I got a surprise call from Paramount Pictures one Saturday morning at the North Kitsap Medical Center. They asked if I knew where the Kitsap High School football field was and how soon could they pick me up there with a helicopter? I asked what was the matter? They just answered that they had a VIP with an eye problem for me to examine. I answered that all my equipments were at the clinic and that treating patients via a simple ‘black bag’ of yesteryears was over. If they needed a proper evaluation, they’d need to come to the clinic.
Half hour later they called back and asked if I’d clear the office of patients and they’d come. I responded that I couldn’t comply, but if they came at 12:30pm, I’d be finished with the appointments and could attend to this VIP. They consented.
I told the staff about this arrangement and asked them to treat these people the same as any other patient, namely make them give proper information and fill out all the usual paper work.
At 12:25, a group of about 8 people arrived. There was definitely a ‘handler’ in charge. While the staff was gathering pertinent data from this leader, I noticed a young woman with purple tennis shoes sitting quietly with her hand over her left eye and with discomfort. I walked over and asked if she was the patient and took her back to the exam room.
First I inquired her for a name. She replied, ‘Debra Winger, just call me Debra.’ Then I asked ‘what do you do that you are a VIP?’ She responded that she was a ‘dramatic artist;’ she did movies. I then questioned ‘what movies have you done?’ She rattled off a list: Slumber Party, Thank God It’s Friday, French Postcards, Warriors and most recently Urban Cowboy opposite John Travolta and Cannery Row opposite Nick Nolta. I inquired, ‘what are you shooting now?’ She replied ‘It’s titled An Officer and a Gentleman, opposite Richard Gere, a love story.’
I responded apologetically, ‘Well, Debra, if you depended on me to make a living, you may be starving for I don’t go to movies often and I have not seen any of your films!’ Debra wittedly retorted, ‘Dr. Chu, if you depended on me for a living, you will for sure starve because until now, I’ve never seen any eye doctors!’
Then I declared, ‘Debra would you do me a favor? When you go up stage to accept the Academy Award, after thanking God and Country, would you mention that you also wanted to thank Dr. Franklin Chu of Poulsbo, WA.’ She countered, ‘Don’t hold your breath; it’s not that good a film. But if I have that chance, I’ll send you two tickets so you can sit in the audience and hear me say that.’
I examined her. She had an infected gland along her L lid, forming an abscess and causing the swelling and pain. Treatment was to open the lesion and drain the contents. Debra informed me that the ‘handler’ must make the ultimate decision. Debra knew that she was merely deemed a profitable object, an asset to Paramount. We brought the ‘handler’ in for the discussion.
I explained the situation and stated that in order to alleviate her pain minor surgery was necessary. I could inject the local anesthetic under the skin beneath her lid, but no promise that I might not hit a vessel which will cause her face to be black and blue. The ‘handler’ reacted “don’t do that!!! Don’t do that!!!”
I then proposed that I could pull the lid outward and inject on the underside of the lid. The handler shouted, “Then do that!!! Then do that!!!” After that I stated that if I happened to hit a vessel there, it would be a good chance that the white of the eye could appear bloody. The ‘handler demanded “don’t do that!!! Don’t do that!!!” She had to check with her superiors. There was a wall phone in the hallway and I told her she could use it.
“Why don’t you talk it over and let me know your desire when a decision is ready.” I retreated to my office across the exam room. With the door opened, I overheard her talking, “Yea, he seemed legit. Got a diploma from Johns Hopkins and his Ophthalmology Board Certification on the wall.”
Finally realizing doing nothing was not an option, she asked me to do my best and told me that by Monday they hoped to complete the final shooting of the scene on the WA ferry.
The surgical incision and drainage was performed uneventfully. I advised Debra to use hot compresses as often as tolerable over the weekend and that there was a slim possibility they could complete the shooting of the film on Monday.
I charged them $158. The handler asked an assistant who swiftly pulled out a stack of $100 bills from his vest pocket and gave the receptionist 2 of them and said to keep the change.
The following week I was frequently interrupted by Paramount Pictures and their insurance company with calls. I discovered that Paramount was requesting two days of delay at $1 million dollars for each day!
p.s. Debra Winger was nominated for best actress for this movie in 1982 but was certain she would not win that even she did not attend the Academy Awards event. Needless to say, she also did not send me any tickets.