In the real world, moreover, “stars” seldom seem to look like they do upon the screen. At least I have difficulty in recognizing and naming them. On those few occasions where I actually have recognized an actor, it has been met with severe doubts. I recall, for example, a lunch at the former Border Grill on Melrose (a restaurant established by the famous cooking duo of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger) with poets Michael Palmer and Dennis Phillips, where I spotted Robin Williams among the diners. I quietly mentioned his presence to my table companions. Discretely looking over, they refused to believe it was him—he was so much shorter and older than the “real” actor-comedian.
Consequently, I seldom encounter those individuals who work in film and television, although they frequent numerous of my favorite haunts. Several years ago, I was visited by Eric Miller, who with his brother Bruce was a sales representative for Sun & Moon Press in the Midwest. The Miller brothers, in those days, were an almost comical team; Eric was a bit awkward and what we used to call “clumsy”; I still recall the Miller brothers striding forward to our booth at a BEA (Book Expo America) convention, Eric almost bouncing off his elder brother as they moved in my direction. For all that, the two—sons of the independent publishers of Academy Books—were serious salesmen, representing numerous academic and independent presses. To honor his visit, accordingly, I chose a nice restaurant, Pane Caldo Bistro on Beverly Boulevard in North Hollywood.
As we arrived, we immediately saw that the place was nearly filled up; fortunately I’d made reservations. We were given the last available table, located in what is called in some Los Angeles restaurants, “Siberia,” the table where one would be least likely to be observed. We were seated and waited service for some time. Suddenly my companion Howard appeared out of nowhere, bending to whisper in my ear: “I can’t believe you’re here! I was just discussing the room with one of our secretaries who pointed out Robert Duvall over there. You see him? Right there is Roger Moore, over there Andy Williams. In that corner is Linda Evans. And if you look carefully to the next table, there’s John De Lorean. And then, I saw you!” He laughed, returning to his own table. In all the years we’d lived in this city, we’d never once encountered each other at lunch!
I turned to Eric to share with him the news, but he frowned in disparagement of my comments. “I could care less,” he emphatically responded. “I’m not interested in stars.” If only Ron Mazzola, a man no longer living, had been there in Eric’s stead. He would surely have thought himself already in heaven.
Los Angeles, August 15, 2007