Thursday, April 22, 2010

Brushes with "Greatness"

The severe lack of celebrities in Portland is both quite refreshing and, at the same time, slightly saddening. I mean, on the one hand, WHO CARES you just saw a celebrity. But sometimes, I miss the sideways, nearly closed mouth mumbles of a friend sitting next to you whispering, "Holy SHIT. Don't look right away, but Bill Murray just ordered a whiskey at the bar and belched."

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.

"Wait, your Honor...which guy is O.J.? Is he the dead one?"

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?"


"Hey, Russ."

"Hi. How are you?"

"Good. (sips drinks) Good stuff!"


(computer reboots)

(end scene)

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.


mariko said...

I have heard some things about, ahem, that Arquette.

During the brief few months I lived in LA, I think the most interesting celeb sighting I had was Mr. T at the gym I belonged to on, I dunno, Bundy? I was soaking my injured leg (I was running at night and tripped and fell into a ditch) in the little therapy pool, and the big pool was full of shrunken little old people. Mr. T appeared and got in the pool, and all the old people floated over and surrounded him. He made some ridiculous comment about "the ladies" that I can't remember. There was one young, anorexic teen in the pool, and Mr. T announced to the seniors that he was going to go "talk to her." Gross. Oh, and he was super short.

You know who else I saw at that gym was that "DY-NO-MITE" dude, JJ something? I could bench press more than that dude.

Gretchen said...

Yeah, they're just people, but there is something about a celeb sighting that is it's own form of entertainment. My best was heading into a coffee place in Malibu once with my sister. As we approached the door, Peirce Brosnan was leaving, and my sister and I just about fell over, clutching on to each other in excitement, while at the same time trying to act like we hadn't seen him so he wouldn't notice. Hilarious! I never thought I would be such a silly girl, but God DAMN that man is gorgeous. There was no mistaking him.

So no celebrities in Portland? Not even any hippie-celebrities? Yeah, that probably is refreshing.

fatozzig said...

Thre celeb sightings in airports, Sa Fran and LAX. LAX - I'm waiting outside the women's bathroom for my other two Muskateers. I'm watching the people go by - and dang! That was Huey Lewis! Just a normal dude in jeans and a shirt, making his was through their airport, I'm guessing hoping nobody stops him for an autograph. I just smiled at him.

Same airport, same day - Sean Penn. On the opposite side of the terminal than I, but it was him. My other two Mustateers didn't see him, either.

Probably my favorite - Dan Patrick in LAX. I went into one of those newsstand stores to waste some time. I hear a voice, and the young woman to whom he is talking is obviously happy to be talking to him. That dude is TALL and SKINNY. I just looked and smiled. I'm not going to go over and bug these folks. They get enough of that.

Couple of other celeb sightings, but I'm hogging the post.

Kate said...

When I lived in Hollywood I got a wrong number phone call from Walter Matthau. Does that count as a "sighting"? I remember it verbatum: "Hi Linda, this is Walter Matthau, is Jim there?" Me: "I'm sorry but you have the wrong number." WM: "Oh. Excuse the call." click. Spellbinding, I know.

Amy Nieto said...

The only celebrity I have seen twice has been FLAVOR FLAAAAAAVE. Once hopping around cheerily, in that Flava way of his, at the MGM grand in Vegas. And Second time, earlier this month on my flight to Vegas. As we began our final descent into the Valley, he took the mic and just started talking random shit. Bless that mother fucker. Love him. haha