What's in a Name?

Part 2: The Denial

Posted on November 21, 1997, by Adam Rifkin. For Part 1 of this story, please see What's in a Name, Part 1: The Awakening.

I have this theory that peoples' lives are like a box of chocolates. You expose them to the sun too long and they all melt together. Of course, the type of computer I am using to post this little note is a Sun workstation. And if a bus station is where the bus stops, you know darned well what happens at a workstation.

Hence, this post. This post is about Denial. Denial is not just a river in Egypt; for the context of this story it is a 1997 movie by my favorite director in the entire world, Adam Rifkin. The movie is about several couples who variously cheat on each other, but that's not important right now. It stars Jason Alexander, Adam Rifkin, Amy Yasbeck, Jonathan Silverman, Patrick Dempsey, and several other talented young actors and actresses, but that's not important right now, either.

What is important right now is that we believe in the interconnectedness of all things. And I am now one degree of separation from a man who shares my name. And that there is a special connection between the Adam Rifkin who is writing this miserably diaretic entry and the Adam Rifkin who has vast amounts of talent in the writing, directing, and acting domains.

A Brief History of Mite

You ever spend years looking for someone, and then one day out of the blue he just calls you? Well, today that happened to me for the second time. Here's a short synopsis of the universe up until now: billions of years ago there was this big bang, and then a whole bunch of unimportant stuff happened, and then around the time Neil Armstrong was moonwalking, two bright-eyed children were born in the center of the universe (known in the vernacular as "New York") with the name Adam Rifkin, which happens to be an anagram for "I Find Karma".

Fast forward one quarter-century, and this Adam Rifkin (call me Number 2) saw a movie by that Adam Rifkin (call him Number 1) called The Chase, a wonderful film starring Kristy Swanson, Henry Rollins, and a couple of Red Hot Chili Peppers. Number 2 had actually seen a few previous movies by or with Number 1 (Let's see, there was The Dark Backward which I remember had Wayne Newton in it, and some movie I caught on cable with Number 1 using the pseudonym "Rif Coogan". Cool name.)

So in April 1995 while I was waiting in the outpatient room for a friend to finalize his vasectomy, I had some time to burn and I sent Number 1 a letter saying that I realized we weren't related but I'd still like to meet him, since in the interrum I had been drafted by Caltech to spend several hundred years in Pasadena California in pursuit of an ever-elusive PhD in computer science. Number 1, I figured, was probably here shooting some Hollywood flick like Barb Wire with Pammy Andy Lee. I sent the letter to Number 1 care of Dark Horse Entertainment, which I figured was his production company. No response. I figured that Number 1 thought I was some freak of nature for even trying to contact him. As Number 2, I felt like crap thinking that Number 1 was pissed at me for what I'd done.

In fact, that was not the case at all. Number 1 never even received my letter, as I discovered in October 1996 when he called me at the ungodly hour of 8am the morning after I'd been drinking. I think I told him how much I admired his skillz, although since I had a massive headache maybe I only mumbled it. The famous director guy was on the other end of the telephone line, and all I could do was daydream about toilet bowls with handles on the side so you don't fall down when you have too much to drink.

Makes you wonder why my Michelle hasn't run away screaming, doesn't it?

Makes you wonder why she's actually let us set a wedding date, doesn't it? Nonetheless, September 7, 1998 is our day. Want to see our registry? Go to Weddingline and type in "Adam Rifkin" or "Michelle Gardner" and ignore the incorrect wedding date they think they have.

Now where was I? Oh yeah, telling the story of how Number 1 called me a second time, out of the blue, today.

When Worlds Collide

Now remember how in the first phone call, Number 1 asked me to put on my Web pages,

I am not that Adam Rifkin.

Well, I complied. I did it not once, but a veritable plethora of times, smattered all over my dinky little Web presence. And when I did it, I didn't hear from him again. I figured my brush with fame was over, kaputz.

When I got the message from Joeboy that he called on Thursday, November 20, 1997 at noon, my first reaction was thankfulness that I wasn't hungover and it wasn't 8am. But then I got really excited. I called him back, and he out of the blue invited me to the Premiere screening of his latest motion picture epic, "The Denial", that evening at 7 in Hollywood. I was so ecstatic I took a bottle of white-out and whited over my entire disappointments calendar schedule for the day to clear out lots o' space to prepare for meeting a guy who I consider to be among the coolest on the planet.

Did I get my haircut? Did I shave? Heck, did I even bother to shower. Nope. I spent my seven hours of hangtime mostly fretting and worrying that once I met my hero, my idol, the Number 1 to my Number 2, that there would be nothing left in life to hope for. What do you do with yourself for the next sixty years when all of your dreams and goals and aspirations have been met by the time you are 27? It's all downhill from here...

I did little Buddha exercises to try to regain my calm. Actually, they weren't really little Buddha exercises, but they seemed to work for Keanu Reeves in that movie.

Michelle and I had lunch together at Tarantino's, the best Italian food you can get on this side of the Atlantic. I shared with her the dream: that she, and I, would attend this world premiere screening in Hollywood and finally get to meet the legend that is Adam Rifkin, the person for whom I was named even though my parents didn't realize they were naming me for him at the time. Michelle had plans to have dinner at Baja Fresh with Amy Abrams, and regrettably, those had to be cancelled. I say regrettably because it's never good to back down on a gathering with a friend, but these were extenuating circumstances: we were running down a dream.


