‘Fast & Furious’ star spent time in Macon a week before his death

alopez@macon.comDecember 4, 2013 

Movie star Paul Walker spent part of the last Sunday of his life at a restaurant in Macon.

He was the first person Malcolm Steele, 22, served on his shift Nov. 24 at the Chili’s on Riverside Drive.

“He treated me like I was a celebrity,” Steele said Tuesday. “He was one of the kindest, nicest guys that I’ve ever met.”

“All he kept saying was, ‘you’re doing a good job, champ. You’re awesome Malcolm, a great server.”

Walker starred in five of the six films in the popular car racing series “The Fast and the Furious” and had been in Georgia last month shooting the seventh installment.

He arrived shortly after 11:30 a.m. and spent about 45 minutes in the restaurant, accompanied by a young woman Steele said may have been his daughter. He ordered two waters with lemon and a California turkey club sandwich with a house salad.

Steele, who has been working as a Chili’s server for five months, did not immediately recognize the actor. He said he tried to treat Walker like any other customer.

Eventually, however, the restaurant awoke to his celebrity, and Walker was generous with his time, several employees said. He talked about his films, signed autographs and posed for photos.

“Everyone was running around like school girls with crushes,” said Brittany Hardy, 24, who was bartending.

Walker died the following Saturday in a fiery car crash in Santa Clarita, Calif. He was the passenger in a Porsche Carrera GT that hit a light pole and burst into flames. He was 40.

“It was a shock,” Chili’s host David Tressler, 21, said. “I just met my idol and now he’s gone.”

Tressler sat down at a booth across from Walker to talk to him.

“I sat there mesmerized,” he said. “You know the moment when you are 5 years old and you get that toy at Christmas time where your face is just glowing with excitement? That’s how it was.”

Tressler told Walker that “Varsity Blues” is his mother’s favorite movie.

“He was laid back and down to earth,” Tressler said.

Walker spoke about his father, Steele said, and how he was brought up to love driving cars.

“He was humble,” Steele said.

Walker starred in the first “Fast and the Furious” movie in 2001 and helped inspire millions of fans into exploring performance car culture.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators have not yet determined the cause of the crash that killed him, but preliminary reports indicate speed was a factor.

Earlier that day, Walker had attended a holiday toy drive for his international first aid charity, Reach Out Worldwide.

“I know he’s in a better place,” Steele said. “He just seemed like a great guy.”

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382.

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