One of things that's made me a devoted Tom Hanks fan is that, from his TV sitcom to his Oscar winning film career, his work has not only entertained me. It's made me feel less lonely. It's also enlightened and illuminated me -- taught me things about history, about the world around me, provoked me and inspired me. During my TV career in New York City, I had four encounters with Mr. Hanks, all work-related, and every one terrific. One encounter with Tom Hanks soothed my soul at a moment when I wanted to cry and rage at life because of news I'd just received on the phone from Manhattan. This was when I was in a Beverly Hills hotel preparing to interview Tom Hanks during the press junket for FORREST GUMP (1994).
Then something changed while I was out of town. She called my hotel room. "Don't panic," she began in a most compassionate tone, "but Richard's body is not responding to medications as it should. We've done all we can do. I think you need to call his parents. I'm so sorry."
We finished our conversation. I prayed to Heaven for strength before I called his loving, helpful mother in Tennessee to tell her. I was about to call the airline for the next flight to New York and reschedule my return trip due to emergency. I'd leave without doing the press interviews.
The phone rang again. It was Richard's doctor again. "I told him I called you," she said. "He told me to call you again. He does not want you to fly back without having done your work. He's adamant about that. He wants you to do your work. Don't ask me how I know, but I feel in my heart that nothing drastic will happen before you get here. He has a few days." She was correct in her hunch. Richard's parents, his grandparents and I were near when he passed away.
Tom Hanks had won an Oscar for PHILADELPHIA in which he played a man with AIDS fighting for his civil rights in court. The young man I loved, the person I was caregiver to, had AIDS. I felt restricted about mentioning it in the workplace because, at that time, coming out could still cost you your job. I needed the TV job I had then to take care of us both and pay the rent.
Inside, I was shattered. I had to focus on my questions. I prayed I'd be good and conduct a smart interview. I walked into Tom Hanks' room. He stood up, smiled, and approached me with such a warmth that it instantly calmed me down and cracked through my heartache. He'd recognized me from my previous job, at VH1. He made me smile. He made me comfortable. He liked my questions. He was a helper. He helped me pull it together, to focus, and to get through that painful morning. He doesn't know this. One day, I hope he does. Here's the trailer.