A woman I know drops so many names I make sure to wear steel-toed shoes when I’m around her. So, if I tell you that Chris Noth is a friend of mine I’m trusting you accept I’m just saying that because he happens to be part of this story. Chris and I met in an acting class 20 years ago. I did my first acting scene with him. He went on to play Mr. Big on Sex and the City and Mike Logan in Law and Order. I cast him in my film Double Whammy a few years ago.
He lives in LA off and on. Now that I’m transplanted here for a few months we’ve hooked up a couple of times. He called me the other night and said he had an extra ticket to a pre-Oscar party in Beverly Hills thrown by Jeffrey Katzenberg. I vaguely know where Beverly Hills is. I have no idea who Katzenberg is.
The party is at some huge hotel or celebrity funeral home on Wilshire Blvd. Security is intense, stopping just short of a strip search. Cellphones with cameras are confiscated. We walk in and immediately brush past Will Smith standing at the center of a tight knot of people staring at him and laughing fiercely at his every word. I remark to myself, “You know, he really is a movie star-looking kind of person.”
A few feet away is the guy who directed Jaws. The first thought to enter my brain is, “There he is, Senor Spielbergo.” I make a strenuous mental note to myself: “Way too many Simpsons.”
Many people recognize Mr. Big. He introduces me to a woman whom I recognize but can’t remember her name. She had a part in Juno. Djuno what? She was so drunk she clutched my arm for 10 minutes to keep from falling over. Finally I pried her hands loose and gave her a gentle but insistent nudge into a nearby sofa. As I walked away I heard her call after me, “We’re going to work together, dude!”
Then I met Wesley Snipes. We conversated for under a minute before I ran out of things to say. So I stated skillfully, “It’s great you’ve got a film up for the Awards tomorrow.” He looked at me in silent silence for a momentary moment and replied, “That’s Denzel.”
Yup, I’m really, really good at these kinds of things.
Then I met Chris Katan. You remember him from Saturday Night Live. He did some fantastic characters including Mango, the gay disco dancer and a lunatic monkey named Mr. Peepers. I leaned forward and asked him if many people commented to him on this brilliant, manic monkey he portrayed on the show. It was very noisy in the room. He thought I said, “Do many people tell you you look like a monkey?” He broke my heart when he replied, “Yes, I do, sort of.”
I said, “No, no, Chris; I’m complimenting you on your acting. The monkey you created was genius.” He gave me a very, very strange look and walked off. At this point I was really feeling like I was hitting home runs left and right.
I chatted with Spike Lee for a little while. I’ve met him a few times over the past few years. His younger brother Cinque did a great job as the director of a reality TV show in Delirious. Spike said something to me and a little piece of saliva flew out of his mouth and right into my eye. We both saw it happen. Finally I just lifted my shirt and wiped my eye while nodding as he continued talking.
So then Tom Arnold walked by and for some reason impulsively shook my hand, mumbling, “Yeah, hey, really great to meet you.” He didn’t hear me say, “Yeah, hey, so long schmuckwad.”
And by that time the golden pumpkin had arrived to take me home. Actually I had to wait in line for 30 minutes to get my car, which was a rental, which I’d made no attempt to remember what make or model it was so when the valets were bellowing out the names of cars I had no idea what car to get in. By luck I recognized it by the banana I’d left on the front seat. Driving home across Sunset Blvd in the pouring rain was like a long, slow-motion scene out of Blade Runner with no Sean Young waiting for me.
So, there you have it. The evening was a dumbfounding success and now I am back in my thinly furnished apartment with the onions, the churchmice and a giftbag.