Maybe I’m not frequenting celebrity haunts. But then, my landlady saw Alec Baldwin on the Third Street Promenade and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at Ralph’s. Me, I have celebrity repellant so I won’t go out of my way for a sighting.
Still, I was amused when we hit the celebrity jackpot one evening at Giorgio Baldi’s in Santa Monica. I didn’t know Giorgio Baldi from Giorgio Armani, but a friend had recommended it as the place to go. I didn’t give the recommendation much thought until we noticed it was just down the street from our bed and breakfast. Maybe it was a sign of great things to come.
We must have looked acceptable enough to land a table on a busy night in this exclusive joint. In the corner, near the kitchen. Whatever.
We wouldn’t have been aware of the star power in the room if not for a fellow diner who pointed out no fewer than five famous people: John Cusack, John McGinley, John Mayer, Dan Aykroyd and Nick Faldo. Aykroyd was sitting next to me – his back to me, actually. My wife was fairly impressed when his wife asked to borrow our pepper. She also got a kick out of seeing Mayer – a heartthrob of sorts, I guess. I actually wouldn’t have minded shaking Cusack’s hand; always found his work amusing in a quirky sort of way.
I remained fairly calm during the evening and managed to concentrate on my wife and my dinner. Still, there was a kind of electricity in the air.
So, when we returned to L.A. to live I remarked that after two weeks in this city I’d only spotted one celebrity: Mark DiCarlo. Who is Mark DiCarlo, you ask? I’ll get to that in a minute. We took Bella to Runyon Canyon, hoping to find an offleash area bounded by a fence so she wouldn’t bolt. She’s a gentle, sweet dog, a Lab mix. But when confronted with any wide-open space and no leash, her instincts take over and she’s off! Runyon Canyon is expansive with no sign of a fence anywhere, so we kept her on the leash.
Up the trail on this warm day walks a shirtless guy – just a regular Joe, I figure – and someone asked the location of the offleash area. Guy replies: “Just follow this trail on down. You’ll come up on an area where the dogs are basically going crazy.” Then it hit me. That’s Mark DiCarlo. I doubt two out of 100 people selected randomly would have recognized him. I got lots of “huhs” when I posted the experience on Facebook. One friend went to Google and still couldn’t figure out who Mark DiCarlo is. I did find a brief bio somewhere. I remembered him from a late-night reality dating show. Then, just a few months ago, I saw him on Jeff Lewis’ Interior Therapy on HGTV. DiCarlo was a fussy client (aren’t they all) who challenged the formidable Lewis with his quirky obsessions and unique brand of sarcasm.
A few hours later, I told my wife “You remember the shirtless guy coming up the hill who told us about the offleash area? That was Mark DiCarlo.” She wasn’t familiar with him, either. This is the woman who bookmarked IMDB and can identify minor character actors on TV. “Look, it’s so-and-so. She was on this series and in that movie. You remember her.” Then I have to rewind because we’ve missed a full minute of dialogue.
We have a longtime friend named Jann Carl. (It’s funny, some people you rarely see anymore but they remain dear to you.) Even in college, you knew Jann would eclipse the rest of us in the realm of TV news; she had the demeanor and personality. Her swift and meteoric rise took her to L.A. at young age, where she anchored with the late Hal Fishman at KTLA. Then to KABC, where she co-hosted “Eye on LA” with Chuck Henry, and finally to Entertainment Tonight, where she always got the big assignments, one-on-ones with the biggest celebrities. Here's someone who probably doesn't gush when she meets a celeb, right?
Jann tells a funny story about going to the Tonight Show with some friends and family shortly after she arrived in L.A. When she saw Johnny Carson in the hallway, she shouted “We love you, Johnny!” How disarming and sincere. But, in Jann’s estimation, what a silly, trite thing to say. “Couldn’t I have thought of something more astute or sophisticated?” she always wondered. Fact is, when confronted by someone with that much star power, the brain lock kicks in and it’s hard to think of anything intelligent to say.
Some are less prone to this starstruck state, however. When I did publicity for Lee National Denim Day, I always secured the services of a videographer named Mike Milken. One year, Rob Lowe was our celebrity spokesperson. Time comes for the interview, Rob steps up, Mike sticks out his hand and says “I admire your body of work.” Which I thought rather odd, because here’s a guy who’s successful and made a lot of coin but not a Shakespearian actor and not known for doing serious theater. Weeks later, it hit me. Milken was probably poking fun at Lowe’s then-scandalous on-camera romp with a barely legal female sex partner.
Things improved in the celebrity-spotting department, when a week later I bumped into Eriq LaSalle exiting the elevator at ClearChannel studios in Burbank. Aside from LaSalle’s intense facial expression (a trademark), I was taken by the fact that he traveled solo – no publicist or manager in tow. One doesn’t need a handler to go out to lunch.
Still, friends were rather slow to recognize the name. C’mon, this guy was on E.R. (and a few other shows my wife could tell you about). He’s got more name recognition than Mark DiCarlo. Yet, he would probably elicit no more than a raised eyebrow from the crew at TMZ.