I trekked across this great nation from Nashville with my buddy, Todd, in a Uhaul jammed to the rafters with a bunch of stuff neither of us likely owns any longer. After a single week in LA with only one car (tantamount to having access to 1 train in NYC, or being beardless in Portland), we began to get a tad stir crazy (drinking crap beer and playing Nintendo 24/7 can get old pretty fast, as impossible as it sounds), so we decided to seek out celebrities around town, spending as little cash as possible whilst on the hunt.
I will tell you this right now: You don't seek out celebrities. THEY seek out YOU.
Look as hard as you'd like: You'll never recognize them. Those ridiculous photos you see of A-list celebs, donning their Elton John shades and towering douchebag trucker hats?
That shit WORKS. I couldn't pick Harrison Ford out of a lineup of people I've smoked weed with.
(Actually, I wouldn't ever smoke with Harry. Word is he's a Bogart.)
Somehow, Todd has a superhero power that allows him to spot ANY celebrity with 100 yards of him. I can't recall the number of times that - seconds after walking past someone - Todd would turn to me and whisper, "Did you see Robert Downey Jr/Heather Graham/Prince/Tom Hanks just then?" And I'd look around, seeing only every day faces, exclaiming, "Where?!" like a kid being told the real Batman just pulled up...and you just missed him.
My point is, out of every level of celebrity in the greater LA area, the first one I spotted was infamous house guest, Kato Kaelin.
This high-profile sighting took place on the sidewalk that our garage door emptied onto. It was a fortuitous sighting for us both, as Kato was kneeling on the sidewalk, out of my range of vision, tying his shoelace as I was backing out. It wasn't even a close call (although, MAN, that would have sealed my fate as a hero, had I rolled over that hairdo), but I slammed on the brakes when I saw his feathered mop emerge. He gave me a, "Whoa, sorry, bro" gesture and wandered along in his merry, blond, excessively-styled way.
Within weeks of arrival, I landed a job at a bar/restaurant/coffeeshop a block over, which catered to high-end clientele. There, my celeb-cherry was popped, and I was repeatedly gangbanged thereafter. I'll never forget the morning I poured Christopher Guest a coffee and he actually said "thank you" (I hear he's very shy), or the successive mornings Gabriel Burns would show up for espressos, dressed in fine, linen suits, or when Tyra Banks introduced herself to me ("My name is Tyra." NO SHIT!!!) as I handed her a smoothie. But by far, the one that stands out:
I was working the bar, buried with drink orders, so of course, the computer system went down. I was in the middle of mixing a cocktail for Rosanna Arquette and was about to ring her up when the screens went black. I remember telling her it might be a few minutes until they rebooted, to which she replied, "No prob. What's your name?"
"Hi. How are you?"
"Good. (sips drinks) Good stuff!"
I had, at that very moment, my first brush with actual celebrity. It was a bizarre feeling: Like the prettiest girl in senior class had told me my fly was undone - it was utterly awkward, but at least SHE PAID ATTENTION TO ME!
By the end of over a decade working for TV Hollywood, I grew sort of eye-callouses when it came to celebrities. They are truly just people, who are surrounded by a team of manipulators and spin doctors (ironically, save for Chris Barron, ex-lead singer of the Spin Doctors, who called me at my MTV office once to thank me for doing a piece on him).
And a lot of them are far shorter than you're picturing.