A few years ago, a friend of mine was invited by his professor to attend a post-lecture reception for Werner in Western Massachusetts. My friend sent me an email shortly thereafter.
My old friend wrote:After the lecture, to my private dismay, a group of 30 or 40 of us went back
to a large fine-dining room on the Amherst campus. We had assigned seating
around several round, white, candlelit tables. The catering was good, and my
tablemates--a UMass communications professor, a Smith professor of German, and a
couple of Amherst students--were perfectly nice. But, Werner Herzog was sitting
right behind me! It was tough to remain interested in my own conversations.
Following the champagne, the chicken and vegetables, the tiramisu and the
espresso, professor Rogowski, who was seated, naturally, with Werner, called us
all to attention for a toast to thank him for coming. We raised our glasses,
and, not long afterwards, started one by one to get the picture that it was time
Damn. I had been contemplating an evening shooting the shit with Herzog,
asking him what article of my own clothing I would have to eat to work on his
next film. I couldn't just go like this. So, I made a beeline for his table.
Werner was already getting up to leave and chatting in German to another
professor. I waited patiently and, when he was finished, attempted to introduce
myself. "Mr. Herzog," I said, "if I don't at least shake your hand before I go,
my roommates are really going to give me a hard time tonight." As I reached to
shake his hand he looked me in the eyes and said, "I vill eevin geev you a hug."
And with that, Werner embraced me. I was speechless. I said thanks, that was a
real admirer of his work, and, regaining my composure, asked him if he needed a
ride to the airport (I knew he has flying that evening from professor Rogowski)
since I was driving back to Boston. He said, unfortunately, that his flight to
Brazil (to star in Harmony Korine's next film) was out of Hartford. At that point, I remembered that I probably wasn't the only person who wanted to say goodbye to Herr Herzog so I bid him a final farewell.
So, that was it. I would have loved to have gotten a contract to hit the road
with one of my personal filmmaking heroes, but to receive an unprovoked hug from
him instead definitely doesn't place a far-too-distant second.