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Sheila Blanchette Headshot

If He Looks Like Woody Allen

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Lesson one. Follow your gut. If he looks like Woody Allen, he is Woody Allen.

I usually follow my instincts. Last night I did not. I hesitated. I asked myself, "what the hell would Woody Allen be doing in Pawtuxet Village?"

But let's start at the beginning. Colleen Kelly Mellor invited me to a reading at the Elephant Room in Pawtuxet Village. I met her in cyberspace. I was writing a blog about the Sheperd's Tea Room and when I googled it I found her blog. She lives in Rhode Island and writes for the Providence Journal. I contacted her and several months later we met at a sidewalk cafe in Cranston for a cup of coffee. Amazing how these things happen.

The evening was sponsored by the Association of Rhode Island Authors and originally billed as a poetry reading but is now the Lively Literati. Colleen graciously added me to the group and I read from my latest novel, Take Me Home.

I am not great at public speaking but I am getting better. Like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Still, I walked to the Village early, leaving a half hour for a glass of wine at Basta to settle the fluttering butterflies. The menu looked awesome. Stuffed zucchini flowers, delicious pastas, chicken parmesan, saltimboca, braciola. I told the bartender I would return after the reading.

This has been the month of meeting writers. Other people obsessed with the written word. It has been fun and interesting and I have met a lot of great people.

It is also the month I am crossing paths with famous people but not meeting them. I need to meet famous people. People with influence, people who know people who can make things happen. We live in a world where Sarah Palin, her daughter Bristol, and Snooki get book deals. In America, it's not what you know but who you know.

At the writer's conference in Southampton I attended the play Spalding Gray: Stories Left To Tell. It is a wonderful, deeply moving story of the writer Spalding Gray taken from his journals and writings during his very prolific life. If you ever have a chance to see it, by all means check it out.

Five actors sat across the stage, three on stools and one at a table. I spent the evening moving to my left then my right, craning my neck to see around the large head of none other than Alec Baldwin who was sitting directly in front of me. I would have introduced myself but he never really turned around and established eye contact. He appeared to be keeping a low profile. I wanted to snap a picture of his neck to send my husband but I've heard the stories. The Words With Friends incident on a plane. A street scuffle with a New York photographer. I was afraid I might get thrown out of the theater but in retrospect I realized that might have been good publicity for me and my books. I would be involved in another Alec Baldwin incident. I could have made the cover of The Enquirer. What the hell was I thinking? This was my first moment of hesitation in the presence of celebrity.

Julie Andrews of Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music fame was further down the row. Not close enough to meet. I love The Sound of Music. I hoped to see her in the lobby after the show but this was not my night to meet movers and shakers.

Back to last night. As promised, I returned to Basta and ordered the risotto with roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes, pancetta, bacon and pecorino along with a glass of Pinot Noir. Delicious. Glancing over at a table of eight, I thought to myself, "Gosh, that guy really looks like Woody Allen. But what the hell would Woody Allen be doing in Cranston?"

I chatted with the bartender and thought about what it might be like to live a writer's life. Not that I don't live a writer's life but what if I made enough money to do this full time. I started taking notes on cocktail napkins. I know, how cliche, but I have a photo to prove it.

I have no photo of Woody Allen.

The bartender told me Woody Allen was dining in the restaurant. I looked over at the party of eight. Woody was missing. Did he go to the men's room? I grabbed my phone. It was dead. The bartender and I started plotting.

Woody is making a movie in Rhode Island. What the hell? I'm the girl who grew up in Rhode Island, right here near the Village. My character Josie Wolcott in Take Me Home grew up here too. What about my book becoming a movie? I need to get my book to Woody.

The bartender had an iPhone charger at the bar. She plugged in my phone. We started brainstorming and I ordered another Pinot Noir. "How will we do this?" she asked. "Don't worry, we'll work the shit out of something," I said. After all, I am the girl who asked Dave Matthews for a kiss.

She went in the kitchen to see if anyone back there knew what was going on with Woody. I discreetly spied on the party of eight. Emma Stone and Colin Firth are in Woody's latest movie. Oh my God, I would love to meet Colin Firth. He could play Andy Radcliffe in the movie version of Take Me Home. But no, they are not dining in Pawtuxet Village this evening. And their Woody Allen movie was just released. Who's starring in this one? Who else is at that table? i need to start subscribing to People.

The bartender returned with bad news. Woody had left the building. He snuck out the back door. Someone spotted him slouched in the back seat of a car, his famous slouchy hat pulled down low, his famous glasses peeking out from underneath.

The rest of the table got ready to leave. I scanned their faces but didn't recognize anyone. They could have been directors, producers, makeup people. I'll never know. I could have introduced myself but decided not to. It's one thing to throw yourself at someone famous but quite another thing to throw yourself at people who were dining with someone famous.

Now I know Woody, like Alec, has had his share of tabloid stories but the ladder to success is long and has many rungs. It's a difficult climb. Few make it to the top. Rumors abound. You don't know what's true or false even on the evening news, especially if you happen to watch a particular channel named after an animal that is sometimes red and sometimes gray. You know what I mean?

But I do know one thing. I need to trust my instincts. If he looks like Woody Allen, he is Woody Allen.