Monday, July 30, 2007

Steve Martin Weds

Steve Martin got married this weekend. Good for him - good for his bride. I mean it. If Steve's happy, I'm happy for Steve. He has enriched my life and I am grateful.

But I should have acted sooner - maybe asked him out a few years ago. Of course I never did since we don't actually live in the same universe. But, technically, I could have, since I did meet him once (do I detect a pattern here, or do all LA natives have these stories?).

Chances are I met Steve Martin before he started seeing Anne Stringfield. But even if I had asked him out for enchiladas, would it have lasted? Maybe we'd have gone out a few times and he would have picked up a copy of the New Yorker after dessert and coffee and seen Ms Stringfield's column. Perhaps as I mused into the the essence of humor in the human soul, he would have become spellbound by her writing and married her anyway. Fate plays out the way it has to and that's that. Even if it twists, it is written once played.

My meeting with Steve Martin was, for him, a fulfillment of a contractual obligation with the publisher. For me it was a lapse into a world poplulated by beings from the universe of goofy fans on tourships to the magic dimension, hoping for a feeling of befriending in an impossible social construct. So we giggle or wave or mutterbabble - or offer a simple thank you.

I went with a friend to the UCLA Festival of Books. He had tickets to see Steve speak in one of the big brick auditoriums. At the event, a repetition of women my age stood in line to ask Steve questions they didn't really need to ask so they could declare their undying love and he could gracefully avoid cringing.

After the lecture, my friend left but said, "get an autograph. Why not?" So, I stood in a long line under the trees to wait for Steve. My objective was to have him sign my copy of Picasso at the Lapin Agile (while being sure to let him see I'd also bought Shopgirl, the book he was there to promote). The line took about an hour and a half. I would never sell the autograph, so why was I waiting? To see Steve Martin. Why? Because he's Steve Martin and I can.

Steve was set up at at table under a tent canope. People could approach one at at time. At about 8 feet away a nice lady in a suit would ask them to wait. She would gesture for them to come to the table just after the previous person had left (deft mob anti-coagulant tactic). As the person before me fawned, Steve looked to see who would approach next. He swung his head slowly, eyes not connecting, a soft gaze, to size me up. Female. Mid thirties. Tall. No knife.

The distant look in his blue eyes and the way he swung his head - and I mean this with the utmost respect - reminded me of a cow in a feed slot. He didn't eschew the task, he just didn't savor it.

So when my turn came I suppose he looked to see who was after me because whatever connection I had started to sense was now gone. His words were kind, respectful and rote. I put his play before him and said, "Thank you for everything." He delivered a merry, "well, thank you for coming!" I said, "of course!" and knew to quickly move on. He was a perfect gentleman meeting strangers who thought they knew him. But none of us did.

(Anne Stringfield does.)

Friday, July 20, 2007


Cubes with dots in batches
tossed land sometimes in matches
in the distance, a baby bird hatches
gates slam bang open with broken latches
from the airplane the ground looks to be made of patches.
(I met a guy once who came from Naches.)

You wake up early, late, or on time,
comparable to the roll of the dice in this rhyme,
you eat your toast,
drink the coffee (French Roast)
plan to make your day its most
cross yourself and thank your host
the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost -
even if religion is no longer your begets,
you hedge your bets.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Charlton Heston in the Black Corvette

I was at a four way stop in the Encino Hills when in the perpendicular lane to the left I saw a black corvette convertable approaching. Its wheels didn't seem to be slowing as it approached the limit line and sure enough it failed to stop, so I waited. It entered the intersection to make a left up toward Mulholland Drive.

I honked to let the driver know I was aware of his infraction and took my moment to look him in the eye. Suntaned with the wind in his hair, he waved and smiled that frownish grin with the powerful lower lip, a friendly hand thrown erect. It was Charlton Heston who had run this stop sign.

The moment was the pure quiet slo-mo sync that can happen when two people are alone; I could hear him think: "Ah! Another fan has recognized me. I shall wave in recognition as I pass."

He may indeed have seen my mouth fall open and eyes widen to a greater blue. And to this day I know in my heart that on that sunny afternoon in the toot of a honk Charlton Heston had renewed in him the experience of himself as a star, Moses, Ben Hur, the Omega Man, "Soylent Green is peeeeple!!!" And I have come to accept that he may never know my experience of our moment together: "Hey! That guy ran the stop sign! It was MY turn to go!"

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Eddie Van Halen One

Sometime late in the 1990's I stopped for gasoline at Coldwater and Ventura in the San Fernando Valley and there was a guy with a really nice maroon 60's VW van all fixed up nice, chatting with the guy who worked at the gas station. I made my octane selection and began to pump gas.

There was something familiar about that guy with the van. I knew him, but didn't; I hadn't seen him in a long time though. I searched my mental catalog... kind of a hippie lookin' guy. Ah - musta been one of the old customers at the health food store where I worked when I was a teenager. We shared a smile and a hello.

When the tank was full and I hung the handle back onto the pump I placed him: He was Eddie Van Halen. Ah yes, my old friend I'd never met, Eddie. I know part of him, he doesn't know me at all - world's greatest rock guitar player chatting with the gas station guy. This is one of the things I like about my hometown.

Later, I saw friends and said, "Guess who I saw at the gas station today?" Terri said, "somebody famous?" I said yes. Larry said, "musician?" I said yes. Larry said, "Eddie Van Halen."

Several years later I saw Andy Dick at Ikea ordering cabinets. That evening I asked the same friends to guess the day's celebrity sighting and on the first guess Terri said, "Andy Dick."

This is one of the things I love about my friends.

Sometime I'll tell you about the time Charleton Heston ran the four way stop sign.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My Near Brush with David St. Hubbins

It was the early 80's and I was going out with a guy who worked at a theatre in downtown LA. Some film crew was making a documentary about a rock band - so he asked me to come to the theatre and meet him backstage, he'd be done at 6 and we could go have dinner.

I went to the theatre and looked around - the stage had a silly big styrofoam skull suspended from the rafters, the fog machine, dark shades of lighting, and the band was doing re-takes of a segment of a heavy metal song.

I went backstage to wait for the guy (whose name I don't remember today, by the way) and the band took a break. I stood next to the guitarist - or he stood next to me - he was close enough that if I'd leaned a little I would have bumped shoulders with him. He wore a silky chiffon white shirt and aqua eyeshadow. I was about twenty or so, and knew how to play it cool, so I did. Acted like I wasn't even curious. Even stifled some sarcasm because these guys seemed to be taking themselves so seriously.

Some time later my sister and I went to see the new Rob Reiner film - the first, "Rockumentary, if you will," and dogged if it wasn't the guy in chiffon - David St. Hubbins. I really shoulda said hello.

Note to self from future to past: say hello.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Big Stinky Flower/The Anti-Romance

The Big Stinky Flower is in bloom again, this time in Washington DC. No, this isn't a metaphor, it's about the big stinky flower that smells like dead meat. Botanists say it smells that way to attract dung beetles that fertilize it. It's five feet tall (and that's mostly stamen, folks!)

I went to see it a few years ago when it was blooming in Pasadena.

I stood in line two hours to see that flower. It was hot, and the sun was bright, and I didn't know going in that it would take two hours to get to the flower; it was one of those cases where you just start throwing good time after bad in an effort to keep the investment from being completely fruitless. A fellow next to me in line struck up a little half-hearted flirtatious chat as we waited to experience the rare visage and stench of this magnificent prehistoric flower in bloom.

Got there. Had to hurry past the thing because of the size of the waiting crowd. Let me tell you now about this flower: it doesn't smell like BO or rotting meat or anything spectacular enough to wait two hours to smell. It stinks like it does along the 405 as you pass through Torrance at night.

The meager flirt was an architect. I was a writer on a day off. The stamen of the flower reached upward five feet, the deep aubergine petal lay open like a bedsheet. Potent to be sure, but the Big Stinky Flower is not beautiful. Nature made it to impress not man, not woman, not bird, bee or butterfly. Nature made the Big Stinky Flower to impress the dung beetle.