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Saturday, 9.18.04: George Maharis

George Maharis at Artisan WorksI'm postponing my boring Week in Review in order to tell you that last night I met George Maharis. You have to be a woman of a certain age to remember this heart throb, who starred in the TV series "Route 66."

For something to do, Jim and I decided to do "Gallery Night" -- a local event in which art galleries open their doors for evening receptions. The main attraction for us was Artisan Works, which is a vast converted factory-warehouse that houses a crazy mixture of exhibits, artist workshops, and party venues.

I saw the signs saying "New Works by George Maharis" and I heard the bandleader say "George Maharis doesn't like this song," as he struck up his rendition of "(You Can Get Your Kicks on) Route 66." But I didn't make the connection. It wasn't till we arrived at the exhibit hall (2, okay 3 glasses of wine later) that I saw George Maharis standing before me.

My normal behavior in these circumstances would be to skulk around, not get caught staring, and keep my thrill to myself. He was standing with a woman who was gushing about his art. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was my overdue middle-aged insight that everyone likes to be loved, no matter how bizarre or inappropriate. A fan is a fan.

I scooted next to him till he glanced at me.

"You're really George Maharis!" I said.

He smiled. "I really am."

detail of painting by George Maharis"I don't know a thing about your paintings, but I had a mad crush on you when I was a teenager!"

"A teenager!" He got that sort of man I must be old if she was ever a teenager expression on his face.

"Yes, I kept a list of my top ten actors and you were number one!"

Actually, as I do the math now, I was barely even a teenager. When the show came on in October 1960, I was 11, in sixth grade. So maybe I was in seventh grade -- all of 12 or 13 -- when I went through a phase of keeping lists of favorites. George Maharis beat out "77 Sunset Strip's" Efrem Zimbalist Jr and Roger Smith for an undisputed first place. He was bad. He was vulnerable. In my slow-blooming school girl way I had intense fantasies of him being sick or injured and me rescuing him and him falling in love with me. (Could it be a sign of early women's lib that my fantasies always had me as the one rescuing a vulnerable male instead of the traditional damsel-in-distress scenario?)

We blabbed about second careers. He saved his money so that he could say good-bye to the acting grind and taking orders from everyone. He loves being his own person, an artist. "I know just what you mean," I empathized. Then I ran off to find Sheila, who I was pretty sure would be in her workshop. She's only in her thirties, so she probably thought I was a complete idiot gushing over a 1960 TV celebrity.

George Maharis at Artisan WorksI realized I had my camera with me. Still determined to be bold instead of shy, I went back to Maharis, interrupted another artsy conversation, and said, "Could I be like a complete fan stalker and take your picture?" He laughed. We took pictures.

I decided I better look at his paintings, which were quite good and full of emotional encounters. I had to go back one more time to say, "Oh by the way, I love your paintings. They're very narrative, each one tells a story." I figured I better act like I could actually hold a discussion about art. He nodded.

Jim and I then floated off into the main party area and sat for the rest of the evening listening to the bands. Jim was probably aghast at my groupie behavior and gallantly offered to spend $3500 to buy me one of Maharis' paintings, but I said no. I have my memories.

 

NOTES

George Maharis 4 Me. Fan site with bio, including an overview of the "Route 66" TV series.
 

Artisan Works. New Works by George Maharis. Bold strokes and vivid hues describe George Maharis' work as well as they describe the man. Never one to tread quietly, Maharis' zest for life is evident in every stroke, every painting, whether it's a landscape, abstract, figure, bird or a flower. This exhibit highlights around fifty of his newest paintings about life and it's complicated journeys.

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