In previous years I’ve written about all the stars that I spot as I travel far and wide in this great town we call LA. Of late, there’s been quite a spate. Some I have handled with grace, others have seen me wishing I could just rewind the clock and start again.
I was in the Starbucks at the Grove (I seem to be in them a lot these days, what can I say, I’m an Angelino now) and hovering around the milk area, waiting for a rather small person to finish up. She sees me waiting behind her and shuffles over a little to make room. I open up my coffee to add milk only to discover it’s filled to the brim.
Dilemma: Do I go back to the counter and ask the barista to pour some coffee down the sink or B) just pour it out in the trash? So I ask my milking neighbor:
Me: Is it OK to pour coffee into the bin?
Her: The what?
Me: Oh, the trash.
Her: Sure, I mean, like everyone else does.
So I pour away. And push my luck.
Me: I’m not going to go to jail for this right?
She looks at me, not sure if that’s meant to be a joke or not.
Her: Not today.
This is when I look at her.
Me: Oh, you’re…
And off she walks with her friend. Mena Suvari and her friend. I am so lame.
Another time I helped Lisa Bonet get some bread off a top shelf in a Whole Foods before I realized that it was her. As I handed her the loaf, all I could think was, “One of my friends has you at the top of his Famous People To Fuck List” and as she thanked me and took the loaf out of my shaking hand, I wondered if Lenny was going to be eating any of that organic spelt.
But to be honest, I’m getting so good at seeing the famous these days that it matters less than it used to. I know how completely wankerish that sounds, but it’s like when you get an iPhone and you’re convinced your life has changed forever. You look at it every 5 minutes and press its buttons. You show it to everyone you know. You wake in the middle of the night and reach over to hold it, as it sleeps on your other pillow. Then after a few weeks, it’s that overpriced piece of crap that you can’t get a signal on. They’re still cool, but you know, whatever. Famous people are like iPhones now.
I think the funniest one of late was when I had some friends in from New York and we all went to dinner at Mexico City, this great restaurant in Silverlake. It’s packed like it always is, but a table frees up pretty quickly and we get sat down in this corner. And sitting right next to us are Michael C Hall and Jennifer Carpenter. Dexter and his sister.
While it was funny to watch him use a knife to eat as opposed to dissecting the body of a serial killer, it was with not much more than a shrug that we sat next to them.
It was only when they left that the real fun began. As they got up and the two of them left the restaurant, the door swung shut behind them and the entire place erupted into one big, “Oh My God!”.
Everyone at every table started discussing who they were, what they were wearing, what they were eating, were they dating, was it a PR dinner? Etc. And all I could think was, I hope I’m never famous in that way because I love my anonymity too much. Every writer loves to be just a fly on the wall.
Then the oddest thing happened one day at the Pink Berry on Venice, where I was going to order my usual cup of Japanese frozen yoghurt delight.
When I walked in to place my order, the girl behind the counter gave me that look. The look of someone who is seeing someone famous. I know, I’ve done that look many times in LA. It’s a rapid transformation. From normal face to eyes widening, to an intake of breath, to a quick recover, to a buried smile as though your silence is somehow now a private joke between you and person you’ve only seen on TV. I thought, this is funny, I wonder who she thinks I am.
Pink Berry1: Hello, welcome to Pink Berry, can (insert that look here)…can I get your order? Hee hee.
Me: Medium Green Tea with blueberries and coconut please.
Pink Berry1: Of course.
She punches this in and then looks back up with mock gravity.
Pink Berry1: And what name is that sir?
Oh, bugger, now I’ll never find out. Unless… I lean in and wink conspiratorially.
Me: You know…
Pink Berry: Yes! I do!
And away she types into her machine as I go to wait for my order. A minute later Pink Berry 2 is holding a cup out with what looks to be mine except that he’s calling out for…
Pink Berry2: Hugh?
I stare into space.
Pink Berry2: Hugh Jackman?
Then I realize that everyone behind the counter is looking at me.
Me: That’s me. Thanks.
I pick up Hugh’s order and leave the PB to a flurry of “Oh My God!”s.
A few days later, I was walking down Abbott Kinney Blvd with Roald, a friend from who was in LA on a job. We’re walking, we’re talking and we’re passing a whole bunch of people who are rubbernecking and double taking as we go by.
Roald: Ok China, who do these people all think you are?
Me: Hugh Jackman.
Roald stops, gives me a quick up and down and then laughs.
Roald: That’s hysterical!
I don’t know if he meant that it’s hysterical because I do look like him or hysterical because I am very deluded, in a land of delusion. Personally I don’t quite see it myself. But I am the same height, same accent and with a beard and the longer hair I have these days, I suppose you know, maybe.
But the biggest thing that helps with my transformation from Karl Dunn, humble writer to the host of the Oscars is that this is a town where you have a very willing audience. Everyone wants to see famous people everyday, so who am I to deny them? And who am I to not see what kind of free shit I can wrangle out of this?
And so began my phase of being a Hugh Jackman impersonator.
This is possibly the coolest stunt I’ve ever pulled off. I would come into a restaurant and put my name down on a list of people waiting. Nice venues play it way cooler than Pink Berry so you have to do it just right.
The cooler-than-thou girl at the front desk gives you not that look but sort-of-that look. She needs a little prodding.
Me: Hi, table for two please.
CTT Girl: Name?
Me: Hugh. H, U, G, H.
As surely as bisexual dogs will hump a pole in West Hollywood, her sort-of-that look transforms into, that look! Ta Dah! My party is always the next one sat down.
This is great, profiting on the hard work of another person, I could really get into this. And every time you do it, it just gets easier. Which makes you more confident, which makes the hoax more convincing, which makes you more confident etc. The only downside to this is that you have to carry cash with you at all times. Can’t pay for anything with a card that says Karl Dunn on it. That just takes you out of character.
It starts happening at my local eatery 3 Square. It starts happening in stores. I see people snapping photos of me out of the corner of my eye.
You know what, being famous rocks! I love this! I want to be uber known! I want to be on the cover of everything! I want people to fawn over me and wrestle to be in my proximity! I want strangers going through my trash and I want to cry on Oprah! I want to adopt Malawi! I want to break up Brad and Angelia! I want to eclipse the sun! ME! ME! MEEEEEEE!
I had gone from the fly on the wall writer to the moth that flew giddily into the flame of the limelight.
Then just as quickly as it came, it was gone again.
I walked into a restaurant and Hugh’ed the girl on the front desk, who just looked back at me blankly. Maybe she didn’t hear me right.
Me: Hugh. H,U,G,H.
CTT Girl2: Got it.
No that look. Not even a sort-of-that look.
Me: With my accent sometimes people don’t quite…
CTT Girl2: You can sit at the bar while you wait.
That was it. Fame had deserted me. I wanted to scream at her, “Hey, don’t you know who I am?” but all I could truly say was, “Hey, don’t you know who I look like?”. So I said nothing at all.
Oh well, Wolverine kinda sucked anyway. I’m shaving my head.