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(Credit: Far Out / Alamy / Val Kilmer / Press)

Music

The moment Val Kilmer had a star-struck spat with Bob Dylan

Against our greatest hopes and intentions, it can be a stressful ordeal when handed the opportunity to meet our heroes. Thoughts rush through the brain, you dream of what you would want to say to them, perhaps a joke or a charming anecdote. But when you finally have the opportunity to talk to someone you admire so much, be it a film star or a rock star, your mind turns to mush. I remember a story of a friend who dreamt of meeting his favourite England cricketer, he explained that he would be at a signing event on the weekend. My friend told me how he was going to act all suave and shake his hand, throw in a joke he had about his spin bowling (that’s as much as I know, cricket is lost on me). When the time finally came, I had the day off and thought I’d accompany him. 

All I can say is that my joining him was one of the best decisions I’ve made. In the reality of the moment, the pressure was too immense and all he said, while looking down at his feet, was “alright mate?” and a grunt of thanks after the signing as he turned back towards me red at the face. It’s safe to say I had my fun after seeing that woeful display. But I have to admit, I’m no stranger to this feeling of star-strike and it appears that sometimes even big stars can feel a little hot under the collar when they meet their heroes leaving with regret heavy on their shoulders.

As it turns out, the Hollywood star of Top Gun and Tombstone, Val Kilmer, is a big Bob Dylan fan; he once he heard that Dylan was in New York at the same time as him and he decided to see if he could grab some face time with the famous songwriter. He once explained: “So Bob Dylan loves Tombstone, It turns out. I found out he was in New York so I called my friend and I said you know, I’d love to meet him, is there any chance and he says, ‘I don’t know, I’ll find out’. And the next call I got I thought was going to be my friend, but it wasn’t, it was Bob.”

Watch Bob Dylan perform ‘North Country Blues’ at Newport Folk Festival in 1963

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He continued: “I was real excited, like a crazy fan, like a child; it was so great. Basically, it was like nothing. It was like we were old friends, it was like ‘you want to come over?’ and he was like, ‘yeah.’ So, hangs up the phone, I was newly married and we had a baby and I went in and said: ‘I think Bob Dylan’s coming over … I’m not sure, it could be a hoax’”/

Adding: “He shows up and sits down and he wants to talk about Tombstone, but I just can’t, you know, nor can I talk about any of his stuff. Eventually, he says, ‘ain’t you going to say anything about that movie?’ and I said, ‘do some ‘Blowing in the Wind’ and I’ll …that’s what I said to him, basically I said no. I get like that sometimes. So I turned him down and, I thought, no one turns this guy down.” Seemingly, Kilmer was regretting his strange decision not to humour Dylan in light conversation even in the moment.

After the visit, he regretted not having performed some of the classic lines from Tombstone. He continued: “Anyway, I felt like an idiot afterwards, well, yeah I could have said a few lines. They’re fun lines too, like people still ask me to say lines and now I’ll tell any schmo in the airport, I’ll say ‘I’m your huckleberry,’ but I wouldn’t say it to Bob Dylan”.

Fortunately, life often gives us a chance to make amends. Kilmer had an idea: “I felt so bad about it. I was like how could I make it up to him? So what I did was, I recorded ‘It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding’ but as Doc Holiday [from Tombstone] and I put in all of the big lines from the movie into the song and made him a little tape.”

Listen to Bob Dylan’s ‘It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding’, which Kilmer used for his apology tape, below.