Keeping cool with Mr. Keitel

Yesterday, I had a chance encounter with one of my favorite actors, the great Harvey Keitel. And, yes, I gave him one of my books.

Mr. Keitel is in Albuquerque for a film project. He was meeting with a couple of producer types on Sunday, in a room just off the lobby of a local hotel. As part of the hotel's Mother's Day brunch festivities and to promote the nearby Southwest Book Fiesta, I was supposed to do a book-signing in that very same room.
He sat facing the door, and I recognized him immediately. We've all seen that face on the big screen so many times -- Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Smoke, The Piano, Moonrise Kingdom, on and on -- and he looked exactly like himself, if you know what I mean. He was in workout clothes and hadn't shaved in a day or two, but it was no question Harvey freaking Keitel.

Well, this is awkward. I'm supposed to do an event in this room, and Mr. Keitel and friends are having a business meeting that I absolutely do not want to disturb. I set down my bag of books and walked over to the seated trio and sort of loomed there until they looked up at me. I explained the situation and told Mr. Keitel that I of course had recognized him and was a huge fan. He jumped to his feet and shook my hand, chuckling, saying, "I thought you were with our movie."

He said they'd be leaving soon. I said I'd set up at the other end of the room and try to steer people away from them. Then, with the producer guys sitting there waiting, Mr. Keitel started asking me questions. So, you're an author? You're local? Why kinds of things do you write? I told him my first book, LONELY STREET, had been made into a 2009 movie and he asked me who starred and said he was friends with Joe Mantegna, who played the villain. We did another round of nice-to-meet-yous and I was about to turn away when I caught myself and said, "Hey, could I give you one of my books?"

I dug through the bag of random books that I'd brought over from the Book Fiesta and, sure enough, there was one copy of the perfect book to give to Harvey Keitel, my casino heist novel LOST VEGAS. I told him
he'd inspired one of the characters in the book, a retired Mob button man who runs a small-town casino. The character's nickname is Nicky Pop-Pop. Mr. Keitel laughed at that, thumbing through the pages and repeating, "Nicky Pop-Pop."

I excused myself and went to my table at the other end of the room. They continued their meeting for some time, but there were tall wingback chairs in the way and I couldn't really see or hear much from where I sat. Besides, I was busy with my phone, sending fanboy text messages to my wife.

A few people trickled in and out, and I handed them bookmarks advertising the Book Fiesta. Only one recognized Mr. Keitel, and the actor was charming with him, too.

After a while, the movie trio departed. As they were going out the door, Mr. Keitel showed me he was carrying my book and thanked me again and wished me luck.

So, there you have it. My most recent brush with greatness. I managed to keep my cool, have a nice chat and not go all stalker on Mr. Keitel. I kept my cellphone camera in my pocket. And I put one of my books in his hands.

Mr. Keitel seemed like a truly nice guy. Smart, well-spoken and interested in other people.

He'd be so perfect as Nicky Pop-Pop.