Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, A True Class Act

     One of the most privileged experiences to happen to me was when I got a chance to meet Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The previous day in school, a friend of mine, Nik, who also went to the same gym as I did, were talking and "The Rock" actually came up as a subject during our conversation. Nik then mentioned to me that he in fact saw him in the gym just the other day, and I had a puzzled look on my face as if I were saying "What in the hell have you been smoking?" He said, "yeah man, he's in town filming a movie" (Mysterious Island 2).  I decided that I would take my camera the next time I went to the gym. (And this is the God's honest truth, I would normally take my camera anyways to record my training sessions) So I figured, what do I have to lose? The next day when I went to the gym, sure enough, "The Rock" was in fact working out in the same gym that I lifted in. I remember saying to my friend Nik something along the lines of "Holy Shit! You weren't joking!"

     Now I was a pretty big guy myself. I am about  5 foot 8 and a half inches, but I weighed between 240-250lbs. since I powerlifted competitively. When I finally approached "The Rock" I was shocked at how much he dwarfed me! He was almost a good foot taller than I was! I made sure to cautiously approach him because I did not want to appear as some autograph hound, he turned around and saw me and I nervously replied "Mr. Johnson"(It is in my nature to be formal) would you mind taking a picture with me? (I felt bad about asking because here I am pestering him, when he is just trying to get through another busy day) He replied "Could you wait until after I'm done working out? I don't like to take pictures while I'm working out. But catch me when I'm done and I'll be happy to!" He then followed up asking me what my name was. I told him "Layton" He thought that that was a pretty neat name as he never heard it before.

     I did not want to tie him up any longer than I had to, so I told him I would catch him after both of us were done working out. He smiled and said "Definitely man!" Now keep in mind, he did not have to do this. He could have been easily like "Sorry, but no" or "Yeah, but it will cost you 10 bucks." Instead he treated me respectfully as a human being as I did too him. It was not until later when I read his autobiography "The Rock Says" and in it he stated:

     "I try to accommodate as many people as I possibly can. It's become increasingly difficult, because the character 'The Rock' has become so popular in the past year, but I try to remember that the fans are not an annoyance. They're the only reason we're here. All I ask is that when I'm in a restaurant, eating dinner, please wait until I've finished eating. Then I'll be happy to sign. It's my nature to be courteous. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm very accommodating when it comes to signing autographs, especially for little kids. I love seeing the looks on their faces, the smiles. Why anyone would want to avoid that response or ignore it, I don't know. How anyone could insult the people who admire them the most is a mystery to me. And quite frankly, I find it sickening."

     After reading that, I finally felt less guilty about asking him if he would take a picture with me. I still feel bad about it, because I was still interrupting his routine and taking up his time. But that's just me I guess.

     Mr. Johnson was a man of his word and took the picture with me as he said he would. We started talking, chatting up a conversation. I mentioned I remembered watching him when I was this little (I put my hand at the level of my midsection to give the mental image in a way to explain that I have been a fan of his for a long time.) He appreciated and was humbled at the simple fact I admired him for his work and entertainment he was able to provide me (and many others) over the years. For which, I thank him for. He then asked me if I went to Penn State (I was wearing a Penn State sweatshirt) I told him, "Oh no. But I am originally from Pennsylvania and I was always a Penn State fan. He asked from what part of Pennsylvania I was from and I told him "Williamsport. Home of the Little League World Series" Quickly he replied, "Oh okay, I know where you're talking about." He then mentioned to me about his high school football playing days when he lived in Bethlehem, just 2 hours away from where I lived ( I had never realized he played high school ball in the same state I grew up in)  We continued to talk, and I remember asking him right before I left, "By any chance, will we see you back in the squared circle anytime" He looked at me, smiled, and simply said "Maybe" (Sure enough a week later he appeared on WWE Raw as he was announced as the special guest host for Wrestlemania that year.)

     A couple of days later, I was back in the gym doing tricep cable pushdowns, and Mr. Johnson was back again as well. I did not want to bother him, so I just minded my own business. I was surprised and in awe with what happened next. Mr. Johnson actually came up to me this time, and proceeded to give me a fist bump. (As if to say "Hey man how's it going?) I do not know if it was because he saw me back in there training hard and in fact, was not there to actually be annoyance. But whatever the case, I felt honored as this rather larger than life person such as "The Rock", accepted me as if to say "Hey kid, you're alright! :] ) Before leaving that day, I went up to him one last time, extended my arm out to him and say "Hey it was good seeing you again Mr. Johnson." With a firm grip, Mr. Johnson replied by saying "Hey man it was good seeing you again too." I look back now and realize that even though he may be looked at as a "larger than life" person, all he really asks of people is that he be treated as a regular person, and not as this big time celebrity. Mr. Johnson, even though you most likely may never read this (but then again, I never in my lifetime thought our paths would cross) I just wanted to tell you thanks for what you have done for ALL of your fans! You are one hell of a guy, and a true class act!


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