Once upon a time, I had a crush on Dennis Miller. He was so snarky and intelligent. Until he took a bizarre and random turn into the world of radical conservatism. I then transferred my allegiance to Al Franken. Goofy cute with real political savvy. When Franken's second book came out and he was on his book tour, I found out he was going to be a the Tattered Cover in Denver and I managed to score some tickets to his booksigning. I took my friend Greg with me. The bookstore only allowed one book signed per ticket. Greg didn't care about getting a book signed so I had him get one signed for my mother. The process was to write the name for the inscription on a Post-It and place it on the title page of the book. Greg and I were the very last people in line. I stepped up to Mr. Franken and he graced me with a charming smile and greeting as he signed my book. I then stepped aside to let Greg get his book signed for my mom.
My mother has an unusual name. My grandfather's name was Eugene and my grandparents wanted to name my mother after him but thought Eugenia was a little old-fashioned. So, they dropped the "Eu--" and changed the spelling of Genia to make "Jeania." At the time of the book-signing, I neglected to tell Greg how to pronounce my mother's name. It never occured to me that I would need to. Mr. Franken asked Greg of the book was for him. Greg said yes. He said the name was unusual. Greg improvised and said it was Lithuanian. (?!!!!) Al Franken asked him to pronounce it. Greg looked panicked for a moment and then said, "ZHHHEEEEN-YA!" very very loudly and proceeded to spit on Al Franken as he said it. Everyone froze in shocked silence. Greg had just inadvertantly spit on Al Franken while acting like a loon. I didn't know whether to be worried that the cops were coming or to laugh so hard I would pee my pants. Franken looked very surprised but composed himself and thanked us for coming. Greg and I ran out the door and as far I know, Franken has never returned to Denver for a booksigning.
My friend Greg is currently shopping his novel and had a chance to share this story with his Master's advisor, Lauren Groff. Maybe it will make it into one of Greg's books someday.