Bridge at Campo San Moisè, 2002
I’ve had several brushes with celebrities. But let’s be clear. They were all coincidences. I was just sitting across the airplane aisle from Phyllis Diller and, on another flight, in the seat beside Billie Jean King. Ali McGraw and I had a conversation about Scottish Terriers in a hotel lobby. But we said nothing of love meaning you never have to say you’re sorry. Amy Pohler and Will Arnett were really just out walking with their baby a few weeks ago when we ran into them. I’m sure neither Elizabeth Taylor nor Colonel Harlan B. Sanders (of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame) ever barked at some obsequious assistant, “GET ME THAT BONNEY GUY!” before we ran into them.
My wife and daughter and I were ending a two-week trip to Italy. It had rained the night before. But it being our last full day in Venice I’d been out early with a video camera my wife had given me for Christmas.
I was standing at the foot of the bridge at the Campo San Moisè when I realized that I was expected back at our hotel in minutes to meet the art historian who was going to give us a tour of the Academia museum. As I stepped up on the bridge I noticed an interesting arrangement of gondolas approaching.
I don’t exactly remember what happened next. I’m told I went into a slow-motion spin and fall. The arm that held the camera was fully extended and swung around in a wide and accelerating arc that ended when the video camera slammed down violently against the stone surface.
Puzzled to find myself splayed out on the wet stone step, I stood up and got my bearings. The camera was all banged up, but continued to record, albeit with a noticeable ticking sound. (Thank you, Mr. Sony.)
My right pant leg was torn open from the knee down and my right knee was bleeding profusely. With the remainder of the pant leg pressed against my knee, I hobbled back to the hotel, rushed up to our room, washed my knee and changed into another pair of pants before rushing back downstairs to meet the guide.
Roberta was a wonderful guide. On the walk over to the Academia she told us about her minor role in the wild and decadent party scene of early 1990s Venice. As we got into the Academia I noticed that my knee had started to bleed again. I concealed it for a while, but eventually it got worse. When I finally stopped it, one leg of my khakis was stained dark red.
But that wasn’t the point of this story. The point is that there weren’t many people in the Academia that morning. For most of our tour, it was just the three Bonneys, our guide and a stray woman walking with us who, when she finally turned around, was revealed to be actress Emma Thompson. My daughter and I noticed Thompson first when we noticed that she was eavesdropping on our guide. We’d have welcomed her company. Roberta didn’t care, either, except that she seemed to have Thompson confused with Gwyneth Paltrow. I asked Ms. Thompson if she’d care to join us. She politely declined and moved on to the next room by herself.
Gosh, I hope it wasn’t my bloody leg that scared her away.