Alright, so I’ve lied already in the title. I didn’t actually meet Al Pacino, but I was in the same room as him. We shared the same air for a night – that has to count for something.
OK, let me back up.
When I heard Al Pacino was going to be doing a black tie dinner and Q & A event in Leeds, I immediately was all like ‘ZOMG! That’s worth the train ride from London town – get me in!!!’ With tickets ranging between £500 and £2000, it was looking unlikely that my dream of sharing air with the legend that is Pacino would ever happen.
Luckily, my parents run a magazine in Leeds and have given the event some coverage, so consequently were given a couple of press tickets – which my brother and I were promptly like ‘err, yeah, we’ll take those, thanks!’
I know what you’re thinking – why the hell would legendary Hollywood actor Al Pacino be at Elland Road football stadium in Leeds for a black tie dinner? I hear you, I thought the same thing. But apparently there’s a company that’s been putting on these ‘an evening with…’ events for the past few years and getting some heavy hitters (Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger to name two). When Al was asked why he was coming to Leeds, he said ‘because they asked me’ – good point, well made, Sir.
Anyhoo, my bro and I get all dolled up and head over for an evening in the presence of one of our fave actors who we’ve spent a large part of our lives quoting the movie lines of. The dinner itself was kinda ‘meh’ considering what people had paid to attend this thing, but the awesome swing band they had playing took your mind off that (major points for them playing the swing version of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana).
At various points, a pretty dreadful compere got up to say a few words and managed to make a black tie dinner feel like a working men’s club in the 70s. Example ‘joke’ from this douchebag: ‘Ladies you’re looking lovely tonight. There’s a couple of mingers in here. I won’t mention any names. You know who you are.’ Yup, he had ’em rolling in the aisles with that one.
A portion of the proceeds from the event were going to the British Heart Foundation, so there was an auction after the meal, with some pretty sweet swag up for grabs; a signed pic of Al Pacino, original replicas of the guns he used in Scarface and The Godfather, paintings of Al and other Pacino-related artwork.
Have you ever been to an auction? MATE! People who do that shit regularly, I’ll tell ya, I don’t know how their blood pressure handles it. The first item was the signed pic of Pacino and it sold for £2700 and I was giddy watching the back and forth of that bidding. More lots went and it became apparent – there was a whole lot of money in that room. The final lot was an amazing piece of artwork – a portrait of Pacino as Scarface, made out of over 300,000 nails. It was pretty incredible (and made by a local Leeds artist, no less). That piece went for….wait for it….£42,000!!! The bidding started at £10,000 and for a while it looked like it wouldn’t go above £18,000, then all of a sudden, bids started flying left, right and centre! My heart was in my mouth! I was making sure I didn’t scratch my nose or something and inadvertently place a bid on it. By the time that last bid came in, I damn near passed out.
Pretty exciting stuff.
Then the man of the hour came on stage. It didn’t come as a huge surprise that that man knows how to work a crowd. He was in great spirits, full of great stories from his time working on some of his most famous films. It was nice to see that he’s still so excited by what he does. While some actors don’t like to watch their own work, Pacino had come armed with tons of clips and was super excited to show them.
The only downside was that he was being interviewed by Mike Reid, which was a particularly odd choice. Reid was a BBC radio personality back in the 70s. I’m not sure what he’s done recently except for popping up at a UKIP rally, singing a pretty racist song. It would’ve been nice if Pacino had been interviewed by someone who had a love of film and could really engage in some decent back and forth with a Hollywood heavyweight. Reid was not the man for the job. It seemed Pacino had that figured out and just talked about whatever he wanted to talk about anyway.
And that was great, when you could hear him. Because at a black tie dinner, where some people had paid over £2000 for their ticket, some people thought it was appropriate to get raging drunk and heckle Pacino throughout. Al’s trying to give answers and these assholes are shouting their opinions from the crowd. It was so rude and embarrassing and I can’t figure out why security didn’t throw them out. I was ready to step in and body slam them into submission myself. People in that room had just paid £42,000 for a painting. Al Pacino is on the stage – would it kill you to not get off-your-tits drunk for one night and have a little class about you? Ugh. People! They’re the worst!
But despite the misogynistic compere, UKIP supporting interviewer and classless drunks, Pacino held his own. I’m not sure he’ll be in a rush to go back to Leeds though.
Getting close enough to Pacino to get a selfie would’ve cost a whole lotta money, so I did the next best thing.