Tom Hanks & Eric Idle....
It is curious to me that Monty Python's Eric Idle is such a worldwide icon to so many, yet such a cordial host and overall friendly guy. He is like the Willie Nelson of comedy, in that Willie will see to it that the last desired autograph at a show gets signed, and that all hands are shaken that have reached out for him. It is proof one can be a 'star', and still be a personable and nice.
It was at Eric's recent birthday party, celebrating and undisclosed year a barely past 60, that his friend and admirer, Tom Hanks, showed up. It was interesting to me that in a room with Gary Shandling, Kevin Nealon, Steve Martin, Peter Asher.. around whom I felt at ease, that when Hanks walked in, I felt as nervous as the first time meeting Earl Scruggs when I was 23.
Watching from a distance, I waited about a half hour or so for the initial hellos and welcomes to Hanks to diminish. He seemed like a friendly, cordial guy, as affable as his many characters have been, and I noticed he did one thing that is rare among many of his ilk - he listened. With interest and reaction to what others were telling him, it was obvious that he was not locked in to his own world. So, shaking off the meeting-Scruggs-nervousness, I ventured forth.
As I approached while he and Eric were talking, and I waited for a proper moment to say hello, not at all anticipating the shock I was about to get, Eric looked to me, pointed my direction, and said "Tom, I'd like to introduce you to a friend of mine." (which made me think one could not have a better introduction) "This is John McEuen. a musician." And Hanks politely interrupted to say to me "Oh, I know you. from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.. yes? 'Ripplin' Waters'.. one of my favorite recordings. I listened to it all the way to Colorado from the east coast... on the album with 'Daddy Was A Sailor and what is it you say between the songs, on that cut that is a banjo instrumental that sounds like Japanese."
Astonished at not only how quick his response was, but at how many facts of the 1976 Dream album he quickly squeezed in, "I told him it was that really cracks me up are you ready? yes, please." in Japanese, and then chatted about our trips to Japan and other 'things Dirt Band'. Tom (I am now allowed to call him) then commented on the Will the Circle Be Unbroken album, and quoted Roy Acuff's speech about his philosophy in the studio about how we should get it right the first time, and to hell with the rest of them, and about how, according to him, everyone listened to the Dirt Band in the '70's'. I did too."
It was a good night.