The curtain rises in Toronto during the late 1990‘s. It was a strange and wonderful time. Scientists were cloning sheep and plaid flannel was a socially accepted fashion norm. Microsoft was king and Jennifer Aniston’s hair was its queen. Downtown Toronto was my home.
Each fall, Toronto hosts The Toronto Film Festival (TIFF). If you’re a Torontonian, you probably fall into one of two categories: TIFF fan or TIFF non-fan. You see, real life has to go on during TIFF, but without a management team it can be challenging. Celebrities are lurchin’ all over the place. Celebrity stalkers roam freely and without shame. The sidewalks are patrolled by security teams and PR people. Photographers and reporters stake out alleyways and back door entrances. Sections of sidewalk are partitioned by velvet ropes and red carpeting, and exclusive boutiques are shut down so celebrities like Tom Cruise can shop privately — with no risk of inhaling your poverty-scented breath.
Much of the celebrity action at TIFF takes place in the Bloor-Yorkville area of the city. This is because the streets in that part of town are paved with gold and the waitstaff at restaurants will chew your meat for you, should you so desire. It is home to posh shops, glamorous salons, and a lot of botox. And it is in that area of the city that I met Gérard Depardieu.
The mind has a way of blocking the details of unfortunate events. I don’t know where I was going on that crisp September day, but I do know I was going fast. Real fast. Weaving in and out of human traffic, striding past double wide strollers and their golden retriever attendants, gliding between pockets of the elderly. I would not be slowed by mile-long TIFF ticket lines or impenetrable walls of the celebrity-crazed. No, I thought: I will not be slowed today.
I probably should have noticed the red carpet situated at the entrance of the hoity-toity shop. And I probably should have noticed the foam railings and celebrity stalkers amassed in the area. But I didn’t. I didn’t notice Team Gérard making its way across the sidewalk, and I didn’t notice my body slipping between two of Gérard’s people like thread through the eye of a needle.
I do remember the moment my body slammed into Gérard’s. I remember the thud the front of my body made as it slammed squarely into the side of his. The dull, heavy thump that bodies make when they hit one another at speed. My sternum bore the brunt of the blow. I remember bouncing backwards – my feet left the ground entirely – and I remember that his body was completely unaffected by the impact mine made upon his. I remember the yelp that escaped my mouth, stunned for a moment, as I staggered in reverse. Gérard looked down, surprised to see me there. He began to say something, but a man slid between us, pushing me back. I tried to apologize, but another man with outstretched arms blocked my approach. Gérard’s team hurried him forward to his awaiting vehicle, but not before he looked back at me. Our eyes locked for a moment. It was as if the world stopped turning for an instant. It was quiet and still. There was a… what was it? Tenderness in his gaze?
And I thought: did I go to high school with that guy?
When I saw Gérard’s photo in the paper the next day (after his film premiere), I realized that no, I did not go to high school with that guy. That I had, in fact, crashed into one of France’s highest paid, most recognizable actors. And that Gérard Depardieu had touched my boobs whether he wanted to or not.
All in all, TIFF was pretty good that year.