LETTER FROM L.A.: Star Traps
copyright 2002, Jim Chevallier
York Times describes a young man standing in the Bel Air Hotel, enthralled
by the stars he sees: Val Kilmer, Heath Ledger, “that guy from Saturday Night
Live”. Two things are unusual about this scene: one is that the young man is
Leonardo DiCaprio; the other is that he’s seeing stars. Yes, you see stars in
Los Angeles. But it’s not terribly common. And New Yorkers in search of famous
faces would do better to walk their own streets more.
forget seeing Woody Allen and Soon-Yi on Madison Avenue one day. The blasé New
Yorkers approaching them looked straight ahead – then stopped, motionless, and
stared after them. The result was a trail of frozen forms, as if a Medusa’s
head hung from Allen’s back.
is, New Yorker or Los Angeleno, most of us perk up a touch when one of ‘them’
is within proximity. And so in deference to that shameful human weakness, let
me share with you some of my own star-spottings.
remember a film called “Star Maps” that came out some years back. The title of
that film references a very real phenomenon out here. Hawkers stand along
Sunset Boulevard and other strategic spots selling maps to stars’ homes. What
do people see when they use such maps? The gardener, trimming hedges? The
hedges themselves? Perhaps one day I’ll take a journalistic trek and find out.
Until then, I can say that the most frequent – if random – star-spottings are
That for instance was how I ended
up talking to Mike Myers, who’d stepped in to greet some people near me. Though
I made a polite effort to stay out of the conversation, the very genial Myers
included me in what proved to be a rather interesting talk on his early days.
Nothing too revealing, really, but I’ll leave it private. What I will share is that
I happened to be reading an English translation of an Inspector Maigret novel
and had just read a particular line when he sat down. In the scene, the good
inspector is ordering a drink. As I got up to leave, I showed the line to
“Two ounces of shag, please.”
One day I
was stapling headshots in a Toluca Lake coffee bar and looked up to see Timothy
Busfield come in with a blatant tourist, Bermuda shorts and all. I presume he
was a Thirty Something fan, because his delight at collaring Busfield bordered
on ecstasy. He stopped another person and had him take his picture with
Busfield. After which Busfield cheerfully shook his hand and got on line.
long. The same man reappeared, this time with his mother. And asked for another picture. Benignly,
Busfield obliged. After which, the man finally left, presumably headed for
Cloud Ten. And Busfield finally got his coffee.
openings are another venue where just about anybody might pop up. I wasn’t
surprised to see Martin Mull at one opening; it was of his paintings (he went
to RISD and is actually a pretty serious painter.) Steve Martin collects art,
which explains why I’ve seen him at openings here and in New York. As does
Dennis Hopper, whose own openings (of his photographs) I somehow always miss,
but whom I spotted at a Julian Schnabel opening one evening.
This was the one time that I put
aside my ‘hands off’ principle in the presence of celebrities. Allow me to
explain. There was a time in my life when people said I looked like… Rick Nelson,
James Taylor, Jackson Browne… Which you may find hard to believe from the
picture up top. On the other hand, you might, like lots of other people (not
me), think… “Hey, he looks like Dennis Hopper!”
I only mention this to explain, if
not justify, my willfully uncool behavior when I spotted DH himself. Because,
basically, it was now or never. So I went up to Mr. Hopper and said, “Do you
think I look like you?” Though he might reasonably have recoiled and fled, in
fact he took the question seriously and stood for about 30 seconds examining my
features (as I did his) (which, trust me, are nothing like mine.) Finally, he
said, “I dunno, man….. Maybe it’s your attitude… Anyway, man, don’t let
it get you down.”
So? Uncool? Oh so very. But am I
glad I asked?