30 Minutes with Meryl Streep. (Clippings)

Article excerpt

The car door suddenly swings open, then slams shut. "Tickets, please," says the conductor. It's just after I p.m. on a humid August day in Washington, DC, and the train is pulling away from Union Station. I'm headed for New York City to meet Academy award-winning actress Meryl Streep, who has agreed to narrate public service announcements for AMERICAN FORESTS.

Outside Penn Station, I line up behind other commuters vying for taxis. The cab ride is like an out-of-control amusement park roller coaster and I'm grateful to arrive at the hotel in Tribeca. Ms. Streep is scheduled to record at 1:30 the next day. I settle in for a night of calming my nerves.

I arrive at the radio station around 1, soon enough to get a tour from the audio engineer, Claudia. Seeing the reel-to-reel and cart machines brings back memories of my days as a radio announcer and news hound. Claudia and I run through the schedule for today: Ms. Streep will be recording a 30-second and a 60-second spot.

I'm waiting in the "green room through what could be the longest 10 minutes of my life when my hip begins to vibrate and chirp. I wrestle out the cell phone but never figure out how to turn off that particular function. The chauffer is calling to let us know he and his famous passenger are about 5 minutes away.

Now my nerves are vibrating like the cell phone. When I worked in radio I had the chance to interview several famous people--Gov. Mario Cuomo and singer Don Henley among them--but this is Meryl Streep, one of my favorite actresses. "Kramer vs. Kramer," "The Deer Hunter," 'Sophie's Choice." She's in a category by herself.

When I arrive at Claudia's office, she's on the phone with the chauffer, describing our appearances. She hangs up and we make the 25-story trip down to meet the car, joined along the way by the building's head of security. Claudia arranged to have the sizable gent escort Ms. Streep as a precautionary measure.

We stand at curbside looking first one way, then the other for a chauffeur who might be looking for us. He waves us toward a black Mercedes-Benz with black tinted windows.

After a handshake and a brief chat with the driver about logistics for picking up Ms. …