My first words to Sean Astin, after introducing myself, were: “Did you make it back to Astoria this summer for the Goonies reunion?”
Astin, 39, smiled. He was just 14 when Goonies was released, and it became a cult classic. The son of actress Patty Duke has gone on to star in many other films, including Rudy and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. To some fans, however, he is still Mikey Walsh, who discovers a map to a hidden pirate treasure in a sea cave on the Oregon coast.
“I was there!” he exclaimed with a smile. “And it was one of the highlights of my summer. I could hardly believe the people I met from all over the world, even Lithuania. I had no idea that Goonies had made such an impact internationally.”
Currently, Astin said, he and his wife of 18 years, Christine, are raising funds to produce and direct an independent film about two teen-age girls — one Christian, one Jewish — hiding from the Nazis in World War II Denmark. If all goes well, he said, he’ll be ready to roll out the movie next fall. I suggested that would be just in time for the 2011 BendFilm festival.
Everyone, it seemed, wanted a piece of Astin at Saturday night’s Ghost Tree feast at Bend’s Pronghorn Club. Having grown up in show business, he was used to the drill. He seemed to truly enjoy his conversations with dozens of Central Oregonians. And he wasn’t the only celebrity visitor doing so.
Aimee Garcia — best known for her role as Veronica Palmero on The George Lopez Show — was a delight. A self-described “Mexi-rican” of dual Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, Garcia, 31, grew up in Chicago, where she was a triple major in economics, journalism and French at Northwestern University. When I told her I had been an editor for the Michelin Guides, she engaged me in dialogue en français as her boyfriend of two years, Kurt Charron, looked on bemused.
A highlight of the evening for me was meeting Ricky Watters, a five-time all-pro running back for the 49ers, Eagles and Seahawks. Two nights previously, I had been introduced to Watters’ manager, Lisa Silvera, of Miami-based See PR. I told her that I had Watters’ No. 32 jersey still hanging in my closet from 10 years earlier. “I’m going to see to it that you get that signed,” she said.
On Saturday, Watters was in the company of John Nolan, owner of Bend’s Victorian Café. The two broad-shouldered men, both about 6-foot-1, were not hard to find. And Watters, 41, a “class act” who now devotes much of his time to his Urban Youth League foundation, smiled broadly as he put ink to fabric and signed my shirt. Never mind that it’s almost illegible. I can see the “#32.”
Actor Isaiah Washington (Area Q, Grey’s Anatomy), in the company of Deschutes Brewery founder Gary Fish, looked professorial in a salt-and-pepper goatee and horn-rim glasses. An Air Force veteran, Washington, 46, said he had discovered through DNA testing that his mother’s ancestors had come from the West African nation of Sierra Leone. He now devotes much of his time, energy and money to his non-profit Gondobay Manga Foundation to assist the people of that country, one of the poorest on Earth.
Co-emcees Josh Daugherty and Sha-hid Ealy were terrific. Actor-director Daugherty, as it turned out, attended the same high school as myself (“Give ’em the axe!”) … years apart. He and Ealy, an MTV producer, maintained a lively repartee with celebs and each other. Kudos to event founder Ryan Chackel, publisher of Central Oregon Magazine, for bringing them in to host.
I also enjoyed meeting freestyle skier Grete Eliassen, Olympic swimmer Margaret Hoelzer and retired pro basketball star Detlef Schrempf. And there were a lot more celebs whose hands I didn’t have the opportunity to shake: actors Claudia Christian (Babylon 5) and Eric Close (Without a Trace); basketball players Terry Porter, Antonio Harvey and Bob Gross; football player Alex Molden; sports broadcaster Bill Schonely; golfers Casey Martin and Julie Wells. But there’s always next year.