Paul Soldner was late.
The American Ceramic Society–Design Chapter was sponsoring a meet & greet at Pierce College, and I had volunteered to be one of the event assistants helping to set up the slide projector, screen, DVDs, as well as tables of food and drink. At 4:00 pm, when the event was scheduled to begin, I was sent to wait by the gate with a parking pass card to let in Soldner’s private car and driver.
At 4:00 pm, when the event was scheduled to begin, I was sent to wait by the gate with a parking pass card to let in Soldner’s private car and driver.
Finally, the limo pulled up. Now, you and I both know that size doesn’t matter. But it occurred to me that this car was impossibly long. I swiped the pass card in the machine and waved the driver in the direction of the parking entrance.
When the gate arm went up, I started walking back to the auditorium. The limo cruised alongside me very, very slowly, matching my pace.
“What the hell?” I thought to myself. I stopped and turned around to see if there was a problem. Way, way, way at the back of the interminably long vehicle, a window rolled down. A far-off, come-hither voice wafted out.
“Don’t you want to ride in style?” The driver stopped, got out, escorted me three blocks to the back of the limo, and opened the door. I peered into the cushy darkness, and gazed upon the illustrious Paul Soldner. He was wearing a sarong around his waist and a Buddha-like grin on his face.
“Um..I don’t know. Where’s the hot tub?” I wisecracked.
“Oh, come on in and ride with us,” Soldner cackled softly. The woman next to him chimed in with her thick British accent.
“Yeah, Yeah, come on in! There’s plenty of room!” she encouraged.
Taken aback, I hesitated. I was a just worker bee, doing my job. I hadn’t planned on interacting with Paul Soldner, the legend.
“Oh, that’s okay,” I said. “I’ll just run alongside the limo and pretend like I’m Secret Service.” They kept on insisting, so finally I got in and introduced myself. Paul’s girlfriend, Pam, is a hoot and we hit it off right away. Paul told me of their meeting in an Aspen restaurant where she was a waitress and he was a regular.
We parked in front of the auditorium to unload some silkscreening equipment and inks Paul brought. So far, so good.
He seemed frail as he got out of the limo, and moved slowly.
“Hurry up slowpoke!” I fussed, teasing him mercilessly as I ushered them to the auditorium.
Pam did most of the talking for Paul during the slide presentation. After that, they showed the excellent Soldner bio film, PLAYING WITH FIRE.
Paul told me he doesn’t work with clay anymore, describing himself as retired. He brought a little silkscreen of himself smoking a big cigar for printing on t-shirts and whatever we wanted to bring. Each of us did the silkscreening, while he instructed us. I brought an apron, which he signed. He also brought a few signed copies of his book, NOTHING TO HIDE.
Aside from some minor risqué comments, nothing too shocking happened–at least, not to me. Paul was well-behaved. No one was grabbed that I know of, unless it was a large-chested woman who sidled up to have her t-shirt signed. He looked at her intently and gestured towards her with his Sharpie up in the air. No, she was not wearing her t-shirt.
“You must be a Chesterfield!” he quipped. She looked completely perplexed. “So round, so firm, so fully packed!” Paul replied, quoting an old cigarette ad. If he grabbed her breasts at that point, I couldn’t tell, because her back was to me. But she had a weird look on her face as she walked away, and didn’t comment on their interaction later.
Afterwards, some of us went out for sushi with Paul, Pam, and their driver, Gregory. On the surface, Gregory came across as a huge, scary monster–very protective of Paul–but actually, he was a teddy bear. I didn’t stay for dinner, but I split a Sapporo with a friend and had a bowl of miso soup. Paul didn’t speak much. He seemed to be listening and taking great pleasure in watching as we babbled excitedly about the presentation and all things clay.
At 9:00, I got up to leave. I went around the table, starting with Pam, who opposite me, chatting with the ACS-DC president. When I got to Paul, I gave him a big hug, shook his hand, and thanked him for coming. He kissed me on the cheek and whispered in my ear, “Let’s have an affair!”
“Oh, yes,” I replied, smiling sweetly and not skipping a beat, “I‘ve already discussed it with Pam, and it’s all worked out. We’ve decided to have a threesome!” A roar of laughter filled the room as I turned and walked away.