When Chris Farley's "Down by the river" sketch was named greatest SNL sketch of all time recently, I was reminded of the one time I met Chris Farley.
I should probably say up front that telling this story is not intended to be any kind of definitive statement about who Chris Farley was or what he was like. This is the only time I ever met him. Someone who knew him better than me would have to put this story into perspective.
It was 1993, during a year-and-a-half-long period in which I took any small job on any Hollywood movie set that I could.
Central Casting sent me to work an all-nighter on the Fox Studios lot, to be an Extra rocking out to White Zombie in the club scene for the movie "Airheads."
It was a thankless job; an uncredited Extra. I watched the scene again recently and can't find myself anywhere on camera, not lurking in the dark corners of any shot, nothing.
I was there, though, paired with a gorgeous blond girl. I don't remember her name, so for remainder of this story she will simply be referred to as, "Gorgeous Blond Girl."
"You two are boyfriend and girlfriend," the assistant director told us. "When we say 'action,' you just start rocking out."
Life on a film set has a lot of down-time, though. So, Gorgeous Blond Girl and I had a full evening to hang out together. We were comfortable enough with each other, but she dropped The Big Warning early in the conversation.
"The Big Warning" is a girl very casually - almost TOO casually - dropping the phrase, "Oh, my boyfriend - "
It doesn't matter what the rest of the sentence is. She just let you know she's off limits. some guys take it as a challenge. I accepted it without a second thought.
The club scene in "Airheads" has Chris Farley as a cop, entering the club, getting knocked around a mosh pit by some tough guys, and then finding the character he's looking for at the bar.
We had to shoot different parts of it over and over all night, trying to get White Zombie's performance right, trying to get Chris Farley's mosh pit moment right, etc.
We were still early in the process, during a quiet moment between shots, when Chris Farley was randomly standing just a few feet from myself and Gorgeous Blond Girl.
"What's your name?" he asked her.
He followed up with a few casual remarks and a joke or two. She responded flatly, and soon everyone had to return to their marks for another take.
"That was awkward," she whispered to me as Farley walked away.
"And the evening's still young," I said.
"Oh, god, no," she sighed.
Then someone yelled 'Action.' White Zombie rocked their song again. Gorgeous Blond Girl and I rocked out.
"Tell me he's not coming over here," she said to me when things quieted down again.
"He's coming over here," I said.
"God! No," she whispered.
Chris Farley turned on the charm this time. He was a celebrity, and he knew he could get what he wanted - most of the time.
She chatted politely with him, but stayed just cold enough to avoid encouraging him.
We rocked out to White Zombie some more, and then she proposed an idea to me.
"Hey," she said, hesitantly at first, "do you think, um, maybe we could actually pretend to be boyfriend and girlfriend, maybe just enough to get him to stop?"
"Sure," I said, smiling. "I'm game."
The next time things got quiet, and we were told to relax, I sat in a chair. She sat on my lap, dropped an arm over my shoulders, and when Farley started walking toward us she leaned close to my ear and teasingly whispered something to me, making it look like we were sharing a very private moment.
Chris Farley was smooth.
He stopped in front of a brand new gorgeous girl, making it look as if he had been eyeing her the whole time.
The new girl seemed more open to his celebrity advances.
Gorgeous Blond Girl was off the hook.
As actors we were a little deeper into character the rest of the evening. We were boyfriend and girlfriend until about four in the morning. Then we went our separate ways, never to see each other again.
A few years later Chris Farley was dead, from a lethal combination of drugs.
He left a legacy of brilliant comedy and mediocre movies.
Hell, I don't know.
Maybe someday I'll get a chance to ask his old buddy, David Spade.
March 14, 2014