Twenty-eight years ago this week, the movie, “The Thing Called Love,” was released in the theaters. Don’t worry whether or not you remember it, because a lot of people don’t. In fact, according to the website IMDB, it cost $14 million to make but only made more than $1 million.
It was a movie about young songwriters who moved to Nashville to make it in the music business. This was 20 years before the TV show “Nashville” came around.
The whole thing was shot in Music City and with the cast — River Phoenix, Samantha Mathis, Dermot Mulroney and Sandra Bullock — you would have thought it was a no-brainer to do well at the box office. This movie is proof positive that the story makes the movie, not the cast.
Anyhoo, on one fall Nashville night, their world collided with mine.
It was Tuesday, Oct. 27, 1992 and I was working at the greatest night club of all time, The Wrangler. Yes, I vividly remember this because my birthday was two days before.
On this evening, I was the DJ and the bouncer because it was not that crowded and most of the staff went home. Around 11 p.m., a young lady walked in who I recognized but could not place.
“Need to see your ID ma’am.” I will never forget her reaction. “Ma’am? Y’all do take that southern hospitality to heart.” I checked her license, Samantha Mathis. Still not ringing a bell.
I immediately recognized the guy who walked in a few moments later, River Phoenix. He and Mathis were evidently dating at the time and I checked his ID, just to make sure, and let them in.
Then, five minutes later, about 10 more from the cast came into The Wrangler and I didn’t recognize a single one. Remember, no cell phones back then. No internet. Nothing. Plus, it was now about 11:30 p.m. and we stayed open until 2 a.m. I went back into the DJ booth and was probably reading the paper and trying to figure out my fantasy football team.
“Excuse me, do you mind playing some rock and roll?” I looked up and River Phoenix had walked into the booth. We made small talk and he went through the CDs to pick out what he wanted to hear. He told me he was shooting a movie and although he loved country music, he wanted to rock out.
I put the music on and they started dancing and were mesmerized by the tree in the middle of the dance floor. For those who don’t know, the Wrangler had a tree in the middle of the dance floor that people absolutely loved and it became mega-famous.
I went back about my business and then, someone walks in the booth and asks, “So do you know what is on every single CD?” It was a very attractive brunette who almost spoke in a whisper. “I could never do this job,” she continued. “And to keep everyone on the dance floor and having fun, nope.” I laughed and showed her a sheet that kept beats per minute, and told her you just gradually increase that every set and then, slow it down.
I asked if she was with the cast and she said, yes, she had a small part in the movie, but then she went back to asking about being a DJ. She ended up putting on the headset, picking out CDs, playing the music, controlling the lights and everything else. I left the booth and went to the dance floor and let this lady run the show for awhile.
They seemed to have an outstanding time, especially when someone taught them a line dance and yes, “Achy Breaky Heart.” They stayed until close and asked where they could go eat. I pointed them to the Waffle House down the road from the Wrangler on Murfreesboro Rd.
They all hi-fived on the way out the door, and it turns out the brunette, who spent most of the evening in the DJ booth, was Sandra Bullock. She said they would all come back when they got another break from filming because no one bothered them while they were there.
Well, they never came back and that was OK, but imagine my surprise when a year and half later, there is my DJ buddy in the movie “Speed.” In fact, she was in nine movies the next two years.
Sadly, none were about a very handsome up and coming DJ at a country bar who showed her the ropes and the way. Perhaps that is why she made “Hope Floats.”
Or perhaps not. Let’s go with that.