I like children. If they’re properly cooked.
—W. C. FIELDS
The Art of
“Retarded” Young Men
MIDWAY THROUGH filming Look Who’s Talking Too with John Travolta, we were night shooting in an airport in Vancouver; it was about 2:00 a.m., and it was freezing. I couldn’t wait to wrap and get back to my cozy hotel room. Turns out I was one month pregnant, and it was really hard to stay awake. I recall being so tired that if I’d fallen into the gutter and a Nazi put a Luger to my head and threatened to blow my brains out if I didn’t rise—I would have told him to pull the trigger.
Just as we were filming the last shot of the evening, an airline captain approached me. He informed me that his 20-year-old “retarded” son had recently been in a horrible car accident that had almost taken his life. He had been badly burned and had broken both legs and an arm. He told me his son was my number one fan and that he’d brought him to the set to meet me. He inquired as to whether it was possible, right after we finished shooting, that I could come into the hangar and take just a minute to meet him. Suddenly me being pregnant and freezing my ass off didn’t have much relevance. A retarded (it wasn’t politically incorrect to say that word back then), badly burned, and broken lad had traveled all this way just to meet me. Of course I said yes!
When we completed the final shot of the night, the director yelled, “Cut, print, wrap.” John escorted me to the hangar, and I set eyes on the poor, retarded, bandaged young man sitting in a wheelchair. I took a deep breath because he was covered in gauze and splints and was more damaged than I had imagined. When I approached him he began to laugh and gyrate in his wheelchair back and forth. He was ecstatic to meet me. These are the times being a celebrity really pays off—to bring that much joy to an individual is . . . joyous.
He put his bandaged hand out—I took it. He said in his retarded way, “I love you.” I reciprocated, “I love you, too.” He pulled me closer. He was really strong! “I love you,” a little louder and more audible. “I love you, too,” I said. He then took both my arms and pulled me much closer. “I love you, I love you, I love you,” he said, and I proclaimed, “I looove you soooo much” in the sort of half-real, half-anxiety-ridden way you’d act if a retarded boy was mauling you. He was holding me so tightly it was actually hurting me, but he was retarded, so I persevered.
The next thing I remember is that he put both arms fully around me and was squeezing me so intensely that I feared I would stop breathing. Suddenly he flipped out of his wheelchair, pushing me down on the ground, and was lying on top of me. I began to get nervous—I was pregnant—and he’d just been in a hideous accident with broken bones and third-degree burns. As he was face-to-face atop me he began chanting, “I love you, I love you, I love you,” and started slightly humping my legs. My fear turned to nervous, hysterical laughter, and then I noticed this odd thing happening around me. The crew members were watching us—so was John—and so was the retarded kid’s dad. I began reaching out to them, mildly pleading for help, nervously saying “OKAY, OKAY, I love you, too, but I don’t want you to get hurt. Hey, you guys,” I said, reaching for the director and cinematographer, “need a little help here.”
But no one would help me. No one would reach back for me. I felt like I was in a bad episode of The Twilight Zone. John just kept smiling this bizarre smile; he looked like Chucky. Why wasn’t anybody helping us?? Why wasn’t anyone worried that either I would miscarry or the retarded boy would have to be taken to the emergency room . . . again??!! I really started to flip my shit, and I began tearing up. My eyes were welling and my mind was racing as I tried to pry the broken, retarded, burned, humping young man off me. My panic increased, “You guys! He’s going to get hurt! John! I’m pregnant! Help us! Somebody PLEASE help us!!!” Like a bad dream of being stuck in the middle of a satanic coven, the ring of camera crew, directors, John, the retarded boy’s father, and everyone else began laughing like jackals. I almost fainted.
Then . . .
The retarded boy leaped up and started ripping his bandages from his face! Was it a miracle?! Had this “retarded” young man’s love for me healed him???
No! It was Woody Harrelson. Fucking Woody Harrelson!
I hadn’t had a single clue. It was the perfect caper. He wasn’t even filming in Vancouver!! No, he had traveled all the way from LA, JUST to trick me. The entire cast and crew were in on the prank.
To this day Woody and I remain excellent friends—I would do anything for Woody—and he would do anything for me . . . or to me.
Excerpted from The Art of Men (I Prefer Mine Al Dente)
by Kirstie Alley
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