The Confessional: I was Sean Penn’s Workout Partner (Kinda)

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In my 20s, I was buff–seriously, totally, completely freaking buff. I worked out 5-6 times a week, and was heavy into weightlifting. Nothing made me happier than to out curl and out squat the average man who walked into the gym flaunting his non-existence Arnold Schwarzenegger stuff. I was strong and fiercely competitive.

On occasion, I was also an idiot; like the day I worked out with Sean Penn and didn’t know it. I swear on a mountain of carrot cake topped with the most decadent cream cheese frosting that we spotted each other, shared exercise machines, and even traded stories of leg pressing gone wrong. He was reserved and rather shy, but also commanding and confident all rolled into one well-oiled machine.

I was oblivious to the fact that I was in the presence of greatness. A multiple Academy Award winner and staunch political and social activist stood before me and all I was concerned about was getting through my routine and back to the office before my lunch hour was over.

I thought it was odd that the few familiar faces at the gym that day stared and whispered like little fiends. Most people left me alone. I was a serious weightlifter and did not appreciate distractions. The gym manager and personal trainers giggled and glanced as Sean and I swapped machines and unloaded weights. I noticed these anomalies, but they didn’t register as red flags.

Sean did look strangely familiar and, at one point, I almost asked him if we had met before, but I didn’t want small talk to interfere with the momentum. So I never asked. Never.Freakin’.Asked.

He left before I was finished with my routine. We didn’t say goodbye or see you again. He simply thanked me and walked into the locker room. And that…was that. I didn’t give him or the encounter a second thought, until all hell broke loose. The second he was out of the building, clapping and cheering ensued. I had no clue what was happening. Had I performed the miracle of all leg lifts (doubtful)? Was there suddenly a halo over my head (not likely)? What was going on?

Several gym members rushed over to me. They spoke in sentences that resembled a 33 RPM record playing at 78 RPM. For those not familiar, they sounded like this kid:

“Do you know who that was?”

“Holy shit! You worked out with >>couldn’t catch the name that crackhead just dropped<<!”

“He hasn’t worked out with anyone. Or talked to anyone since coming in here!”

“That was so cool!”

Who? Who were they talking about?

Finally, I heard the name.

Sean Penn.

The look on my face must have lit up like a neon sign in front of a strip joint:

“THIS CHICK IS CLUELESS”

There was silence for about 2.2 seconds and then everyone laughed. And pointed. And laughed some more.

I had just worked out with Jeff Spicoli. Duuuude.

This was my personal brush with greatness. I later learned that his acting career began in television with a brief appearance in a 1974 episode of Little House on the Prairie. This was the year I was born and the book series that initially prompted my love of writing.

Coincidence? I think not.

That’s my Tuesday confession. Have you ever met a celebrity? Share in the comments!

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