Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Backstory

{You Asked for It}

Ok kids, I was just going to leave it at that, but it seems you want the whole story. Here goes:

P's dad's cousin, the charismatic and globe-trotting Uncle Arthur, happened to be in Jaipur this week and invited P. and I to join him for dinner at his beautiful hotel. We love Uncle Arthur. Everyone loves Uncle Arthur. He mentioned that his "English friend" was in town "filming," and that she might join us for drinks. So just as P. was about to take a sip of his Kingfisher beer, who should appear like a silver-haired angel but Judi Dench, exclaiming, "Oh, Dahling Aaah-thah!" She sat right down next to P., who didn't skip a beat and had her clasping her hands in delight within moments. Judi just so happens to be here in Jaipur filming The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a film about a bunch of old English pensioners who move to India instead of an old folk's home. Uncle Arthur, an actor, has been friends with Judi since they met at a play some twenty years ago.

So. Dame Judi is TO DIE FOR. She's absolutely striking: petite, busty, and a veritable pixie of a woman with her chic, choppy short hair, twinkly eyes and regal confidence. But more than that, she's enchanting. She radiates with warmth, wit, humor and sincerity. She was wearing a simple loose white Indian kurta and cropped white trousers with a fabulous printed cotton Anokhi scarf, no makeup, and a bunch of funny bracelets I imagine her grandson must have made. The Great Dame is the kind of person you'd end up telling all your secrets to if you had the chance. You guys, she was ABSOLUTE HEAVEN. She was so charming and hysterical and asked us all about our projects in India, delighted us with her adventures in Rajasthan (she's a most excellent raconteur), and was really insightful about the disparity between the classes here, which is pretty startling to any Western eyes new to Jaipur. She kept leaning in to listen to P. and couldn't get enough of him. It was SOOO cute. As my friend Ash put it, homeboy's got GAME.

And you wordsmiths will love this: When the Marigold crew was staying at the famous Oberoi Hotel in Udaipur (which has a gold-and-lapis tiled moat around the entire palace so that one can swim from one suite to another) Judi swam over to Maggie Smith's room to see her, and Maggie said, "Didn't you bring the Bananagrams?" (a Scrabble-like word game my family is *obsessed* with.) Judi said, "Oh heavens, I've forgot." So she swam back to her room, tied the little banana bag on top of her her head with a scarf and breaststroked back to Maggie's, where they played Bananagrams all evening.

Ok. So I only told you guys half the story yesterday: Midway through Judi's Bananagrams tale, fellow-castmember Bill Nighy wandered over and said hullo, looked around vaguely, and asked, "Shall I join you?" The alien inside my body that addresses movie stars by their first name replied, all non-nonchalantly, "Yes of course, Bill, please join us." (?!) So he pulled up a chair and motioned around with his crippled T-Rex hands for a waiter (he has a tendon problem that's caused his pinkies and ring fingers to permanently contract). Bill was quite dapper, marvelously, effortlessly amusing and very laid-back. (It's worth mentioning that both Bill and Judi look about a decade younger in person than they do onscreen.) Anyway, P. totally stole the show and had them all in stitches, and when we had to leave to go to dinner Judi clutched P's hand and said, "please do make sure to update Arthur so he can let me know how the rest of your time is. Really, to be young and in love in India! I really am jealous. Enjoy your time, dear!" Her husband, the love of her life, died ten years ago, and Uncle Arthur said she's hopelessly romantic and gets misty-eyed over young love. *Sigh.*

Judi left to go have dinner with Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Peter O'Toole and the rest of the cast. Bill kind of bowed and saluted with his claw-hand and wandered off in no particular direction, and Uncle Arthur took a very awe-struck and delighted P. and me to dinner. I'm still pinching myself, and I can't get the Billy Mack song from Love, Actually out of my head.

Life in Jaipur is all down hill from here.

33 comments:

  1. Dude! What a surreal evening! A memory for life :) I'd have died on the spot, and turned into a blabbering mess. The Bananagrams story is so cute, I love the image of Judi and Maggie playing in their swimsuits (at least in my mind they're in their cozzies), amazing.

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  2. RIDONK RIDONK! Totally worthy of a Dowd A+. I prob would have wet myself in that situation. Love that you and P. rocked it. (Note to self: My trip to Jaipur involved getting rained on repeatedly and stepping in cow manure so deep that it got inside my shoe. Somehow, your stay there seems slightly better.)

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  3. I had my hands clasped and my mouth wide open while reading this entire post!
    And what? No pictures of your famous friends? Not even Uncle Arthur? C'mon Lily!!!

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  4. No pictures. My camera was burning a hole through my bag the entire time, but it just didn't seem appropes. I do, however, have some killer shots of Uncle Arthur that might warrant a breach of my show-no-faces policy on this blog...

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  5. WOMAN! The fact that you had drinks with Just Judi was enough, but then you CASUALLY mention that Bill Nighy joined you???? I have a total crush on him, and have since I saw Love Actually. DYING of jealousy here....

    Merci,
    Shannan

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  6. i just read this aloud to my officemate. such a priceless story - i adore bill nighy. sigh. i'm going to read this again every once in awhile - i love stories like this...i love that she was so dynamic and it had nothing to do with her fame.

