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Open House

May 5, 2010

My friend Jim grew up in Los Angeles and San Diego.  He often delights me with his west coast perspective.

When I was reading Andre Agassi’s autobiography, I started to tell Jim about it.

“You know,” Jim said, “the time I was at their house, it was so weird.”

“Wha-huh?”

“Oh … yeah, I was at their house—haven’t I told you that story?  Everybody’s always asking me how I liked Andre, but he was like 8 at the time.”

Jim can drop more names than Kevin Bacon.  Celebrities and screenwriters populate his tales in the same nonchalant way that family members populate mine.

Jim and a friend were playing in an amateur tennis tournament in Las Vegas.  They planned to crash at a dive hotel, but someone told them to stay with the Agassis instead.

Andre Agassi mentions in Open that all of his siblings played in tennis tournaments at the behest of their father.  Andre didn’t mention that their dad accommodated traveling players at their house as well.

Andre’s older brother (with no driver’s license, rumor has it) drove to pick up Jim and his friend.  He dropped them off at the (old) MGM where Mr. Agassi got them into a show and bought them a big dinner afterwards—at 1:00 AM.

Jim felt a bit awkward about freeloading at a complete stranger’s house.  The awkwardness teetered toward angst the next day when Mr. Agassi showed them his pride-and-joy backyard tennis court.  Jim actually hit with Andre Agassi’s dreaded “dragon” ball machine so demonized in the book.  Mr. Agassi, after his hospitality, generosity, and congeniality, asked Jim to humor him and watch the young Andre hit balls from the dragon.

“It was like Jekyll and Hyde.  Mr. Agassi yelled the whole time at the poor kid.  I felt so bad for him,”  … just like Andre described in the book.

I’ve never read a book to which I’ve known an eye witness.  I asked Jim about a lot of other details that Andre described, with no luck.

For anyone who hasn’t read Open, I recommend it wholeheartedly.  It’s joyfully told, even during plaintive episodes.  I laughed when the dragon reappeared later in the Andre’s life for a comic encore.

Perhaps I’m pretentious, referring to Andre Agassi as Andre.  But since my degree of separation from him has been reduced to two, I feel somehow entitled.

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