REPORT BY: Melissa Ciandro
Las Vegas - Friday, May 9, 1997. When Donaree Brannon learned that a co-contributor to The Life of an Actor site, Allison Sills, was going to attend a JMDG (James Morrison Discussion Group) gathering and that James Morrison might appear, she informed me that Allison had offered to put me up at her place in Las Vegas during my stay there. She even followed up with an offer to pick me up at the airport. A quick phone call to Allison and my plans were finalized. This had been a last minute decision for me, but it was a chance for me not only to meet Allison but possibly James Morrison too.
The night before my flight I could hardly sleep. I was going to a place I had never been to and was meeting people I didn't know. I was excited and worried all at the same time.
My flight to Las Vegas was uneventful. I had never met Allison before so I was a bit apprehensive. Luckily, I had a picture of her so I knew whom to look for. She was there to greet me and by the time we reached her car we were chatting like we had known each other for a long time.
We drove to the Topicana Hotel where the JMDGers had scheduled their gathering. On the way up to the suite we met other JMDGers that I found to be very friendly. After meeting the other members who had arrived, Allison and I left for her apartment and a chance to rest and freshen up a bit. She worked at Caesars' Palace and had to work that night. After unpacking my belongings and visiting for a bit, she dropped me off at the Tropicana on her way to work. When I arrived back at the suite, more people had arrived and the room was filling up. We spent the afternoon getting to know each other and watching videos.
the time was rapidly approaching when James was due to show, everyone began
wondering if his work schedule would allow him to come. Even though I was looking
for him it still shocked me when he appeared in the doorway. I think it shocked
him too on how many people filled the room. We knew that James would be walking
into a room of strangers so everyone kept their distance as he strolled in.
He said, "Hi everybody," and scanned the room spotting some boxes
of cold pizza setting on the bed. He picked up a slice and began eating commenting
that he was hungry. The ice was broken and warm conversation filled the room.
He made a light remark about the mirrors above the bed.
A friend of James had come with him. His name was Ken and he was watching the exchange between the actor and his fans. Finally someone walked over to James and introduced herself. This caused everyone to relax.
James has a magic way of making you feel like old friends when he talks with you. He listens to every word you say and gives you his full attention. When it was time for me to speak with him I found him quite charming. While we were talking the flash bulbs were flashing as pictures were taken. One of my orders from Donaree, since she couldn't come, was to ask James what his first professional play was. When I stepped aside for some else's turn to visit with him, I was very happy I had made the trip and was able to meet this great actor.
After most of the people had talked with James, it was time for photos and autographs. He gave them all the time they wanted for taking pictures and signed everything they presented to him. With all of the flashbulbs going off in his face, I don't know how he could see to sign anything.
James brought two videos with him to show to the group. One was the studio cut of "The Angriest Angel" and another short film called "Grace" which the subject dealt with how quickly and easily one man can fall from grace and how one paycheck can mean the difference between shelter and living on the streets. James played the man who fell from grace. A couple of times while the videos were showing I glanced at James and he wasn't watching the video, but how we were reacting to it. Someone in the group had brought a video of Parking, a project that James wrote and produced. It has been shown on the Sundance Channel. A very insightful discussion followed the viewing.
After the discussion, a charity auction was held with the proceeds going to James' favorite charity, the MS Society. James contributed a watch that he wore while filming Space: Above & Beyond. He also provided a T-shirt given to all of the cast & crew while filming the pilot in Australia. When asked if he had worn it, James stated that he had the T-shirt lying over the back of his chair and after an intense boxing lesson leaned against it. This really increased the bidding on the T-shirt. After the watch was auctioned off for a pretty penny, Ken said he would go to James' room and bring back all of the soap and shampoo that James had used and auction it off too. This brought laughter throughout the room. Over $732.00 was raise for the MS Society. James was kind enough to sign the items that the people won at the auction. At the conclusion of the auction, more pictures were taken.
In between the videos and auction, Allison arrived. She was on her dinner hour. Although she wasn't able to stay long she was happy to have had the chance to meet James and have some pictures taken, then it was back to work.
After the videos and auction were over, the group sat around
having a nice visit with "The Man," and each other.
Then it was time for him to leave. After James had left there was a feeling of disbelief that we had been privileged to spend this special time with someone that we all admired.
The next day was spent with Allison showing me around Vegas and then the next thing I knew I was on a plane back to San Diego wondering if this all had really happened.