The Day I Met Eddie Murphy

I started my career at NBC in as a Senior Retirement Plan Benefits Administrator. Back then I was part of the Personnel Department — now most typically referred to as either the Human Resources Department or People Services. Personnel was located on the 16th Floor. Because we had so many people being interviewed, a security guard was hired to intercept anyone unfamiliar who stepped off the elevator. Our Security Guard was named Russell, and he ushered people in to take typing and other tests so that they would not be wandering the halls.

Saturday Night Live (SNL) occupied the17th floor, and many days, we shared the elevators with Jimmy Belushi, Billy Crystal, and others on the cast, as well as the musical guest and hosts including Steve Martin and others whom have faded from memory over the years.

Eddie Murphy was a relative unknown at that time. He was a “Featured Cast Member” during my early tenure in the early ’80s. However, he was shaping up to become the successful force be became in fairly short order. Eddie and Joe Piscopo were friendly and would walk the halls inside of 30 Rock on breaks, hoping to be noticed, and when they were recognized, would sign autographs. Both had not yet gotten to the height of their popularity, and it was fun and novel to be recognized.

One day, I happened to mention to my younger sister, Joan that I often have seen Eddie and Joe, and she absolutely freaked out exclaiming, “Oh, I love Eddie! Can you get me his autograph?” Now although I was never told otherwise, my sense was that employees of NBC should likely not be asking for autographs. However, rather than disappoint my sister, I told her I’d see what I could do.

One day, after getting in the elevator, Eddie walked in behind me. As I recall, we were alone. I therefore asked him, “Eddie, my sister Joan is a huge fan of yours. Could I trouble you for an autograph?” He acted very cool and somewhat aloof, but it was clear he was happy to accommodate my request. I began digging in my handbag for a pen and some type of paper on which to write, and naturally, my pen did not work, and I did not have any surface on which to write. I continued fumbling, and as I saw that we were approaching the 16th floor, I said, Eddie meekly, “Eddie, I don’t seem to have a pen that’s working, but there’s a security guard on the 16th floor. Could I impose upon you to step off the elevator with me and just ask him for his pen?” Eddie quietly said, “Sure.” When the elevators doors opened, there was no sign of Russel, our Security Guard. My heart sank. In a last-ditch effort, I again pushed the limits, and said to Eddie, “I work in Personnel right through that doorway. would you mind terribly coming inside and allowing me to grab a pen from a colleague?” This time, he quietly said, “No problem.” I guided him into our department apologizing as he followed me, as found a colleague named Trudy, and asked her if I could borrow her pen. She glanced at me with a somewhat impressed yet cool expression and handed me a pen and paper. Eddie asked, “Who should I make this out to?” to which I answered, “Joan.” He quickly signed his name and left, but not before saying, “Thanks, Joan!” I stood there stunned for a minute, but he clearly thought that I was asking for the autograph for myself. I smile to this day when I reflect on this.

Years later, Eddie was a regular and then got so big that he began going on tour for his comedy. He was also being presented with movie deals. One day, many years later, I was on the elevator engrossed in some document, completely unaware of anyone entering or exiting the elevator. As I continued to read, I noticed a set of eyes peering from underneath the document that I was reading just about at hip level. It was Eddie, playing around, being silly, and trying to get my attention. Despite that so much time had passed, he remembered me — -likely because I was one of the first to ask him for an autograph. He smiled as he asked in a deep voice, “How you doin’?” That impressed me.

That day he was dressed in black leather pants, a jacket, and a hat and was looking sharp. He also had a large, muscular guy with him whom I assumed was his bodyguard. It was clear that he had experienced tremendous fame. Although it was reflected in how he dressed and carried himself, he was still down-to-earth Eddie. Over the next few weeks he graced the elevator and halls of 30 Rock with many more matching outfits such as a green, tan and white fatigue/combat outfit.

He also visited numerous times over the years well after starring in movies, and in the words of the English poet, Rudyard Kipling, had not seemed to “lose the common touch.”

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Marissa E. Marsala

Marissa E. Marsala is the founder of Employer & Candidate Connection, an executive search and career coaching company.