Posted: Monday May 1, 2006 4:35PM; Updated: Monday May 1, 2006 5:59PM
I've met lots of people more important than me -- that's essentially my job description -- but I was surprised at how nervous I was driving to the Forum that night. Oddly, Tyra put me right at ease. She was amazingly down-to-earth, funny, girlish. I could only imagine what she looked like in a swimsuit. Anyway, I squired her around the Forum and even got her into the Lakers' dressing room before the game. Nick Van Exel was a Laker at the time and was said to have been infatuated with Tyra. He was so embarrassed, he alone of the Lakers refused to come out of the trainer's room, hiding his face in a towel.
Tyra and I did indeed sit courtside in our foolishly expensive seats and talked about anything but basketball. I was startled to learn, for one thing, that if somebody rich and powerful wanted to date a fashion model, he simply called her agency. Done all the time, she told me, though definitely not in her case. She was more interested in what people alongside us were wearing than what was going on in the game, although she did notice something odd about Van Exel's shoes. I looked closely. "I think he's written your name on his shoes," I told her. Indeed he had.
Later we went to the Lakers' VIP room and I introduced her to owner Jerry Buss. Magic Johnson came by, pretended to remember me and had something to say to Tyra. Tiger Woods rolled by, also had things to say to Tyra. Lots of people found something to say to her. She was very popular.
The night ended and we went our separate ways, although the meeting would continue to reverberate for me. For one thing, I realized I had locked the car with the keys in the ignition when I had parked earlier that night. A roving tow truck passed by and the driver helped me break into my car. Once in, I noticed it felt kind of toasty. I had left the motor running as well. Sometimes I do that anyway, not just when I'm on my way to meet supermodels.
I did get some attention out of it. Apparently game highlights included shots of Tyra at the game, a spectacle even in celebrity-mad L.A. Some of my acquaintances reported spit takes when they realized who was sitting next to her. As for the pictures of Tyra that appeared in the swimsuit issue that year, she was quite attractive, in a fully clothed way. If you look closely, you can see my knee, which the swimsuit editor couldn't entirely crop out.