Skipping a Beat for Brooke
If you want to know about the deep bond between Brooke Shields and me, just ask her. She may act as if she doesn’t know who I am. Don’t be fooled. Whenever a celebrity fails to answer a direct question, you can be sure you’ve hit close to the heart. The truth is, one night in 1981 Brooke and I shared an intimate moment: The world’s most beautiful woman danced with me.
I had been out of college for two years and working at PEOPLE for one year when the Harvard Lampoon put out a spoof of PEOPLE. Brooke posed for the cover, holding a big dead fish, so the Lampoon staff threw a party in her honor. I got my first big assignment from PEOPLE: Go to the party and come back with some news about Brooke.
It only took me about three hours to get close enough to Brooke—a high school junior at the time—to ask her my prepared question about her PSAT scores. All 5’11” of Brooke was sitting and all 5’4″ of me was standing. For the first time I got a close look at the face above the giant ruffle at the top of her purple evening gown. Maybe you don’t know what love is. I did.
Brooke told me her PSAT scores. I told her how much I had enjoyed her performance in Endless Love. I never realized till that moment how much I had enjoyed Endless Love. I told Brooke twice more for emphasis. Then someone turned on the dance tape.
Music has brought many happy couples together. I think the Lampoon president knew that. At the first sound of Motown, he walked over and took Brooke away from me. I dug my hands into the pockets of my thrift-shop tuxedo and turned to Brooke’s mom, who was leaning against a table behind me. I leaned too. “May I have this dance?” I asked. Teri Shields smiled suspiciously. “No, thank you,” she said. So I mentioned once or twice how much I liked Brooke in Endless Love.
Brooke danced for at least an hour and everyone in the place got a chance with her. As her perfect shape swayed to the beat, she leaned back a bit on her high heels, threw her head over one shoulder, then the other, and when they played Stop in the Name of Love, she put on a mean sort of I’ve-been-done-wrong pout. From across the room I saw her incredible mane bouncing above the herd.
Finally I swung into action. I don’t think Brooke saw me at first as I stood below her giant ruffle. “Would you like to dance?” I asked, waving my hand a bit to get her attention. “Yes,” she replied warmly, and I hardly cared about the squeaky high school twang in her voice.
Now I’m not saying Michael Jackson learned everything he knows from me. But the music started and I leaped, crouched to my knees, jerked backward, spun on my toes. With every beat I had a new move. Every so often I looked up to see if Brooke noticed I was the best dancer in the room. She smiled off into the distance.
I suppose the song ended because some guy slipped in front of me to ask Brooke for the next dance. Breathless, she said yes. I tried one last time to catch her eye.
PEOPLE canceled my Brooke story—PSAT scores and all—and I went on to meet more celebs than you can shake a camera at. But despite what cynics say about Brooke, I never quite recovered from that first night. I have reason to think she feels the same.
A few weeks ago I saw her at a party and said, “Remember me? I danced with you three years ago.” Bravely, and with no small effort, she fought off a vacant look. “Oh, yeeees,” she replied. To me, that said it all. Like so many other special moments in Brooke’s life, this one was much too meaningful to discuss.