This is my favorite Dustin Hoffman story of all time. In fact, it is my favorite story about any celebrity. It is about a simple man who rises to heroism when the situation calls for it. News reports about the event lack in detail so please allow for minor creative license.
It was July in Malibu, and it was hot. Lydia Graham, a 36 year-old, walked along the beach with her friends, dipping their toes in the surf as they chatted. It was a perfect day — the sapphire waves lapped gently along the shore as the women gazed at the horizon. Maybe they would eat tacos later. There was so much about life to enjoy.
A sharp, stinging feeling interrupted Lydia’s reverie and she leapt backwards in surprise. A bee nestled in the sand below where her foot had been. Her friends registered their concern, but Lydia laughed it off. She had been stung once before but it had caused minor swelling, nothing more. But within 30 seconds, Lydia’s laughter turned to panic. The entire surface of her body felt itchy, and then instantly began to blister. Her eyes stung and her lips seemed to expand. Lydia’s friend called over to a beach patroller, a bored-looking teenager who said something about finding a lifeguard but did nothing’s. Lydia began to hyperventilate. Another woman called 911, but first responders were so busy on that summer Sunday that she was put on hold. Lydia’s breathing became more shallow. Her friend Lori, desperate, ran to a couple sunbathing nearby and begged them to do something.
The couple was sunbathing at the edge of their property overlooking the ocean. When they understood what was happening to Lydia, they leapt to their feet. The woman ran into the house and returned holding an epipen, a single dose of epinephrin which can relieve the symptoms of anaphylaxis long enough to get the sufferer to a hospital. The man seized the pen and ran down the beach to where Lydia was lying in the sand, gasping. He whipped the top off the epipen and plunged it into her thigh. The crowd that had gathered waited, not daring to breath, for 15 seconds.
Lydia Graham opened her eyes and gasped. She looked into the eyes of her savior. She was not going to die.
“If I’d known I was going to meet Dustin Hoffman today,” she said, “I would have worn a different swimsuit.”
This is how Dustin Hoffman’s story of heroism has been relayed to me by family, friends, and epipen use instructors. Sadly, it is now time to check some facts.
Myth: Dustin Hoffman plunged the epipen into Lydia Graham, saving her life Fact: According to a report by CBS, it was actually Hoffman’s wife Lisa, who personally suffers from severe allergies, who did the honors. Classic.
Myth: Lydia Graham instantly made a glib comment about her appearance after receiving the epipen Fact: Hoffman actually remembers, “I did recognize that it was Dustin Hoffman, but I was sure that I could possibly die.”
Myth: They were going to have tacos later Fact: There is no clear evidence in either direction
Eight years later on a walk Dustin Hoffman encountered a London jogger going into cardiac arrest. Reports range from claims that Hoffman merely observed the event, to claims that he called an ambulance, to claims that Hoffman stayed by the jogger’s side every moment of the ordeal and personally thanked the emergency responders.
But that’s a story for Hoffman’s next birthday.
Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny