In the Emmy-winning series, Friday Night Lights, actress Connie Britton slays as a smart woman in a dumb town. In Dillon, TX, where high school football is religion, she’s the sexy school principal working to be seen as more than the coach’s wife. The been-there-done-that parent managing a hormone-charged teen girl. The rock of her family. In other words, she’s the person we all hope to be. We’ve been binge-watching for weeks.
Rewind to 2002, long before Britton’s Hollywood A-List onslaught, when she was just starting to get her acting mojo and was the guest of honor at a San Francisco charity event supporting breast cancer. My friend, Janice, the event producer and a breast cancer survivor, invited me to donate a work of art to the silent auction. I offered this yellow NOW painting.
I’d shown my work very little at this point. This series of silhouettes, my shout-out to the universe for a soul mate and the first serious body of work I’d ever made, was just coming into its own. The piece stood on an easel, on a roof deck, beneath a brisk, starry NorCal sky. Music played. Hors d’oeuvres passed. Britton mingled.
With just five minutes left in the auction, I noticed several people had bid for my piece, including Britton, whose $500 topped the list. She walked over to the bid table with Janice, a few paces from where I stood chatting with a collector couple who’d purchased the very first piece I ever sold, a few months earlier.
Connie scanned the bids, looked at her watch and said in a hushed yet firm voice to Janice, “Just make sure I get that painting.” My friends and I exchanged raised eyebrows, each recognizing this small, sidebar moment as notable. A single yet bright light affirming that I was moving in the right direction down the dark street of life as a creative. If the co-star of the quiet masterpiece, The Brothers McMullen, just gave me props, perhaps the life choices I made to get here weren’t ridiculous after all. My collector friends silently high-fived me, pleased by their own recent decision to acquire my work.
Connie did indeed get that yellow painting. And I heard later that she hung it over her bed. This deepened my soul satisfaction further, because:
1) One’s bed is sacred ground, an indisputable place of honor for any artwork.
2) Britton’s party date and boyfriend at the time was Christopher Lawford, son of actor Peter Lawford. Peter Lawford was not only a member of Sinatra’s Ratpack but was JFK’s brother-in-law, having been married to the president’s sister, Patricia Kennedy. I found secret pleasure in the notion that this ravishing strawberry-haired thespian and a bona fide Kennedy were making what Shakespeare called “the beast with two backs” neath the soulful gaze of my aspirant silhouette.
God Bless America!
“Just make sure I get that painting.”
Those seven words still fill me up. One tiny sentence. One massively telling instance.
Most of us enjoy far too few of these. And when they do happen, we don’t acknowledge or even recognize them for what they are – split atoms … releasing the nuclear capability we all have inside. So, the next time you enjoy a small success, an affirmation, a clear-pitched moment, stop and pat yourself on the back. Let the light shimmer in the depth of your stomach and outward through your skin. Because you work hard! And we’ll all need that light when the street darkens again.
Connie, I haven’t seen you since that evening 15 years ago, but if you get this message, Thanks for the vote of confidence when I needed it. Love your work too! Please keep it coming.