I’ve been hesitant about writing about my encounter with actor Justin Long, because I figured most of you have never heard of him. But yesterday, when I was at the checkout line at the local grocery store, I saw his picture plastered on the glossy cover of this week’s People Magazine. There he is shown in blue swimming trunks, while cavorting in the Caribbean surf with his bikini-clad girlfriend, actress Drew Barrymore. The story is really about Drew, but still, I figure if he’s big time enough for People Magazine, he’s big time enough for a post on “Derailed.”
A few months back, I was collecting tickets on one of my afternoon trains, when a thin, boyish-looking guy, sporting razor stubble and Wayfarer sunglasses came walking down the aisle. He had just left the bar car and was carrying an army green duffel bag over his shoulder and a bag of newly purchased pretzels in his hand. I remember thinking that he looked a little nervous and suspicious. It was as if he were trying hard not to be recognized. This made me think that he was either:
A.) A terrorist.
B.) In the witness protection program.
C.) Some sort of celebrity.
It wasn’t till I spoke with Seth, our bartender, that I found out “C” was the right answer.
“Did you see that guy with the pretzels?” asked Seth.
“Yeah.” I answered.
“That’s the guy from the movie ‘Accepted.”
I had never seen the movie ‘Accepted,’ but Seth seemed pretty excited that he had just sold this guy pretzels. I must have gotten caught up in Seth’s excitement, because when I collected his ticket, (he was seated in the last seat, hidden in a corner) I asked:
“So, I hear you’re an actor?”
“Yeah,” he answered, seeming a little embarrassed.
“The bartender tells me that you were in the movie ‘Accepted.”
“That was me,” he whispered, as almost to say; can you please keep it down?
I ignored this, and continued with my inquisition.
“What’s your name?”
“Justin WONG?” I asked loudly (funny, he didn't look Chinese.)
“No, No,” he whispered, “Long…you know, like the opposite of short.”
He now began slouching down in his seat.
“What brings you to Connecticut?”
“I’m from Fairfield and I came home to visit my parents.”
“Hey,” I said. “Do you know that actor…Jesse something…you know, the kid from ‘Flags of Our Fathers?”
“Yeah, yeah…that’s him. “You know, he’s also from Fairfield, and he’s ridden my train a couple of times. He seems like a nice guy.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I know him. Our parents are good friends.”
“Well it was nice to meet you Justin.”
“Nice to meet you too,” he said.
He seemed to be relieved when I walked away.
I continued collecting tickets till I came upon a group of guys in their twenties. I asked if they had ever heard of an actor named Justin Long and I pointed in his direction. They turned around and stared. One guy said that Long played the cool “Mac” guy against the nerdy Bill Gates’ look-alike PC guy in the current Apple Computer commercials.
“Oh, that’s him?” I asked.
Now that I had seen some of his work, I began to respect Mr. Long as a true artist. The next time I passed by him, I stopped and explained that I write a blog called “Derailed” and it contains a lot of stories about my celebrity encounters. I then began to reach for my cell phone and asked if he’d be willing to take a picture with me for one of my posts…
“No… that’s okay,” he said…"I’d rather not.”
I was tempted to thumb through the “pix” section of my phone and show him my photos with Gwen Stefani and “Mikey” from the Life Cereal commercials.
“What,” I’d ask, “You think you’re too big for my little blog? You think you’re a bigger star than Gwen or Mikey? Huh punk?”
I lost my nerve, and in the end I thanked him for his time and wished him luck.
Since our encounter, I have seen Justin Long all over the place (especially since he started dating Drew). He was in the most recent “Die Hard” movie with Bruce Willis and he is now, apparently, Hollywood’s hottest new actor.
I hope when he gets his first Oscar, he thanks the “Conductor to the Stars” for giving him his first big break.