FILM

SOPHISTICATED STALKER
By Cary Anderson


I write coming attractions for films and had been assigned a few projects that took me to Los Angeles. I also was in town to meet film producers about my movie scripts. All very exciting, but considering that this is the city where all the movie stars live, I just had to rub elbows with a few…or at least gawk at some! But where?

My adventure began with a tour of movie star homes. Piled into a small van with a bunch of German tourists, I could only imagine which ones we might see. Jack Nicholson wandering around his yard with a weed-wacker? Julia Roberts washing her car? Harrison Ford walking his dog? Jennifer Aniston sunbathing by the pool? It promised to be an exciting afternoon with the Germans. But, in reality, all we saw were lots of fences and 30-foot-high bushes.

I thought about trying another one, the Graveline Tour, which is basically the same concept except that you drive around in a hearse and see where celebrities were murdered or died. While that sounded like a fun first date with Ms. Right, the truth is that I’m more interested in living celebrities.

Maybe I hadn’t found any movie stars because they were all out making movies. So, I reasoned that a film studio would be the place to find them and headed for the Universal Studios Tour, along with more German tourists. But the tour was actually an amusement park for dolts. "Hey, everyone, could that be the shark from JAWS? Hey, it’s getting closer. Look out, everyone!" And then a fake shark that couldn’t get a job at Chuck E. Cheese popped out of a fake lake right next to our trolley, to the surprise of the dolts. Not my idea of fun.

Next, I decided to go to a real studio lot and contacted a friend who works at Warner Brothers. He got me a "drive on," a pass to come onto the lot with your car. Once on the lot, I tried to walk with a purpose, to look like I belonged, all the while feeling that everyone around me—the carpenters, the make-up women, the executives—could tell that I was an imposter. Walking around the lot, I imagined who I might see, perhaps Jack Nicholson wandering around with a weed-wacker, Julia Roberts washing a car, Harrison Ford walking dogs or Jennifer Aniston sunbathing by a pool. But now they would be in character, acting in their new films. The reality was that I saw a lot of closed sound stages and parking spaces for movie stars.

Desperate times require desperate measures. I had to go for broke and decided that if I couldn’t see celebrities where they live or work, there was only one other avenue left for me. I would see celebrities where they eat. And, to this end, I became a sophisticated stalker!

The first thing to know is that Los Angeles is a casual town as far as dressing goes, excluding, of course, big charity events and award shows. If you dress well for a night out, it’s assumed you’re rich, famous or powerful. People in Los Angeles like all three. Restaurant owners really like all three. So, I dressed to the nines and went out on the town.

My first stop was the famous Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills, owned by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. I sat at a beautiful bar that faced away from the dining rooms and ordered a perfect dinner for myself. Now and again, I would turn around to look for celebrities. I wasn’t the only one. It was odd, but every time the restaurant’s door opened, people would turn to see who just entered. People at the bar were happy and friendly. This could be because everyone there hoped everyone else could help their careers. After a few minutes, I scored my first celebrity sighting—Milton Berle. And then Winona Ryder, Ron Silver and Larry King. Apparently, I had just missed Arnold Schwarzenegger. Shallow fun.

Now I was addicted. All the Hollywood insiders know that a restaurant called Morton’s is the place to be seen on Monday night, so the next Monday night I was there. I sat at their bar. It, too, faced away from the celebrity dining action, but there were big mirrors over the bar that I used to spy. A pair of infra-red binoculars would’ve helped, since the place is barely lit. I treated myself to a few drinks and more celebrity sightings—Kelsey Grammer, Dolly Parton and Milton Berle again!

Life was good, but a friend told me I was missing out on the most popular place in town—Mr. Chow. So I went and sat at their bar at the front of the restaurant, facing the dining room. The problem was that the bar had a smoked glass wall behind it that made it hard to leer at celebrities. I asked to see a menu and was told that I couldn’t order food at the bar. The GQ model bartender said that he would try to get me a table. I declined and had a drink. I leaned and contorted from my bar stool and watched Faith Hill, Robert Shapiro, Willow Bay and X-Files producer Chris Carter chow down. I then ordered another drink and was told that I couldn’t drink at the bar in the future; the bar was only for people waiting for a table. Mr. Chow has a few rules. I was tempted to hire Robert Shapiro right there on the spot to sue my bartender for rudeness, but thought better of it.

My addiction to being shallow got stronger. I didn’t just want to see celebrities at restaurants; I wanted to see them at big Hollywood events. One day, I walked past a gallery in Santa Monica and saw that there was going to be a private art opening for Jeff Bridges’ newest show. He’s been taking photos on the sets of his films for years and would be showing his newest works. Perfect! A new phase in being a sophisticated stalker was born. I staked out the place and saw a parking lot nearby that had a quiet little walkway to the gallery. Bingo! I figured that would be my best way to get into the private party.

The night of the big event, I dressed once again to impress. Then I drove to Santa Monica and parked on the street—but walked into the secret parking lot, looking at my car keys, and took that quiet little walkway. As I approached the art opening, no one questioned that someone dressed up and coming from the parking lot wasn’t someone who had been invited to the event. In I went. The photographs were great; the champagne was free; the celebrities were off-guard. I had made it. I even got to meet Jeff Bridges for a millisecond and get a photo with him. Life was good. I went back to my hotel a happy camper.

Satisfied that I had seen celebrities, now I couldn’t escape them: Rosanna Arquette, dressed in a pink tube top with gold pants and high heels, yelling at her daughter outside a children’s bookstore; Jennifer Lopez shopping on Melrose Avenue. It was an embarrassment of riches.

I finished up my coming attraction projects, had my meetings and was about to go back home. It had been a successful trip, but I needed one last celebrity sighting for the road. So back I went to Spago, and Wolfgang Puck actually said hello to me as I entered. It was another perfect meal, but I didn’t see any celebrities. Then I saw him. I should have suspected. He was in another room, but I couldn’t mistake him. For the gold medal in my celebrity sighting adventure, ladies and gentlemen…Mr. Milton Berle! Three times in one trip; twice at Spago and once at Morton’s. I tip my hat to a real man-about-town and retire my title as the Sophisticated Stalker.