The State of Oklahoma sponsors a two-week summer arts institute each year at Quartz Mountain State Park, 18 miles north from Altus, where I live.
The Oklahoma Arts Institute is free to over 200 high school students and features some of the world’s best artists who lead the students through two weeks of intensive study, training, practice, and production.
It’s the only high school arts program in the United States that is absolutely free to all applicants.
In 2008, I volunteered to meet and greet that summer’s students.
Before the students arrived, I saw a tall attractive woman walking across the bridge from the state lodge to the performing arts center.
What caught my eyes besides her beauty was the short white filigree and lace dress she was wearing and the parasol she held above her head.
I walked across the bridge marveling at the use of a parasol in the 21st Century.
Once inside, I met other volunteers and waited for the students.
I saw the woman again, but this time I noticed a small dog carrying a Frisbee in its mouth.
My wife Nadya loves animals, especially cats and dogs. I knew if I came back with a picture of that dog walking around with a Frisbee in its mouth, I’d score some bonus points.
I asked someone, “Who is that woman with that dog?”
I thought I heard, “That’s Fanta Johnson.”
I thought to myself, Who would name their child after a soft drink?
I walked over to the woman and said, “Excuse me, ma’am.”
“May I take a picture–” a smile appeared on her face “–of your dog.” Then her smile spread across her face.
“Yes, of course,” she said.
She was tall. She was beautiful. Not just everyday beautiful. Not too-good-to-be-true beautiful. Down-to-earth model beautiful. Even without her make-up.
I told her my wife loves dogs and we had several and my wife would get a good laugh seeing a picture of her dog carrying the Frisbee in its mouth.
Fanta told me her dog was a Boston Terrier, then volunteered that it was neutered, that his name was Licorice, and that he carried his Frisbee around where ever they traveled.
“Think he’d want me to throw the Frisbee to him?”
“He loves to play with people.” Her voice was as silky as her skin and as soft as her eyes.
She called Licorice. He trotted over to me. I took the Frisbee from his mouth. We played backstage at the arts institute for several minutes.
Fanta told me she was looking for a female companion for Licorice.
I thought, What’s the point? He’s neutered.
I told her I knew of some people who raised the same breed of dogs as Licorice, and they had several litters that summer.
I gave her directions and told her what time I’d be there.
Students began to arrive, and I went to help them check in. I thanked the woman for letting me play Frisbee with her dog. I patted Licorice on the head and thanked him, too.
While I was helping students check in, I kept thinking: I know Fanta from somewhere. Maybe she’s a ballerina or an artist I’ve seen somewhere.
My thoughts were soon distracted by the hundreds of students.
About three hours later, I went to my friend’s place and met Fanta there.
We talked some more. I met her traveling companion. She never introduced him as her “boyfriend”–just her “friend”, and such a label is a relationship revealer in my part of the world.
He was pretty scuzzy looking. I thought, Man. Why do such beautiful women hang out with such scuzzy looking guys?
She didn’t buy one of my friend’s Boston Terriers.
Fanta told me thanks for trying to help and then said, “Good-bye. Maybe I’ll see you at the arts institute.”
I never made it back to the arts institute as they never called me back to help with anything.
A couple of days later, as I downloaded Licorice’s picture into my computer, I keep thinking to myself, I know Fanta from somewhere. But where?
Later that night as I drifting off to sleep, just at that twilight moment between reality and lucid dreams, the X-Men movie character Jean Grey popped into my head.
Fanta? That can’t be Fanta. Fanta is brunette. Jean Grey is red-haired. Besides Jean Grey was played by Famke Janssen, not someone named Fanta Johnson.
Then it hit me: Damned Okie accents!
I had spent nearly an hour chatting it up with Famke Janssen NOT Fanta Johnson as my Okie-accented friend had said.
I’ve been a Famke Janssen fan since her first movie. I enjoyed her performance as Jean Grey in the X-Men.
However, she is quite a good dramatic actress, and that’s the part of her movie career I admire the most.
Now I understood why she smiled so broadly when I asked to take a picture of dog. I’m sure she gets countless requests from fans to take her picture.
Hell, if I had known who she was, I would have asked her if I could take her picture.
Double Hell–I would have found a box to stand on and had one of the other volunteers take a picture of Famke and me together!
(I’m 5’6″ and Famke is a tall 5″10″. I’m Bogart to her Bacall! Or Cruse to her Holmes for you young pups out there.)
I’ve met a couple dozen celebrities in life, from movie stars to sports stars to singers/musicians to writers.
They really do look different up close and personal, especially without all the Hollywood make-up, and acting like “normal” people. At least some are.
Like Famke. She is one of the most unassuming, down-to-earth Hollywood actresses than I have ever met.
And I hope to meet her again some day.
Hopefully, a box will be nearby and handy.
And that’s how I met Famke Janssen.
Here’s the picture of Licorice and the Wikipedia.org entry
Famke Janssen‘s dog Licorice, a Boston Terrier photographed by Young Adult author Larry Mike Garmon (Universal Monsters, Feary Tales) at the Quartz Mountain Performing Arts Center, Quartz Mountain, Oklahoma, on Saturday, 14 June 2008. Famke was at the institute to give the opening address of the 31st annual Oklahoma Arts Institute student program. Garmon noticed the dog carrying his Frisbee, and he asked Famke if he could take a picture to show to his wife, and Famke replied, “Yes, he likes to have his picture taken.” Garmon then spent time throwing the Frisbee to Licorice. Famke explained that Licorice carries the Frisbee every where hoping someone will play with him. Garmon said he found Licorice to be the friendliest and most likable of the celebrity pets he has met. He also found Famke to be quite personable and alluring as well.