One night at Joe Allen on 46th Street in the first decade of the century, my wife and I were part of the early dinner crowd -- pre-theater -- and we were lucky to get the last table for two in the bar area. At the big table next to us, three dynamic-looking women were chatting up a clearly charmed waiter and ordering cocktails. One of them, we recognized, was the great Anne Meara, who died this week at age 85. Meara was known not only for her wide-ranging comic genius, but for her long marriage to her one-time comedy partner Jerry Stiller. (Their son, of course, is Ben Stiller.)
Jerry Stiller was then playing Arthur Spooner, an insanely funny and popular character on TV's The King of Queens. We couldn't help but notice there was one chair left at the table, empty so far. Sure enough minutes later Jerry Stiller quickly traversed the length of the restaurant with his oddly elegant gait, his long arms swinging and his orange hair glowing. Celebrities are a regular sight at Joe Allen, but Stiller had a special quality that drew all eyes. In fact you could see it still worked it's magic on his wife -- because for all the eyes on Stiller hers were the fastest, the happiest, and the shiniest. "There he is," Anne Meara said, as if she'd been waiting all her life for a glimpse of the man. "There's Jerry," she said. And Stiller smiled a gigantic smile, saying with characteristic mischief in his voice, "Well, hello."
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