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A Chance Encounter with my First Love…

Posted by on April 7, 2012

It was August of 2010, I was in Ottawa with my girlfriend at the time, winding down a weekend meant to celebrate my 31st Birthday. We waded in the pool inside the Chateau Laurier Hotel when in walked my first love, Elizabeth, trailing behind her adorable little girl.

I had not seen Elizabeth in years, and though she had aged considerably since taking center stage in my life, when she smiled she still lit up the room and stopped my heart.

I am speaking, of course, about movie star actress Elizabeth Shue.

Ms. Shue, now technically Mrs. Guggenheim, became the love of my life when I was still counting my years in single digits.  She was everywhere.  I can’t recall if I first saw her in Cocktail, The Karate Kid, or Adventures In Babysitting but I’m almost positive it was the latter.  But regardless, I was in love.

Deeply connected, unconditional, uncontrollable, irrational,  romantic love.

With my slight leaning towards hyperbole aside, when Ms. Shue walked into the pool area of the Chateau Laurier, all of these childhood feelings and memories came rushing back to me.   My girlfriend at the time was also slightly star-struck since I had force-fed her Adventures in Babysitting only a short time before.

I could feel the child inside of me, Mikey, who is never far from the surface, waiting desperately for the adult, Michael, to pull his shit together and come up with a game plan.  The sad part, I had nothing.  No witty ice-breakers.  No bold one-liners. Not even a shameless fan attack.  I was drowning in my inability to approach another human being for social interaction, the same skill I’ve used like a trained assassin for most of my life. I guess that’s what true love does. It paralyzes.

I felt empathy for Ms. Shue being half naked and in mommy mode, not to mention that her star had fallen into a steady stream of B-movie roles, and far away from either Teen Idolation or her Oscar Worthy role in Leaving Las Vegas.  Still, the last impression I wanted the former love of my life to have from our one encounter was, “Awkward Asshole Fan”.

So… I waited.   And as Ms. Shue reached the opposite end of the pool I was hit with a mental pile of bricks.  Overly excited, I leaned over to my girlfriend and said, “Holy Shit! She was in Back To The Future 2 and 3! She played Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer.  How the fuck did I forget that?! This is crazy.”

Back To The Future. My all-time favourite movie trilogy that I’ve watched more times than I would like to admit, and in my drunk puppy-love state I had forgotten Ms. Shue had played a staring role. Now I was under water. I was once again an 8 year old trying to hide his excitement and love from his crush.

Elizabeth swam with her daughter and asked me a question I’ve long since forgotten, but my answer was a personal disappointment.  As I masterfully played the part of ignorant hotel guest and mediocre swimmer my mind became a fury of conversation choices and two minute monologues based on achieving one goal… make contact, be nice, shake hands, leave.

But fighting like a dog in the street with that goal was the part of me that had so many questions I desperately wanted her to answer:

“Did you enjoy being in Back To The Future?” (this was most important)

“Even though a lot of people look at Cocktail as a fluff 80s movie, I thought it was just ahead of its time. Do you get a lot of comments still about playing Jordan Mooney? “

“What was your favourite role of the 80s?” (I could give a shit if it was The Saint or Leaving Las Vegas)

Elizabeth Shue in Cocktail

Cocktail With Tom Cruise

As much as I wanted to pepper her with all of these questions Jay Leno/Ryan Seacrest style, I knew that I would more be playing the role of Kamikaze Paparazzi than jovial talk show host;  Which is another reason I didn’t want to make my approach in the water.

After all of these painful internal conversations I decided it was time to go.  I got out of the pool, dried off a little bit, and then as I saw Elizabeth crouched near the pool step latter looking down at her daughter I decided it was now or never.

I gathered all the courage and material I had rehearsed over the past 15-20min and I went for it with reckless abandon. Like Jon Cusack at the end of Say Anything with my proverbial ghetto blaster lifted over my head…

Here , paraphrased, is how that encounter went:

“Excuse me, hi, Ms. Shue. My name is Mike and I just wanted to say that I am a huge fan of yours.”


“I mean, I just forced my girlfriend to watch Adventures in Babysitting last week.”

(her uncomfortable smirk turned slowly into a smile)

(here I realize I probably shouldn’t have lead with Adventures In Babysitting, and instead opened my adoration with Leaving Las Vegas…. Dummy).

“I don’t want to bother you with your daughter, but I just wanted to say I’ve really enjoyed all of your films, I think you’re an amazing actress, and I just wanted to wish you the best for the rest of your career.  I look forward to seeing you in more movies.”

(At last, a totally sincere and genuine smile. The kind that I watched in Cocktail over and over and over again just because seeing her happy made me happy.)

“Thank you so much, that’s really nice of you to say.”

“You’re welcome. Hope you have a great time in Ottawa.”

“Thanks, take care.”

And that was it.

Mikey could proudly go to sleep at night knowing that Michael had actually stepped through time for him and made his dreams come true.

Throughout the rest of that day and, sadly enough, the next couple days all I could think about was Elizabeth Shue.  It got to the point that my girlfriend was visible angry at how often I would bring up the encounter.  My girlfriend finally turned to me and said, “Oh. My. God. I think you’re actually in love with her. And I don’t just mean like a star-crush, I think you actually love her.”   We both had a good laugh, my girlfriend laughing with reserved annoyance, and me laughing with awkward shameless guilt.

In all honesty, I was getting annoyed with myself at the absurdity of my emotions, but this is childhood love. It doesn’t understand logic, rules, or “girlfriend’s feelings”.    It just understands how happy watching Cocktail made me when I was 8 years old.  I suppose pure, illogical “love” like that doesn’t quickly fade, or truly go away.

And no matter how absurd this story is, I must say, I’m grateful that it happened.  Because it’s usually near impossible to recreate the infatuation or “love” that you feel for a movie star when you’re 8 years old and it is something we rarely get back.

It felt exciting.

So I guess it’s no surprise that even though this happened nearly two years ago, I was inspired to write this post after just having watched Cocktail, again… and she was just as perfect as I remember.

Thanks Elizabeth Shue. For Everything.

I wonder what Alyssa Milano is doing these days….

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