Life sucks – desperately seeking Keanu
by Mireille Hagen
When she heard Keanu Reeves was playing Hamlet in a backwoods Canadian town Mireille Hagen jumped on a plane to see her idol in action. Bad move.
OK, I admit it: I was mad. Everybody told me, but did I take any notice? Did I hell.
This is how it happened. In most ways I'd describe myself as a pretty normal kind of person: I'm 25, I live in Hayes, Middlesex, I'm a health and beauty buyer at the head office of a major supermarket chain, and I fancy the pants off Keanu Reeves. Nothing so strange there. Except that I, unlike you, flew half-way round the world just to see my lust-object on the stage of a little local theatre in the middle of Canada. (Actually I used to be a bigger fan of River Phoenix, but since the opportunities for getting to know him dwindled somewhat after he died I duly transferred my affections to Keanu Reeves.)
It all started when me and my mate Cheryl were sitting around one weekend reading magazines, and we noticed a piece in Empire about how Keanu was going to be playing Hamlet at a local theatre in Winnipeg, Canada. Could there he a possibility that I, Miss Nonentity, could actually meet the love-god?
Anyway, at the end of the article about him appearing in Hamlet they'd printed the number of the Manitoba Theatre. That night, fuelled by a couple of drinks, I rang and, Barclaycard in hand, tried booking a couple of seats for the last night. The Canadian woman at the other end said that performance was totally sold out. "What about the night before?" I asked. There were a few tickets left, so I gave her my details and booked two seats, one for me and one for Cheryl. Then I slumped back on my bed and wondered what the hell I'd let myself in for.
I should have cancelled the tickets, rented Speed from the local video-store and spent the weekend lying in bed, dreaming of adventure, rather than doing it. But did I? Did I hell. Ever impulsive, I spent the next day ringing the Canadian touristoffice and booking an all-in-all Canada Holidays package. The cost? Nearly five hundred pounds. Still, I could always pay it off later, and what a story to tell the grandchildren.
My mates thought I was completely nutty - I got comments like "Don't be so fucking daft, don't you know how cold it is over there?". "You won't get within a 20-mile radius of him" and - "They're used to nutters over there." Like, thanks. My ex-boyfriend Darryl just raised his eyebrows. Cheryl said, "Knowing you you'll probably meet him and get arrested." In the end I had no option but to go alone; no matter how much persuasion, coaxing or bribery I attempted, it was clear that nobody else was dumb enough to join me.
And so the pilgrimage began. I set off in my most fashionable outfit for the six-and-a-half-hour flight to Toronto, stuffing all my warmest clothes into a suitcase. From Toronto airport I was booked onto a local flight to Winnipeg. Great, I thought, in just a couple of hours I'll be within a mile of the object of my desire.
But Canadian customs had a different idea.
"What are you visiting Canada for?" asked the hatchet-faced cow behind the desk, looking like an extra from Prisoner, Cell Block H.
"To see Keanu Reeves in a play," I replied, blithely expecting her to smile indulgently and wave me through with a "Say hi from me and enjoy your stay." Wrong. To cut a long story short, it wasn't until 12 hours later that I was released from detention, apparently on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant, after a grilling which would make Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs look like Gloria Hunniford. Canada welcomes Mireille Hagen...
Needless to say I'd missed my connecting flight hours before, but the ultimate humiliation was yet to come, when I staggered, exhausted, off the final flight to Winnipeg: it turned out that, to add insult to injury, my suitcase had mysteriously disappeared somewhere on the way. The suitcase, remember, containing all my warm clothes. God knows what temperature it was outside, but according to cable-TV reports later, the following day the mercury had risen, yes, actually risen to minus 31 degrees. I was beginning to wonder if even Keanu Reeves was worth going through all this for.
