Don't get turned off by this list's vapid title: I have some mildly interesting stories to tell. You see, although I have seen my share of famous people ever since I moved to Los Angeles, 2015 has been a banner year for celebrity encounters. Here are nine of those encounters, in chronological order:
- David Lynch. I had popped into a tobacconist to snag a matchbox; I was preparing my Indiegogo campaign for my new short 20 Matches, and decided to sculpt clay figurines, housed in matchboxes, for my backers, so I needed one to test out my sculptures. A minute later, I was strolling past the busy Joan's on Third when out walked this well-dressed man with a white quiff, lighting a cigarette with a match. You just don't see old people smoking on Third Street, so I found it odd – then I remembered that chain-smoking is one of Lynch's quirks. "Ho ho ho ho!" he laughed to the younger lady on his arm, and while I'm not superstitious, I took this brush with a cinema god as a good omen for 20 Matches.
- Thomas Gibson. I'm a trivia buff, so this year my wife Miki and I have been trying our luck at various pub trivia nights. We often win, just the two of us, beating much larger teams. And so it went at the venerable Tam O'Shanter, one of the oldest restaurants in LA. Unusually, we not only tied with another team, we also tied in the tie-breaker. So I went face-to-face with my hammy opponent, and I beat him. Another player later informed me that my defeated rival was Gibson, who stars in a popular TV series I've never seen called Criminal Minds.
- Roma Downey. Owing to said flair for trivia, a year ago I got roped into auditioning for a game show. Somehow this led to my being asked to game-test a new show called 500 Questions (which aired briefly last May). I went to Universal Studios to play a mock game in front of the producer, reality TV mogul Mark Burnett, and his wife, Touched by an Angel star Roma Downey. Burnett ignored me entirely, the swine, but Downey graciously thanked me and the other player as we left.
- Patricia Clarkson. Miki and I took a trip to Atlanta and New Orleans in April. At the New Orleans airport, I stood behind a familiar-looking woman at the security line. I asked her, "Did anyone ever tell you that you look like the actress Patricia Clarkson?" She just squinted at me. "Are you the actress Patricia Clarkson?" "Yes, I am," she sighed. We then had a chat about New Orleans and her film Cairo Time, which I like a lot. Nice lady.
- John C. Reilly. Miki's boss Dan Bern is a singer-songwriter who penned several tunes for the cult comedy Walk Hard, starring Reilly. No surprise that the two men became friends. Dan gave a concert near downtown LA, and Reilly showed up to sing a couple of Bob Dylan songs with him. I had an awkward encounter with the actor in the back, as I sought out a bathroom. My words to Reilly: "I have no toilet." He mumbled, "They're all full?" That was the extent of our conversation.
- Robert Redford. Now this is a star sighting: I spotted the elusive legend at the cozy SmokeHouse, right across the street from Warner Bros. studios. The Malibu resident was clearly in Burbank on business, listening to two young studio suits as they pitched him about God knows what. Redford looked great for his age, relaxed and very much into his garlic bread.
- Bob Newhart. My mother and her husband were visiting LA, so Miki and I took them to dinner at La Dolce Vita, a little Rat Pack-era restaurant in Beverly Hills that's become a favorite of ours. Frank Sinatra reportedly bankrolled the place, and a booth is indeed named after him. As we walked out, I noticed Bob Newhart in the Sinatra booth with his wife and two friends. I tried to discreetly point him out to my family members without disturbing the man, but I was too subtle and nobody understood what I was doing. Which was a shame, since when your seventysomething mom comes to LA, you don't have many opportunities to point out a celebrity she would actually recognize.
- Don Rickles. Guess who else was sitting with Newhart at that table?
- Jason Segel. What do Tam O'Shanter, SmokeHouse, La Dolce Vita and Dominick's (across the street from Cedars Sinai hospital) all have in common? They are all old, cute places in LA. I love old, cute places. And apparently so does Jason Segel, who we saw standing at the Dominick's bar, patiently waiting to pay his tab like a normal person.