The day I almost killed Gwyneth Paltrow

May 20, 2010

in Humor/Satire,The BEST of TRC

Gwyneth Paltrow

The lovely and still-living Gwyneth Paltrow

I used to work as a dispatcher at the Hollywood & Highland complex in Hollywood, which meant I was the guy (one of several, actually) who sat in the camera surveillance room all day and watched people on video monitors.

When someone would do something bad, like shoot someone else or steal a pen, I’d call the police or send a security officer to deal with it, depending on the severity of the crime.

While on a break one day, I walked by the boss’s office and he called me in. His name was Jim Chaffee, and he’s still one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. His shock of red hair set over a freckled face is a bit impish, in a Howdy Doody sort of way. I’m pretty sure Jim would shoot me if he knew I called him Howdy Doody on this blog, so I hope he doesn’t read this.

He got that a lot.

Jim Chaffee

Jim Chaffee, NOT Howdy Doody

Howdy Doody

Howdy Doody, NOT Jim Chaffee

But I had great respect for him, mainly because when he introduced himself to us while the security team was first being assembled, he confessed that he used to be the head of Disney security but had to step down due to a nervous breakdown of some sort.

I don’t mean Disneyland, or Disney World, or Disney Studios.  I mean he was the head of security for the entire Disney corporation.. and Mickey Mouse drove him insane.

Evil Mickey

So here he was, candidly telling us about it, explaining why he used to be the head of security for a huge corporation like Disney but was now the head of security for what is basically a glorified mall, and I liked him instantly.

He liked me too, I think, because he always gave me cool gigs. We did a lot of overtime, working at private parties and events that were held on the property, and I was often asked to show up in the evening so I could stand around in a suit and look like a secret service agent while celebs walked the red carpet and schmoozed at the parties. You always see those guys in the background when event photos are snapped for People Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, US, etc.. and I was in all of those at one time or another.

After calling me into his office on this particular day, Jim asked if I’d like a special assignment on Wednesday, which was two days away. I said maybe. He said it was driving Gwyneth Paltrow around in a security cart and doing whatever she asked.

I said hell yeah.

He didn’t give me any specifics because he didn’t have any, beyond the fact that some production company was taping a TV show and Gwyneth was a guest and I’d be her on-camera escort.

Jim had asked me to do this on Monday, so Tuesday took about a week to go by. On Wednesday morning I arrived on time at the appointed place and, sure enough, there was Gwyneth Paltrow, getting her picture taken.

I’d arrived in uniform and an observant assistant figured out that I was probably the security guy who’d been assigned to her so he approached me, asking, “Are you the security guy assigned to her?” He pointed at Gwyneth.

“Yes I am,” I said, and then I pointed at Gwyneth.

“Good,” he said, “Go down into the fifth level of the parking garage and get one of your security carts.. when we finish this segment, we’ll all be down there to meet you.”

He actually pointed at the elevator door, like I didn’t know where it was, just like he’d pointed at Gwyneth Paltrow as if I didn’t know who SHE was.. real high opinion of security people, this guy.

Alan Cumming, in need of a comb

Alan Cumming, in need of a comb

I got one of our carts and fired it up, which sounds more impressive than it really is, since it was an electric golf cart. About ten minutes later the elevator doors whooshed open and the whole crew came in, including Gwyneth and a particular British actor who I didn’t know would be a part of this whole thing, Alan Cumming.

The Director of the TV show came over to me and asked, “Are you the guy who’ll be taking Gwyneth and Alan around the parking garage?”

Well, I didn’t know until that moment that it’d be Gwyneth and Alan, and I didn’t know we’d be staying in the parking garage, but yeah.. I was the guy.

The Director took all of three seconds to give me my directions.. “Just take them around like they can’t find their car. They’ll tell you where to go. Got it?”

Gwyneth jumped in beside me and extended her hand. “Hi, I’m Gwyneth,” she said. I think it’s cool when well-known celebrities do that when they know perfectly well that you know who they are. It’s courteous, and trust me, not all of them are like that.  Martin Sheen is just about the nicest guy in the biz.. he does it, and then he pays your utility bills for you.

Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen, looking kind and gentle

Alan jumped on the back of the cart while the Director got onto another cart with a driver and cameraman and away we went, off to look for Gwyneth and Alan’s alleged lost vehicle.

The Director’s cart paced us while the camera stayed on us as we zoomed through the parking garage, up and down levels, left and right, cutting through rows of vehicles while the two of them shouted at me, “This way! Now here! Turn LEFT! Turn RIGHT!”

It was thoroughly zany.

At one point I must have gotten too excited or something, because I took a ramp a little too fast and put the cart up on the two right wheels, which almost pitched Gwyneth out onto her butt. Alan and I grabbed her and pulled her back in, all the while with the camera rolling. This is where I almost killed her. It wasn’t much really, but it makes for a good post headline, does it not?

Shortly thereafter I had to stop for a car backing out of a stall, so Gwyneth looked over at the lady driver and said, “We’ve lost our car.. we’re so retarded!” I could tell that the lady recognized her, but it was unclear as to whether or not she approved of the use of such a non-politically correct phrase being uttered by one of America’s sweethearts.

We eventually found the car and, of course, it was a black Range Rover, which I suspected they knew the location of all along. We said our goodbyes and, as they got into it and drove away, Gwyneth turned and blew me a kiss.

While on a break the next day and passing by Jim’s office, he called me in (he did that a lot) and asked what the Gwyneth Paltrow gig was all about. I told him everything except for the part about almost killing her, because he liked me and I wanted to keep it that way.

He asked if I’d found out what they were taping. I hadn’t, so he gave me the number of the production company, which I called, and a nice man on the phone explained that it was for a talk show that Alan Cumming would be hosting on the Oxygen channel and that Gwyneth was his first guest in the pilot episode.

Sadly, it never aired.

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow, still alive today because of me

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lorna October 24, 2007 at 11:00 pm

this is a more exciting retelling of that story, or maybe i just think so because I can’t really remember the first one. I don’t think I can remember a “first” anything if it didn’t happen this week.


2 Rhodester October 24, 2007 at 11:19 pm

yeah, haha!

Who are you again?


3 MCF October 25, 2007 at 2:37 am

Wait, didn’t Nightcrawler teleport the first time you told this story, or did I add that? Hot actresses and superheroes sounds like my subconscious….


4 Rhodester October 25, 2007 at 2:45 am

I think he teleported to your house, MCF.. look under the bed.


5 Karen October 25, 2007 at 2:55 am

Dude, funny story! I once almost ran a golf cart over an Olsen twin when I was a P.A. on the Warner Brothers lot. Clearly those things can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Especially for celebrities.


6 Rhodester October 25, 2007 at 3:14 am

HA! Small world – I almost ran over Alexis Bledel (Rory from Gilmore Girls) as I was riding a bicycle while working as security at the WB lot. Dangerous place.

You were a PA there? I did background and worked on a number of shows produced there, most notably Gilmore Girls and The West Wing. That had nothing to do with the security gig, which came later.

Please try not to miss either of the Olsen’s next time though, okay?


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