Today is a very special day....
As a Welshman it's illegal for me not to observe St David's Day. Meanwhile in the US it's National Pig Day. Most importantly, though, it's Dirk Benedict's 67th birthday... And a chance for me to tell you the tale of how I met a real life member of the A-Team.
I've watched the A-Team since it was first broadcast in 1983 and, unlike most other men my age, I've never, ever tired of watching it. Sure, as a child I was always a disciple of the Baracus sect but that's because I was too young to appreciate Faceman's woman-winning charm and cheeky way of evading the really gritty chores of A-Team responsibilities. A true 'player', over the years he's become the most enduring member of the fugitive foursome. Aspirational even; that moustache he fleetingly sported in season three took dapper levels to a record-breaking high.
I met in him Wolverhampton, having travelled up especially to see him play Columbo in Prescription Murder. The mature, cigar-chomping Faceman made an uncanny Falk-alike. A consummate homicide detective, it's like he'd always been on the right side of the law. His performance was mesmerising... Every one of the sold out crowd at The Grand leant forward, taking in his every move. Faceman from the A-Team was within sniffing distance and, in fairness, he was playing a blinder. We even ignored his flagrant abuse of the no-smoking laws as he puffed away on stage.
I decided to take action at the interval, eschewing beer time in favour of a word with the front of house manager. "My girlfriend is a massive fan!" I lied (she's more a Benedict well-wisher, having not been indoctrinated by the A-Team funadmentals at a formative age). "No problem sir," she knew I was lying. "He always goes to the stage door after the show and is always very friendly."
The rest of the play was a blur. What do I say to such a massive dude? Let's not forget, Dirk's other accomplishments have all been rather respectful... Battlestar Galactica, Charlie's Angles, Hawaii 5-0. He even managed to come out of Celebrity Big Brother with his dignity intact. What the devil do I say to him?
Naturally, I said the obvious. My friend Dan and I were fourth in the queue to meet him and by this point we'd wound ourselves up to a ridiculous level of excitement. A genuine natural high, my girlfriend said it was a glimpse to a five year old Dave, beside himself with enthusiasm.
"Dirk, I've just got to say I'm a massive fan. A-Team rules, and it's incredible to be able to tell you this."
Now here's where things get cool...
"Well I'll tell Dwight and T you said that too. Thanks. Where are you from?"
[Oh my OMG... Faceman's asking me where I'm from!]
"I'm from Cardiff, mate."
[Ha! I've just called Faceman mate!]
"I was doing Columbo there last month! Why didn't you see me there?"
"I was in Nepal. This was the first show I could make."
"You've been to Nepal? Oh wow! I wanna go to Nepal! What was it like? How were those mountains?"
Seriously, WTF? Faceman is asking me about my ruddy holiday! This is going waaaaay better than any Dave/Dirk scenarios I'd anticipated. I told him about the mountains, the curries, the craziness of Kathmandu and paragliding. If it wasn't for the incredulous tutting from the queue building up behind me I'd have shown him some pictures on my phone. He kept on asking questions as we posed for a picture before finishing with this...
"I love this! I'm with all you people in Wolverhampton, and you've all travelled so far and had such different lives. You've been to Nepal and me? I'm just..."
He paused. I took the liberty to finish his sentence.
"I'm just..." he persisted.
"I'm just..." he wasn't satisfied with my assistance.
"I'm just..." once more for luck.
"I guess!" he drawled with a larger than life shrug. At that moment I saw the 65-year-old as the 30-something Faceman. A submissive, affable agreement, all raised eyebrows and a big broad smile... I've seen him make that very gesture in hundreds of episodes. Sometimes as a double-crossing blag, other times in the quest for a little sexy time. For a second, there, I'd actually met my fictitious hero as well as learning that the man who played him had his premium dude levels fully intact. And I'm not ashamed to say the high it gave me remained for the entire weekend... And will stay with me for the rest of my life.
They say you should never meet your heroes. I say poppycock. Happy birthday Dirk Benedict!
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