Meeting Anna at a luncheon for the
Arnold Palmer Hospital for Women & Children
I met Anna back in early 1992. A friend of mine, knowing of my fascination with The Patty Duke Show and of my collection of Anna's other movie appearances and records, tore ad from the "Orlando Sentinel" for an all-day seminar/workshop/luncheon for women at the (since renamed) Stouffer Resort in Orlando. It was sponsored by the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Women and Children and Anna was scheduled to be the keynote speaker. Needless to say, I promptly made a reservation for the event and mindlessly signed up for a couple of pre-lunch workshops, although I was really just there to see if I could get my copy of "Don't Just Stand There" signed.
I showed up at the hotel early on Saturday morning and the woman at the registration table seemed pleased to see me. It turned out that I was the only male who registered for the event. I dimly remember the first part of the morning, spent sitting in the back of the corner of a hotel banquet room enjoying a couple of paperback novels I had brought while a couple of women delivered motivational speeches about female empowerment.
Lunchtime finally came, and I warily walked past a huge line outside the ladies room (you could have shot off a cannon in the mens room) and entered the main ballroom of the hotel, where I first found my seat, and then looked around to see if the guest of honor was there yet. I was shocked to suddenly spot her standing about ten feet away, talking to somebody. (I would realize later on that the dress she wore that day was a dress that she also wore in the TV movie Last Wish.)
It's all kind of a blur...I was somehow introduced to her as the only male at the event and meekly asked her if there was any way I could get my photo taken with her at some point. Anna was extremely nice, and told me that there should be an opportunity after the lunch.
Lunch was served and then it was Anna's time to speak. (Forgive me if my memory is so hazy--this was nearly eighteen years ago!) She took questions from the audience about both Hollywood and her bipolar illness, and at one point a woman asked her if the illness had somehow caused her to have any issues related to her monthly, womanly, you-know-what. Anna laughed and looked straight at me and made a wisecrack about there being a male in the room. (I was just flattered that she remembered my name.)
Anyway, after the luncheon was over, Anna signed autographs and posed for photos. I mentioned to her that I had stayed up and videotaped all 104-episodes of her TV show, and that I had even found a used copy of The Lamaze Method at Blockbuster. She commented that probably about 10 people had ever watched that video.
I was 23 back when I met Anna. In the years since, I've learned that meeting a famous person can be a less-than-overwhelming experience, but meeting Anna was truly a thrill, and I was probably ten times her fan afterwards as I was before.
Anyway, I found a somewhat battered 8x10 of that photo out in the garage earlier today. I haven't seen it in many years, but I'm glad I still have it, as I am looking forward to The Patty Duke Show becoming available on DVD.