Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul spends Valentine’s Day with his longtime love Laura Linney.
Laura Linney has always been good to me. If my childhood was governed by an obsession with Mary Tyler Moore, then my young adult years were guided by an equally strong attraction to Tales of City’s Mary Ann Singleton as played by Laura Linney. Frankly, I was nervous watching the PBS version of Armistead Maupin’s nearly iconic gay books—what actress could they possibly cast in the role requiring equal parts Midwestern innocence and captivating gumption? Laura Linney, that’s who. And I’ve had a crush on her ever since.
When I later fell into being a junior celebrity publicist (read all about it in my new humorous memoir Alphabet City: My So-Called Sitcom Life), I quickly learned to tamp down my idol worship. Up close and personal, the famous rarely lived up to expectations. So I was pretty nervous a couple of years ago when I found out I would be in very close proximity to Laura Linney while attending the Telluride Film Festival. My client Absolut’s LEVEL vodka was a sponsor and that meant I had entry to all the VIP receptions—including the very intimate opening night dinner. Laura lives part-time in Telluride, is a big supporter of the event, and had a movie Jindabyne in the festival so her attendance was all but assured.
The combination of high altitude and high probability of meeting Mary Ann Laura left me breathless. As I grazed the lavish buffet at the reception taking place inside the gorgeous apartment owned by Ex-NJ Governor Jon Corzine’s ex-wife, I tried to play it cool. But a woman in line behind me kept encroaching on my space, really getting on my nerves. I turned to get a good look at her—intending to give her my best rolling of the eyes—and was met by a captivating smile.
“Oh hi! How are you?” asked Laura Linney.
My heart skipped a beat. I had trouble taking in enough oxygen. It was all I could do to smile back. She looked at me with her piercing eyes.
“It’s been awhile. We worked together, right?” she asked.
My mind was spinning. Who does she think I am? Maybe Stephen Dorff, my celebrity doppleganger? But I don’t remember that they ever worked together. Should I tell her the truth? That I’m just some adoring fan. She continued smiling at me and I just wanted to be her friend.
“Well, I used to be at Condé Nast, maybe that was it?” I offered, hoping that I could make that wish come true. She smiled.
“Right, that’s it. A photo shoot or something. Anyway, it’s so good to see you!”
She leaned in and gave me a little shoulder-to-shoulder hug as we both awkwardly balanced our plates. As we chit chatted our way around the buffet commenting on the food and what films in the festival we each planned on seeing, I was sure she realized the mistake she had made. But she was so gracious, and such a good actress, that she never made me feel awkward or embarrassed.
“Well, I’ve got to go find my fiancé Marc. But we’ll catch up later.”
And she disappeared from my site, but not from my heart. Her performance made me love her even more.
For this past Valentine’s Day, Chef arranged for me to spend time with Laura—he bought me tickets to see her latest Broadway effort Time Stands Still co-starring Alicia Silverstone. True to form, Laura Linney was captivating in the role of a war photographer—her subtlety making the character much more engaging than written. Throughout the play, I caught myself laughing a little too loudly at her wise cracks and clapping a little too hard—like an over eager suitor.
As we passed the stage the door on the way home, paparazzi and autograph hounds were lined up.
“Want to wait her and see if she recognizes you? Maybe she’ll have dinner with you again,” Chef teased.
“No, right now she’s perfect in my mind. Wouldn’t want anything to screw that up.”
But at the end of the block, I snuck a glance back. As she ducked into a waiting car, I was pretty sure she spotted me and gave a little wave.