Kinko’s. About twenty minutes before they closed. I had a bunch of copies to make, so the lid was open and my Kinko’s card was still in the slot. Which the lady hadn’t noticed when she walked over to the copier next to me. She seemed flustered, but in a nice way. Kind of like that ditzy girl you always liked in high school. Only now she’s somebody’s mom and cute has matured to endearing.
“Yes, sorry. I am using that one.”
“Oh, okay.” She was lost. No doubt about it. The lady was not in her element. The husband whose wife has sent him to the store to buy tampons. The wife on an errand at the Home Depot. Something about lug nuts? Is that a Q wrench? C. I meant C.
“Wait. It’s okay. You can use it. I’ll just take out my card.”
“No, you don’t have to.”
“It’s alright. I’m done.”
“Is this the Fax machine?”
Okay, that’s just adorable. It wasn’t that long ago that I was also a Luddite. For most of the time I lived in Jersey City, the only electronic gadgets I had were an answering machine and a VCR. (No, the VCR was not blinking twelve. I did know how to set the clock.)
It was only when I moved to Los Angeles that I started to join the last century. I got a CD player, which counts, even if the ipod was about to make CDs obsolete. I got email. One of the last people I know to get email. An Israeli friend of mine could not believe that I had never been online, and sat me down next to him one night to help me open a yahoo account.
Now, I have a MacBook Pro, a DVR, an iphone 4, and a GPS. Those last two, I can say with assurance, changed my life. Measurably. There is an enormous difference between the way a person conducts their day to day business before and after getting a GPS and an iphone. Steve Jobs really did change the world.
Not that I am any kind of Steve Jobs. I may be on the Enterprise instead of the Santa Maria, but I am hardly what anyone would call tech savvy. There are features on each of my electronic gadgets that I don’t ever use. Friends of mine sometimes snatch my iphone out of my hands after watching me execute maneuvers which, to them, seem archaic. They show me nifty shorts cuts which I promptly file away under “Yeah, neat, but how did they do that again?”
Even so, I know the difference between a fax machine and an industrial strength copier. Unlike this poor woman looking at me with an embarrassed smile and a plea for assistance in her eyes.
“No, this is a copier.” As gently as I could manage.
“Where is the Fax machine?”
“I don’t know.” I didn’t know. I’d never tried to send a Fax at Kinko’s. “There must be one somewhere.”
“Sorry I can’t be more helpful.” I was, too. Sorry. I wanted to help her, and not just for the obvious reasons. There was something else. She seemed familiar. Did I know her from somewhere? I turned to get a better look at her face. She smiled with that same mixture of embarrassment and pleading. I could think of nothing else to add, so I just smiled back.
Celebrities sometimes look like that when they are out and about in real life. Running errands in public places where they are not expected to be seen. I’ve met enough of them to recognize that expression in the eyes. Was this lady famous?
I tuned in to the conversation taking place at the service counter. She was now getting help from the guy who works there. Her voice was distinctive. She sounded like, wait, was that… Kristy McNichol? Sure enough, with a quick glance, I could see that it was.
When I got home, I looked her up on IMDB. There she was in the most recent photos, this nice lady I had just met at Kinko’s. I learned that she now teaches acting to high school kids. Good for her.
You might think a movie star would be immediately recognizable, and you’d be correct. Most are. Especially the ones that radiate glamour. The ones that positively sparkle, and could never be mistaken for an everyday average person. Jacqueline Bisset springs to mind. I don’t think I’ve ever been more star-struck than the day she brushed up against me while peering over my shoulder to see what book I was reading. I looked up and was dazzled.
Even the ones that don’t have that larger than life quality are usually easy to spot in person. There was the time I bumped into Robert Sean Leonard on three separate days in the same week. The first was outside a theatre on what was Theatre Row, on forty-second street in Manhattan. I actually walked up and introduced myself, which is something I would not normally do, but I had a little theatre company at the time, and so did he. I admired how he was using his fame and his money to support low budget theatre, and told him so. He shook my hand and could not have been more polite.
When I saw him outside a laundromat in Greenwich Village a couple of days later, I thought it was strange, but did not disturb him. The very next day, I was the one trying not to be noticed when we crossed paths again, at a farmer’s market in Columbus Circle. I was afraid he would think I was stalking him.
Then there are the times you just aren’t expecting to see a famous person, and can look right at them, even have a conversation, without the slightest idea of who they are. Until after the fact, when you feel somewhat ridiculous. Like while at Kinko’s twenty minutes to closing, or at The Apple Store on a bright Saturday morning.
