Tom Jones, handsome pop star and weekly judge on The Voice in the UK, was my first boyfriend. I dreamed of going out with him for ten years and saw him romantically for three years, beginning at age 18. Then he broke my heart, ending the love affair. Rather than fade away into dating obscurity or put my head in the oven, I designed an outrageous ploy that I hoped would reunite us. Or make me look as nutty as a cheese log. I figured it could go either way.
I called my strategy the “Fake Burt Reynolds Brother Ploy,” and I brashly propelled it into action when I was 22. I knew Tom had one documented weakness: jealousy. There were numerous times during our relationship when he worried that I might be interested in chaps other than him, a sign that he was irretrievably insane. I was totally and completely in love with him, and therefore viewed other males as hapless, little toads.
The preposterous plan was to insert myself into Tom’s presence with a good-looking escort on my arm, rekindling Tom’s passion and making him yearn to have me back. This was to happen at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where Tom was headlining. I needed ringside seats so Tom could actually see me with my hunky date.
A Caesars Palace ticket lady informed me that I could only sit ringside if I was accompanied by a celebrity because these seats were in high demand and otherwise “sold out.” I was in dismay. My ploy was getting ridiculously complicated because not only did I need a good-looking guy, now I needed a famous one. I searched my little black book, but came up with nothing.
That was when actor Burt Reynolds’ brother, Jim, came to mind. He was related to a celebrity, and that seemed “close enough.” Plus, I had spent a full day with him in Florida during the filming of the movie, Smokey and the Bandit II. Since Jim did not live in Vegas, I needed someone to pretend to be him. There was a guy suitable for this role at my acting school. Lots of girls thought he was cute.
“Burt Reynolds’ brother, Jim, will be attending the Tom Jones show,” I told a Caesars Palace reservation clerk on the phone. “He’ll bring one guest and will need ringside seats.” She eagerly agreed to handle the arrangements.
On the special night, I dolled up, thrilled that I would be sitting at the stage; and headed to Caesars Palace with my dapper, fake celebrity date. But upon arrival, my plan began to unravel. The showroom hostess refused to put us ringside, insisting instead that we had to sit in Tom’s personal booth. It was miles from the stage. Tom would not be able to see us.
I panicked, “No. We’re supposed to sit up front.” But, she countered, “Tom wants you to sit here. He is taking care of your bill, ma’am.”
“That’s not the way it was arranged. I don’t want him to take of the bill,” I protested. “We are paying, and we are supposed to sit ringside. Please put us up front.”
She was firm. “You have to sit here. These are the best seats in the house.”
When the semi-polite battle bordered on bloodshed, “Jim” waved the white flag. He slid into the booth and said, “These seats are much better anyway.”
Defeated, I joined him. The fuse had been lit, and there was an ominous ticking in my head. I figured it was only a matter of time before the bomb exploded, exposing me as a fool and a fraud. Someone from Tom’s entourage was sure to venture out, realize my date was a fake, and tell Tom. “Telling Tom” would be the worst part of all.
“Jim” blissfully downed a couple of drinks, oblivious to my misery. I gulped down water, hoping to outright drown. Suddenly, Tom’s publicist, John, appeared at the booth, and I felt ill. I entertained visions of slithering under the table and doing a belly crawl out of the state.
John was shocked to see me and immediately became suspicious of “Jim,” bombarding him with tricky questions. When “Jim” was distracted, John whispered to me, “Are you sure he’s really Burt Reynolds’ brother?” I assured him that I had no doubt.
John disappeared during the show, but reemerged after it ended. He invited “Jim” to go backstage to meet Tom. I stood to join them, but John informed me that I could not come. At that moment, I knew he knew, and I knew Tom knew. “Jim” was oddly quiet when he returned from the dressing room. I was pretty sure he had confessed.
Tom eventually asked me out again, and we have stayed in touch over the years. But, he has not once mentioned the “Fake Burt Reynolds Brother Ploy,” probably out of compassion. No one wants to feel like a half-baked bowl of tipsy pudding.
I have come to realize that outrageous experiences—even kooky ones like this—are memorable and highly fulfilling. They are linked with living in the bold zone. The bold zone is that area past the comfort zone where fierceness resides. It requires going at life with gusto, becoming a relentless force of nature, and sometimes embarrassing oneself in the process.
I apologize to Tom for this dopey scheme. But, frankly, I’m glad it happened.
Published in Huffington Post on May 20, 2015