Saturday, January 15, 2005

Star Struck

I've often said that you never really appreciate where you live until someone comes to visit you. That's when you actually take the time to go out and see all of the wonderful things that you always say you're going to take advantage of but never really do. And even though spotting celebrities has become something I take for granted, I like to try and make sure that when a visitor comes to town they get to see at least one "star." I know they're just people and they don't deserve to be worshipped or admired any more than teachers or firefighters -- but the thing of it is when you do see a really big star, first of all it's cool, and second of all it gives you a good story to go home and tell all your loser friends who had to suffer through another bitterly cold east coast winter week while you were sipping mimosas on Sunset Boulevard and rubbing elbows with the beautiful people.

This past weekend was my niece Annie's birthday and her mom, my sister Cindy, came out to visit. I picked Cindy up at LAX on Saturday and took her straight to the Sky Bar, a prime star-gazing location. We sat and sipped our drinks in the balmy afternoon breeze watching the surgically enhanced and mentally impoverished and feeling superior to all. But alas, no stars.

After drinks we headed up Sunset to pick up Annie from work and get ready for her birthday party that night, at the apartment of her new boyfriend Tony. We sat at an outdoor cafe on Sunset while waiting for Annie to get off work, watching the ultra-blonde, wobbly-legged, pouty-lipped women and their tiny rat-like dogs. Still no celebs.

At Annie's birthday party, which was actually being held two days early, we met Tony's mother and her four friends who were in town for the week. I had actually met them on Friday night at a Buzzards gig. Not that they flew all they way to Los Angeles from Buffalo just to see the Buzzards, but then again, two of them were here in October for the last Buzzards gig, so you do the math.

Anyway, the "Buffalo Gals" were psyched to see some celebs. This weekend was the Golden Globes and the town was filled with stars. Earlier, the Buffalo Gals had been hanging out at the Four Seasons bar and got into a heavy conversation with Liam Neeson. But Liam was just an appetizer -- they were out for big game. The kept talking about ditching the birthday party to go try and crash the HBO pre-Globes soiree. These women were real pros. They had a plan for the night of the Globes that would guarantee success, and with any luck we would be able to coat-tail our way along with them.

The next afternoon Cindy and Annie and I did a little shopping along trendy Melrose Ave. Cindy picked up some knockoff 'Dolce Garbonzo' sunglasses that made her look just like a studio exec at Cannes. Annie got a pair of wide-screen shades that gave her that "I don't want you to recognize me, but you better not ignore me" look that all the stars go for.

We stopped for dinner and a hip Chinese place and finally saw our first celeb. Actually a two-fer, raspy-voiced former Newhart wife Suzanne Pleshette and her real-life husband, and also former Newhart co-star, Tom Poston. Tom currently appears as the "clown in the closet" on the soon-to-be-forgotten NBC sitcom "Committed." While they aren't exactly A-list, or even B-list, they were bona-fide celebrities and rated a quick cell phone call to the folks back in Florida.

But the best was yet to come.

We got the call from Tony and learned that the Buffalo Gals had staked out a couple of couches in the lobby of the luxurious Peninsula Hotel across the street from the Golden Globes. We rushed home to change and then headed over to join them. When we got there we immediately became aware of the cunning genius behind their plan. Many of the big stars had booked rooms at the Peninsula to get ready for their big night. After the awards, they scooted back to the hotel to change out of their gowns and tuxedos and kick back. And when they did, they'd fall right into our trap.

Within fifteen minutes of our arrival we were rewarded with a genuine celebrity sighting as super-tall activist/actor/director Tim Robbins ducked his way into the lobby, sporting a scruffy beard and mustache. He knew he was in the presence of serious star-gazers as we locked him in our sights and followed his progress across the lobby and over to the elevators. He smiled and nodded somewhat sheepishly, acknowledging our prowess.

Sex in the City's ghostly pale Cynthia Nixon made several appearances, apparently having lost track of her room. She failed to acknowledge our group to her continuing discredit.

Chazz Palminteri looked about as cool as you'd imagine wearing his black leather jacket -- he skulked around the entrance to the bar for a while before eventually daring to run our gauntlet. Nobody was going to mess with Chazz and we let him pass unfazed.

Handsome couple Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy made several passes in front of our reviewing stand, until Macy, looking characteristically flustered, confessed "we're just getting some exercise."

At one point I noticed an elfin-looking man wearing silver-tipped cowboy boots. It took a moment to realize that he was manic attention-hound Robin Williams, escorting his wife and kids over to the elevator. Robin earned a round of applause from our group, which he clearly enjoyed. In fact he returned later on for repeat performance, poking his head through a potted plant and saying "thank-you so much!"

Gap-toothed director Ron Howard came by, but I must have been in the men's room. He reportedly received a round of applause as well.

As I was coming back from the men's room, I tried to catch the eye of a stunning brunette chatting with a friend in the lobby. She turned out to be the adorable Kristin Davis. I think she was interested in me, but trying to play coy.

I may be forgetting one or two -- some guy from the Sopranos, one of the Queer Eyes -- but all in all I'd say we had a pretty good night of it. On the way out we ran into Miramax mogul Harvey Weinstein, not exactly one of the beautiful people but a real heavyweight. Certainly we had seen enough stars to make the folks back home sit up and take notice. The Buffalo Gals really taught us a thing or two. How to stalk with style and and how to have a pretty fun evening without getting up off the couch. I'll have to remember that place.

The next night was Annie's actual birthday and we celebrated at a cozy little restaurant nestled in the heart of Laurel Canyon. Courtney, Annie's friend from the University of Vermont joined us there. She had recently moved to L.A. and after hearing of our amazing night of star sightings, complained that she had yet to see a celeb. She was in luck -- we still had the magic of the Buffalo Gals on our side. A few minutes later, leggy cover-girl-turned actress Molly Sims came in and sat just a few tables away. Courtney was thrilled. Now she really was an Angeleno. Eventually, of course, she'll have seen a bunch of stars and she'll become jaded like the rest of us. That is, until some friends come out to visit her and she gets to relive the wonder all over again.

That's why the call it La-La-Land!

Enjoy the winter suckers!

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