Just Like They Did In Key Largo

A long-ago encounter with celebrity:

In the 80s, one of my college jobs was driving a cab. One night at about 3am, I get a call to a bar downtown called the Key Largo. It had closed half an hour ago, so I figured it was an employee.

I arrive and it’s dead quiet–except for a guy, standing in the middle of the street, looking around. He was about the size of a large hobbit, wearing a camo t-shirt and looking several sheets to the wind.

I pull up next to him, roll down the window.

Me: ‘Did you call a cab’?

Guy: ‘Are you a cab?’

Me: ‘Somebody at Key Largo called a cab.’

Guy: ‘Are you a cab?’

Then I realize: it’s Dennis Quaid. He looks like he just drank everything in the bar, and he’s got that goofy smile. Yep, it’s him.

Me: ‘Shit, are you who I think you are?’

Quaid: ‘I am who I think I am!’

Me: ‘You need a cab?’

Quaid: ‘Are you a cab?’

Me: ‘Yep.’

Quaid: ‘Hang on, I gotta get somebody.’

He jogs off towards the bar, and I pull over, waiting. Five minutes later several people spill out of the bar, laughing and yelling, Quaid leading the way.

They come to the cab, and Quaid said ‘roll down the windows’. I roll them down. He takes a dive through the window but misses on the first try, hitting his head on the door frame. The second time, he makes it. Sliding over to the far side, he says ‘well get in!’ to the others.

There were four or five of them, but they all crammed in the back. Quaid pulled one of women onto his lap. They’d obviously had a good time at the Key Largo.

Me: ‘Where to?’

Quaid: ‘That hotel, the big one, you know.’

For some reason, they all find this incredibly funny. After a minute, I get it straightened out–they’re going to the nice hotel by the river. I think it was called the Riverplace. It’s all of four minutes away.

As we’re driving, they talk about ‘playing the gig’ at the bar. It turns out Quaid was not only in town making a movie, but he had a band and they’d just finished playing. That movie turned out to be Come See the Paradise. This was pre-Meg Ryan.

We get to the hotel, and I ask for his autograph. He writes it on a $20 and throws the pen into the front along with the cash.

Me: ‘Thanks Dennis, it was great to meet you.’

Quaid: ‘Well hell, let’s get breakfast sometime!’

And with that, they piled out of the cab. Through the door this time, laughing all the way to the hotel entrance. That was my last fare of the night. I turned in the cab early and went home. I spent that twenty on gas.