Spielberg invades Bayonne

Milking Spielberg for all he's worth

You don't come close to great people without feeling the wake of their passing. With giants like Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg invading Bayonne, the impact was like tidal wave. Most of us will never be the same.

There is, of course, the unspoken expectation that each of us should some how benefit from the impact.

Some have.

Such as Bayonne's real estate that suddenly came into fashion again after The New York Times reported on the making of War of the Worlds here.

So did one café owner, whose own brush with Cruise, gave her a celebrity of her own.

The town's Little League also came out ahead when Spielberg, Paramount and Cruise decided to restore the field they used to construct a gas station better than the field had been prior to their coming.

But for others, this close encounter with Spielberg has left a strange expectancy.

Like the restaurant owner, who unknowingly sent a coffee-seeking Cruise away, changing his hours so that it won't happen again - on the off chance Cruise comes this way again.

Like the owner of the house which became the set for the main character, who hopes he will get an invitation to the premier.

(I would love such an invitation, too, but look terrible in a tux and know Mr. Spielberg would never tolerate me showing up in t-shirt, jeans and sneakers - thus no invitation).

I also have vague but ambitious expectations.

My day dreams centered on the idea of selling fiction to the great director or impressing him enough with my reporting to get included in some "Making of" project he might have in mind. Being a big fish in the small pond of Bayonne, I became overwhelmed when some of the biggest fish on the planet showed up in my neighborhood, and I did everything possible to impress them - hoping to get noticed.

My wife (as well as others) thought I was nuts.

"People like Spielberg will just ignore you," she said, about my setting up a website full of stories, photos and essays. "You'll raise issues and everyone else will get the credit."

This, of course, is to be expected.

Life isn't always fair. As news reporter for a weekly paper, I've frequently broken stories that got lost in the crowd of big name publications.

But part of the fun in covering Spielberg was the fact that we - this tiny publication - could raise issues and cover the scene as good or even better than anybody. We were perpetually striving to get noticed and fantasized about Spielberg charging into our dustbin of an office to complain or praise.

Credit was never an issue. We knew the right people noticed, even if we were ignored.

This is not to say that I failed to get something from the experience. To quote the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want. But if you try, sometimes you get what you need."

Jealousy of other people's art has been as huge a part in motivating me as being called chicken inspired the lead character in Back to the Future. So flying to close to the sun I could not help catch some of its fire in my heart.

Delving in Spielberg's art has stirred up the ashes of my own smoldering desire to create, and though I may never "get discovered" I know that I stole a little of Spielberg's fire and won't have to suffer vultures picking at my innards for an eternity - nor will have I to worry about rending a tuxedo.

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