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The one who got away

With a headline like this, you may be thinking I’m writing about a lost love. If so, I’m sorry to disappoint you.

This is a bit different but very memorable, nonetheless.

In my 38 years of journalism, I’ve interviewed thousands of people, including politicians, pro athletes and celebrities. This column is about the latter and a story I have shared at the handful of civic organizations I’ve spoken to here in town since returning. It was a crowd-pleaser.

In 2006 I was halfway through my 12-year tenure in Hawaii. I was editor of a small weekly on the Big Island when I received a call from a woman. She said that her son, who had graduated two years earlier from one of the private schools on the island, had finished his first major motion picture and was wondering if I would be interested in interviewing him. I said sure. That’s when she dropped this little nugget of information.

“By the way, his dad is Clint Eastwood.”

My first thought was, “You have my attention.”

Her son, Scott Eastwood, has gone on to appear in several films in the 17 years since then. But at the time, he was going by Scott Reeves, in honor of his mom, who raised him on the island. A little back story: I believe Clint and his mom met while he was mayor of Carmel, Calif. and she was a flight attendant. They would have two kids together but they didn’t marry, hence Scott taking his mom’s last name. He would later change it because, let’s face it, the name Eastwood opens a few doors in Hollywood.

Scott was living in California at the time of our interview, having just finished “Flags of Our Fathers,” a World War II movie about Iwo Jima. The aforementioned Mr. Eastwood directed the film where Scott had a small role as one of the young soldiers.

I interviewed Scott over the phone. While he had lots of energy, he said he was a little nervous since I was the first reporter to interview him. It was a great interview and at the end I asked, thinking I already knew the answer though it couldn’t hurt, “Scott, is there a chance I could talk to you dad for the article.”

“Sure, no problem,” he said.

I had about two weeks before I was going to run the article. In that time, Scott’s mom brought by some current photos of him as well as a couple when Clint was around 25. Needless to say, there was absolutely no need for a DNA test or to appear on the “Maury Povich Show” to prove they are father and son.

About a week after our interview, Scott called and asked if his dad had gotten ahold of me. Sadly, no. He did have a request and that was for me to not tell his mom that in the movie, he gets his head blown off. Sorry, spoiler alert.

Jump ahead another week and it was press day. I felt the article was good having talked with Scott, his mom and even his high school drama teacher. But a few comments from Clint, well, that would be the proverbial icing on the cake.

Scott called again with the same question. I had the same answer. His response was wonderful, yet typical of any late teen, or early 20s individual when being frustrated with a parent.

“Man, he just does not get it!”

I said, “You realize your dad is Dirty Harry, right?”

I went to press that afternoon and that evening I decided to check my work voice mail. I think you can guess where I’m going with this.

“Uh, yes, Ron Eland, this is Clint Eastwood. It’s Tuesday, I’ll call you Wednesday. Thank you.”

For a brief second, those 14 words resulted in everything in my brain escaping as I forgot how to save a message remotely. I gingerly pressed zero and then heard two wonderful words… “Message saved.”

Needless to say, I called just about everyone I knew and played them the recording. My brother, Scott, had my favorite excited response. “Dude, he said your first AND last name!”

The next day I see a California number on my work phone. I took a deep breath and answered. It was not Clint, but rather his publicist. She said she knew her boss had called. I made the mistake of telling her I had gone to press but I’d be happy to do another story, focusing on the movie. The connection, other than Scott, was that in World War II there was a military camp in town called Camp Tarawa. It was mentioned briefly in the movie because soldiers trained there because of the similar terrain as Iwo Jima.

The publicist said, “Yeaaaahhhh, Clint prefers reporters to see his films before interviewing him. There doesn’t appear to be any screenings in Hawaii.”

I asked if I still had a chance to talk to him. Her answer, and much to my chagrin, “Yeaaaahhhh, nooooo.”

So, while it makes for a fun story to tell these days, Clint Eastwood was definitely the one who got away.

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