It wasn’t that long ago, but it was in the days before Instagram and smartphones with cameras. I was wandering around the Lower East Side in New York City in the middle of January. It was a freezing Sunday afternoon and most things seemed closed. All the shop lights were dimmed with their windows steamed up. I saw the familiar bright lights of a nail salon at the end of a street and knew that a manicure can make even the greyest of days a bit brighter.
Just as I started to settle into my huge massage chair for a manicure and pedicure combo, I remember thinking how happy I was to see that I was the only person in there. Nail bars are universal in their aesthetic; I sipped tea and started flicking through the polish-flecked magazines, when I recognised a familiar laugh among the chatter of Vietnamese soap operas. I looked up to see Jeff Goldblum, who at 6ft 3in seemed to tower over everything, which now seemed miniature in the small salon. He walked into the shop with his wife, the lovely Emilie Livingston, who said hello and sat down next to me.
I thought he’d let her get her nails done and return to whatever Jeff Goldblum does on a Sunday, but no. Instead, as she was choosing colours he pulled over one of the tiny stools the nail technicians use and he, a man of limbs, sat down on it with his knees to his chin. He was between our two chairs.
What happened next, I still have to remember was real – but it was. From his jacket, he pulled out an Archie comic book and began to read it out loud to his wife – and me. With every inch of Jeff Goldblum panache in his delivery, he did different voices for Archie, Veronica and Betty. The way his voice changed in tone for each character and the way he commanded the space of that salon was Oscar-worthy.
I think it must have been a personal joke between them. She was howling with laughter and his incredible and very famous laugh was booming through the room, and I was, well, just sitting spellbound.
Once both our nails were done we moved over to the drying stations and discussed the differences between manicures in LA, Sydney and New York, and I thought the performance was over.
But as I was putting my boots back on, ready to leave this strange scene, he picked up his wife’s now beautifully painted feet, and asked in song, “My lady has sexy, sexy feet, right?”
“Yes,” I said to Jeff, not knowing really how else to respond to this lovely man who had entertained us so beautifully on a very snowy Sunday.