A Navy buddy of mine returned in one piece from a deployment to Iraq sometime in October 2008 and naturally, along with several more salty active-duty military and veterans, we celebrated the shit out of the occasion like a pack of hellions during a night on Frenchmen Street, where I had a chance encounter with actor Edward Furlong in front of d.b.a.
The night was dedicated to Jason Huber, an electronics technician assigned to Special Boat Team 22 in Stennis, Mississippi and who became a boat guy himself two years later for the same team before eventually advancing to its chief petty officer. We had previously known each other as shipmates aboard the USS Thomas S. Gates. May he rest in peace.
There were five of us: me, Jason, two more Navy dudes and a Marine. D.b.a was only the second stop of the night and I stepped outside in anticipation of the next leg of our walking excursion.
Another man was hanging out near the entrance of the bar, fidgeting with his cell phone. His face seemed familiar and, in my mind, I was guessing where I had seen it before. Instead of just thinking about it, I flat-out asked him: “Hey man, where have I seen you before? I’ve seen you somewhere.”
He looked at me and just kind of shrugged his shoulders. “I dunno,” he said.
After a few minutes it hit me: he was James DeBello, who is also an actor. “You’re Trip, the dude from Detroit Rock City,” I said to him.
He smiled, then stuck his hand out to shake mine and introduced himself: “The name’s Jimmy.”
What a treat, I thought, randomly running into another famous person on the street in New Orleans. It happens all the time and never gets old. Other thoughts occurred to me: what the hell is he doing here and why is he by himself? Is he filming a movie or something? Which movie is it?
Before I could vocalize my inquiries, Furlong interrupts the conversation. “Eddie fucking Furlong,” was the first thing that came out of my mouth.
“What’s up man, how are you doing?” he responded, warmly.
Furlong was a happy camper that night. With a woman on each arm, he was well on his way to a good fucking time. As I recall, though, he appeared starkly different from his appearance as little John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Compared to the frail, punk teenager that we imagined him as throughout the 1990s, Furlong’s late-2000s sedentary physique included a gut that stuck out from the black-and-gold Led Zeppelin t-shirt that wrapped around his torso and he was also approaching middle age.
My Marine friend pulled me inside the bar for a quick moment to take a couple of shots before reminding me of what I already knew.
“You know that’s Edward Furlong, right?”
“Yes, I do.”
We stepped back outside, exchanging small talk and smoking cigarettes. Then Furlong popped the question.
“You guys don’t know where I could get some good coke, do you? I’ve been sniffing this baby powder all-NIGHT!”
You read and hear about celebrities in the news behaving badly in public and those are the impressions that tend to stick with you. But then you tell yourself they’re different in person because they’re actors, right?
I’ve interacted with more than enough celebrities in my lifetime, but none of them asked me for cocaine, or any other drugs, until now. I thought, “Is this dude really asking me for coke?”
His 2004 arrest for attempting to liberate lobsters from a Florence, Kentucky grocery store fish tank came to mind in that moment and then it all started to make sense.
I don’t remember being that starstruck at the time, although I felt a bit ashamed because I couldn’t help find what he wanted. I offered an alternative.
“Dude I have some killer weed at my place and it’s literally right around the corner. You’re all invited. Let’s get high!”
Sadly, he declined. They all declined.
We stood around for several more minutes making conversation and smoked more cigarettes. My group was beginning to make its transition to the next bar.
Then I popped the question to him.
“Hey dude, what’s your favorite movie you played in?”
Taking a drag from his cigarette, Furlong exhaled and stared blankly for a second, slightly nodding his head. There was a pause, then he smiled and suddenly became animated.
“Titanic part two!” Furlong shouted, flailing his arms while hopping back and forth between the street and the curb with his feet together as if competing in a game of Double Dutch.
“OK, OK I get it,” I told him. Clearly, he gets that question all of the time.
Furlong continued jumping around and making noises as I walked away. I rejoined my crew and we resumed our night, which has since faded into history.