine how strange to one day wake up and realize you’re really not all that, you’re just standing in between a girl and her chille relleno.