“The Experience Changed my Life Considerably.”
By Michael Hernandez
I was looking at some old Christopher Reeve pictures as Superman, and started to reminisce about him – when I first saw all his Superman movies, his accident, hearing about his death when I was deployed – and how I met him in New York.
I met Christopher Reeve while he was filming the movie Street Smart with Morgan Freeman. The year was 1986 and I was 17 years old at the time. They were shooting a scene in a restaurant. I had just finished work from the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) in New York in Harlem, when I saw a bunch of people gathered around working. I went to a man sitting in a truck and asked him what was going on, and he said that a movie was in progress in the restaurant, and that Christopher Reeve was in there. When I heard that I had to see him! I was a big fan, of course, of the Superman movies.
The crowd was getting bigger, mostly with children like me waiting to see the Man of Steel. Mr. Reeve came storming out with Morgan Freeman and got into a car with cameras mounted on the hood and drove around the block and came back. When he exited, as the scene ended, Mr. Reeve was swamped with people running up to him. I had seen nothing like it! After everyone touched him, he then made his way to his trailer – this, in my mind, was my opportunity!
I followed Mr. Reeve to his trailer. I was about 20 feet behind him. He slowly walked to his trailer where they were all parked. He then came across his and walked up a small stoop and went in. One problem – standing in front of the trailer was a guard. I asked the guard if Mr. Reeve was coming out and he said that he was just changing for another scene. When that door opened and he stepped out, I was met with my idol, my childhood hero! Mr. Reeve walked down the stoop, and I remembered looking up at him. I thought I would break my neck. I quietly asked him if I could have his autograph, and, of course, he said “Yes” and signed it on my SYEP orientation booklet. It is something I proudly have to this day!
Then, suddenly, this bum sleeping near Mr. Reeve’s trailer woke up and asked Mr. Reeve for his autograph as well, and handed him his liquor bottle in a paper bag to sign. Again, Mr. Reeve obliged and did it without hesitation, then handed it back to the bum. The bum looked at the autograph signed on the side of the paper bag holding the liquor bottle, shrugged his shoulders confused, quickly drank the last remaining drops of it, threw it in the garbage and wobbled away! Then Mr. Reeve let out a loud laughter, threw his head back, and slapped his thigh, and walked back to where I saw him originally to film another scene.
I tell this story all the time wherever I go to make people laugh and envision my hero, and how I met my childhood idol, Christopher “Superman” Reeve!
Pictured below is Christopher Reeve’s autograph (with one of my favorite Superman comic books). Also pictured are photos of yours truly with the “Death of Superman” comic book logo tattooed on my chest. I was so effected Superman’s death in the comic books, how admirably Superman sacrificed his life for Metropolis, that in remembrance I decided to get this tattoo. Shortly thereafter, I was deployed to Iraq in 2003-2005. Everyone in my unit knew I had the tattoo from when I walked around shirtless or was in the showers. Someone there broke the news about Christopher Reeve’s passing by showing me the cover of ‘People’ magazine with him pictured on it. I went outside, walked aimlessly and cried, grateful that I’d had the chance to meet him before his accident. The experience changed my life considerably. Life is so short.
Here’s the Street Smart scene that Michael referred to above: