My Friend Meets the Original Mr. Wonka

I'm copying the particulars surrounding this picture of my friend Lisa-Anne and Gene Wilder. I've appreciated the tales of her exploits in Paris and other parts of the European continent and of China, too. This time her story takes place near her new digs. What follows is a copy of her email explaining this encounter.

Please note the wonderful writing detail which is a mark of a truly gifted writer.

Hi All,

I hope everyone is well. Here is a picture of me and Mr. Wonka himself, Gene Wilder. He was on a book tour at the Washington Press Club, promoting his new book “My French Whore: A Love Story.” He’s as soft-spoken and nice as you would assume.

Tidbits gleaned from his short interview:

1. His favorite movie is Young Frankenstein (he wrote it). Marty Feldman was a very shy and “unique” guy (read weird but likeable). In the scene in YF where Dr. F is introduced to Frau B., Mel changed the lines that weren’t working. So they became Dr. F asking about carrying his bags and Marty Feldman replying ‘you carry the blond and I’ll carry the brunette”. Something like that—the point was it seemed to be the best cast to work with and he had a great time. (Also, he really liked Richard Pryer.)

2. He was supposed to play Harvey K's role in Blazing Saddles, but wanted the Waco Kid. The 2 actors who were to play the kid bowed out (one was exhausted from another movie and the second had a drinking problem and literally began foaming at the mouth on the first day of shooting), so he got the role he wanted, and Harvey go the bad guy role.

3. He likes J. Depp but won’t watch the new Wonka movie because Burton made it so dark. (I think he was being nice. I’ve seen parts of it on cable and Depp looks like a pedophile and the rest of the movie isn't very good.)

4. He worked in an Army psychiatric hospital after school.

5. His mother was sick every day of her life, so he spent hours in compulsive praying for her and wondering why she was sick but he wasn’t. This lead to years of counseling, as detailed in his memoirs.

6. He really loves his current wife, who, BTW, looks absolutely normal for a woman in her 60s (no trophy wife, yeah Gene!)

7. He just had a cataract fixed in his eye (hence the redness).

8. The interviewer asked him if he was an animal, what kind would he be, and he said a deer because they appear outside his house and eat and bring their fawns (I thought this was a lovely answer as I hate that kind of question!!)

9. He was in a movie with Anne Bancroft and as he says, “horribly miscast,” and he kept wondering why bad things were happening to him. Then in her dressing room he gets introduced to Anne’s boyfriend, Mel Brooks, and off went his career. (This idea of good things coming from bad things is a theme he writes about.)

10. When first meeting Mel, Mel was wearing a very nice pea coat. According to Gene: “I said Mel, you look very handsome in that pea coat. And Mel responded, ‘They used to call them ‘urine coats’ but they just didn’t sell’.”

Two weeks ago I also went to a book signing by former Sec. of State Madeleine Albright. She was very cool. She even dealt well with the weird woman who made some inappropriate comments.

Madeleine looked at her, said OK, and kept right on going.

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