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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Twelve Tales in Another Town: The 10th Tale (Lunching L.A.)

John De Lorean

Living in Los Angeles, one inevitably comes across cameras, crews, and actors shooting films and television shows and observes actors at dinner and lunch. Such encounters have never held the charm for me as they do for some. My feeling is that only if one actually knows the actor is there any joy in “seeing” her or him—their role, after all, is to be seen. And whether one encounters them on the home TV set or the large screen, to witness their daily activities offers no special thrill. Moreover, when one actually does get “to know” an actor—Howard and I have become casually acquainted with several, including Steve Martin, Richard Beymer, Harry Hamlin, Mary Waronov, Mary Kay Place, Peter Riegert, Jean Stapleton, among others, one perceives that they are quite ordinary people, often shy, sometimes rather boring folk.

Occasionally, however, friends visit who just have to see a movie star—reminding me a bit of Lucille Ball’s behavior in later episodes of I Love Lucy, when Lucy and Desi go to Hollywood. Ron Mazolla, a former head of the printing company McNaughton & Gunn—the printer I used most often for Sun & Moon Press and Green Integer books—would visit Los Angeles perhaps twice a year, and upon those appearances would ask if we might go to a restaurant where he would see some “stars.” I don’t know why I have never took him to Spago or The Ivy. We did once dine at Morton’s, but we spotted only Hulk Hogan! Ron was delighted nonetheless.


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

1 comment:

Curtis Faville said...

I used to see Robin Williams near my work office in San Francisco back in the early 1980's. This was out across Van Ness Avenue at Sutter Street. There was a little coffee shop nearby where Williams would sometimes be sitting--I have no idea why--maybe he knew the proprietor. I would be crossing the street, and there he'd be walking in the opposite direction, eyes carefully focused straight ahead, but if he noticed you staring, he'd grin or give the peace sign to the sky. He liked to wear Hawaiian flower shirts and bermuda shorts. Very hairy guy, the kind with hair on his back, etc. The idea seemed to be: He could still mix with "real people" even though he was drop dead identifiable. Lately, I see Josh Kornbluth--the local quirky KQED interviewer--around North Berkeley, again, smiling naughtily as he notices being noticed. I thought to say to him "you need a new disguise" but that's a tired old line. What else are you going to say to someone like that? Barry Gifford, Alice Waters also frequent this area. During my career as a bureaucrat, I got to interview Joe Alioto, George Rockrise, Joe Dimaggio, George Duschek, Michael Stone, Jack Hirschman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among others. I once saw Helen Mirren striding over to the magazine rack at the airport in New York--no one but me recognized her. At the last Seattle Book Fair two TV actors from Law and Order visited my booth; weird--they immediately were recognizable and I thought they must be old customers of mine until it registered.

John DeLorean began his work-life as a gifted automotive engineer, but eventually morphed into a "beautiful person" promoting his own special ultra-futuristic sedan, named after himself. Unfortunately, it was mostly hype--the factory in Northern Ireland closed after less than a year of production, and DeLorean never recovered financially, spending most of the rest of his life fending off creditors. He was married for a while to one of the most beautiful women in the world, Christina Ferrare--great ironic name for a car buff!--but it, like most things in his life, ended with a whimper. He dreamed big dreams.