Yesterday evening I told a journalist friend I was having trouble reaching out to associates of a certain famous guy over a certain matter (never mind what). And so I mentioned a thought about possibly dropping off a sealed note at the famous guy’s home. Couldn’t hurt, right?

Journo friend was mildly alarmed by this. He actually used the word “stalker” in our discussion. Dropping a note in a mailbox is stalking?

The first time I tried the letter-drop approach was in December 1980. I had pitched a Peter O’Toole interview to GQ, and they said “okay, go for it” and ICPR publicist Carl Samrock approved it by, I understood, laying the groundwork. So I flew to London, and O’Toole’s rep said “what interview?…we didn’t agree to this.”

How did I save the day? In journo-friend terminology I “stalked” O”Toole by finding his Hampstead Heath address (Guyon House, 98 Heath St., London NW3 1DP, UK) and dropping off two or three letters (successive) in his mailbox, begging him to grant me a little time so I could fulfill the assignment.

After the second or third letter they agreed. I was given 45 minutes at O’Toole’s home. Downstairs parlor. Our chat happened a day or two after John Lennon was murdered — 12.9.80 or 12.10.80.

I might not have been the most skilled or confident journalist at the time, but he gave me the absolute bare minimum in terms of time and open-heartedness. (I remember thinking as I left his home, “Wow, a bit of a prick but at least we spoke.”) We also chatted during a 1981 press event for My Favorite Year, and once again he wasn’t all that mensch-y.

O’Toole was probably one of those guys who needed a few drinks to really relax. I know he tended to regard conversations as an opportunity to pronounce and speechify.

So no, it wasn’t a great interview, on top of which only half of it was recorded due to some glitch in my ghetto-blaster recording device. I nonetheless managed to throw together a reasonably good article.

HE to journo pally: “Do you sincerely believe that if I were to drop off a letter at [the famous actor’s] building and he were to read it after his lobby concierge guy passed it along…do you sincerely believe that the blood would drain out of the guy’s face upon opening and reading the letter? Do you honestly believe that he would be seized with anxiety and paranoia and might reach for a sedative?”

From HE’s O’Toole obit (12.14.13): “He was a legendary lover of drink, a magnificent royalist, a classical actor for the ages with one of the most beautiful speaking voices ever heard. Fire in the blood and diction to die for. O’Toole was a legendary personality (he could be great on talk shows), the half-mad blonde beauty of Lawrence of Arabia, an inhabitor of King Henry II (twice), the wonderfully spirited fellow who rebounded with The Stunt Man, the voice of the gourmand in Ratatouille…a brilliant man in so many respects.

“In private he could be a bit of a snob (or at least with the occasional journalist) but when he chose to be ‘on’ O’Toole snapped and crackled like lightning.

“He had five peak periods in his career. The first peak was a three-year period (’61 to ’64) starting with his being hired to play T.E. Lawrence and then making the film and exploding onto the scene when Lawrence of Arabia opened in late ’62, and then following up with his best performance ever as King Henry II in Peter Glenville‘s Becket.

“He lost ‘it’ for a period in the mid ’60s but then got it back as Henry II redux in Anthony Harvey‘s The Lion in Winter (’68). Then he returned again with that hilarious performance as a hippie-ish paranoid schizophrenic in The Ruling Class (’72). The fourth rebound happened between ’80 and ’82 with his performances in The Stunt Man, the TV epic Masada and My Favorite Year. The fifth and final rebound happened in the mid aughts with Troy, Venus and his voicing role in Ratatouille.

“I loved who he became when the spirit burned within. When he had great dialogue to run with, when the movie and the director were right and the stars had aligned.

“And I loved his snarliness. Listen to this wondrous passage from Becket. This was a man who knew from the crackle of electrons and who didn’t shrink from the moment or the role or anything else. He never ‘existed’ in the Llewyn Davis sense of the term. I never really knew who he really was deep down but when the moment required it O’Toole was one of the most intensely alive actors of all time.”