LIKE YOU REALLY CARE: Kurt Vonnegut 1922-2007

In memoriam o Kurt Vonnegut, I searched for a personal anecdote from someone who actually met the man. Obituaries are such a cold litany of one’s life. This post was perfect in that this gentleman probably knew Vonnegut as well as his closest ‘friends’. Thanks for the post, Arlo.

LIKE YOU REALLY CARE: Kurt Vonnegut 1922-2007

When I was a marketing intern at Steppenwolf (which seems like ancient history now), they were mounting a mediocre stage adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five.

The afternoon of opening night, I was standing out front smoking a cigarette wearing this alarmingly bright green blazer that I found at a thrift store a few years prior. Two drags into my cigarette, out walks Kurt Vonnegut. He’s standing three feet away from me. He removes his pack of unfiltered Pall Malls from his inside pocket and brings one to his mouth. I whip out my Zippo and light it for him.

“Did you win the Masters?”

It takes me a second, but I realize he’s asking me about my blazer. I reply, “No, but this is an original Arnold Palmer.” I open the blazer to reveal Arnold Palmer’s embroidered signature on the inside pocket. Kurt Vonnegut snickered.

For the next five minutes, he and I made smalltalk about golf. He seemed to enjoy watching golf but not necessarily playing it. I talked about the lessons I took when I was in junior high school and how bad I was.

The conversation was abruptly interrupted when Martha Lavey, the Artistic Director of Steppenwolf, came out of the theater with some of Vonnegut’s handlers. One handler said, “Okay, we’re going to dinner now,” in an effort to hurry him away from the oddly dressed intern. So we thanked each other for the time and said our goodbyes.

I learned the next day that Vonnegut was sheepish all day. He avoided conversations with anyone wanting to blow smoke up his ass. He sat in corners. I also learned that he really only seemed interested in two random conversations that day: the conversation with me and a conversation with a janitor about the Bears.

The greatest celebrity encounter of my life was meeting Arlo Guthrie. Obviously. Making Kurt Vonnegut laugh is a very close second.

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1 Comment

  1. This is a great story; thanks so much for sharing it. Since posting the story of my own brief encounter with KV on my blog, I’ve found some great stories on the blogosphere from different folks who have met them. This is another great one, and a great memory I’m sure.


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