This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
I had houseguests recently, in from New York. You know the kind: sophisticated urban know-it-alls, people who dismissed the celebrity-saturated vibe of Los Angeles with airy declarations of Celebrities? Who cares! And: I wouldn't know if Julia Roberts was standing right in front of me! And: Listen, we're totally not interested in creepy show business sleaze -- seriously, we just don't care!
I wasn't convinced, of course. But what could I do? If there's one thing I've learned about sophisticated New Yorkers it's that they're just as shallow and star-struck -- if not somehow shallower and star-strucker -- than anyone else in America. But they'll never admit it. (And that's the second thing I've learned about sophisticated New Yorkers.)
But I took them at their word. I planned out a nice, low-key, distinctly un-Hollywood week. Big mistake.
The first few days of their visit went well. They strolled along the Venice canals, went to the Getty museum, and hung out at the beach in Santa Monica. But at lunch I'd notice their eyes darting around, scanning the crowds for familiar faces. And going out to dinner was worse. There's nothing more awkward or obvious than someone swiveling in his seat and craning his neck while trying hard not to swivel in his seat or crane his neck. The whole thing was nerve-wracking.
"Look," I said one night, "I'm pretty sure there's no one famous here in the restaurant, but if you're really interested, scan the room the way locals do. Get up and go to the bathroom. Take the long way there. Then, on the way back, take a different, but equally roundabout way. Check out the corner tables. And anyone in a baseball cap. If you happen to catch the eye of someone famous, just raise your eyebrows in greeting and look quickly away. They'll think you're someone important, or someone they're supposed to know."
They both rolled their eyes. "We don't care about seeing a lot of shallow Hollywood types, okay? Okay?"
"Okay," I said, not believing a word of it. "Then I won't even suggest taking you guys to a premiere party tonight."
"Oh. Well that might be fun, in a Margaret Mead kind of way"
"Are you kidding?" I asked, cruelly. "It's for a terrible movie and it'll just be filled with the worst kind of celebrities and hangers-on. You'll both be miserable."
"I thought that maybe today," I said, changing the subject, "we could drive up to Santa Barbara, go to the beach, then have some lunch at La Super Rica. What do you think?"
Outmaneuvered, what could they say? We drove up to Santa Barbara, had a fantastic lunch, and spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach. It was a perfect day. A perfect celebrity-less day.
That night, speeding home, I suddenly felt guilty.
"Anybody up for sushi?" I asked. "I know a place in Malibu that's awfully good. I don't want to ruin your last night here, but I've got to be honest. It's a pretty hot place. There'll be a lot of stars there. I mean, if that's okay."
I was treated to shrugs and general nonchalance. But I could sense electricity in the air.
"The last time I went to this place, I had just come back from the beach, and I had the dog with me. He was wet and sandy, so I tied him up outside while I ate, and do you know who sat out there with him and kept him company?"
"Jennifer Aniston," I said. And then paused. "She's a super-nice person." Another pause, and then: "On second thought, it's kind of a scene. Let's go somewhere more low-key."
You could hear the shrieks throughout the canyon.
We went to the restaurant. It was packed with people. With People magazine people. My friends glowed.
"You know," I said between mouthfuls of miso cod, "if you guys had just been honest with me from the beginning and told me you wanted to see famous people, we could have come here on your first night."
"What are you talking about?" they asked. "And who's that in the baseball cap?"
And then they both stood up and took the long way to the bathroom.
That's it for this week. Next week, we won't say "congratulations."
For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.