When they first began dating, Pete Holmes' wife, Valerie Chaney, mentioned she'd always wanted to ride in a hot-air balloon. The comedian took note and when it came time to propose to his longtime partner, he took her to Santa Barbara, engagement ring in his pocket, and went for the grand gesture.
What Holmes, star and creator of the fine HBO comedy series "Crashing" didn't consider was that he would be making this profession of love to his soon-to-be fiancée in a small wicker basket with a strange man basically standing on top of them.
"I could feel the heat of his breath and the tickle of his whiskers, and I'm nervous, and he's operating the thing and this is completely true — I don't like it either — but he kept calling things 'gay.' I don't know this man. This is the most romantic day of my life and he's like, 'That's Janet Jackson's ranch. Gay,'" Holmes recalled on a recent stop at the L.A. Times video stage.
The balloon pilot's off-putting manner threw Holmes for a loop. He became so nervous he didn't even really propose. He just took out the ring and told Chaney he'd be honored to call her his wife.
The pilot's reaction?
"There was a moment of silence," Holmes remembers. "You're just hovering in the air. And he goes, 'A lot of girls say "no."'"
But the truly beautiful thing, Holmes notes, is that Chaney thought it was funny and not horrifying.
"We landed and we started taking notes," Holmes says. "We knew a story had just happened. That's who you marry, not the girl who says, 'That wasn't what I wanted.' "
Elsewhere in the conversation, Holmes spoke about his show's second season standout episode that dealt with Artie Lange's drug addiction, where "Crashing" might be headed next year and the ways in which the series gets both Christians and atheists right. It's not every day that the doctrine of reconciliation gets worked into an Emmy season chat, not to mention antiquated musings about what God might look like. (Holmes used to picture the Burger King monarch, which is a lot more fun than my childhood model.)
You can watch the whole conversation below. And if you're that balloon pilot and you're watching: Relax!