Witnesses: Actor Was In Full Navy Dress, Looked ‘Pretty Good’ For 59
L. Douglas Wilder was carried from his office this morning, on his final day as Richmond mayor, nestled in the arms of Richard Gere, who was dressed in a U.S. Navy uniform at the time.
Observers said the Golden Globe Award-winning Gere, 59, arrived in Richmond early this morning on his motorcycle and parked in front of City Hall. In his newly starched uniform, Gere walked straight through the 11-story building’s glass doors and spent roughly two minutes searching for the 77-year-old Wilder, who sources say was unaware the actor, a longtime friend, was coming into town.
“Once Mr. Gere found the mayor, the actor then kissed the Democrat on the nape of his neck, at which point Mayor Wilder turned softly and saw the actor, known for his leading man status in dramas and romantic films,” city spokeswoman Bethany Farinhold said, walking reporters through the series of the morning’s events. “Mr. Gere, an attractive man by anyone’s count, then easily and without hesitation lifted the 160-pound mayor into his strong, sculpted arms, and carried him from the building.”
“It was an iconic scene,” she said, holding back tears and reaching for a box of Kleenex.
Other witnesses were just as moved.
“Way to go, Doug! Way to go!” said a smiling Becky Switzer, one of a dozen or so city employees who began clapping as Gere walked, Wilder cradled in his arms, directly out of City Hall’s front door.
For Wilder, who has kept a low profile in recent months after a series of political cinematic flops, the ending marked one of the most memorable moments in his storied acting career. Having played a range of roles in his lifetime – from tough-guy Virginia governors to Sunday morning talk show guests – many critics have called his most recent portrayal of a mid-size town’s mayor a box office disaster.
Those who witnessed Wilder’s climactic final scene this morning recalled overhearing Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ “Up Where We Belong” playing on a nearby radio.