Of course, traffic was a bitch, but we got there intact in what we thought was a valid parking spot. (It wasn't -- $35 stinking Hollywood unmarked permit-required parking ticket -- but $35 is a small price to pay for a small slice of heaven.) Of course, we were also missing "Must See TV" (which as far as I can tell is the only good aspect of the lower middle class life I'm living) but we set the VCR for what we thought was a correct time slot. (It wasn't -- and we missed out on the "Dlefnies" episode of "Seinfeld" -- which sucks because we've seen all but two episodes up through today and now we're knocked back up to all but three episodes. Newman!).

Outside the golden palace tucked away at Sunset and Stanley was a beautiful fountain -- and inside, a dream theater. We expected a small screening room. We got a majestic panoramic superduper-thx-dolby-sdds- surroundsound-70mm-no,wait,700mm-expedalidocious megadeluxe theater. You know, the kind the gods on Mount Olympus used for their movie nights. So posh, so refined, so decadent... probably cost more than I'll make in a lifetime. And I plan on living several thousand years.

The movie was fantastic. It's like, picture the best orgasm you've ever had, and multiply it by a million, and that doesn't even come close. Michelle wasn't as enthused since the theme of infidelity is not exactly what she would consider humorous; nonetheless, she recognized the extraordinary proficiency of the direction, the acting prowess all around, and the superior writing that rubber cemented the whole thing together. I wonder how Number 1 managed to fit so much talent into a single carbon-based life form here on earth.

Buttkissing praise aside, I really enjoyed it. Check out the Internet Movie Database Entry for "The Denial".

After Effects

After the movie, everyone piled out into the lobby, and we realized that the crew and stars in the movie were also in the audience. We froze. Would Michelle realize one-quarter of HER dream, too... to touch each of the four members of Seinfeld?

She wasn't going to let Jason Alexander slip out of her hands like Michael Stipe had slipped out of her hands at a Magnapop concert on December 9, 1994 at the Palladium. She wasn't going to let her nerves get the best of her a second time. Not with him so close, baby.

And let me tell you, my fiancee is the epitome of cool. She just walked up to Jason Alexander as he was leaving, told him how much she enjoyed his work, and shook his hand. And he shook back, saying with the genuine charm that only an actor can finesse, "Thank you, you're very kind." Seriously, he seemed sincerely gracious at having a fan tell him for the millionth time what a great actor he was. And bonus: Hey, Mom, I'm marrying someone who George Costanza thinks is "very kind"!!! Did I hit the jackpot or what???

Next it was my turn, so of course I got all demure and ridiculous. How could I just walk up to Number 1? What would I say to him? How, in the presence of greatness, does one aspire not seeming meek and dorky? How could I show him how much I cared for him as a human being, how much I believed in his visions, how much I wished the best for him with each coming revolution of the planet?

I watched as the queue of famous and important people in front of him dipped down to a dull roar. Michelle told me to stop acting like a stalker and just shake his hand. So I gulped, breathed hard, and walked up to him. For some reason he recognized me instantly (the way I had recognized him instantly in the movie). How could that be? (Like, duh, I only have a dozen pictures on my Web page.)

He shook my hand and was very gracious, thanking me for coming out to see his movie. I tried to do my best James Dean, but unfortunately it felt like my worst Yoda/Urkel, in describing what a pleasure it had been to be there, and what an honor it was that he had invited me.

And then, like a scared rabbit, I hopped back down my bunny hole with Michelle, not sticking around long enough to make a menace of myself. Did I want to stick around? Definitely. But did I also want this snapshot in time to be always pleasing in recollection? Absolutely. Sneak out at the peak of your game, and you can tell your grandchildren how you left still on top.

Of course, we are just talking about another human being here. Oh, but what a great human being! Nice, and smart, and talented, and not at all the callous type of person you normally associate with Hollywood. Sure, I wanted to ask him how he got to where he was, and where he wanted to go from here, but it didn't seem the time or the place.

Perhaps one day he'll be driving through the Pasadena area and give me another call, a third call, out of the blue, and then we'll have the deep meaningful discussion that the two faces of a mirror always thought they should have about the world we live in and life in general. They tell me the third time's a charm.

And yet, even if that never happens, even if I never see him again or hear from him directly again, just knowing that he's out there bringing focus and vision to the name we share, has done wonders for my own life fulfillment. If our collective being can aspire to greatness, then maybe I do have hope and optimism for the future.

Or maybe it's 6 o clock in the morning and I've been working all night on something close to nothing, so ethereal and gossamer as life itself as to be barely noticeable. Funny thing, those dreams you have when you're awake. They're like a long distance phone call to a fourth-world nation: you only get every other word, and nothing makes sense. Fall into yourself, fall into a dream, love can last forever though impossible it seems; somewhere, in sleepland, a dream is dreaming us. I think I'll join it now. Fading... falling... free...

What's in a Name?

Part 3: Another Phone Call.

February 20, 1998. Not many details yet, but Michelle and I are making progress on inviting Adam over for a home-cooked meal... will post more at that point, if it ever happens...

Stop looking at me in that tone of voice. Please? You're making my headache worse. The Chinese voice in my head is begging you. Look, if you do, I'll be your friend. To those of you people on the Web who don't know that this is sarcasm, and actually want me to be your friend, I'll require 2 major credit cards (McDonald's gift certificates are acceptable) and three letters of reference. Just to be safe.
Disclaimer: This nonsense was spewed from the mind of one of those Adam Rifkins, on November 21, 1997.
For Part 1 of this story, please see What's in a Name, Part 1: The Awakening. By the way, Real Adam Rifkin, if you're reading this, email me your Snail Mail address so I can send you a thank you note for making my day. And leave me your new phone number while you're at it.