To Live and Pry in L.A.

You live in L.A., you’re bound to meet up with the famous.

I had one such encounter on Oscar Night a few weeks back. It made me a little sad.

My family was invited to an Oscar viewing party in Pacific Palisades. The hosts were friends of a friend of mine. The host family’s daughter and our little girl, Lulu, had met once before and gotten along famously. So we were delighted to be asked to the party.

Especially since it was a catered affair and our hosts were known for sparing no expense. If The Social Network was going to get screwed for Best Picture, at least we knew the food would be good.

(Don’t get me wrong. The King’s Speech is a fine movie. I liked it very much. It’s just my heart was behind the movie that speaks more to today’s world. And I’m not even a Facebook freak.)

So there I was at the party when a once-famous actor-director arrived with his actress wife. I’d like to name names, but I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Nobody wants to be pitied and time can be so unforgiving.

Let’s just say this guy wrote, produced, directed and starred in a huge hit years ago. His wife was in the movie. The critics hated it! And, in retrospect, I have to agree. It was a simple-minded, oxymoronic fluke. Somehow, it resonated with audiences. Very much a movie of its time.

I couldn’t believe how he had aged. In fact, he was unrecognizable. He teetered on a cane and clutched a plastic bottle of green tea, which his wife explained contained some kind of special nutrients.

He was in poor health and said so. Not as a play for pity; his attitude was matter-of-fact and I admired his directness. I also respected that he didn’t allow his shaky health to keep him from getting out in the world.

People crowded around the man, even though his celebrity faded long ago. They hung on his every word. And while he seemed outwardly shaky, he’d lost nothing upstairs. During the evening, he correctly picked most of the major category award winners. In fact, he called this year’s Oscars the most predictable awards in decades.

After the show, he again held court, pontificating on the state of movies. He had a rapt audience, in part because of the patina of fame he still held, along with the respect he retained from having made such a huge hit all those years ago.

I was happy to meet him. He was a very nice man. But I couldn’t help feeling sad as I drove home. This once-robust hellraiser had gotten old.

Maybe what made me sad was that he represented a window to the future, when we’ll all struggle with health issues. Or that, bereft of a career, all he had left was the memory of once having done something big. Or maybe it was simply he seemed to belong to a different era and didn’t know it.

But a part of me wanted to hoist him on my shoulders. Tell people this man should be listened to. That he’s old but still sharp and with a point of view–about movies, society and life–that are worthy of consideration.

Attention, after all, must be paid.

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About Barry Grey

I am primarily a writer, living in Los Angeles. I've worked in television, radio, print, a teeny bit in advertising and marketing and I write about movies and pop culture for Suite101.com.
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4 Responses to To Live and Pry in L.A.

  1. Sliloh says:

    There’s something about celebrity, I’m not surprised. But I like how you describe him, someone deserving of respect for more than just his celebrity ;)

    Anita

  2. WOW! You met Charlie Sheen? Did you ask him about MAJOR LEAGUE? Go tribe!
    :)

  3. Terri L says:

    Very interesting, well-written article. Unfortunately, our society does not honor its “elders” and in the case of the article’s subject it seems to hit that point home. “Out with the old, in with the new” is certainly the mantra of Hollywood where beauty and youth rule the day. Very sad. Thanks for a great post.

  4. Kathy says:

    I agree with Terri. Our country does not honor elders. My mom is in that category and she can barely afford her medicine. If my brother wasn’t living with her, helping to pay the bills, she’d probably have to move in with me or my sister. She wouldn’t be able to afford to live on her own. She treasures her independence. She’d hate that.

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