Stars 'n' Snipes: The Sad Curse of Hollywood Celebrity
Celebrity is a part of the culture of Los Angeles. Maps to the homes of stars are for sale on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills and Bel Air, crowds gather for movie premieres across the calendar, and local businesses work their famous connections –no matter how exaggerated– into their marketing strategies.
The whole city seems to indulge in the cult of celebrity. Ask any Angeleno and they can share a tale of the time they saw Johnny Depp walking his dogs at Runyon Canyon (settle, Barnaby), or when they served OJ Simpson at In 'n' Out Burger just before his arrest; you can pick which arrest.
In my local part of Los Angeles, Westside’s not-so rough and ready Brentwood, celebrity spotting is de rigueur. On my first day here I ran into Juliette Lewis at the local Wholefoods buying salads. All I could think was, that’s where Robert de Niro put his thumb!
A week later at a local eatery, a beautiful redhead woman caught my eye. She was having lunch with a ‘creative type’ 10 years her senior.
“She looks so familiar,” I said to my wife. “It’s like she’s from a really good-looking branch off my family tree – one that missed the schnozz genes.”
After some frantic googling (hottest+redheads+Hollywood) I had her pegged as Friday Night Lights’ Alicia Witt. Thirtysomethings might know her better as the protagonist in 1998’s Urban Legend starring a young Jared Leto and Joshua Jackson of Dawson’s Creek fame. For the record, Alicia had killer guns and no interest in leaving any food on her plate.
But the highest-profile celebrity I spotted also included a brush with the sad reality that comes with fame.
While supping a bowl of coffee at our local French café, my wife looked behind me and exclaimed “Paparazzi!”.
Indeed, two inconspicuously-clothed gents were running across the road, each wearing an SLR camera. As I stared slack-jawed, a tiny and incredibly well-dressed blonde woman walked briskly into the café.
“Stop staring,” my wife hissed. “That’s Reese Witherspoon!”
This was who the paps were chasing.
“How do you know?” I asked her. Old mate was wearing giant Italian sunglasses and a straw hat from the Blossom costume department that obscured her whole head.
“I’d recognise that jaw line anywhere.”
Ms Witherspoon ordered a quiche, and though her voice sounded unsettled, she still exchanged some warm pleasantries with the girl at the till. While waiting for her food she answered her mobile phone. She was speaking in hushed tones but it was clear she was unhappy, perhaps even a little panicked.
Ms Witherspoon stood facing the wall as she talked, keeping her hat and sunnies firmly in place despite being inside. As the kitchen prepped her snack, she wandered to the very back of the café, as far as possible from the other diners and any long-range lenses stationed outside.
*Watch the Vice News short presentation 'Stalking the Paparazzi'.
Frankly, I felt sorry for her. Here was a talented woman at the top of her field, dressed exquisitely in clothes from her own fashion label, and she was trapped in a café while photographers buzzed like flies outside. It was absurd.
When her food was ready, she wandered back to the rear of the café. I assumed she had gone there to eat in peace, but no; she snuck out the back exit to avoid the paparazzi waiting out front. It was a clever escape.
A city like Los Angeles has a lot to offer the demigods of the entertainment industry. Access to ‘the business’, incredible weather, stunning real estate and an airport that flies to every part of the world all form an attractive package. But it is also a fish bowl where everything can be seen, heard and photographed. I’m sure it’s worth it, but it must be a high price to pay, and no doubt a price that seems exorbitant when you can’t even eat your bloody quiche in privacy!