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I don’t know why I chose to clean out my storage room on Father’s Day weekend. Probably because it was the only weekend I have had free in quite some time. I had not even realized it was Father’s Day until I checked Facebook late Saturday night and my friends’ profile pictures had changed to pictures of their Dads’ or special father figures.
Last year I used a very special picture to pay tribute to my dad on Father’s Day. It was a picture of me and my Dad, Bobby V (his favorite moniker), perched at the very top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. You see, we were there for a very unique purpose: my very first major professional acting assignment co-starring in the Steven Seagal straight-to-video epic entitled “Mercenary For Justice.” Bobby V’s purpose: to be my biggest cheerleader and support while he realized his own dream.
I will never forget the moment that I told him I had received the part as Steven’s gun-toting, kick-ass, foul-mouthed side-kick. He was over the moon. He had always wanted me to become an actress, a career that I had resisted. Daddy was always right, however, and somehow I ended up living in LA and pursuing his dream, which soon became my dream too. When Bobby V dropped me off at the airport in Miami to catch a flight to South Africa, the lady checking me in at the airport asked me my occupation. Being a fashion model for over a decade, I was about to spurt out my usual response when Bobby V, sensing what was about to come out of my mouth, interrupted me and stated emphatically “She’s an ACTRESS, Miss.” It was a moment that I will never forget.
I flew to Cape Town and it would be two weeks before my Dad could come to see me. By that time, I was full-swing into shooting the movie. Not used to the fast pace and rigorous schedule, I was excited to have a few days off to relax and check out the sites with my Dad. During that time we covered a lot of ground. Bobby V. had never been to S.A. and he was motivated to soak in as much of it as he could. Jovial, energetic and curious, he drove us to the Cape of Good Hope and around the beautiful, scenic coast. We watched wild baboons cross the freeways, shopped at local markets, met up with the cast and crew for dinner and drinks, and finally, on our last free day, took the tram up to Table Mountain. The ride was much scarier than it looked from down below and once we got up there, I was in awe. The view was breathtaking and we posed for pictures as we stood on top of the most beautiful place in the world. Dad said he most definitely wanted to buy a place in Cape Town because that it was his favorite place on earth. I believed him.
Shooting continued for a couple more weeks and Bobby V practically became part of the crew. He quickly made friends with Steven’s Bulgarian bodyguards and was never seen without his camera around his neck and sporting a big smile. He would drive me to the set every morning and pick me up every night. When we got back to our apartment overlooking Table Bay, he would open a new bottle of wine from whatever local vineyard he had visited earlier that day and pour me a glass while he cooked us dinner.
On the very last day of shooting, Dad had the entire cast and crew sign a t-shirt that he had made. It was a picture of him and Steven that was taken a few days before. Being a part of the movie had rocked his world and he wanted everyone to know just how special it was for him.
The next day it was time to pack up and head home. His flight was before mine so we arranged to have a taxi pick him up from our apartment. We had a hard time closing his suitcase as he had purchased so many souvenirs. He was worried about losing his beloved signed t-shirt so he made sure to pack that in his carry-on. As he put his bags into the taxi, we hugged and kissed and said our goodbyes. We knew we had shared something extraordinary and were sad to have to let it transition to just a memory. “Bye Dad! I love you!” I yelled and waved as he got into the taxi. He looked back at me from the back seat and waved. He was heading off to his next adventure as the taxi grew smaller and smaller in the distance.
That was the last time I would ever see Bobby V. I would speak to him from time to time as we both traveled for work, catching up with each other by phone when we could. Six months later, he suddenly passed away in a car accident outside of Belgrade, Serbia. Throughout the paradox of feeling the numbness and pain following the accident, I had bittersweet anxiety about the release of “Mercenary.” I knew it would forever be our movie, our memory, our adventure. Regardless of what the reviews might be, I knew that I would always be proud of the movie and so would he.
Saturday night as I dusted off the top of the box labeled “DAD”, I hesitated knowing what awaited me. As I lifted off the top, I was instantly overcome with the scent of his signature Ralph Lauren cologne. It was still in his toiletry bag from his ill-fated trip to Serbia. So comforting was the smell that I instinctively dove my nose straight into the bag to bask in its warmth and love. Taking my time, I rummaged through the box of his personal effects. I poked through pictures, old business cards of dreams never realized and his well stamped passport. I smiled as I caught a glimpse of the stamp from Cape Town, South Africa. There it was: our trip, our memory, our adventure. It would always be ours and ours alone, just Jackie and Bobby V.