So I’ve just touched down at LAX airport with the PR from Amazon and Shortlist writer Ralph. Ralph’s feverishly checking his emails. He mutters something about Patrick Stewart. Apparently he’s been asked to interview the star at short notice.
I’ve only known Ralph a matter of hours, but I already have the impression he’s pretty unflappable. He gets another email. “The interview’s at his house,” he says. “I haven’t prepared.” He looks a bit flapped.
He invites me along, presumably for moral support. For a second I picture myself freeloading: snaffling a pain au chocolat from the buffet; getting evils from an entourage PAs and PRs. Then I think “Sod it. How often do you get invited to Patrick Stewart’s gaff?”
Soon we’re in a taxi headed for the Hollywood hills. It’s a dodgy Uber. The sort of cab Travis Bickle might have driven. The satnav makes it feel almost retro-futuristic, like a cockpit from a Ridley Scott film.
En route I realise Ralph’s not much of a Star Trek fan. “I want to get his autograph for my mother-in-law,” he says. “Live long and prosper. That’s what he says, isn’t it?”
“No,” I reply. “That’s Spock. And it’s a totally different series.”
“Do you reckon he’ll be offended if I ask him to write ‘live long and prosper’ though?”
“Nah. If he does he’s a twat anyway, so who cares. And I’m sure he won’t be a twat.”
We roll up outside a smart but relatively modest gated bungalow. A shiny pate can be observed floating around behind the front door’s glass. I look at Ralph. He’s gone a weird avocado colour. The pressure’s all on him, and suddenly I feel bad. I offer him a two-man group hug but he looks at me as if to say “No, you dick. I only just met you.”
Anyway, his reaction is irrelevant because my bromance initiation attempt is ambushed by the pate at the gate. Patrick has come to greet us, dressed in trackie bottoms, slippers, white sports socks. He’s home alone. He looks great for 75. He welcomes us with open arms and immediately we’re at ease. I suspect he’s had a few wee stiffeners.
“Would you like a drink,” he beams. Ralph opts for water, but Patrick has something stronger in mind.
“I’m having a cocktail,” he booms theatrically… “A gin… and tonic!”
“Ooh go on then, I’ll have a g&t,” I say with all the confidence of a man who’s not here to conduct professional business.
We amble through the snooker room, past a lofty stack of boxes containing Star Trek scripts, and into the kitchen. Patrick glugs me out a bevvy that’s about eight parts gin, with a token drip of tonic on top. He offers us food, but although we’re both starving we’re too polite to accept. I’m tempted to ask for a turkey club sandwich with gherkins and a smear of dijon, pierced with a cocktail stick and surrounded by a crescent of crisps, but I think better of it. Don’t take the piss on another man’s interview, my conscience advises.
Ralph pulls it together and gets a great, hour-long scoop. He even plucks up the courage to invite Patrick for dinner, but he’s got his heart set on watching the Barcelona match. He calls us an Uber. It’s a much posher Uber than the Uber we arrived in. “Oh, are you going to pay?” Ralph asks with disarming naivety.
We’re both buzzing because it’s gone so well, but then Ralph makes his fatal error. “Could you possibly sign a photo for my mother-in-law? She’s a big fan. Just something like ‘live long and prosper’.”
“I don’t say that. It’s not my line.” For a second there’s frost in the April Los Angeles air. Time stops. An outsized Californian squirrel frolics past the window.
“How about… ‘make it so?'” offers Patrick, as gently, charmingly and untwattishly as anyone could possibly be. Ralph and I share a high-five on the back seat of the Uber on the way back to the hotel.
This article is based on the subjective, fallible memories of Gary Rose. It in no way reflects the opinions of Ralph Jones or Shortlist magazine.