Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Today is Allan McLaren day. It's one of my favorite days of the year. I smile every time it rolls around. This was originally posted by my friend Heather (Hi Heather!), one of the founders of Allan McLaren day, over at She's an awesome woman - then and now.

Here is the story of how today came to be Allan McLaren day...

Gather round, children, time for a story:

Sometime in the early 80s, my best friend, Lisa, and I were walking the halls of Bancroft Jr. High in Long Beach, California. It must have been the end of February because we were discussing the recent Presidents Day holiday, which seemed too elitist for our tastes.

"Seems like there should be a day for people that aren't presidents," Lisa said.
"Yeah, like a day that celebrates the guy that has no desire to be president," I undoubtedly concurred. "A day for the average Joe, y'know? The world needs those guys too."
"Maybe we should start one … ?" she said, eyes wide.

Lisa was, once again, ready to co-hatch outrageous plans with me, which is why I love her so.
"Hey .. yeah!"

And we were off.

Immediately, we began formulating the outline of the campaign messages and the all-important 'Celebrating the Everyman' gist of our new holiday. Still, we needed a face, a name, a figurehead … somebody to stand up for our new cause. We wanted the guy that just happily exists in life, does his thing, and is perfectly harmless – the guy that merely goes to school/work, does his chores and doesn't spark headlines, bad or good. We needed to pin down the uncelebrated fellow that makes up the bulk of society - the guy that everyone likes but no one really notices.

Lisa and I spotted him at the same time. He was a smallish kid, same age as us (15-ish) and we didn't know his name. He had blonde bushy surfer-kid hair, shy eyes and an infectious sweet smile. We'd never noticed him before which made him ideal. Looking back now, I realized we may have come on a bit strong initially but he played along. After briefly introducing ourselves without revealing our true mission, we conducted the interview on-the-spot:

Belong to any clubs? "Nope.
"Play on any sports teams? "No way.
"Girlfriend? "Um, not right now.
"Grades? "C average."Home life? "Just normal stuff – my parents are okay, I guess.
"Get in to trouble? "No, I try to lay low."
And finally, name? "Allan McLaren."

Lisa's eyes lit up at this, since she was the creative ad agency person and I'm more of the big mouth PR type. The phonetics needed to be ideal to result in a winning slogan. She tried it out, "Hmmmmm. AllanMcLaren AllanMcLaren AllanMcLaren. Yes, yes … YES! That will work perfectly!"

We each squealed, kissed him on the cheek and then ran off, yelling back at Allan, "Thank you!" and maybe even "Get ready!"

In the next few weeks, we created banners, posters, buttons and possibly t-shirts that prepared the student body for the big day, which we'd picked randomly as March 26th – the world's first annual Allan McLaren Day.

Because we were those busybody types that ran everything, we managed to get this in the student newspaper, the school calendar, the daily announcements and, most importantly, on the lips of every student. Anticipation was high. Allan was confused but just kept smiling.

When the big day finally came, I recall sitting in typing class (ha!) and watching the very prim and proper teacher, Mrs. Howard, instruct us on the day's lesson. On her print blouse was a button pin that clearly read: "Have you hugged your Allan McLaren today?" This was victory.

In high school, the tradition continued and Allan became a minor celebrity. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Not only was Allan game for all the attention, but he was consistently appreciative and smiled even more.

Years later, at the 10-year high school reunion, I ran into Allan and he was so excited. He introduced his lovely wife, Kristina, and told her the whole story. He then went on to tell us how we had inadvertently changed his entire school experience. Apparently, he'd show up at parties and people would cheer: "Allan McLaren has arrived!" He noted, with some irony, that the football guys who "would otherwise beat me up" had decided that Allan was the coolest dude ever and was to be revered and protected like a king.

Even several years after graduation, Allan was in a grocery store writing a check when the cashier saw his name: "Allan McLaren? I know that name! Aren't you famous or something?"
Decades later, I was living in San Francisco and received a card in the mail. It was an elaborate beautifully self-designed sentiment from Lisa, dated March 26, 2003, with the words: "Celebrating 20 years of the average man … wishing you the very best Allan McLaren Day!"

So, now, I pass along this tradition to ya'll. Buy the Average Joe a drink tonight, would ya? Whether he knows it or not, it's his special day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I was so sad to hear that Anthony Minghella has died. Not just because he is, in my opinion a great talent, but because I actually got to meet him and share an evening of great conversation.

In 1993 I was sharing a house with a friend who, at the time was dating a british director. One weekend I went to brunch with her and her beau at the Bel Air hotel. We got very drunk on champagne sitting at one of those tables by the pond with the swans. It was oh so pastoral and lovely. We were talking about our favorite movies and I was going on and on and on and ON about a movie that I'd seen a few years before that is still, to this day, one of my favorite movies.

Truly, Madly, Deeply is a movie about loss and grieving and moving on and in all that sadness it's pretty funny. It features Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevens in really wonderful performances. I fell in love with the writing and it has stayed with me all of these years. When I saw the movie I sat in the theater after it was over and cried. And then I drove home and sat on the couch and cried some more. Not because I was sad, but because I was so completely moved by how it had captured love and loss and how life goes on no matter what and that's a good thing.

It was perfect.

It was Anthony Minghella's debut movie. He wrote it and directed it and it just so happens that my roommate's friend knew Anthony very well and had worked with him on the Storyteller series - you should totally rent them if you have kids. So seeing as how he knew the guy that had written and directed my favorite movie he was kind enough to call him up so that I could leave a drunken and rambling message on his answering machine about HOW MUCH I LOVED Truly Madly Deeply.

Yes - I drunk dialed Anthony Minghella and it was a good thing that Steve spoke first or I'm sure it would have come off as more terrifyingly stalkerish than anything else.

It could have ended there and I would have just remembered the call with mild embarrassment, except that a short time later Anthony Minghella came through town to do post on Mr. Wonderful, the film he directed after Truly, Madly, Deeply and before The English Patient. He remembered my call and I was invited to have dinner with him at Steve's house one night after he'd finished work.

I was not surprised to find that he was a regular guy who very sweetly discussed stories and writers and favorite books with me. I remember coming away from the evening with the deepest appreciation that this person who'd written and directed a story that had touched me so profoundly was so awesomely human and real.

I am just so sad that he is gone - that his family and friends are grieving the loss of him - that we will not have anymore stories from him.

He will be missed truly, madly, deeply.