Tuesday, June 14, 2011

“Woody Allen needs a doctor. How quickly can you get here?” The caller was the concierge from the J.W. Marriott. This happened almost twenty years ago.

“Ten minutes,” I replied. The J.W. Marriott was in Century City, near Beverly Hills, a five minute drive. I had only to change into my suit and grab my bag.

“I don’t know….” She seemed doubtful. “I guess you should come.”

That was strange. How many doctors appear at your door ten minutes after you call…? I threw on my suit and raced to my car. Nearing the hotel revealed a sight that always makes my heart sink: a paramedic ambulance. The odds that a second guest had fallen ill were tiny, so the arrival of paramedics meant my visit was in vain.

“He couldn’t wait,” the concierge called out as I hurried past. There was still a chance. Most 911 calls are not emergencies, and paramedics sometimes declined to transport those. Sadly, they were burned in several well-publicized cases when someone died after they left. Thereafter, their refusal rate plummeted, but I never lost hope.

Leaving the elevator, I had no trouble finding the room because paramedics attract a crowd. It parted as I approached, and I caught a fleeting glimpse of Woody Allen as paramedics rolled him past on a gurney. I returned home. According to the news, he was back in circulation the next day.

My experience with actors is that their day-to-day personality carries over to the screen, so I theorized that Woody Allen had suffered a panic attack. Agitated guests frighten hotel employees, so they’re quick to call paramedics, but if they have the sense to think of me, their problem vanishes. I have a soothing manner, a white beard and white hair (they weren’t so white back in 1993). Once I arrive and settle into a chair, I rarely fail to calm a panicky guest. Phoned in the middle of the night, I do the same without getting out of bed. Woody Allen should have waited for me.

I can name Woody Allen because I was never his doctor, but, sadly, celebrity patients are off limits. Most were nice, but over thirty years, I’ve cared for a number of misbehaving luminaries including several who died under dramatic circumstances. The curious assure me that “you can’t libel the dead,” but the dead’s loved ones have been known to sue after unflattering remarks.

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