Maybe Ethan Hawke Got Eaten By the Snake? The Night the Cast of Dead Poets Society Ended Up In My Apartment


DPS Graphic

I had a completely random celebrity encounter, and it’s a cool story.

Except for the part where I managed to give the completely wrong impression. You only get one chance to make a first impression, right?  And sometimes you blow it because you’re holding a snake at exactly the wrong time. Just me? Okay then. Allow me to explain.

Let me get this out of the way right now. There is no Ethan Hawke in this story. Don’t read on, thinking he’s going to show up at the last minute. Or pop out of a closet. Or swoop in with a snarky Gen-X-ish comment.  These were the Reality Bites years, so I’m sure he was off somewhere, you know, not bathing. I mean, come on Ethan – would a bar of Irish Spring and a stick of Right Guard have hurt? And maybe the occasional shave? Well?

The summer after college, I was living and working in Nantucket. It was a hazy, “anything goes”, let’s-go-to-the-beach- at-midnight kind of summer, the last summer to run wild before joining the real world. Oh, the stories I could tell… but I won’t, because my kids read this blog. (Note to my kids: I spent the summer delivering Meals on Wheels to elderly shut-ins, sewing blankets for Ugandan orphans, and attending daily church services. Now, don’t you have homework to do?)

I had a bunch of roommates. One roommate had a boyfriend, who happened to have a pet snake. The pet snake lived at our place. No, I hadn’t foreseen a reptilian roommate, but made my peace with it. It was a young snake, not even full grown, and, sort of okay. I even eventually got up the courage to hold him. Which brings us to the fateful night.

What you need to know: Nantucket is relatively small, but tends to draw celebrities, so you’re likely to encounter a famous face or two while getting a sandwich, or just grabbing a newspaper. Not that big a deal, usually. But one night, something I couldn’t have imagined happened. And it happened right in my apartment.

This particular night I got home from a party, um, I mean church. I got home from church, and I took the snake out of his… what? Terrarium? Tank? Whatever the glass thingy is that pet snakes live in. And I was holding him when door banged open and one of my roommates tumbled in. She was trailed by a bunch of guys.  She had met them at another party, thought they were fun (and cute!) and dragged them home with her.  As you do.

I noticed the guy that sat down at the table looked familiar. He had medium length brown-ish hair, was adorable, and said his name was Bobby. He was the only one that introduced himself by name, but otherwise he was pretty quiet. Really good looking, but quiet. As I chatted with the others, I kept glancing over at him, sure I knew him from somewhere. But I’d met a lot of people that summer, so I didn’t think too much of it. It was the tall guy I was talking with that had really captured my attention.

So these random guys were in my apartment, and some of them were like, “Um, is that a snake?” Because apparently that’s not a normal thing to encounter in Nantucket. Lilly Pulitzer dresses, yes. Snakes, not so much. They seemed… a bit caught off guard, to be standing there conversing with me holding a snake. Eventually, we said our goodbyes, and they left with my roommate to go somewhere else.

Much later in the evening, my roommate ran in the door breathless. Here was the conversation as I remember it:

Her: So, did those guys look familiar?

Me: Um, kind of, I guess. Why?”

Her: Well, I was talking to them when we got to the party, and they said they live in New York, and they’re actors. So I asked them if they’d been in anything I’ve heard of, and the one guy said… ommygod I can’t believe this… Dead Poets’ Society! We were hanging out with the guys from Dead Poets’ Society and we didn’t even know it! That’s like my favorite movie of all time!” She gushed.

And suddenly it hit me why the guy at the table looked familiar. It was Robert Sean Leonard, the guy who played Neil. (If you haven’t seen the movie, spoiler alert: Worst ending ever for Poor Neil).

That’s right. Unbeknownst to me, I had just had the cast of Dead Poet’s Society in my living room.  Minus Ethan Hawke of course, because he was off traipsing through Vienna with Julie Delpy or some other smelly nonsense.  What kind of an idiot doesn’t recognize the cast of Dead Poets’ Society when they’re right under her nose? This idiot. Gaah. My score for powers of observation? Zilch.

She continued to burble about the rest of the guys that had been in my living room not an hour before. All of the main characters, save Ethan Hawke, and Robin Williams of course, were on the island, just hanging out. I do know, based on my roommate’s apparently frantic questioning when she found out who they were, that Knox Overstreet/Josh Charles  (how adorable was he?) was on the island too,  but not out with them that night, and was instead back at the house with his then girlfriend.  My roommate was crushed to find out he was taken. “But I looooove him!” she wailed.