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  7. Nuh uh! This was the best story ever to accompany my morning coffee. I have a huge grin and now I think I'll read it again.

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  8. What?!?! amazing... how cool is it that the life you are living now is inspiring and delightful in the eyes of such an inspired and delightful woman. What a truly sparkling night, thanks for sharing the details!

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  9. THAT was an amazing story...I'm sure all your readers were on the edge of their seats, mouth agape, just as I was! Thanks for spilling the beans on your most enchanting evening! I'm sure other adventures await...
    Patti

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  10. WOW. I wouldn't have been able to get a single word out, I think. This just confirms my thesis: Really cool things happen to really cool people. Oh and I wanted to tell you I am absolutely in love with your blog. The way you write is just so darn interesting, funny, intelligent and personal. The only problem is I get so jealous that I could burst. Berlin is -10° C and snowing. India looks like a dream...

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  11. WHAT?! This is the greatest story; I had to read it twice! As if living in India wasn't awesome enough, you have a night like this! I love it... xoxo

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  12. Dream story. Bill motherffing Nighy?? I just saw Harry Potter on Sunday, so he's still fresh in my mind.

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  13. ps. Did you want to speak in a posh British accent all night after that??

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  14. I want to see a picture of Uncle Arthur! If you really want to maintain your no faces rule then you could at least draw a sketch of him for us to see. I'm imagining him in a pith helmet for some reason, but I'm sure he's more stylee than that.

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  15. I call this the "international travel" effect. Crazy stuff just happens when you're living abroad. This is the very best example of it. Amazing.

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  16. Holy moly! What a dream! Todd and I keep talking about moving abroad, so I'm going to show him your post. "See," I'll say. "See what happens when you move abroad? You get to have drinks with Judy Dench!"

    And Bananagrams! We are obsessed, too, but I've never had anyone tie it to their heads and swim over to my place to play. I really, really need to live abroad!

    What a fabulous post and an amazing experience, Lily.

    P.S. I know just what Bill Nighy has. My mother has it, and she had to have a horrible operation to cut the tendons. It takes forever to recover. :(

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  17. You've turned us all into hopeless Romantics. Oh to be young, in an amazing wonderland of a country, surrounded by new adventures, sights, sounds, smells, and open hearts. Your writing is as delightful as your painting, full of in the moment surprises. Pure joy.

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  18. aah!! You kill me!

    Thanks for sharing the drink deets yesterday. Made my night. And she sounds so spunky which makes me love her even more. I will NEVER look at white wine and Bananagrams the same after this.

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  19. Holey moley, that is pretty much the best story I have EVER heard (even on par with one about Christopher Walken, but that is another story)! I am super jealous, Judi Dench is so awesome!

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  20. Nice blog! I like your writing way. I'm doing practice GMAT here: gmatonlinetest.com . I hope it's useful for GMAT test takers.

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  21. I love this story, and it captures all I've read about Judi Dench. Last I read, Peter O'Toole is not in the cast, so here's hoping he dropped into Jaipur for a lovely dinner.

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  22. came back too for the backstory! oh rock on girlfriend! love the moat story must try that huh?!

    we love your best friend "bill" at our house. the hand thing is quite normal in the uk apparently afflicts those with nordic forebears.

    oh you lucky you. but no not ALL downhill from there!

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  23. Brilliant. The swimming room-room sounds so fun! Downhill my ass! If I know you guys(I don't but I feel like I do) You'll bump into someone that knows Prince William and Kate and you'll be invited to that wedding. Totally wouldn't surprise me.

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  24. how wonderful is this story and you are the most "excellent raconteur" i feel as if i was there, well atleast i have the butterflies that would come from meeting people i am so very inpsired by.

    i love every inch of thos story form the the hand holding p's hand, to please do join us bill, but the swimming remids me of my youth and places we stayed.

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  25. My god, woman: Bill Nighy too!?? I adore that man!! I completely love/hate you for sharing the full backstory. I wish it had been me but I'm so glad it was you because I could never re-tell it as well and would probably have come-off like a drooling imbecile.

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  26. Aren't those out-of-body experiences amazing? She sounds as wonderful as we all hoped she would be. :) Thanks for sharing!

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  27. seriously?!? what an amazing story! you put all of my 2 b-list celebrity sightings to shame and then some. I love the image of j.d. swimming with bananagrams on her head. thanks for sharing. love your blog!

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  28. I want to cry I am so jealous of you! Judi Dench is my idol. Thank you for letting me know that she's just as (if not more - is that possible?) wonderful as I've always imagined her to be.

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  29. What a fantabulous evening! Thanks for describing it all so well.....Dame Judy and Bill Nighy, at once....sigh. I think I need an Uncle Arthur!
    ~Maddie

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  30. ho.ly.fuck.

    amazing. i'm just-- i'm dying. i wasn't even there and--- no words. judi is my fave.

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  31. HOW AM I JUST READING THIS POST? MY BRAIN = EXPLODED.

    I cannot BELIEVE you shared a meal with two of my most favorite actors OF ALL TIME FOREVER AND EVER AND EVER.

    I'm going to go stare at the corner and rock back and forth now.

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