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Farewell to a True Gentleman

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Warning: I'm going to do a little name-dropping in this story, but not until the end.

Just one name, but it's a good name, so hang in there.

It all begins when I'm running along the Hudson River early one morning seven years ago and I notice a row of big white trailers parked near West Tenth Street, the kind of vehicles that indicate something is being filmed.

I have a gut feeling about it, so I run over to the nearest clipboard-clutching production assistant on the scene.

"What are they shooting?" I ask, breathing hard.

"Law and Order," she replies. She's not happy to see me, and who can blame her? My t-shirt is ragged, I haven't yet shaved and I probably haven't brushed my teeth, either. Really, I'm maybe one notch above homeless in appearance.

So imagine the look on her face when I then insist that I must see one of the stars.

She must get crazies like this all the time. Her eyes narrow to slits.

"Do you know him?"

"No."

"Look, I'm very sorry -- "

"I wrote a novel that he optioned for the movies. Please tell him I just want to say hello."

She writes my name and the name of the novel on the clipboard and tells me to wait. Then she enters one of the trailers, looking over her shoulder to make sure I don't follow.

Minutes go by. The sweat on my t-shirt is turning cold. I figure I'm going to be blown off, and that's okay. What can you do? You give it a shot, and hope for the best.

I'm about to give up and go home when out comes the production assistant.

"He'll see you now," she says.

Tingling from head to toe I enter the trailer and there he stands, the most perfectly groomed human being I have ever seen.

No exaggeration -- from head to toe, he is immaculate. His shoes are polished, his gray suit is just right on his lean frame, his moustache is neatly trimmed and every silver hair on his head is in place.

And here I am, looking like I'm about to ask him if he has any spare change.

Smiling as if I'm a long-lost brother, he reaches out to shake my hand. "Charlie," he says, "it's good to meet you."

I'm hoping he doesn't notice my sweaty palm. "Well," I stammer, "I was out running, and I noticed the TV trucks, so I figured, you know..."

"Yeah, sure. Glad you did! Can I get you anything? Coffee? Water?"

"No, no, I'm fine..."

We sit and talk about my book he's optioned, Found Money. The part of the aging ex-con is perfect for him. The screenplay has gone through a few rewrites in Hollywood, and we're both optimistic about the latest version.

The production assistant appears in the doorway.

"They need you on the set, Mr. Farina," she says.

So I reluctantly say my goodbyes to Dennis Farina, who died on Monday at the age of 69.

You always think of things you wished you'd told people when it's too late, but what the hell, here goes.

Dennis, your checks always seemed to arrive when I needed them most. Many thanks for that.

Dennis, you were a wonderful actor, and you would have been amazing in Found Money.

Dennis, you were a gentleman.

Charlie Carillo is a producer at "Inside Edition." His novels "Found Money," "Shepherd Avenue," "My Ride With Gus," "God Plays Favorites," and "The Man Who Killed Santa Claus: A Love Story" are available on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents.