One of my favorite cartoonists these days is Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis. I have never met him, but I always enjoy reading the introduction he writes for his daily cartoon strip compilations. Many of them involve his dealings with fans and/or other cartoonist. In his honor, I almost called this FTV Sometimes you have to let your friends write your article for you to paraphrase the Pastis’ book Sometimes you have to draw a cover with your left hand. This, of course, would have been a much longer title than normal, but it still gave me a starting point. Some time ago, I asked some of my friends to recount any encounters they may have had with celebrities. I did a little cut and paste with their responses and then set them aside only to forget about them. When I finally rediscovered and opened the file, it was like finding a little treasure vault of interesting stories held over for a rainy day. With the set up done, I will cede this episode of FTV and let my friends tell you about their brushes with celebrities (with a little context added here or there as I see fit. Hey, it is still my article, just their stories!).
The first comments come from my buddy Mitch who has lived in Oregon for many years now: “Here is a summary of my star contacts: I once ate lunch with Kurt Russell at the next table, he said ‘hi’ to me as he left. In the little town of Chelsea Michigan, Jeff Daniels owns a small theater and a few times I had lunch in a little cafe near there. He sat at the counter and had conversations with everyone. I sat next to Huey Lewis and his band while waiting for a plane, but didn’t join in their conversation. Then there was the time that I went to a movie casting call with my daughter while she was in high school. They were casting a movie. They asked if I would do a headshot, then called me but not Kelly. I ended up being an extra in a scene with Robert De Niro and Charlize Theron, but the scene got cut. Men of Honor is the name of the movie.” Perhaps this runs in the family. When Mitch and I were in college, his folks took a trip and while boarding a plane in Detroit, his mother tripped and went tumbling onto the tarmac. As she later told us,”There was a bunch of long haired guys on our flight and they were really nice. They picked me up and dusted me off. They were in a band called ‘Rare something’.” “Rare Earth?” we asked. “Yes, that was who it was.”
From son-in-law Todd, our West Coast Bureau reporter and frequent concert partner: “Rode the Expo Line to a Clippers-Cavs game with Timothy Olyphant (Deadwood, Justified). Richard Gere and a “friend” outside the Culver Hotel on my wedding day (whom Todd’s mother managed to sneak a photo of while he was boarding a limo with a woman young enough (the “friend”) that we decided to cut him some slack and call her his “daughter” – ed. note). Will Arnett (Arrested Development) having lunch at Pizzeria Mozza in Hancock Park. Saw Kirk Acevedo (Oz, Band of Brothers) at the Hollywood Target buying back to school supplies for his grade school age daughter. Did not look pleased to be buying a pink backpack. I considered yelling “Alvarez!!!!” But decided against it.” I am glad to hear he held back from yelling at Acevedo. One sign of being pegged as a rube is yelling at celebrities (but of course, that is only my opinion). Not to be left out of the conversation, Elizabeth had one of the earliest WCB sightings when she rode in an elevator with Benicio Del Toro. More on her other encounters will be addressed in Part 2.
My good buddy Jim from Escanaba asked a couple of clarifying questions before I got the whole story: “I’m not quite sure I know what you mean by ‘meeting celebs’. I met Jeff Daniels when he was in town filming Escanaba in da Moonlight, and I got Helen Mirren’s autograph in New York this past June. Got to talk with J. Daniels privately for about 10 minutes. Is that what you want?” I responded in the affirmative and got a plate full. Jim has been involved in the theater scene in Escanaba for years and his daughter has also forged a career working in TV and movies. Here are Jim’s expanded comments:
“OK, so Jeff Daniels was in Esky while he filmed “Escanaba in da Moonlight” a number of years back. They had a reception for the cast and crew at the Art Center, where Players de Noc (theater group) do their shows. It was about a week before we opened, and the full set was on stage. I’m early for rehearsal, and I’m the only one in the theater. The door upstage right opens, and in wanders Jeff Daniels, just looking around, looking to escape the autograph seeking crowd for a few minutes. He asked, and I explained what the set was for, and I introduced myself as “Harry the Horse’, my character in the show. He looked at me for a few seconds, and then stuck out his hand, and responded “nice to meet youse, I’m Big Julie from Chicago”. Seems he played that role in HS, and knew the show well. We talked about Community Theater being the backbone of theater in general, how it builds teenagers up to adults, and gives them a base to maybe make a living at it, after more formal training. Nice guy, taller than he seems on the screen, grateful for the quiet port in the storm (I didn’t ask him so sign anything, but did let him know I was scheduled to be in the big stadium scene at the HS football field). He seemed a little surprised I wasn’t fawning over him a bit, but also grateful I wasn’t; if I’d had a beer to share I would have, some quiet time went over just as well. Cool memory.” I could not help but notice that I have two good friends who have encountered Jeff Daniels. I only rub distant elbows with him because one of my favorite musical artists, Cub Koda lived his later years in Chelsea, home of Daniel’s Purple Rose Theater. There probably is no cosmic significance to this, but I had to get my oar in the water here someplace. Jim wasn’t done yet, so let us pick up his next storyline:
“This past June Lynn (Jim’s wife who taught drama and is also deeply involved in the Esky theater scene) and I were in NY city to see some shows, and lined up at the stage door to see Helen Mirren leave. She comes out every night, works one side of the barricade, signing anything you hand her and poses for photos, and then comes back to work the other side. Never ducks anyone, actually calls out to the crowd to make sure she hasn’t missed anyone before she climbs into her SUV limo to go back to her hotel, or wherever. She is very patient, knowing most of these people have just shelled out $$$ to see her, and she was very gracious.” May I add that I liked her in Reds and Reds 2?
Moving on to his daughter, Jim added, “Sometimes it’s just being in a place (at the right time): my daughter calls me one day, she’s in a brew pub in Detroit where she’s working on a movie. It’s a birthday party for one of the crew she works with, and one of the customers has her boyfriend along, sitting next to her and talking about the whole movie making process. It was Quentin Tarantino, who had just released “Inglorious Basterds” (that’s how it’s spelled-play on words). So I told her to get a job reference, or better yet, introduce me as an up and coming aging actor. Sometimes, it’s just weird circumstance.” I haven’t heard that Jim has been picked up for any ‘aging actor’ parts so I guess and I will have to rent Escanaba in da moonlight just to see if I can spot him in the football field scene.
When the West Coast Bureau was first in Los Angeles, the first trip I took there was routed through the Detroit airport (the one and only time I flew out west through that hub). I was minding my own business at my gate when a certain Subway sandwich pitchman (who has recently been imprisoned so I don’t want to spend much time advertising his career) went by on the moving sidewalk. I thought,”Wow, I am not even in LA yet and I saw a famous (later to be infamous) person. I will probably see celebrities on every street corner in LA!” Little did I know that it would be a long, long time and many trips before I saw anyone remotely famous. In part two, I will share some of the sightings from the other members of the family who have frequented the WCB. It seems that I was doomed to hear stories about their encounters which seemed to happen with great frequency. It isn’t like I went out there to stargaze, but for crying out loud, I get to see a sandwich shop pitch guy in Detroit? Maybe it would have been a better story if I had run into him at Mickey D’s.
Top Piece Video: You will have to tune in next week for Part 2 to find out what Rare Earth has to do with all of this!