Today, 12 December 2014, Marsha Roberts and I celebrate our 39th anniversary. Okay, maybe this is inappropriate for a blog but I don’t really care. It’s my blog.
We met while I was filming a big barn dance scene for an outdoor-adventure movie (very popular genre at the time) I wrote and was now directing. We needed lots of extras so we told everybody who was working on the film to call up relatives, friends, friends of friends, anybody who had a pulse, to show up. Marsha showed up because she was a friend of the cameraman’s mother whom we had already drafted to play a bit part. She brought Marsha with her.
I was in the middle of the barn positioning a couple of hundred extras when Marsha walked in the door. I saw her. I froze in space. So did every other guy in the place. It was like the old westerns when the hero walks in the saloon and the music suddenly stops and everybody turns and stares. Our eyes met and time literally stopped.
But I had a movie to make and quickly got back to work. I did notice that she was getting more hits than an Amazon give-a-way of a Stephen King novel. My heart sank thinking that by the time I finished shooting there wouldn’t even be bones left to pick over.
We finally wrapped about 2:00 AM. Earlier I had to shoot an exterior scene of the lead characters arriving at the dance. It was pouring and my fuzzy coat soaked it up like a sponge. Now that the lights were turned off, the temperature inside the barn dropped to near freezing and I was sitting in a folding chair out of the way, my teeth chattering.
I noticed somebody standing near me and looked up to see Marsha. She smiled with a twinkle in her eye and said the greatest opening line I’ve ever heard, before or since: “You look like you need someone to keep you warm.”
I was too dumbstruck to even speak. She sat down in my lap and put her arms around me.
She’s been keeping me warm ever since.
It was a bit wintry in north Georgia that night, in the 30’s and raining. The place they were shooting in was an old barn that had been outfitted for a dance, complete with a stage for the country music band and square dance caller. I was one of hundreds of people who showed up to be extras. There were dozens of cast and crew members hanging lights, dealing with make-up and costumes, moving around their new location in organized chaos. All of this activity centered around one man, the director, Bob Rector.
I was dressed in the warmest coat I had – it was honey-brown leather designed like a jacket, but it was full length. It had a broad lapel, big buttons up the front and a wide belt that showed off my trim twenty-three year old waist. When I walked into the Barn Dance that night, I was walking into a group of guys who had just come back from a month of shooting in the mountains of North Carolina, deprived of female companionship as it were… I have to admit, all hands on deck stopped what they were doing and turned directly towards me when I started to take off my coat. They just had to find out if what was underneath the coat lived up to the promise. Hey, I was twenty-three!
This is where my story differs from Bob’s. As far as I could tell, he didn’t look up from what he was doing, he was too busy. It looked like everyone except Bob turned, which was very disappointing!
Eventually I found a spot right behind the camera where I could see the filming better and I could watch how Bob pulled each element of the scene together. I couldn’t help but notice he drew everyone in the room towards him like a magnet. Especially me. He was not a tall man, but everything about him commanded authority, particularly his eyes, which were intense and smart. He had a stocky build, dark shoulder length hair, a full black beard and wore a Greek fisherman’s cap. His face had the look of a king from some ancient land. Yes, he was that compelling.
As they started filming, something happened that changed the course of my life. One of the characters in the shot started clowning around and the very serious and focused Bob Rector burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. He laughed from the bottom of his feet to the twinkle in his eyes. He was like a big kid. I fell in love with him right then and there, watching him laugh.
The rest of the scene played out just as Bob described. I didn’t think of the line before I said it, it just came out like that.
As it turns out, there were dozens of times that Bob and I almost met before that night. But the timing wasn’t right. We have traced our steps back to the beginning of what lead us to be together that night, finally at the same time and same place after so many near misses. There is no doubt we were guided by the Hand of Fate. And what is Fate, but God. We were lead to each other by God and I am eternally grateful for His intervention into our lives that night.
We have had 39 years to prove that love at first sight is real. Here’s to the next 39!