Still, that night, armed with my fabulous bag of complimentary Air Canada goodies (it might have been nice if they'd included 20-tog fleece all-in-one and a few pairs of clean knickers, but hey, it's just a thought guys). I decided to risk hypothermia and head for the bright lights of downtown Winnipeg, approximately three blocks away. Now, maybe Winnipeg's a great happening kind of place during the summer months, but in midwinter it makes Northern Exposure look cosmopolitan. I ended up walking in to The Grapes, which had been described to me by one of my fellow passengers as Winnipeg's hottest night-spot. Well, I don't know about you, but I don't call 12 overweight rednecks in Stetsons and snakeskin boots drinking beer round a two-foot dancefloor at 1 am on a Friday night hot.
Saturday. Still no sign of my luggage, and no much desire to squelch around all day in thick drifts of snow and sub-Arctic temperatures in my best suit. Still, I thought I owed it to myself to give Winnipeg a second chance. After all, I told myself optimistically, you never know who you might bump into. There didn't seem to be many shops, but stranger still the place didn't appear to be full of overexcited-looking girls hunting for Keanu Reeves. Just a load of game Americans who'd crossed the border for the day.
So it was something of a relief when the time eventually came to get to the theatre. Here, a last, there was some sign of excitement: crowds of girls were milling around outside. I arrived in style, by taxi, looking like shit, smelling probably, lost my make-up bag, still wearing the same knickers I left my house in two days before wearing high heels, dressed totally inappropriately for the occasion. Opening the door I walk straight into Him as he's getting out of his car.
Fuck no, not like this. Even Sandra Bullock looked better than I do after she'd driven that bus across that 50-foot gap in the LA freeway at the height of summer.
Mumbling something unintelligible even to myself I stumble out of Keanu's way, and suddenly there's an almighty rush as he's surrounded by hordes of screaming females. He's looking divine, of course, hair long again after the Speed crop, taller than I'd expected (most famous people I've ever seen have been virtual midgets). with that incredibly sexy combination of arrogance and shyness. He disappears inside. One last try, I tell myself through gritted teeth as I kick myself towards the box office.
But telling the guys behind the desk that I've come all the way from England so I've got to see Keanu doesn't seem to cut much ice. "Some of these girls have come from Australia," they tell me, with unimpressed smirks.
I think, well, at least I might be able to make something back on my spare ticket. I've heard people saying that they're like gold dust and have been selling for anything up to 1500. The least the bloody thing could do is get this trip to hell and back paid for.
Going outside I see a tiny Japanese girl with a board round her neck which says "Please sell me your ticket!!" I ask her where she comes from.
"Tokyo," she says, bowing politely.
"From Tokyo without a ticket?" And I thought I was the stupid one.
"I love Keanu," she tells me in broken English. "Also Kenneth Branagh..."
She proudly shows me a cellophane bag containing her collection of Reeves-obilia. Noticing that she's turning an unusual shade of blue, I ask her how long she's been standing here. "Since six this morning," she replies. I give her my ticket. Anyone who's willing to die for a man she's never met deserves a break.
On the way in guards frisk us for cameras and recording equipment. The theatre's tiny - holds maybe 460 people max. People are even sitting on the stairs. And what a surprise, the audience is composed almost entirely of young women staring in a collective trance at the as-yet empty stage.
The house lights dim. Silence. Bated breath. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ahem. Do you think he could talk a bit faster, maybe move his hands around a bit? Now I can see why it's called a tragedy. OK, Keanu Reeves may be the sexiest man on earth, but I've seen school plays with better acting than this. I guess with films he can get it right after 21 takes or so, but this was just awful, the worst thing I'd ever seen. After a while I sneaked a glance at my tiny Japanese companion. She was gazing, entranced, at the heavenly vision in front of her, mercifully unable to understand a word.
I think I was the only person to leave before the end. Actually I did manage to sit it out until the third interval, but even I had to admit by that point that my idol was beyond hope. Next time, I thought, as I lurched back to the hotel, I won't be so stupid. My suitcase was waiting for me, full of warm clothes and clean undies.
Actually, deep down I think I always really preferred Brad Pitt.