Archive for the ‘Brushes with Fame’ Category

Christopher Walken

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Christopher Walken’s Crisp Twenty
By Grant Munroe

Five years ago, I had a job working the night shift at a convenience store in the northern suburbs of Chicago. I was reading a novel when the door opened, and in walked Christopher Walken.

You don’t spot too many celebrities in the northern suburbs of Chicago, or even Chicago proper. Walken was my first. How was I sure it was Walken? No easy answer, but he is an extremely distinctive person; there’s no one else he could have been given his look, and the way he glumly entered the store, and, without looking at me, turned down an aisle. He shopped for about a minute before he reached the counter.

This is what he bought:

1 24 oz. bottle of Lemon-Lime Gatorade;
1 small can of Vienna Sausages;
1 can of Carnation baby formula

Too star-struck to speak, I fumbled putting the items in a bag, took his twenty—which I remember as the crispest twenty as I’d ever come across—rang him up, and gave him his change. He didn’t say a word. Not a thanks, nothing. Neither of us spoke. He pocketed his change and took the bag.

Finally, when his back was turned, I had the courage to call out: “Hey—you’re Christopher Walken.”

He opened the door, paused and turned.

“So?” he said, almost indignantly. Then he left; the door closed. I watched as he drove away, then went back to my book.

Jeff Koons

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

“Excuse Me, But Is Your Name Jeff?”
By Laura Fraser

I was on the 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.
“Excuse me,” I said (traveling in a foreign country gives you license to be bolder than at home), “but is your name Jeff?”
“Yes…It is,” he said, sort of startled but polite. We then began the “name game.” “Are you from New York?” I asked, and he nodded. He said he was an artist there. I commented that it must be very difficult to make a living as an artist in New York. He asked what I was doing in Italy. I told him I was working on a piece for Gourmet.
“My daughter works at Gourmet,” he said. Small world! He told me her name, Shannon Fox—I had met her once, told him she was very nice—but “Jeff Fox” still didn’t ring any bells. Then he asked if I knew Si Newhouse from Conde Nast. No, I said, since Si Newhouse—the pater familias of the poshest magazine company in the world—was simply out of my stratosphere. I saw him lunching with Anna Wintour once at the Royalton, but I was seated in Siberia, near the kitchen, mainly because the waiter recognized that my mode of dress was from the hinterlands (“Perhaps,” my kind editor said, “you should go down to Century 21 and see if you can find something with more structure.”)
“Si bought one of my pieces,” Jeff said.
“How nice,” I said. He really was making a living as an artist in New York. “What were you doing in Naples.”
“I had an exhibit.” I noticed he used the verb “had,” not “saw.” Then it clicked, all those big banners strewn up around Naples for a retrospective: KOONS.
“I’m so sorry I missed it,” I said. “I wished I’d had time to see it.” He nodded.
“But I loved your poopy,” I said, brightly. “Poopy” is how they pronounce “Puppy” in Bilbao, where I’d recently seen his giant puppy sculpture planted with flowers.
And then Jeff Koons got up and went to the dining car for a drink.

Jennifer Aniston

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Jennifer Aniston Is Doing Great
By Anthony Giglio

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 and give them a wink. One night a few weeks ago my mom and sister Lisa had just come from a wine tasting and were most definitely a little buzzed and very, very hungry. While we waited for a table in the crowded bar area, the restaurant’s manager (an old pal of mine) walked over with a bottle of Barolo, three glasses, and a plate of three slabs of bruschetta adorned with melting slices of lardo. “A little something on the house,” he said with a smile, knowing exactly why I was there. I was feeling good. Mom was beaming. And so we huddled in the corner and wolfed down creamy cured pork fat with copious sips of the delicious wine, hardly saying a word.

And then it happened.

I glanced up at Lisa, who was staring over my shoulder toward the dining room, eyes wide and smiling. But before I could turn around, a sheath of perfectly straight, Pantene-shiny blonde hair was passing me and I heard Lisa gasp. Then, as if in slow motion, the blonde leaned in toward Lisa and they reached out and held each other’s forearms for what seemed like 10 long seconds.

Lisa said, “How are you?” with such deep feeling, I figured this was an old friend she hadn’t seen in years.

The blonde said, “I’m okay, I’m okay.”

And with that she walked out, followed by her entourage of three hot bodies, not one of whose lovely faces I ever beheld.

When I asked her who that was she blushed and said, “Jennifer Aniston… it … was … Jennifer Aniston!” After a gulp of Barolo, Lisa explained she had caught sight of the world’s most famous blonde walking toward her, but that Aniston gave her a serious look that said, Please don’t make a scene. They locked eyes and then “she smiled and she walked toward me,” said Lisa, explaining that she felt so bad for the star given the whole Angelina Jolie thing, she just had to say something.

“That was unbelievable,” said Mom.

“I can’t believe I just hugged Jennifer Aniston,” said Lisa.

Technically, it was a forearm grip. Yet undoubtedly, that night’s mission was accomplished.

BONUS (via Gawker): An alleged “Brush” with an undermining Jennifer Aniston.

Dick Cheney

Wednesday, February 8th, 2006

Dick Cheney vs. the SpaghettiOs
By Patrick J. Sauer

It was the summer of 1989, and I was biding my time before leaving Billings, MT, to head off to the renowned academic powerhouse Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. I was socking away minimum wages for my collegiate experience ($3.35 an hour, I believe) 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 it wasn’t a commission gig and I spent half my time on the phone arranging to find a guy of legal age to buy me and my boys cases of Schmidt beer.

