Bye Bye, Dennis
All That’s Left Are the Memories
BY DAVID S. LEWIS
One of the fun things about Livingston, especially if you publish a newspaper like this one, is running into people like Dennis Quaid. You walk down the street headed for the hardware store one afternoon, and there's this movie star headed up the other way. It was always surprising how small he seemed (compared to his screen presence), though he's a man of average size. You say, Hey, Dennis, he flashes that angular Dennis Quaid grin, then you go home and tell your wife.
But no more.
Quaid has put his 400 acre Paradise Valley property on the block— once the digs of film legends Warren Oates and Sam Peckinpah, tales of whom abound in Livingston—some of the best came from Tim Oates, Warren's son, now living in Atlanta.
Quaid's move is a story you read in People magazine and the Wall Street Journal, where they refer to his rather small spread (in Montana terms) as sprawling, the size of New York's Central Park.
Like so many these days, Quaid was a part-time resident, a fair weather Montanan, and now has his sights set on Hawaii, and surfing—the new “love of his life.”
First Meg Ryan left the area (the couple split up years ago), and now Dennis. We won't see them at Pamida anymore—or Mark's In and Out, although actually they both waited inside a large white SUV while a less famous person ran to the counter for burgers and chili dogs. That's the beauty of Mark's In and Out if you're a movie star.
No matter what people say, though, no matter how jaded Living-ston folks have become regarding celebrities, they still get a kick out of having them around, even though they play it down, while remaining at least partially attentive to news regarding their interactions. And so there’s this.
In July 1997, we wrote a cover story on Everything That Rises, the rather well done Turner Enter-prises/Dennis Quaid cable TV movie about a Western ranch family facing foreclosure, in which the husband (Quaid) carelessly allows his son to be injured while riding on the roof of a pick up. It was a fine “small” movie and story that had integrity and honest moments. Always searching for relevant copy, and after having covered and photographed the actual filming in downtown Living-ston, we published attributed quotes from the many reviews that came out the following summer, from across the country, when the movie aired. It was a handy way to do the story (since Dennis Quaid rarely spoke to us in interview form). Quaid's production, which he direc-ted and starred in, was well received, even by snarky film critics. Now, keep in mind, these were the days when my office was the corner of my kitchen in a one bedroom apartment. Yet we were covering movie stars, from Robert Redford to, well, Dennis Quaid. My partner at the time, Thomas Burns (he had a similar office), told me that particular issue was flying off the stands, and that he saw a guy pick up an issue at Pamida, turn quickly to the story with all the positive reviews of Everything That Rises, and say to himself, aloud, This is great. The guy really liked the story.
“Know who that was,” Burns asked me.
“Who?” I asked.
Later, I hoped he remembered that moment, all the favorable quotes we published, and the publication, because unfortunately we ran afoul of both Meg and Dennis a few years later and here's how.
As usual, every month, we crammed most of the work related to publishing into a rather brief period of time, dozens of ads, sometimes big interviews (movie stars, governors, congressmen), and worked until all hours of the night because it was just the two of us. In one instance, Burns had had it up to his bleary eyeballs, and wanted me to help him out. We had a sizable ad for a new foo foo restaurant called Rumours (foo foo, yes, but the food was great), and had run out of creative juices, at 3:00 a.m., with just hours to go before press time. Long story short, we inadvertently used an image of Meg Ryan that we had not intended to publish, with a caption, inserted earlier to amuse only us, that read, Rumours—it's where I go to get away from Dennis.
One last minute crisis had led to another, and that caption actually got into print, I don't know how. But what I do know is that Meg and Dennis (more so Dennis) were not happy about it (we may have hit too close to home). I took a brutal call from one of Meg's people, who let us off with a scolding, and the fact that my office was in a corner of my kitchen seemed to be the pivotal factor in their sense of forgiveness. Gotta love those movie stars.
I recall encountering Dennis Quaid, and Meg, in July of 2001, at the Chico Hot Springs Saloon. Dennis was there playing with his band, and to quote from a review the Blues promoter John Taillie wrote for the Pioneer at that time…
“[T]he Chico Saloon was packed with people. I don't mean just crowded, I'm talking packed like sardines in a can…When I stepped into the bar at about 9:15, the place was buzzing with anticipation. Lots of very pretty young women encircled the stage securing their places right in front, maybe hoping to get a smile or wink from this film star turned rock musician. The rest of the crowd consisted of a wide variety of folks, all there to see and hear what this band was all about.”
The band was Dennis Quaid and Sharks (we probably won't be hearing from them anymore either), and while the review did not exactly focus on the music (bar band stuff), Quaid and his minstrels thoroughly entertained the crowd in a night that was one for the books. I had the feeling, during the next night's performance, that what a strange place this is, out in the middle of nowhere, watching a movie star dance on top of a bar with his electric guitar, while his wife (actually they had already split) sheltered herself from the crowd by hiding behind the band. Meg Ryan is not a large woman, nor does she seem to be the party animal that Dennis is (his history of excess is documented), and so it was remark-able to see this diminutive self-protective movie star make her way through a virtual mosh pit in search of safety in some dark corner of the Chico Saloon.
Later, during a break, Dennis answered a few questions outside. It was a warm summer night, he was damp with sweat, and several young women in their early 20s were totally ga ga, really star struck. I clawed my way to the fore. Dennis spoke calmly and politely, we got a few quotes, then it was back to the Saloon for another set.
My next encounter (actually a non-encounter) with Dennis Quaid was through an intermediary. Mind you, this was long before I was married, and after he was divorced. While sitting at the Murray minding my own business, an attractive, voluptuous dark haired woman sat at the bar, two seats down. She was friendly, easy to talk to, and, well, single, that was obvious. In the course of our conversation, she told me she was staying at a friend's place in the valley, whose identity became obvious. She was up from Texas (Quaid lives in Austin) visiting her boyfriend at his Paradise Valley home, and though she wished to say no more, when I asked if the initials D.Q. meant anything to her, the cat was out of the bag. It was written all over her face.
Her problem was that she had been left alone at the ranch while D.Q. had been delayed making a movie, for 2 weeks or so, if I recall. And so, I kid you not, she was in need of company, in a friendly Texas sort of way, of course. I gave her my contact info (she wouldn’t give me hers), we said good bye, and of course I never heard from her. Imagine then when she talked to Quaid on the phone, asking if he knew a guy around town by the name of (me), hitting on his girl yet. He probably said something like—Not that guy again.
Sorry, Dennis. And bye bye.