The Godfather Gets the Higher Taste
I would like to preface the story by relating how I came to shake people's hands on sankirtana while exclaiming "ARooo!!" I would say this very loudly, like a buzzer going off, when they didn't expect it. It would make people laugh and disarm their false egos. I picked up this "ARooo" handshake in Laguna Beach from a devotee named Bhaya Hari Dasa. One day he shook my hand while saying something serious, but then he suddenly grabbed my hand tightly and let out an "ARooo!!" I laughed hysterically, and from that day on I incorporated it into my sankirtana routine.
Anyway, one day many years ago, in Beverly Hills, Calif., I was collecting donations with stickers in downtown Beverly Hills (we used to do that in the US in the early eighties before we saw the light and went back to just books). I approached a pair of attractive southern-looking ladies and asked them for a donation. They said (in a thick southern drawl), "Why, yes, honey, we can give you a donation, but could you do us a favah? Marlon Brando's over yonder in that restaurant eatin' lunch [they pointed to the Swiss Chalet, an upscale restaurant], and we were wondrin' if you could see if he's almost finished, 'cause we want to take his pictcha."
I said, "Hold on. Marlon Brando's in that restaurant!?"
"Why yes, honey."
I told the ladies to wait right where they were and took off running down the street to my car to grab a hardbound Bhagavad-Gita, a "Coming Back," a "Higher Taste," and a "Who Are They?" (a booklet we used to distribute describing the movement around the world). Then I rushed back to the ladies and told them I would do what they asked.
I have to be honest: I didn't feel very transcendental that day. I felt very nervous about approaching such a big celebrity, especially in a fancy restaurant. I was sure they would throw me out when they saw me approaching such a coveted customer, one of Hollywood's most revered actors of all time. Plus, I didn't have a clue as to how to approach him.
So, as I walked through the doors I prayed to Lord Caitanya: "My dear Lord Caitanya, you can make anything possible. Please give me the intelligence to do the needful in this situation." I still didn't know what I was going to do or say, but I knew I would have to be spontaneous any hesitancy and I would be out on my ear.
Suddenly I was inside this dimly lit restaurant in fact, the only light was the candlelight coming from each table. I kid you not, it was an atmosphere exactly like in the "Godfather" movie. All the way at the end of a long aisle sat a large man with his Tahitian wife and daughter. They were the only patrons in the restaurant. Just then an idea came to me. I began to walk down the aisle with a big smile on my face, yelling "Marlon!! Marlon!!" As he turned to look in my direction, I exclaimed, "It's been a long time!! How are you?!" Marlon Brando looked at me with a broad smile.
By this time I was three feet away from him, holding out my arm to shake his hand. We shook hands, and as I hovered above him I boldly and vigorously shook his arm up and down. He had a big smile on his face the whole time (he was probably wondering who the hell I was). Then all of a sudden I yanked his arm forward, pulled my face right next to his, and whispered, "Actually, we've never met," and then let out an "AhRooooo!!!" His whole family cracked up laughing. He also laughed heartily, and I'll never forget how at that point I felt like I was in some kind of vortex or bubble. With Marlon Brando completely disarmed and mellow, I felt that if I had wanted to I could have just sat down with him and his family at their table.
But of course I checked myself, and in a more serious tone I showed him my ISKCON ID badge and said, "Actually, I'm from ISKCON and would like to present you with some gifts on behalf of our Society." I then handed him the Bhagavad-Gita, which he held in his lap. After a long, thoughtful pause, exactly like in "The Godfather," he looked up at me said very slowly, in a voice exactly like the Don's, "I . . . got . . . it."
I replied in a bubbly, effervescent voice, "Really!! What did you think of it!?"
He paused again, contemplatively, and said, "I . . . liked . . . it."
Then I said enthusiastically, while handing him "The Higher Taste," "Well, here, this is a vegetarian gourmet karma-free cookbook. Maybe your little Tahitian wife and daughter can whip you up some good recipes!!" They all laughed.
At that moment I felt I should leave so as not to wear out my welcome. So I excused myself, and the whole encounter ended on a lovely, positive note.
Your servant, Drumila das