March 04, 2024

It Took 42 Years, But I Finally Met Maxwell Caulfield (a.k.a. the "Cool Rider") from Grease 2

"It's a lifelong dream to meet you," I found myself telling Grease 2 actor Maxwell Caulfield this past weekend. 

It was more or less true. I'd just never admitted that to myself before. 

Of course, when the Grease sequel came out in theaters in 1982, it was so critically panned, my parents refused to pay for me and my sister to see it on the big screen. (At least, that's how I remember it.) But once it hit the small screen, we couldn't get enough of it. 

We were a bit ashamed about how much we loved it, until we hit high school and met fellow musical theater kids who shared our obsession. And then somehow more and more people began to catch on, and Grease 2 has garnered a cult following—including those who consider it better than the original Grease movie.

Maxwell Caulfield played Michael Carrington, the cousin of Sandy Olsson from the first movie (portrayed by Olivia Newton-John, who did not return for the second but ended up marrying the guy who portrayed "Brad"). He was also the romantic lead, thanks to his alter ego, the "Cool Rider."
It was a bit of a Clark Kent/Superman scenario—no less and no more far-fetched—and it reached its pinnacle in the film with a dream ballet musical duet between the Cool Rider and the female lead, Stephanie Zinoni (portrayed by a very young Michelle Pfeiffer), which takes place in Biker Heaven. (See the video above. It must be seen to be believed.)

But that's all beside the point. I still love Grease 2; I still love Maxwell Caulfield; and on Friday night, I just happened to catch a post online that promoted his appearance at the Hollywood Show, a celebrity meet-and-greet event at the Marriott hotel and convention center at the Burbank Airport.

I bought a ticket right away—not just for the show itself, but also for a one-on-one photo opp with the actor (see photo at the top of this post). 

And I thanked my lucky stars that I'd canceled my trip to Death Valley this weekend. 

The Universe is as it should be. 

When I arrived, I was actually surprised to see how long the line to get Maxwell's autograph was. He'd felt like my own little secret for so long. 
But the truth is, Maxwell Caulfield has had an entire career beyond Grease 2—including portraying Rex Manning in Empire Records and being a series regular on The Colbys nighttime soap opera. 

And in fact, this wasn't the first time that we'd been in the same room together. I'd gone to see him in an Off-Broadway production of the play My Night With Reg at a 42nd Street theater in New York City back in 1997. I hadn't been brave enough—or savvy enough—to wait for him by the stage door back then. So this weekend, when I finally got to meet him face-to-face, I was making up for lost time on multiple levels.

Having lived in both New York City and Los Angeles, and having worked in the entertainment industry, I've encountered a fair amount of celebrities. Sometimes, it's disappointing. And mostly, it's been at work events or in passing—and not too often in a waiting-in-line kind of scenario. But Maxwell Caulfield was so nice, so generous with his time, so easy to have a real conversation with. 

And he spent a lot of effort in making his autograph on the white inside of my soundtrack CD insert a work of art. 

Now, I actually got two photo opps with him—one at his autograph table (just taken with my cell phone camera), and one that I'd booked ahead of time that came with a souvenir 8x10 glossy, taken in a different room. So I literally went from his booth on the show floor to the photo room and saw him five minutes later. 

I'd warned him of that ahead of time, so when my turn came in front of the professional camera—in front of the official Hollywood Show backdrop—we could joke and say, "Oh hey it's you again!"

And then, unprompted, Maxwell Caulfield flung his arms around me and gave me a huge bear hug. 

I couldn't have been happier. 

It doesn't take much to make such a huge positive impression on someone, and he went the extra mile. I was nearly crying from joy. 

My inner seven-year-old was feeling loved and seen and heard and appreciated. Something I rarely, or maybe never, felt when I was actually seven years old. 

I know it's frivolous to get a celebrity autograph. I generally don't collect them. But somehow, this encounter felt so healing to me. 

And I have a lot of hurt to heal.

I know, I know, he's just an actor. But it was the connection he made with me as a person—a stranger who had practically zero obligation to me—that really meant something.

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  1. This is so sweet! When I was a kid I had this "Red Shoes" calendar with various celebrities wearing... red shoes. Maxwell Caulfield's photo was really something - hubba hubba!

  2. Maxwell and his wife Juliet Mills were so great at The Hollywood Show.