Billings isn’t a celebrity hotbed, and whatever sightings there were reached mythic proportions that carried weight for years on end. My buddy Bruno once saw Bill Murray meandering downtown before a minor league ballgame between the Salt Lake Trappers (Murray was part owner) and the Billings Mustangs. Even at Best, salesclerks reminisced fondly about the time Mel Gibson went on a major spending spree to stock his ranch up near Absarokee.

One thing Billings does have to offer, though, is tax-free shopping, and nobody appreciates avoiding sales tax quite like a Wyoming Republican.
The savings were so good that even an old hunter like Dick Cheney, recently installed Secretary of Defense, dropped in to purchase a few items for his daughter’s dorm room. I’m assuming it was Mary because she was born in 1969—to Elizabeth’s 1966—but I can’t say for sure if it was also my first brush with a woman of the lesbian persuasion. Truth be told, it’s probably for the better, because at the age of 18 my only experience with women-who-prefer-women was VHS pornography, and I’m not sure I would’ve been able to keep my composure and complete the transaction in the timely and orderly fashion befitting a former military man…err, a guy who digs the armed forces.

Decked out in a ten-gallon hat and form-fitting Wranglers, Cheney grunted a few questions to me about the best mini-fridge on the market. I, of course, was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and tie combination that would later come to be known as “the Sipowicz.” He decided on a brown one, maybe two-feet tall, perhaps a Kenmore… basically, the same one you kept SpaghettiOs and Diet Coke cold in during the undergraduate years.

Cheney bought a few other items, and then I wheeled out his purchases on a red handcart to his Ford Bronco or Chevy Blazer or whatever it was before S.U.V.’s were invented. He opened the swing door, I bent down, lifted the mini-fridge (with my legs, not my back, which was a hard-learned lesson) and slid it into the area opened by the folded-down seats. I don’t recall Cheney or his daughter saying anything, but he shook my hand, nodded “Thanks,” climbed into his truck and headed off into the sunset. Tipping was never part of the equation, but the patriotic swell I got from assisting the Secretary of Defense far surpassed a few crumpled bills from his oil investments.

And before you ask: Yes, I’ve considered the “What If?” possibilities. Realistically, all I could have accomplished is accidentally “dropping” the mini-fridge and causing a few broken toes.

But broken toes would never keep Dick Cheney down.

Mario Puzo

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

By Michael Callahan

This past October 15th was Mario Puzo’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 which begat the movie which 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 telephone interview with Puzo. I set up the time with his agent and, on the appointed afternoon, dialed him at his house in Long Island. We chatted for about an hour. As is the case with most celebrity interviews, it was painless and rather pointless.

Before we hung up he said to me, “If you need to fill in any blanks, call back. But not between 3 and 5. That’s when I take my nap.”

I did call back (1:43 PM) to clear up some stuff, and this time we had a more conversational chat. I could tell he was doing something as we talked, so I asked him what he was up to. Making a sandwich, he said.

Six months later my phone rang. It was Mario. “How ya doin’, kid?”

I’d recognize that voice anywhere — sort of Ernest Borgnine on crack. Mario proceeded to fill me in on his health (he was having circulatory problems with his leg) and other minutia of his life. As time passed, my phone would ring a few times a year, and we’d just sort of shoot the shit.

When I moved to Boston, he told me it was a mistake. (”Terrible city,” he said. He was right.) The last time we spoke, a few months before his death in 1999, I called him one lazy afternoon only to hear the familiar voice of Jack Barry in the background, yelling, “Joker! Joker! Joker!” I started laughing. “Mario, are you watching The Jokers Wild?!” I said in disbelief.

He grunted. “There are not a whole lotta things,” he replied, “for old fucks to do with their afternoons.”

Don Corleone could not have said it any better.

Mick Jagger

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

By Jan Allen

People like to complain about the Rolling Stones, how old they are to be rock stars, how often they tour, and how much money they make, but I love them. I have been a devoted fan since I was a teenager in the sixties.

In 1994, the Stones came to Atlanta. They were on their Voodoo Lounge tour; I was working as a registered nurse for a local urologist.

MickJagger.jpgA day before the band’s first concert, I arrived at work a day to find an extremely excited receptionist. It seemed that Mick Jagger was experiencing some difficulties, and had been in before office hours for a special consultation with the doc.

After interrogating the amused physician about all the particulars– Mick’s appearance, his demeanor, his condition, whether he would have to come back in for another consultation–I got back to my duties. Among them: making sure that lab samples and their results got processed.

There in the lab, neatly labeled M. Jagger, were three containers of urine. We really only needed one, the others were backup. This was not an opportunity I could resist. I secreted the sample with my personal belongings and waited all day to be busted with a cry of: “Mick Jagger’s urine is missing! Do you have any idea where it could be?”

Sure do. In my freezer for nearly a decade.

The Dalai Lama

Sunday, October 16th, 2005

By John House

He was, of course, kind and attentive. Or maybe his attention is what made him seem so kind.

“Did you see that?” a woman in front of me marveled to her friend, fingering the white silk scarf that she had offered to the Dalai Lama and that he, in turn, had placed back around her shoulders as a kind of blessing.

“He just holds your hands and looks at you as if he would listen to you forever.”

My wife was also in front of me in the line winding past His Holiness, who was receiving guests before his speech at a benefit dinner in Hollywood. When my turn came, he smiled and said, “Ah, yes, Brussels…,” echoing my wife’s brief mention of some Tibetan friends in Belgium.

Then he looked at me, too, as if he was ready to listen forever. But the dinner was starting soon, and as we all moved toward the auditorium someone wondered aloud at the irony of seeing Sharon Stone and the Dalai Lama in the same town, let alone the same building.

“Honey,” said Bonnie Raitt, with gentle correction, “you should never try to judge a person’s worth just by the way they look.”

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