Graham Reid | | 2 min read
My recollection is this, that after having interviewed Arnold Schwarzenegger for some ludicrous and subsequently unsuccessful movie I went back to my room overlooking Sydney Harbour and read the booklet about my expensive hotel's many merits.
Among them was a cigar bar and -- having talked cigars with Arnie -- I decided this might be a nice place to adjourn to after a dinner on Circular Quay. So I did.
I settled down with a newspaper, a 10-year old port and a cigar recommended by a young man who seemed to know more about cigars than was healthy for someone who looked like he'd only just started shaving.
Cigars had always been part of my life -- my Dad was an occasional smoker -- and this was before Hollywood A-list women decided that they too would be seen puffing away sexily in the pages of Cigar Aficionado magazine.
While sitting quietly, only another couple across the room, an immaculately groomed middle-aged gentleman entered, picked up a paper then sat across from me. We nodded a greeting.
After a few minutes he laughed about something in his newspaper and tossed it aside with a comment to the effect that it was all claptrap. And so our conversation began.
He was in Sydney on banking business from Kuwait -- if I recall -- and had brought his family with him for the week. They had all had dinner in the hotel restaurant and had now gone to bed, but he'd had a long day and just needed this time out.
We talked of international politics, the situation in the Middle East particularly, and I was a little awed when it seemed he knew a number of Australian politicians personally. He indicated that when he was in Washington he'd be having some pretty top-level appointments.
I was starting to feel well out of my depth but he never made me feel uncomfortable by his familiarity with such high-flyers and world-shapers. Then he asked me what I did and laughed when I said I was a journalist.
"A profession I have the greatest respect for," he said without a trace of sarcasm. "I do admire people who work so hard for so little reward. I was briefly once one myself. Never again. No money or future in it."
I agreed, and then he asked what I was doing in Sydney. Somewhat embarrassed I said that I wasn't there for any noble political or business stories, just to interview Arnie and write up whatever nonsense he had told me about the movie I had had the misfortune to see a preview of.
And the damnedest thing happened.
This man who was clearly rich beyond my imaginings and on first name terms with presidents and princes turned into a mushy movie fan. He wanted to know everything Arnie had said, what he was like in person, and asked if I had met any other movie stars. I mentioned George Clooney and Uma Thurman, and he pulled his chair closer.
We ordered more drinks and I, now on a roll, talked about some of the musicians I had also met. He was very interested when I mentioned sharing a lunch with Billy Joel -- the only person ever impressed by that story I have to say -- and I felt oddly embarrassed by this attention.
I tried to downplay it all but he was clearly a fan and almost slightly envious of me. It was the oddest thing and by the time we said our goodnights I felt somewhat vindicated in my career choice.
The following day I saw him stepping towards a stretch limo with his family but on seeing me he stopped, came back across the footpath and shook my hand saying how much he had enjoyed out conversation. I floated away hoping others had seen me shaking hands with him, whoever he was.
Incidentally, Arnie went on to become the governor of California, my new found friend probably runs one of the world's biggest banks -- and I never got back to that hotel with its comfortable cigar bar.