Posted by: cassymuronaka | February 5, 2009

Intersecting

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If you pay attention, you can find studies in great and unintentional whimsy at street intersections throughout the country. My favorite, which for many years has always made me smile as I approach one of its four stop signs, is the intersection of Gregory and Peck in Beverly Hills

The unplanned irony resulting from the crossing of these two streets would be even more wonderful if the late, great movie actor had actually resided in that Beverly Hills. Instead, he lived a few miles away in Brentwood.

I saw Gregory Peck waiting in line at a Jack-in-the-Box once. He looked as if he’d just walked off of a movie set simply to indulge a spontaneous desire for a two-for-one $.99 taco deal.

Some actors are like that; just as tall, just as handsome, just as old or young as you would expect. Others give you a deep shock when you meet them in person. Ann-Margret, who used to loom like an Amazon onscreen, is extraordinarily petite, and when our paths intersected many years ago, she appeared to be so painfully shy that she was literally hiding behind her very tall husband — the actor Roger Smith — while the two were standing discreetly inside an elementary school administrative office where I spent one college summer doing clerical work.

Over the years, I’ve met and stumbled upon many celebrities, often during the course of newspaper work. At other times it occurred because it is almost impossible to regularly drive on the Westside of Los Angeles without running into location filming.

One of my more choice celebrity encounters occurred during a fund-raising party that Jane Fonda threw for her then-spouse, Tom Hayden, who was running for California Assembly. The room was surprisingly lacking in the movie star heavy-hitters that I had been cruising to photograph. Eventually, I was reduced to wandering over to Linda Lavin, television’s “Alice,” who was drinking a cocktail with her then-husband, Kip Niven, a minor actor with even less glam wattage than Lavin.

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I was trying to frame the two of them in the foreground with Fonda and Hayden networking behind them, which I thought would nicely tell the story of this otherwise routine political fundraiser. I had only racked off one or two photos before Lavin and Niven slowly and in unison turned their backs to me without uttering a word.

This was odd. Celebrities attend these events to be seen. They suck up light like big potted plants. After puzzling over this contradictory behavior, for, oh a millisecond, I turned my own back to the two actors and began to move on.

Suddenly, there was an insistent tap on my shoulder. And there was Linda Lavin, standing expectantly behind me, with her husband beside her.

“Excuse me, excuse me, do you know why we turned our backs on you?”

“No.”

“It’s because you weren’t shooting our good sides,” Lavin explained to me, drawing a languid hand across one side of her face for emphasis, as Niven nodded vigorously.

“Do … you … understand?” asked Lavin, slowly enunciating, as if I were the Village Idiot.

“Oh yes,” I nodded back, “I understand. I completely understand.”

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Responses

  1. Revenge is a dish best eaten cold. Or something like that.

  2. I could not agree more. Even if you have to wait a couple of decades or so.

  3. I’m already looking forward to a post on Mr. Jane Fonda, as Tom Hayden was sometimes referred to back in those days.


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