His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama first visited Charlottesville in 1979 and again in 1998, and The Paramount was fortunate enough to host him for his third visit in 2012. Several Paramount staff members shared stories from this unforgettable event.
Upon meeting Sue Green, who was The Paramount’s Security Head/Coordinator at the time, the Dalai Lama immediately played a prank on her. She was helping him up a set of steps when he suddenly put all his weight on her, pretending he needed help walking. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Oh gosh, I can’t carry him around, what am I going to do?’” Sue recalled. She realized it was a joke when he started chuckling and walking normally again. “After that, he held my hand all day as I escorted him around the building. At one point,” Sue added, “he wanted to brush his teeth. We had cordoned off a restroom for him to use, but he insisted on brushing his teeth in the fourth floor kitchen, where someone who was washing dishes got quite the surprise! His Holiness wasn’t what I expected; he was very playful and funny.”
Cathy von Storch, The Paramount’s Education & Outreach Manager, shared an email from the day after the event, sent by Jason King, who was the Theater’s House Manager at the time. Jason’s email reads:
“This event touched so many people, especially the local Tibetan community who got to realize a dream come true in our building. Not only did they get to have a private audience with His Holiness, but also the Prime Minister of Tibet, Lobsang Sangay, which is a VERY rare occurrence on US soil. It’s difficult to really grasp the significance of this private meeting, but please know that this was truly special. Yesterday was a highlight in the lives of all that attended, and how lucky are we that the special feeling the audience now carries with them is associated with our building, and that we got to assist in touching their lives in such a significant and meaningful way. Every time an audience member walks by the Theater now, they will be reminded of feelings they had while in our building yesterday.
“Let’s also not lose sight of the day our special guest, Dani, got to have. Dani was the 14-year-old girl who traveled down from Delaware to be in the same room as His Holiness, and we were able to make her dream come true by getting them to meet. When you see the pictures from that meeting, you’ll see that she defined the theme of yesterday’s discussion: ‘Compassionate Care.’ You’ll see how His Holiness truly cared, and was truly compassionate to her suffering. Rob Garland was able to capture a very special moment in her life when His Holiness bent over and touched his forehead to hers. Amazing. I’m not sure I can come up with words to describe how wonderful that moment was for this little girl who has suffered her entire life.”
Chris Eure, The Paramount’s Executive Director, was part of the greeting team with the Charlottesville City Councilors that day. “We each received a personal blessing,” she said, “and His Holiness wrapped our hands with a prayer shawl that I still have in prize possession. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I can say he had such an electrifying yet calming presence; it was really ‘magical.’ I owe that experience to Jason, who Cathy referenced, as he insisted I needed to be part of that welcoming group to represent the Theater. I’m not a celebrity hound, so I don’t usually force myself into these situations, but when Jason said I needed to be there for the Theater, I acquiesced, and it has been one of my fondest memories.”
We are diligently working to reschedule many of our events that have been interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These events contribute significantly toward our yearly operating budget, and we know that we will suffer a devastating loss of revenue as a local nonprofit theater. Please consider making a donation to The Paramount.
Photos by Rob Garland Photographers