I’ve been thinking a lot about charisma. It’s from the Greek kharisma meaning “gift”. Thinking about who has it, who doesn’t, how does one get it…can you learn how to have it? My thoughts led me to the most charismatic person I have ever met. Superman…well…

Christopher Reeve. I met him…..hmmmm….must have been in the mid-late 1980s. He was doing “Love Letters” on stage in San Francisco, CA. The administrators at the Conservatory/American Conservatory Theater had invited him to come to the acting school to talk with the students. I was an administrative assistant at the acting school.

At that time, I was not a fan of “Superman” OR Christopher Reeves. Didn’t even show up on my female radar (no worries, other males did…just not Chris). 

Christopher agreed to talk with the students. Everyone was excited. Most of my co-workers had other duties to attend deal with before his arrival, so, I was asked to “make Mr. Reeves comfortable” until they could escort him to the studio. *shrug* O.K. No biggie. Will do.

I sat at my desk and attended to my paperwork (enrolling acting students)…suddenly…it was if the air in the room changed. I immediately stopped working. Everything was different. My heart started to pound. “He” was getting close. I thought, “how odd” to myself. After working at ACT for several years I had become desensitized to “stars”… so it wasn’t that giddy feeling. Everything was different. I just sat at my desk and waited.

I could hear the old elevator working…I waited. I head the doors open, the heat in the room intensified…and then here he was. I believe I stopped breathing.

He was magnificent….a certain charisma flowed from him. He turned to me and smiled. I motioned for him to come to me.

He smiled, said, “Hello” in a voice that was warm and inclusive and delicious. I felt safe with him.

“Hello Mr. Reeves, please – ”

he interrupted me…

“Please, call me Chris…”

“Chris, please have a seat, they are getting the room ready for you – would you like some water? Tea?”

“Tea would be delightful, thank you.”

And then my phone rang. DAMMIT. I wanted to yell at the woman on the phone…

“SUPERMAN IS AT MY DESK…GO AWAY!”

But I didn’t. She wanted to know what it took to be an actor. I repeated the question while looking at “Chris”. He smiled a most beautiful smile and then whispered…

“Looks like YOU will need the tea.”

And he, the charismatic guest, made tea for ME.

What I will always remember was his essence. It preceeded him, filled the room and is still with me. I was horrified when he became a quadriplegic after a fall off a horse in 1995…and  grieved when he died…

He was an amazing man. Filled with spirit, humor, compassion and had the graciousness  to serve an administrative assistant stuck on the phone, a cup of tea.

You’ve got to give more than you take. (Christopher Reeve)

Maybe that is the best way to think about charisma. The gift that you give to others, with very little thought of taking. Anyone can do it.

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