I was so sad to hear about Gene Wilder's passing. He had a big impact on me as a kid, and I was so honored to meet him as an adult.
While other girls lusted after Tom Cruise, I had a major crush on Gene Wilder. His acting and his movies represented the height of humor and passion to me. My parents practically raised me on Mel Brooks' movies, so I learned all about Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein ("It's pronounced, 'Frahnkensteen.'") But some of my favorite Gene Wilder movies were the ones he wrote and directed like "The World's Greatest Lover," in which Wilder played an actor named Ruddy Valentine who's hoping to impress his wife, the young Carol Kane (LOVE her in "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"), into believing he can be the next Valentino:
"I am unique!!!"
And Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother ("That's SHEER LUCK!"):
I also loved "The Woman in Red" where he worked with his wife (and one of my comedy idols) Gilda Radner:
So when I met Gene Wilder a few years ago, it was magical! I was at an audition at Chelsea Studios, and I'd heard he was there, rehearsing a play. I saw him in the halls, followed about by a troupe of young men. His cast, I presume. But I didn't want to bother him, so I focused on my work, and when it was time, I got into line to go into the audition. I had set my music book down by the wall, and bent to retrieve it. When I stood up, there I was: face to face with Gene Wilder.
He smiled at me like he recognized me, which seemed impossible, and he said, "Well, hello!"
I smiled back, and said, "Hello!"
Then he was jostled off by his troupe.
I wish I could have said more.
I would've thanked him for all his great work, for inspiring me and countless others to bring their heart and humor to the table. I would've told him that he set the bar - HIGH - for any man who came into my life: Not only would they have to be passionate, they would have to be FUNNY.
I love a man who makes me laugh, and I am so fortunate to have found that in my husband, Rob.
So thank you, Gene Wilder. As Goldie Hawn wrote, "You are free to grace the heavens with your light that lifted us all."