I met Joe, in 1999, in a MOST peculiar way! I was actually hunting him down for a FRIEND, not for myself. My friend Jean had longed to reconnect with him for SOME years, ever since they had lived together in the late '60's. At that time, Jean was a teenage runaway who had literally been taken in off the streets of Greenwich Village(New York) by Joe. He had allowed Jean and her girlfriend to "Crash" at his tiny apartment there. The girls were VERY grateful(as ANYONE in the know can tell you just HOW mean those streets can be). Jean had not spoken to him for almost THIRTY years, and she had no idea how tocontact Joe.
As luck would have it, I had recently bought a copy of Joe's excellent bio in Hollywood, and had spoken to the store owner at some length. The store owner had managed to get Joe to sign several copies for sale, and he proceeded to tell me some personal info about Joe, including just WHERE Joe lived. Combining this info with my own investigative skills, I managed to hunt down Joe's home phone number. The REAL fun started with my BRAZEN call to his number! I am NOT in the habit of ringing up people at home that I DO NOT know, so I REALLY had to work up some nerve before I dialed. It took me a few days to brace myself, then I took the plunge. I dialed, and almost immediately the phone was answered by a DEEP, gravely voice. The voice identified himself as "A friend of Joe's", and told me Joe was not at home. Almost relieved, I proceeded to give him a message to pass on to Joe:an "Old friend of Joe's from his days in The Village" was looking for him. I rambled on about how much she had missed him, an d how she only wanted to tell him "Thanks" for helping her at such a vulnerable time in her life. As I was rambling on and on, I was suddenly interrupted by this "Mystery Voice", which announced (with a slight chuckle) that he was in fact JOE HIMSELF!
Needless to say, I FROZE..unable to think of a response. Joe quickly explained that he got calls from "TONS of fans", MOST of whom were UNWELCOME callers! He said that this necessitated him having to answer his phone and pretend to be only a friend staying there. He then proceeded to tell me some HILARIOUS stories of those callers-the kind of stories one can only hear about in Hollywood! He said that most CLAIMED they had been "Intimate friends" from Joe's past(both m ale and female). Joe said that he USED TO make an effort to at least find out WHAT they wanted, figuring that heck, a fan IS a fan after all! All this ENDED after a terrible experience with one of those fans, who turned out to be a MINOR! Joe had spoken with the girl over the phone on a few occasions, and he swore that at NO time had the conversation ever become lewd. To his great SURPRISE, he got a call one day from the girl's MOTHER, who claimed that "Her baby" had told her all about her "Phone sex" with Joe! The mother ranted on and on, threatening to report Joe to the police for attempting to corrupt a minor. Finally, Joe managed to pacify the woman, assuring her that NEVER AGAIN would he EVER speak to her "Darling daughter"(on the phone or ANYWHERE). I
I assured Joe that this would NOT be a problem with myself: MY mother had died and I was MANY YEARS away from qualifying as "Jailbait"! Joe LAUGHED at this, and our conversation took on a MUCH more relaxed atmosphere. Joe talked about his latest movie ("The Limey")and how much he had enjoyed working with Terence Stamp. He explained that he had a supporting role in it. I then told Joe how much I'd love to see him in more LEADING roles in movies. I told him what a wonderful character actor he was, and how I was amazed at the VARIETY of characters he created onscreen, with almost NO formal training as an actor. He told me that most of his "Training" had been from acting itself:learning from doing(as acto rs in times past had done). I told him that with his suave good looks he would be a natural for the "Soaps" on daytime television. He replied:"Nah...too much WORK! Those people have ALOT of pressure to handle:a grinding workload(since they film Monday-Friday)and the need to show up EARLY every morning!" He explained that he LOVED the opportunity CINEMA gave him to travel and work on-location, rather than be stuck in the same studio day after day after day. He especially loved to location shoot in WARM locales, explaining "THAT was a BIG reason why I LEFT New York and moved HERE:I just HATE being cold!" He said that he really loved Southern California's mild climate and relaxed atmosphere.
The conversation drifted to things we enjoyed doing at home. To my complete SURPRISE I discovered that, like myself, Joe was an AVID lover of CARTOONS! ; Not just ANY cartoons, he especially liked those made by the Warner Brothers studios. We rapturously tripped down Memory Lane, recalling all those wonderful characters we had loved as kids:from Road Runner to Yosemite Sam! Like myself, he had LOVED the film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?":the brilliant way the film combined live-action actors with animation. Almost simultaneously, we laughed about the part in the film where Yosemite Sam's butt catches fire and he madly runs about howling "HELP!!! HELP!!! My BUNS are burnin'!" After laughing ourselves silly, we moved on to discuss what NEW t.v. cartoons were our current favorites. Joe said "I just LOVE "Pinky & The Brain"! It is SO clever and fast-paced;colorful too! Even my CAT enjoys it!" I asked him if he had ever seen "Ren And Stimpy" or "Cow & Chicken"(my favorites at that time). NO, he had never heard of 'em Well....that was all it took: I described in MINUTE detail EVERY twist and turn of plots and characters! He listened attentively, asking "On what channel can you watch them? I've NEVER seen 'em shown, and I watch ALOT of t.v.!" I told him what channels and times shown. He said he'd make sure to catch the first, but was unable to watch the second, since he did NOT get "The Cartoon Network" (where "Cow & Chicken" was exclusively shown). I told him I would try to tape him some episodes to watch and he seemed pleased.
Our conversation ended with Joe inviting me to come to Hollywood and have coffee with him sometime! I told him that MY job schedule was HECTIC, and that I lived MANY miles from Hollywood:I li ved in the Central Valley of California(easily a 3 1/2 hour drive from where Joe lived in Hollywood). I explained that I am a NERVOUS driver in the city, and if I did come to visit it would have to be either by BUS or else have a friend drive me. He gave me a quick run-down on his personal schedule:what months he would be busy working and which he would be available and free. I told him that it would definitely be something I'd plan on in the near future. I thanked him for allowing me the opportunity to speak with him(at HOME no less)and for agreeing to speak with my friend Jean.
All in all, Joe turned out to be a DELIGHT to talk to:easy and natural and VERY down to Earth. I adm it I have NOT been able to work up the nerve to VISIT with him in Hollywood(MAYBE...if EVER I actually manage to lose about HALF my total body weight.....DREAM ON, Shirl)!