I went out to dinner last night with a writer/producer friend. Since it has been freakin' hot here lately I was wearing a pair of just-below-the-knees white shorts, a white shirt and black sandals. I thought we were going somewhere casual.
My friend doesn't live in my area so he asked of friend of his who does where to go to eat. His answer was Ventura Blvd. between Coldwater Canyon and wherever, so we drove off to wherever until he passed this restuarant with a bluish neon sign he liked. "Let's go there," he said as we passed the restaurant. He made a left by Casa Vega and turned around twice, pulling up to the valet behind an ultra-expensive Porsche with some Hollywood nobody it-couple climbing out of the car.
We walk in the restaurant and I immediately notice the perfectly ironed, perfectly white table clothes on the candle-lit tables. Uh, this place is expensive. The maitre d' descended on us with speed and grace. Uh, this place is really expensive. "Are you with the Lieberman party?" "No. Two for dinner. We don't have a reservation." "Well, I'm sorry I don't have anything at the moment. You'll have to wait." I volunteer to go elsewhere. Maybe Denny's will have a table. "How long?" my friend asks. "Fifteen or twenty minutes." "No problem."
We stand by the door. All the seats at the mahogany bar are occupied by well-dressed patrons. I glance at a menu. Uh, this place is really, really expensive. My friend doesn't seem to mind. He says he's happy to have dinner with me because I crack him up. Great. More pressure. The maitre d' seats us sooner than later at a small table for two wedged between a similar table on my left and a round table for three to my right. We are close enough to the other two tables to eat off their plates.
We had barely ordered a glass of wine when my friend signaled me to check out the woman seated at the round table to my right. In some foreign tongue he mumbled something like, "is that who I think it is?" I glance at the table. First I see the balding probably past middle age guy. Couldn't miss him. He's as large as the restaurant is expensive. Trying not to be obvious my eyes wander farther to the right and I'm looking at a very beautiful woman who is maybe fifty. It took me a couple of minutes of casual glances to even realize who he thought she was. Not that she didn't look like who he thought she was but I just don't have a knack for recognizing people. Especially famous people.
[Damn. The power just went out. And it's well over 100 degrees outside. Going to check if it's just my house or the neighborhood.] [Okay, I took a walk around the neighborhood. It still feels like the 115 it was a few hours ago. The guys across the street have power. It seems like it's only affecting 3/4 of my block and the block behind me. And the power company phone lines are busy. Crap. It's already heating up in the house. 1:30 left on the laptop.]
So, where was I? Oh yeah, I don't recognize famous people. I think that's a good affliction to have if you live in L.A. Otherwise, I'd be craning my neck every which way on a regular basis and probably end up with whiplash. The only time I recognize people is when someone says, "Hey, look, it's so and so." The Starbucks I generally write at has its share of famous people streaming in and out who I recognize now because someone told me who they are and I see them on a regular basis. They include Kelsey Grammar, Dick Van Patten, Harry Hamlin and his soapy wife Lisa (she owns a boutique down the street), Roger Rabbit (he's a regular so we sometimes chat), a couple of well-paid screenwriters, the guy who played Viggo's son in A History of Violence and Ashlee Simpson's on-again off-again boyfriend, Ryan Cabrera who I'm sure would prefer to be referenced on his own merits. There's probably a lot more but I don't notice.
Back to the restaurant. We have snails - oops, I mean escargot - and one of them leaps out of my friends tongs and skips down the front of his shirt, leaving a trail of melted butter. Much laughter ensued. But he's still trying to decide if the beauty at the next table is the person he thinks she is. I don't think so...she's too young. We have to talk in code about this because they are that close to us. And she and I have a straight on view of each other when I move my eyes 20º right. Yes, between me cracking him up, identifying the woman has become an obsession.
As luck would have it, my friend happens to be acquainted with the assistant to the beautiful woman - if that is her. How weird is that? So, in the middle of dinner, in this classy upscale really, really, really expensive restaurant, my friend pulls out his cell phone and gives his friend a call. "Do you know where your boss is tonight? I'm at a restaurant in Sherman Oaks. Could she be having dinner with a really fat guy?" I look over at the woman for identifying jewelry. "Ask if her boss wears rings on her right index finger." "Does she wear rings..." "No, wait, it's her left index finger." He finally hangs up and confirms that it could be her.
Well, now I gotta know. They finish their dinner, we finish ours. I had a chicken dish that was to die for. We talk a little bit about the biz and screenwriting and gossip - even though my friend is also tuned into the conversation at the other table. Then it happens. At the precise perfect moment in their conversation, but out of the blue, my friend looks at them and lets out a little laugh followed by something like, "you guys are really getting into it." Hide me under the table now. They laugh politely and the fat guy says something like, "no, it's all in fun" and my friend interjects, "Do you happen to know Christine (whatever her name is)?" The beuatiful woman's face lights up and she says, "Why, yes" and he cuts her off and says, "Because she just called me and I asked her if it was possible that you were you."
Introductions all around and a little small talk and all was well. Who was the beautiful woman at the next table?
I trust I don't have to tell you her name.