A List Of Celebrity Encounters / 18 June 2001

Mel Gibson, waiting in line to see movie at a multiplex in Los Angeles. Short, his scraggly hair forced into a ponytail. Sort of like a stereotype of music-industry sleaze.

At a taping of the Tonight Show, Jay Leno was still the guest-host, interviewing Molly Ringwald and asking what her first film was. “Oh, god, it was this movie called Spacehunter that no one saw.” She glances into the faceless audience and asks: “Did anybody here see it?” I cry out “Yaaaaaaay!” since I’d watched it many times on Cinemax, and she says: “Great. One person.”

Similarly, Darren Harris, who, in Sixteen Candles, played the friend of Anthony Michael Hall who wasn’t John Cusack, grew up to be the AV guy at my university. Supposedly Urkel and Winnie from The Wonder Years and Alyssa Milano also attended, but I never saw them, though I did see the best friend from that sitcom where the blonde girl’s father is an alien and she has certain supernatural powers..?

Bruno Kirby, always dutifully supporting the lead (Godfather II, When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers), browsing through magazines at City Lights in San Francisco. Always with the black leather jackets, these stars.

Several booksigning encounters, including A. Whitney Brown, David Foster Wallace, and S. E. Hinton, who signed my movie tie-in version of The Outsiders upon which I’d later spill Life cereal without realizing it, leaving the Life nugget to solidify and congeal on the cover.

At a taping of a game show that was canceled before it ever hit the airwaves, a game show that used the structure popularized by Hollywood Squares where B-list celebrities deliver pre-written joke answers and then a serious answer that the contestants have to agree or disagree with, the host was Gene Rayburn, best known for his fine work on The Match Game. While the crew was getting ready to shoot, Gene was wandering through the set, sort of boogying to the Muzak that was being piped in. I do the thing where you make both hands into gun-like shapes and point at the person you want to give “props” to, and Gene returned the gesture.

Running the college film series in Los Angeles = celebrity heaven, though I still saw fewer than my colleages. Attended a reception for Candice Bergen and Denzel Washington (separately, though I wish they’d been combined), but didn’t talk to either of them.

Presented Harrison Ford with the Spencer Tracy Award, a dubious prize that I think existed purely to lure celebrities to our school. I wrote the introductory speech and had to get his approval beforehand but he said “I’m sure it’s fine,” looking like he’d rather be pretty much anywhere else. He was tall.

Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead, etc.) was giving a talk and I volunteered to do anything and ended up meeting him at the gates, hopping in his car (always with the Honda Civics, these stars) and telling him how to get to the auditorium. He warned me to get out of the film industry. In his dressing room he entertained a number of film geeks, signing autographs, getting his picture taken (his favorite pose was “tough guy with fists up”), being all around nice and funny. I introduced him and then sat on stage while he talked since I was supposed to help field the Q&A at the end, but he just took over the whole thing so I had to sit there the whole time and do nothing while he worked the crowd.

Charles Fleischer, comedian and voice of Roger Rabbit, heading into a Nine Inch Nails concert. I wonder how often he gets recognized.

Literally rubbed elbows with Joey Santiago, ex-guitarist of the Pixies, at the Kilowatt in San Francisco where his new band (also now defunct, I think) was playing. Same with Mitch Mitchell, not Jimi Hendrix’s drummer but ex-guitarist of Guided by Voices, though I can’t remember where.

Innumerable web celebrities.

After I moved away from Los Angeles, I returned for a long weekend and made it my goal to spot a celebrity since I hadn’t seen enough during my stint there. I saw nobody and was sad, and as I was getting in my car to drive away, I looked up and there was Kevin McDonald from the Kids in the Hall, wearing a walkman. He knew I knew.

On a tour of the Warner Brothers studio, Demi Moore comes lurching out of a warehouse, sees this group of tourists and bolts down the street. She was there filming Nothing But Trouble.

My best friend in high school had a stepbrother who would often accompany us on family trips and whatnot. He was very entertaining to have around and once we caught the magic on videotape at Lake Tahoe. He grew up to become Puck from the Real World: San Francisco.

I interned one summer at Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope for exactly zero dollars. I ran into his daughter Sofia in the copy room and she seemed dumb as a stump, though I would really enjoy The Virgin Suicides years later. Also, I was able to go to Skywalker Ranch to see a screening of The Secret Garden, which Zoetrope was producing. Afterward, Francis himself showed up and held court, and even though my friend and I sat about five feet away from him, and even though there was a stretch where he was alone and looking bored, like he wished he had someone to talk to, we still couldn’t bring ourselves to say anything.

Sitting on a bed of nails on Market Street in San Francisco, Maxon Crumb, brother of Robert, the one who liked to pull down strange women’s shorts. He was drawing something.

Joshua Green Allen

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