Last night I went to Barnes & Noble to see one of my favorite show business personalities, Michael Palin, do a reading from his new book, "Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years."
I only found out about it yesterday morning when I saw a small blurb about his appearance in The New York Daily News. I have long been a huge Monty Python fan, and of Michael's post-Python work. His travel specials are simply a delight to watch.
Michael has put out a new book based on the diaries he's kept since 1969, just as Monty Python's Flying Circus was about to be unleashed. (And it's a huge book, just over 600 pages.) I have seen Michael three times before at different signings of the books based on his travel adventures.
I got to the Barnes & Noble store at Lincoln Center about 30 minutes before the reading and signing was going to start. And there was a big crowd gathered at the section of the store where they hold author readings. All the seats were taken when I finally got the book, but I was let in to some standing room that was available. Those people who could not get in weren't shut out, as there were TV monitors outside the room so they could follow along.
Michael spoke for just over 45 minutes, and he was great with his typical breezy and laid back style. He did different readings from the book, from the beginnings of Monty Python and up until the group hit megastardom with "Life of Brian." The funniest reading he did was of his appearance on "Saturday Night Live" in 1978. It was the show that he opened when he posed as his manager and did an act when he put seafood and two live cats down his pants. He said it went perfect in rehearsal, but live on the air, the cats got overanxious and did their "business" down his pants. Michael was absolutely mortified, but it was not seen on the air. It got roars from the crowd at Barnes & Noble.
Michael took questions after he finished the readings. One person asked him, "Is there a place in the world you would like to go to that you've never been to before?" This was asked in reference to his travel documentaries, as it seems like he's been everywhere. In typical Monty Python fashion, he came out with a beauty: "There are parts of New Jersey I haven't been to." That got big laughs, and applause, probably from the New Jerseyites in the audience.
Michael signed books after the questions, and I waited about 35 minutes before I reached him. (I entertained myself by getting updates on my cell from the Red Sox-Blue Jays game.) I chatted with Michael briefly as he autographed my book. He's always been a real gentleman with the fans at his book signings, chatting amiably with everyone, and he signs just about anything connected to him and Monty Python. (Before the reading, everyone who showed was assured that he would stay to sign everyone's book. And I'm sure he did.)
I left the signing and hustled down to the Village, to Professor Thom's to catch the conclusion of the Red Sox game. (I got there in the seventh inning.) It is for very few things that I'll pass on a Sox game, but a chance to meet Michael Palin is one of those things. Thank you for putting the book together, Michael. I can't wait to get going with it. I'll have a review of the book online when I finish it.