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Julia Louis-Dreyfus Shared An Incredible Story About Meeting The Late Sidney Poitier As A Child

Last week, we lost one of Hollywood’s greatest talents: Sidney Poitier, the first Black person to win a Best Actor Oscar, for a long time the director of the highest grossing movie helmed by a Black filmmaker, and who helped break the glass ceiling for Black performers, passed away at the age of 94. His death prompted an avalanche of remembrances (and unearthed anecdotes), but one of the most striking came from Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

“In the middle of the night, when I was 8 years old, I was given a white rose by the most elegant man I would ever meet,” the actress wrote on Instagram. She then detailed how she wound up watching a historic moment for humankind with one of the biggest and most ground-breaking actors of all time.

“I was in Tunisia traveling with my family — my father worked with the 60’s equivalent of Doctors Without Borders. At 2 in the morning, my mom woke me up and, in our nightgowns, we went to the lobby of the Tunis Hilton where they had set up a little black and white television on which at 2:56 am, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.

“Afterwards, we headed outside to look up through the hot summer night at the never-again-the-same moon in the sky. What could possibly top THAT? Well, it was when we returned to the lobby, and that handsome elegant stranger gave to me and each woman present a white rose to commemorate this historic evening.”

Who was that “handsome elegant stranger”? It was the guy who delivered one of the greatest slaps in screen history. “My mom, in something of a swoon, explained to me that this was not just any man, this was Sydney Poitier,” she recalled. “What a gesture. What a gentleman. Rest in peace.”

At the time, Poitier was wrapping up a hugely successful decade. After breaking through in the late ‘50s, he became one of the most popular and bankable actors in Hollywood and on stage, with films like A Raisin in the Sun (in a role he originated on Broadway), Paris Blues, A Patch of Blue, To Sir, with Love, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. He won the Academy Award for 1963’s Lilies of the Field. And he still had a long career and a long life ahead of him.