(NB: If you start to lose interest, jump down to the surprise ending.)
I GREW UP in Darien, Connecticut, where my father had a college friend named John Pierpont (“Mr. Pierpont” to me). Mr. Pierpont was a tall, elegant man. I’m not sure what his work was. Maybe he was on Madison Avenue. I assume people still know that means someone who worked in advertising.
At some point, well before he was 65, he either retired or was fired (I think it was the latter). He soon became the movie critic for the Darien Review. In Darien nearly everyone read the Review, but the town population at the time was under 15,000 people, so working as their movie critic was not a highly sought-after or well-paid job.
One day, Mr. Pierpont was working at home when there was a knock on the door. The Pierponts’ house was in a part of town with no sidewalks, and Mr. Pierpont wasn’t expecting anyone, so that was surprising.
When he opened the door, Mr. Pierpont found a short man unknown to him standing on his doorstep. “I’m sorry to bother you,” the man said, “but my car ran out of gas.” Out on the road in front of the house was a Porsche 356 Roadster.
Mr. Pierpont invited him in and offered the man his phone. The man called a local gas station and arranged for the garage to deliver a gallon of gas. While they waited for the delivery, they chatted in the backyard, next to the pool. Maybe there were beers.
After a while, a tow truck arrived with a gas can. The short man thanked Mr. Pierpont and left. As they were saying their goodbyes in the front yard, Mr. Pierpont’s daughter Margey arrived. She passed the man as he walked back to his car.
Margey was surprised that her father started talking about something he wanted Margey to do without mentioning why the man had been at their house.
“Dad!” she exclaimed. “Don’t you know who that was?” That’s when the movie critic for the Darien Review learned he had been entertaining the biggest movie star of the day, Mr. Paul Newman.