This past October 15 would have been Mario Puzoâ€™s 85th birthday. Not exactly common knowledge, sure, but in the years before his death I learned a lot of little things about the man who wrote _The Godfather,_ the book that begat the movie that begat more quotations among guys than anything short of the Bible.
See, nine years ago, I was assigned by an airline magazine to do a … Read more »
The pressure is always on when members of my _famiglia_ come to town. They want Mr. Fancypants to show them a good time, because they think I live a totally charmed life as an underpaid freelance writer. For a good vibe and great food, I like to take them to Babbo down on Waverly, with hopes that celebrity chef and owner Mario Batali will walk by in his orange clogs … Read more »
I was on a train from Naples to Rome, first class, when I saw a guy I vaguely recognized. For some reason, it came to me that his name was Jeff. I thought maybe he was married to a friend in New York or something.
â€œExcuse me,â€ I said (traveling in a foreign country gives you license to be bolder than at home). â€œBut is your name Jeff?â€
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Five years ago, I had a job working the night shift at a convenience store in a northern suburb of Chicago. I was reading a novel when the door opened, and in walked Christopher Walken.
You donâ€™t spot too many celebrities in the northern suburbs of Chicago, or even in Chicago proper. Walken was my first. How was I sure it was Walken? No easy answer, but he is … Read more »
Mister Rogers stepped out of the passenger-side door of a white sedan that had pulled up in front of the building where I stood. I was smoking a cigarette at the top of a concrete stairwell, staring down below at a struggling bird that had broken its wing. It was my third day as an intern at _Pittsburgh_ magazine, which shared a building with the studio that filmed _Mister Rogersâ€™ … Read more »
We were bamboozled into taking the job by a smooth-talking technical director with a pencil-thin mustache and a penchant for weirdness. How else do I explain my summer at the Cape Cod Melody Tent? Julio and I needed some legitimate theater work to put on our rÃ©sumÃ©s, and the $50 a week they paid us was barely enough money to drink on. That is, once we figured out we could … Read more »
Almost two years ago, when the issue of stem cell research was the new JonBenet before JonBenet 2.0 became the new Iraq, I went to an event to raise money for the cause. Kevin Kline, the main draw of the party, was the featured speaker. Stem cell research was his issue, apparently; he'd been educating audiences about it everywhere he could.
The party, held in a loft in Murray … Read more »
During the summer of 1982, I worked as a lifeguard at the Rye Town Hilton in New York's Westchester County. Hotel guests were mostly a mix of business travelers, relocating families, and elderly Manhattan escapees. I spent my days lugging and positioning lounge chairs for old men with bad backs, and waiting for a chance to blow my whistle. Finally, I witnessed a violation of the clearly posted pool rulesâ€”one … Read more »
It was quite possibly the most hallucinatory thing Iâ€™ve ever seen, not counting my experiences on hallucinogens. Check that. It was _the_ most hallucinatory thing Iâ€™ve ever seen, including all experiences on hallucinogens. The sky was pulsing in great van Gogh swirls of nail-polish pink and glow-stick green. It was the northern lights, the aurora borealis, in full astral splendor.
This was in 1994, in Lillehammer, Norway. I was … Read more »
We were in the lobby of a low-slung brick studio in Burbank where George Clooney was to record the commentary for the _Good Night, and Good Luck_ DVD; I was there for _Rolling Stone,_ writing a story about DVD commentaries. He's not very tall for such a manly heartthrob, maybe five-eleven in his big clunky black shoes. But goodness, is that man ever tan. This was a Saturday, so he … Read more »
My freshman year of college, the Yale Political Union, renowned for hosting big-name speakers, invited Oliver Stone to address the group. Being the shy, hesitant type, I spent the whole dinner on the opposite side of the table from Stone, chatting it up, ironically, with the head of the Party of the Right.
Still, my roommate could tell that I wished I could say something to Stone, as I … Read more »
During the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philly, I actually worked for the Republicans. At 2:30 each day of the RNC, I turned my donkey tail and ran a few blocks south to a defunct armory, where I bartended at the Republican partyâ€™s parties.
The highlight of my week of double shifts came on the day Jeb Bush spoke during an afternoon party. The governor of Florida looked like … Read more »
A decade ago, when Princess Diana was still alive and in the midst of her ignoble divorce proceedings, I happened to find myself in the lobby of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, nursing a crushing hangover. My goal was to find the museumâ€™s Frank Lloyd Wright Rooms, which had been improbably disassembled and transported there, pine panel and all, from Pittsburgh.
A frowzy desk attendant was guiding … Read more »
Elly pointed out the window of the Graceland shuttle bus and shouted, â€œThatâ€™s Joey Ramone!â€
We were done with our tour and were about to disembark back at the souvenir shop/parking area when she came through with the Beach MTV Call of the Day. That was how we spoke back then, in college, when we did things like go to Graceland.
But how much of a call was … Read more »
Some celebrities save lives. Nipsey Russell almost took mine.
I was young, inexperienced in the ways of fame, and easily starstruck, walking the streets on Manhattanâ€™s Upper West Side, tethered to Grandmaâ€™s sturdy hand. I thought I was safe.
My worldview was narrowly illuminated by the nurturing glow of television. At the time, one of my favorite programs was _Match Game,_ a game show of minor celebrities that … Read more »
Jason Alexander was emceeing a gala at a conference I was attending. After a friend sneaked me into the VIP reception room right before the show started, I turned around to find myself standing next to him.
He was nothing at all like any of the personalities Iâ€™d seen him play. (Remember the smarmy best friend in _Pretty Woman_? I sure do.) No, instead, he radiated an unexpected aura … Read more »
Two years ago, not long after I returned to work post-maternity leave, I found myself at a Planned Parenthood gala in D.C. I felt like a tourist. Having just spent five months in my sweatpants, speaking in baby-rhyme with an infant hanging from my boob, I might as well have been an alien among these well-dressed people, with their wineglasses and their witty repartee.
So as I sat down … Read more »
Until I saw Billy's studio, I never guessed at his highfalutin' connections. But when I exited the service elevator to see a sweeping Chelsea loft, bedecked with blown-up _Zink_ covers and cardboard Cindy Crawfords striding off to some invisible tomorrow, I began to suspect that there was more to Billy than met the eye.
A short, dour Japanese man, Billy led me over to the minibar and opened his … Read more »
It was one of those perfect beach days. My last day off had been foggy and rainy, a total waste of a day. This combination of factors always made me especially resentful of my retail gig selling overpriced hand-hooked rugs to the bloated summer populace of Nantucket. As an old camp pal wouldâ€™ve put it, my days were deadâ€¦dead as a doornail.
The highlights of my eight-hour shifts were … Read more »
It was the summer of 1989, and I was biding my time before leaving Billings, Montana, for the renowned academic powerhouse Marquette University in Milwaukee. I was socking away minimum wages for my collegiate experience at Best Sporting Goods, quietly whiling away my afternoons selling rifles, lawn furniture, fly rods, and Weber grills. At best, I was an average salesman, but I spent half my time on the phone arranging … Read more »
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