Tanja Barnes

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RIP Peter O’Toole

Today an old friend from whom I hadn’t heard from in years reached out via email to say that upon hearing the news of the passing of Peter O’Toole, he had to chuckle at my verbal parry with the actor many, many years ago when I was a teenager. The story went something like this:

It was on the set of MASADA, shot on location in Israel. O’Toole was between takes and required the makeup artist. But instead of sitting on his assigned chair, he approached me and asked my permission to share the apple box that I was sitting on.

“Mr. O’Toole, it’s all yours,” I quickly said. To be honest, I was flustered. I mean we’re talking Peter O’Toole here, OK?

“Nonsense!” said O’Toole with affected innocence. “I merely wish to share your seat! Come now. There you go!”

Indeed. There I was: a total valley girl sitting butt cheek-to-cheek on an apple box with Peter O’Toole and completely freaking out. I pretended to keep reading a paperback book but I couldn’t concentrate and he kept making small talk.

Suddenly, the situation became so untenable it was impossible to ignore.

“What? What? What is that smell?” said O’Toole, looking at me mischievously.

Could this really be happening? Peter O’Toole just farted and acted like it wasn’t him. No, not him at all!

I slammed my book shut. While I felt intimidated, I also felt provoked and looking into his impish blue eyes (and indeed they were very piercing) I could tell he wanted me to bring it on. So I did.

“Mr. O’Toole, did you just cut the cheese?” I blurted out; absolutely gobsmacked that the man who played the inimitable “El Aurens” was a pooter polluter.

“My dear, I nevah cut the cheese!” he boomed with his great thespian voice and a bright gleam in his eye.

“Well, sir, you sure spread it pretty thick!” I shot back.

“Ha!” guffawed O’Toole so uproariously that I couldn’t help but flinch. “Somebody buy my new little friend here a drink!”

When I told him that I was not of drinking age he told me not to worry — that in Israel a girl becomes a woman by the time she is 13 and that by the looks of it, I was “definitely a woman…a young woman to be sure…but nevah-theless, a woman!”