There were a few people ahead of me on line. No problem. I can wait patiently, especially knowing that I have already made an appointment and have checked in with the smiling girl holding a clipboard, at what is called the genius bar. Not all the people were as willing, and there were some grumbles from the other customers. Particularly an older gentleman, intent on convincing me to join in some sort of mutiny. Rebellion? Protest?
Really, I didn’t see what could be accomplished by impatience, other than the spreading of impatience, so I smiled and listened to him griping and complaining, but did not contribute. Hoping to calm him down through the sheer force of my passive and peaceful countenance.
Then a young man walked past us both and went right up to the counter, where he was waited on without delay. I figured he had an appointment ahead of mine and had probably already checked in before I got there. The older man was not so sure, and was vocal enough about his doubts that the young man turned back to gaze in our direction. His manner dripped with a lazy insolence, in direct contrast to the grungy manner in which he was dressed.
He had apparently been out running, and was wearing a knee pad on one leg. His hair was greasy and pulled back into a ponytail. Baseball cap. Tee shirt. It was the cut-off jeans that were the most obvious thing about him. Since the back pockets were missing, and his white boxer briefs were on full display.
He was plugged into his ipod, and when the smiling girl with the clipboard approached him, he gave only the barest indication that he was aware she existed. He wasn’t rude, exactly, he just seemed to be more interested in what song was playing through his earphones than in whatever reason he had for coming into the store.
That reason became clear enough without any dialogue, it turned out. He was there to pick up his MacBook Pro. When he again gazed over at me, I tried to indicate that I had nothing to do with the mutinous suggestion that he had cut in front of the line. That old guy, yeah, I don’t know him at all.
Something about this young man reminded me of someone. Tried to place who, but could not. It was only walking home that I began to wonder if he was an actor I should have recognized. Joseph Gordon Levitt, maybe? No, a quick search online ruled him out.
What about Shia LaBeouf? Yep, there he was, looking back at me from my laptop screen. With that same insolent expression.
There is also what I call the Richard Gere look. You see it when a celebrity expects you to know who they are, but is disappointed when you don’t. I call it the Richard Gere look because I first saw it from, well, Richard Gere.
It was by the Javits Convention Center, way over on the West side of Manhattan. Middle of nowhere, really. Desolate sidewalks for blocks in each direction. I was walking back from the out-of-the-way lot where I parked the van belonging to the Theatre company I was working for at the time.
As I crossed the street, I saw this one guy all alone on the sidewalk ahead. He had just hung up a pay phone and was walking in my direction. As we came closer, he looked at me with the kind of anticipation you find in a tourist needing directions, or a homeless guy about to ask for change. He was dressed like neither, in a rather sharp leather jacket, so I instinctively put up my New York force field and did my best to discourage any discourse.
Then something interesting happened. The expression in his eyes changed to puzzlement. He sort of cocked his head. Amused. Or confused. I walked past. As we were shoulder to shoulder, it hit me like a flash. This handsome man was Richard Gere. What I had interpreted as a pending request for spare change was his expectation of being recognized, followed by his realization that it was not going to happen.
What threw me off was the white hair. Up until that near miss, I had only seen him in pictures where his hair was dark. I was tempted to turn around and explain, but I wasn’t sure how to say “I had no idea your hair had turned white” without implying that he looked old. I was afraid it would come out wrong. Besides, the moment had already passed.
It wouldn’t be the last one. There was the morning I drove down to one of the beaches South of Los Angeles. It was one of those famous beaches I’d never been to previously. My call time was early, for a low-budget PSA. The drive was long, I made a wrong turn, ending up on what seemed to be a smaller beach. Perhaps even a private beach.
This was before my GPS, or my iphone 4. I drove about five minutes in what I suspected was the wrong direction, hoping to come across a yellow sign from the production company. Directing me to crew parking. No luck. I did, however, come across two people. They were out walking just past dawn. I rolled down my window to ask if I was on the right beach. Were they with production?
One guy gave me the Richard Gere look, but a quick appraisal of the other fellow told me he was unsure of his surroundings, so I focused on the first. I really did not want to be late for my call.
It only took him a few beats to understand that I was not paparazzi, that I was in fact an actor who had made a wrong turn on his way to set, and that I did not yet realize who he was. He told me how to get there, I thanked him, rolled up my window, and drove off.
It was only then that I said out loud, “Eric McCormack!” Nice guy.