Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Problem: Celebrity encounters

THE GOLDEN STATE, March 30 - Ten years ago, I bought a map to the stars' homes. I and my dad and my wife forced my 14-year old kid sister to take a two-hour trip through residential Hollywood. My sister didn't really seem to understand our delight at finding Madonna's front gate or the bungalow of Eartha Kitt, but the rest of us had a blast. Seeing celebrity houses is fun.

Seeing celebrities, however, is not. It's creepy and weird and cognitively disruptive. Here are some memorable encounters from the decade since.


I run into this joker everywhere, and every time it's the same experience. There's an initial, reflexive jolt of adrenaline at spotting a celebrity, followed almost immediately by the realization, oh, it's just that guy. It's like he's challenging me to say something. But what? "Excuse me sir, but I really hated you in 'Mash'" ????


I spotted Kimmel three years ago, at the Hollywood Arclight. It was hard not to spot him. He stood at the head of a long line at the concession stand, facing backwards and addressing the crowd as if doing standup. I was reminded of the handful of punk shows I've attended in DC, and all those exquisitely mortifying moments of avoiding eye contact with various Dischord Records luminaries. So intense was this memory that I actually walked past the concession stand spectacle and then watched my movie in a popcornless funk of humiliation.


Day and Ellis - "Charlie" and "The Waitress" from TV's It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia - were lingering in front of the Edendale, in Silver Lake, two months ago. I passed them as I walked in, executing a horrible one second eye-contact hold with Day that made me feel as intrusive and guilty as if I'd walked up to him and caressed his cheek. Ellis looked annoyed - in character, perhaps - and the two of them fled into the night, arm in arm. It was a sneak peek into an alternate version of their hit TV show, one in which Charlie actually gets the girl. I'm not sure if this was worth the awkwardness.


I'd just walked into a tony Santa Monica toy store when I turned and saw the Rain Man. I spent the rest of my brief shopping excursion avoiding whatever aisle he was in. Even though I was the only childless male in the store, it really felt like Hoffman was being the creepy one in this scenario.


Patricia Arquette walked into a Hollywood Halloween store I was in 10 years ago. This was before her star turn in CBS's Medium, so Arquette was then known as the star of David Lynch's "Lost Highway". If it sounds uncomfortable bumping into someone you last saw being forced to strip nude by Robert Loggia, try doing so while your friend John Michaels says, over and over, at full volume, Did you see who that was? Did you??


SEE: ELLIOTT GOULD. Then delete the 'Mash' part. Seriously dude, stop following me into every other store and restaurant I eat at. It's not funny. Stop.