Ten years ago this week I took my last walk across the floor of the Texas Senate Chamber. Working as general counsel for the Senate Education Committee during the 77th Texas Legislature in 2001 required me to spend a lot of time in that room.
But that wasn’t my first memory of that room.
During college another friend and I went home for the weekend with a friend who lived in Austin. On Saturday night we were driving around downtown when we discovered an unusual amount of activity around the Capitol for that time of night, so we decided to check it out.
As we were walking in, Dom DeLuise rushed past me.
That could only mean one thing – they were filming a movie. Not just any movie. We were on the set of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.
We just kept walking like we were supposed to be there and blended in with the other extras.
Cameras and lights and cables were everywhere. And there, sprawled out flat of his back on top of the Texas star on the floor of the rotunda was the bandit himself, Burt Reynolds.
When they finally finished shooting the scene in the rotunda, they sent the extras home, announcing that they were shooting a private scene in the Senate Chamber.
Now my friend had worked at the Capitol while she was in high school, so she knew all the short cuts, including a back way to the Senate Chamber.
A private elevator that only the senators and their staff use.
We took turns helping each other climb up and stand on the water fountain by the side door to the Senate Chamber. From there we could look down through the old beveled glass ventilation window folding out above the door, to get a closer look at Burt Reynolds.
Finally they finished shooting the scene and what happened next is one of those surreal moments you don’t ever forget.
The doorknob turned and out walked the star of Smokey and the Bandit – the former lover of Dinah Shore and Loni Anderson and countless other women. All three of us just stood there mesmerized, watching him get in the elevator. It never occurred to us to try to get in the elevator with him. We just stood there staring.
He grinned at us, tipped his hat and said, “Hi, girls.”
The elevator door closed and none of us said a word.
Anybody who ever got stuck riding in that elevator with me heard that story.