A woman came up to me earlier this week when I was doing some Christmas shopping. She had a newspaper in her hand and said, ''This is a lucky coincidence. I just bought this show-biz paper and there is a picture in it that has been puzzling several of us over at the counter.''
She held up the periodical which, among dozens of photos, had a picture of Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and my son George at the premiere of ''Ocean's 11'' in Los Angeles. ''Take a look,'' she said, ''Julia and Brad are smiling at the camera, but George is looking at his hand as if he were reading something written in his palm. Do you know what that's about?''
As it happens, I do. As noted in this corner previously, Nina and I attended that gathering and were, in fact, just a few feet away when that picture was taken.
What George was holding in his hand was a julep cup. Since his career in films began, his mother and I get him a julep cup for each new movie and try to inscribe it appropriately. George looks forward to getting the cups, which we always present at the party following the showing. He rips open the package and reads whatever we have inscribed on it to anyone who will listen.
By now, he has quite a collection of them displayed in his house.
What George was doing in that picture was reading the quote to his co-stars, but the angle of that shot hid the cup.
Less than two hours after that picture was taken, those young actors and many others associated with the film boarded an airplane to attend the second premiere, the one they were really looking forward to.
As you may have seen in the newspaper or on TV, they asked to show the movie to troops as close to the combat zone as possible. The Defense Department made the determination that the location would be a base and staging area in Turkey.
George called us from there. He told us the accommodations were fine, then spent nearly an hour talking about the troops he had met there. He couldn't say enough about them, their attitude, their sense of humor, their generous response to the visitors, their obvious dedication, their love of family and country, their homesickness.
He talked about his colleagues from the picture and how hard they worked to talk to everyone they could.
That was the story from his point of view. Earlier this week, I got an enlightening look at the same event from the perspective of a young serviceman who was there.
The young man's mother called me at WSAI radio. She said she had an e-mail from her son that I ought to hear. I'll protect the family's privacy by not using her name, but the story she read me makes Nina and me feel very good.
Her son said the troops expected the movie stars to be put at a head table, sort of ''on display.'' That wasn't how it worked. Each of those world-famous personalities went to a different table, sitting and having dinner with the enlisted men and women.
As luck would have it, George sat at the table of the young man from Cincinnati, who reported that George was as funny as everyone said he would be, but that he also spent much time asking questions and listening carefully to the answers.
He said George tasted the mess hall spaghetti, gave his brief assessment, then went back to the conversation.
When he learned one of his tablemates was from Cincinnati, he immediately launched a barrage of questions, capped with the claim that the soldier was obviously too young to have heard of George's pop, who was ancient. The youngster defended me, to his eternal credit.
He said George then signed every autograph, shook every hand, talked to everyone and had to be dragged away by his escorts, who were trying to keep the event on schedule.
Nina and I loved being at the first premiere, but we would rather have presented that julep cup at the second.