And then she dropped the bomb. Apparently, the entire group of guys had referred to me as “Snake Girl” for the rest of the night.


Also, once she found out who they were, she started trying to engineer a way to hang out with them again.

“Oh, and I told Jamie you thought he was cute, and that you really liked him.”

Jamie being the tall guy with dark hair that I had been talking to. (He played Gerard Pitts in the movie.)

Here I should point out that I had never told her anything of the kind. However, my interest was piqued. Tall guy with dark hair? 100% my type. I was 22. I was… twitterpated. Hells yeah, I thought he was cute.

“I can’t believe you said that! You’re such a liar! So, um, what did he say?”

“He goes, ‘Really? The girl with the snake?  So, do you think she’d go out with me if I asked her?’ And I told him you definitely would, so he’s gonna call you.”

Things had just gotten interesting. I could definitely get on board with a date with a cute guy.  But, disappointingly, he never called.  Instead, a few weeks later, when my family was visiting, I came back to the apartment one day and my sister told me, “Some guy stopped by asking for you.”

“Who was it?”

She shrugged. “I didn’t ask his name. I just told him you weren’t here”.

“What did he look like?”

“Tall guy, dark hair.”

Yep. That was him. Damn.

I left the island a week later, and never saw him again.  So, yeah, I completely missed my chance to go on a date with one of the guys from Dead Poet’s Society. And I managed to give the cast of one most iconic movies of my generation the impression that I was some sort of dangerous, bizarre, reptile loving chick, which is so not who I am. Guys, if you’re reading this, and I know you’re not, I don’t even like snakes! It was a moment of weakness! The Nantucket fog had muddled my brain!

But hey, at least my reputation’s still safe with Ethan Hawke, right?

Dead Poets Society


  1. Hey, Snake Girl — hilarious story! I’m laughing just PICTURING that scene — you just calmly petting a snake while celebs crash your pad! So funny! My favorite lines are when you said Ethan Hawke “was off somewhere, you know, not bathing” — and when you assured your kids you weren’t PARTYING in Nantucket — you were “sewing blankets for Ugandan orphans!” Ha! Love the story and of course LOVE the title! :o)

  2. God, I LOVE this story so damn much, even without Ethan Hawke!! My sister had a MAD crush on Robert Sean Leonard back in the day! And I totally pink, puffy heart Josh Charles, too. You are SO LUCKY, even if in order to meet the DPS guys you had to hold a snake…that’s what she said! ;)-Ashley

    • Tell your sister he’s just as cute in person. And you have no idea how hard I resisted putting double entendre about the snake in this post. Trying to keep it classy. 😉

  3. I actually dated a guy that had a python for a pet. And he rode a motorcycle. So yeah, I went through that phase…when *I* was busy going to church and knitting blankets. ahem.
    I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT “Bobby” was Robert Sean Leonard!!!! OMGEEEEEEEE! He was the dreamiest one!! And the others too…AND YOU ALMOST DATED ONE OF THEM??!!!???!!! This is totally the best celebrity encounter I’ve read in a long time. It’s just AWESOME!! I feel sort of famous just having read it. –Lisa

    • Heh. He was actually driving you to your blanket-knitting church group on that motorcycle, right? And agreed, Robert Sean Leonard was dreamy. Still is.

  4. GREAT story! Is it okay if I still think of you as a dangerous reptile handler? Never mind, I’m just going to do it. Ellen

  5. Fantastic story!

  6. Holy cow, that’s wild. Snake girl… how unfortunate!!

  7. Lisa this is hysterical!!! I love that you were snake girl, makes you sound very cool!!! What a fun post!!

    • Thanks Kathy! So glad you liked it. (And I don’t think I was “cool” as much as “victim of unfortunate timing”.) They were cute, though, and it’s a fun memory for me.

  8. omg how do you not tweet this to every person listed on iMDB even remotely related to this film???

    • That didn’t even occur to me. Gahh… what if they don’t remember? Even worse, what if they do? Not sure which would be worse.

  9. Oh my gosh, this story is awesome! I wish I had a story like that, you’re going to get mileage FOREVER on that one. And maybe someday even be the cool mom because of it!

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