“Daddy!” my mind squealed to itself, as I pulled over to the curb yesterday morning and turned the radio up.
“Morgan Freeman and a companion were in a serious car accident on Sunday night, August 3rd, 100 miles South of Memphis in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. Although he is in a serious condition and the jaws of life were used to extract him from the wreckage, it is said that he is not facing anything life threatening. His female passenger is said to have suffered minor injuries,” said the radio reporter.
Greatly relieved, I pulled out into the traffic and continued on my way to work. Morgan Freeman is not my father. But he reminds me – in a disturbingly vivid way - of my father. At fourteen years of age when I first laid eyes on him “Driving Miss Daisy”, I was instantly struck with affection for him. This affection has grown even more rapidly than his career.
Morgan Freeman’s character goes down in a movie, I’m baying for blood. Someone wrongs him, I want justice of an intensity that even the screenwriter couldn’t have predicted in an audience reaction. And God forbid he’s injured or dies! I am howling inconsolably on the floor, streams of tears, snot and spit criss-crossing freely down my face. Before I watch a movie with Morgan Freeman in it, I have to seriously consider his role and weigh up how emotionally damaging it will be for me. This Daddy’s-little-girl barely copes otherwise.
So it was with panic that I heard the news of his car accident yesterday morning. According to a CNN.com report, The Associated Press released that Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Ben Williams said, that Freeman was driving a 1997 Nissan Maxima belonging to his passenger, Demaris Meyer of Memphis, when the car left a rural highway and flipped several times shortly before midnight Sunday.
"There's no indication that either alcohol or drugs were involved," Williams said. Nursing a broken arm, elbow and shoulder injuries, CNN’s sources reported him to be in good spirits, even joking with work paramedic crew as they tended to him.
Born in Memphis and raised for some of his childhood in Mississippi, Morgan Freeman - along with a business partner Bill Luckett – bought a juke joint in the small town of Clarksdale, Mississippi and opened their venture, “Ground Zero.” This year, they opened a second Ground Zero juke joint in Memphis.
I have long suspected I will have a great affinity with the South and have wanted for many years, to take the drive from Los Angeles to New Orleans. Finally, my husband and I will make that journey at Christmas. Over this period, my husband’s birthday falls. He is a musician and I a music lover so we added Clarksdale, Mississippi to the agenda. It might be a small town but Calrksdale is the cradle of Delta Blues (the forefather of rock n’ roll as we know it today) and is added to the list of many making a blues pilgrimage.
And so it is on my husband’s birthday that we have allocated a trip to the Delta Blues Museum, dinner & drinks at Ground Zero juke joint (only later to discover it is Morgan Freeman’s) and a late-night visit to the Crossroads (now a brightly lit junction on a sealed, rural highway - not the dirt road, under the moonlight where legend claims Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to play badass blues guitar somewhere back in the 1930s). We will endeavor not to repeat Mr. Freeman’s action-blockbuster performance of last Sunday night.
Clarksdale was the home of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Nate Dogg, Same Cooke & Ike Turner to name a few and was the lazy, humid, summer home of Tennessee Williams. I have assigned more than a little romance to the grit, soul, tough times and rich, musical history of the region and am already taken by the poetry it has conjured in my heart. So it was with a certain understanding that I read an excerpt from a 2005 CNN interview with Morgan Freeman where he said that returning to the area was, "one of the smartest moves I've made in life.
"My aim in life when I graduated from high school was to get out of Mississippi," he said. "I started coming back in about 1979, because my parents moved back, which I couldn't understand. What in the world would make you come back here? It took me about 20 years to figure that out."
And it is perhaps this wisdom that keeps him – current incident, PR commitments and press junkets aside –and others in his industry and of his caliber out of the flash bulbs of the paparazzi.
I work in a facility where I encounter many celebrities. You can rest assured that it is always the young, trashy, Hollywood kiddies who arrive to their appointments with multiple town cars in tow, armies of concert-like security, diva demands and all the pomp and fanfare of a mediaeval King. And you can rest assured that it was from one car, with one companion that a very composed Mr. Morgan Freeman slid peacefully and unassumingly into the building. In fact, if it weren’t for his impeccably groomed and distinguished appearance, his quiet yet purposeful stride, imposing frame and then that voice - politely enquiring which studio he was in - you wouldn’t have known he’d arrived. And with a flash of that mischievous and winning smile, words failed me.
And so Mr. Freeman Sir, if I had only found the words that day, I would have liked to have said, “It is such a privilege to meet you Sir. Your work is tremendous. You remind me very much of my father and that is the highest compliment I can give you.”