July 13, 2013
It was the summer of 1970. I was twelve. As I had done every previous summer, I was spending a week with my maternal grandparents in the country. As much as I loved the wide-open space and beauty of their tidy Iowa farm, something of a more glamorous nature was beckoning me to town. “Cold Turkey” was currently being filmed in various Iowa locations, with much of the action, taking place in nearby Greenfield. An anti-smoking farce starring Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, and Jean Stapleton, under the direction of Norman Lear (Creator of the yet to come “All in the Family” fame) had put stars in my eyes. After some heavy hinting, my grandparents announced one morning that we were headed to Greenfield to check out the current movie- making mania. Arriving in the town steeped in Americana, passing the iconic town square, we happened upon Dick Van Dyke. Under a large shade tree, relaxing between takes on a canvas director’s chair, he was chatting to a fellow seated next to him. My grandmother promptly pulled out a complimentary Pioneer Seed notepad and pen from her handbag, and took me over to obtain the coveted prize of this excursion, an autograph. The pen in hand did not cooperate, producing no ink. Horrors! Calmly, the actor spoke to the man next to him, “Norm,” (I think he said Norm.) may I borrow a pen? Quickly, a writing instrument was produced, and I walked away one Dick Van Dyke autograph richer, complete with indented, invisible scribbles from the unsuccessful attempt to produce ink from the first pen. (In retrospect, it is unfortunate that I did not have the foresight to obtain an additional autograph from Norman Lear!) Having been star stuck, in addition to what has been forgotten with the passing years, I can no longer recall anything that Dick Van Dyke said to me that memorable morning, only his comfortable demeanor, the kindness that he showed me and the happiness that I felt as a twelve year old and my brush with Hollywood in this small Iowa town.