Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Van Dammage: Day of Days

Today started off quite well, I hit the gym then finished Arnold Schwarzenegger's amazing autobiography Total Recall before 7:00 AM. The office was unsurprisingly quiet before Christmas and then it happened, Jean-Claude Van Damme, his mother Eliana, longtime assistant Kathy and a big golden dog walked in. I was aware that our office handled The Man's Facebook and Instagram accounts where he has amassed a whopping 17 million fans, good enough to best the likes of Johnny Depp, Jennifer Lawrence, Arnold and Mark Wahlberg on the platform. I then had the opportunity to meet The Muscles From Brussels who looked trim and vascular in dark jeans, a skin tight black shirt and JCVD emblazoned cap. I had met Kathy at various events in the past like The American Film Market and on The Expendables II black carpet. Mr. Van Damme was great, full of energy, gracious and immediately commented that I was in shape (Jean-Claude Van Damme just told a former chubby kid who started working out after seeing his movies he was in shape, full circle, Rambo style). Of course I told him he was an inspiration which made him laugh. After a quick introduction to his visiting mother from Belgium, I learned father Eugene Van Varenberg is in town as well. I meant to ask if Van Damme's statue was close to their home but blanked.

I asked if it would be ok to take a photo and Van Damme said it would be his pleasure. Like the ball of energy we all know and love, we proceeded to do a thumbs up pose then he told me to take off my sweater so we could flex and pose "on guard" karate style. We sat down to have some fun and take more pics where I asked about his long gestating personal project, The Eagle Path. His eyes lit up and he said it was coming soon, joking how it was so good it hasn't come out for five years. The title will be Full Love. We finished off with some goofy action shots but I'm kicking myself for not asking to do a back to back, Double Impact homage!

By now we had drawn a crowd in the office and someone sheepishly asked for a photo which opened the gates for everyone else watching to get in line. Van Damme was only too happy to oblige and phones clicked away. I asked a co-worker if he'd taken his photo with Van Damme yet and he didn't believe me until I walked him over. You can see JCVD in a test video for Facebook's new Live Streaming feature where he's being shown the way. While I've been in close proximity to Van Damme at the premieres for Welcome to the Jungle and Pound of Flesh, the moment just didn't present itself to introduce myself and be anything more than a face in the screaming crowd. I always thought we would meet in a more intimate setting and I was right. The knot in my stomach didn't subside for an hour after he and his party left but I'm still smiling that after all these years and near misses, it finally happened.

Thank you, Mr. Van Damme for being such an inspiration. They say you're not supposed to meet your heroes and JCVD has been mine since grade school when he and Bruce Lee inspired me to take up martial arts and weight lifting, but he did not disappoint. He even left me a personalized signed photo. Merry Christmas everyone and stay #MEGAPOSITIVE!

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