I thought, being both stunningly beautiful and famous for her roles in Kiss the Girls, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, Norma Jean & Marilyn (she played Marilyn Monroe) that Ashley Judd would stand out like a Bird of Paradise in a barnyard.
She didn't stand out. She was there but I didn’t see her until she detached herself from the hotel lobby wall. It was a kind of yoga trick, of going very quiet and blending into the woodwork so nobody noticed a world famous movie star. It was self defense, because if anybody had noticed Ashley Judd, she’d have been mobbed.
This is the time of year when the Indy Cars head south for Spring Training to test the cars and drum up a little PR for the new season. I'd called up Dario Franchitti and asked if I could take him to dinner for an interview and he said, “Sure. Would it be OK, if I brought along my fiancé.”
“Sure,” I said. Thinking YIPPPPEEEEE. Wondering if she might be a cousin.
We left the hotel quickly. They were so cute together. Dario in the front seat, reaching awkwardly around his neck to hold her hand in back.
At the Sebring Diner, (much less chance of being recognized in a diner than some fancy place. Plus there are no fancy restaurants in Sebring) Dario was his usual self. Ask him a question or two and he’s off, funny, open, insightful. Here’s a couple of samples: “Soft tires, a thousand horsepower, as far as the road courses were concerned the cars were perfect. But they had to slow them down for the ovals because they were just out of control. I mean 242 average at Fontana with a big wing on the back.
Least favorite words: Do you know why I’ve stopped you?
Favorite words: God says, “there’s a bunch of your buddies in the back room.”
The interview didn’t take long and then we just talked. Ashley was incandescent. Actors often have a public, glittering, utterly charming public persona. Ashley was just herself. Which is to say very, very bright.
“Sure, girls from New York are tough. And girls from Georgia are sweet. But those feisty Kentucky girls, they are the ones you have to look out for. We have sugar and fire in our blood. We can ride a horse, be a débutante, throw a left hook and tell you the entire UK football line up all while making sweet tea. And if we have an opinion, you get to know it."
After a bit we talked about family.
She knew more of the Judd genealogy than I did. “Right, right, Thomas Judd and his family were on the Griffen, landed in Boston in 1633,. Don’t you wish we still had that farm he had in Cambridge? We’d own half of Harvard?”
|Dario wins the Indy 500|
The next morning Dario was outside his race car, twisted into some strange yoga stretch. “Where’d you learn that?” I asked.
“Where do you think?”