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Monday, September 3, 2012

knowing michael clarke duncan

Photo by Steve Granitz/ – Image courtesy
 – Image courtesy

It was my first time covering a red carpet. I was in New York at the Ziegfeld Theatre covering "The Green Mile." It was a freezing cold winter's night and I was ill prepared, wearing a dress with a light short velvet jacket. We were taking live questions from the MSN Live audience and asking the stars fan questions as they walked the red carpet. It was a technical nightmare as we tried to coordinate audience questions from around the world along with the stars walking the carpet.

Of course, all the stars (Tom Hanks etc.) walked the carpet but the one I remember most was Michael Clarke Duncan, the breakout star of "The Green Mile." At 6'5" and 300 pounds he towered over me but then he completely disarmed me with his HUGE smile.  I told him that we would be doing a live chat the next night and and as he spoke he reached towards me with his enormous hands and tucked the edges of my coat together and told me if I wasn't careful I would catch a cold.

The next night I was at a hotel in Manhattan nursing a wicked cold and laryngitis as we prepared to do the live chat. Michael was in his hotel and I was in mine. My assistant, Laura, was on the three way call typing for Michael as we hosted him in a 30 minute live chat event. He laughed when I reminded him that I was the freezing girl on the red carpet and said "See, see I TOLD you, girl!" Michael was charming, smart, well-spoken and funny.  We were touched at how he spoke of his beloved mom. After the chat was over Michael offered to come by and bring me some chicken soup. I said I would be OK. He offered to send a car over to bring me by his hotel and he'd order some matzoh ball soup. I mulled this over and called my husband to ask what he thought. His exact words were "Yeah, that's not going to happen. You'll end up in a tabloid because of chicken soup." I called Michael back and thanked him for the offer. He said my husband was a smart man. We exchanged phone numbers and spoke several times after that, including one call shortly after he was nominated for an Oscar. He seemed genuinely baffled but tickled by this nomination.

I interviewed Clarke Duncan several more times for other films including "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." On that steaming hot day at the racetrack, Michael was OVERJOYED to be participating in the junket (the press day when the stars talk with reporters). He loved being an actor and his laugh was wonderful and booming. I'll miss that.

It's always a loss when someone young dies, as Michael did today after suffering a heart attack several months ago. I'll always remember him as the man with the great big heart, willing to bring matzoh ball soup to a girl like me.

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