“Meeting” Gene Wilder (take two)

Many years ago I saw a man who struck me as familiar. We approached one another, as are paths led in opposite directions, and the closer we got the more I swore I knew him. He, meanwhile, started staring back, perhaps not out of recognition so much as playful mockery. Finally, as we passed one another, eyes locked, I realized that the familiarity was that of looking at a self-portrait of an older version. It was also at that moment that I realized it was Gene Wilder. Honestly, I will never know if it was really him, but I like to believe it was if for no other reason than for good storytelling.You see for years people have told me that I look like him and I would argue against it. This phenomena has grown steady less as his movies have been remade and new appearances non-existent, yet every once in a while the topic is broached. That’s why, when I learned he would be at a Barnes & Nobles, I had to attend. I assumed he would read a chapter from his latest pamphlet sized book and then sign copies, at which time I was determined to have a picture taken of the two of us, to finally put the issue to rest. Sadly, as with many celebrity signing, all that happened is I stood in line for about ten minutes, had someone hand him my copies of his books, took a quick snapshot from the allocated area, and waited politely as he mindlessly produced his signature. As I watched I realized just how many years had passed since my possible meeting and just how old he’s become. He is certainly not decrepit in any way, but the years are apparent and it was unlikely that I would ever have the opportunity to see him again. “I had to meet you,” I blurted out. “All my life people have said we look alike. I’m not sure I see it,” maybe it’s the hair I added in a mutter due to his thinning mane. For just a moment Wilder and his handlers (and there were many) stopped and looked at me and then looked again. Wilder smiled for a second and made a joking remark of it not being the case, at least not anymore, but for that second—if only for that second—I like to believe a look of familiarity crossed his eyes.