It’s Tammy!

Posted in Celebrity Encounters, WhatNot on March 20th, 2015 by Diva

About a decade ago, a good friend of mine in L.A. introduced me to a fantastic California-based spa chain. I’ve pretty much booked some time at one of their locations every visit to SoCal since.

At the end of that first visit, though, my friend and I were at the front counter to settle up our bill when I realized I recognized the gent standing at the other side of the desk.

It was Bruce McCulloch. I think the comedy nerd in me peed a little.

As with many encounters with various celebs over the years, I did not approach; I didn’t even make eye contact. Most famous folk don’t appreciate the scrutiny, but more so, who wants to be bothered by a fangirl after a relaxing time at the spa?

I was quiet, but my stomach was not. I’ve been a fan of Kids in the Hall since it’s premiere way back when and those flip-flops in my gut were proof the man and his work held a certain sway over me. Still does, because I just finished purchasing tickets for the upcoming Kids reunion tour show here in June and my stomach is doing the exact same jig.

Some things never change.

Tammy!

Kids in the Hall.

Posted in Celebrity Encounters, Gay Nineties on February 5th, 2014 by Diva

In the nascent days of Comedy Central – that’s the early to mid-1990s – the channel had several rather spectacular sketch comedy shows. This is the first in a series of posts I’m making on some of my favorites, all under the category Gay Nineties. Please note, not all the links will be safe for work or for the easily offended. Enjoy!

I lived without a television from 1989 to 1993. Well, that’s not really true; I had one, but it was an old 1960s black and white portable with a shitty antenna, so I only tuned in when a major news story happened. Hence, when the 1992 L.A. riots occurred, I got to watch it as though I were seeing the 1968 Watts riots.

When my then-husband and I finally got a television set – thanks to his job at an electronics store and my then-good credit – and hooked up the cable, we discovered Comedy Central had made a deal with HBO to rerun all the episodes of Kids in the Hall. I’d missed the series when it was fresh and new and I may not have seen it at all without those reruns … or at least not until someone gasped “YOU HAVEN’T SEEN KIDS IN THE HALL?!” at me and then let me borrow their videos of the show.

The group – Dave Foley, Scott Thompson, Bruce McCullough, Kevin Macdonald, and Mark McKinney – was really good at one offs, that is sketches with characters or archetypes which were rarely, if ever, repeated, but it was their recurring characters that really got me. There was the Chicken Lady, Simon & Hecubus, Gavin, Francesca Fiore & Bruno Puntz-Jones, and of course, Buddy Cole, the gayest gay to ever hit Gay Town.

The character of Buddy Cole was especially fascinating to me, as I was active in the gay/lesbian leather scene at the time. Remember, in the early 1990s, no really prominent actor in Hollywood was out of the closet – Ellen herself didn’t come out on her own show until 1997. Meanwhile, I’d met a lot of gay men like Buddy, which is why the stereotype was so funny, but as yet no recurring character on TV had been allowed to be the least bit effeminate, let alone as OUT-RAGE-OUS as Scott Thompson was in that role.

This is my absolute favorite Buddy Cole sketch, of course. It seems so quaint now, with all the over-the-top videos and series we can see on YouTube or Funny or Die these days, but trust me, any mention of gay leather was “out there” when I first saw it. And it’s still a hilarious sketch, which is what Kids in the Hall was really good at: Comedy that lasts. Which is good, because the show is 25 years old now.

True story: I saw Scott Thompson perform as Buddy Cole at International Mr. Leather in the late 1990s. He was magnificent.

Another true story: I ran into Bruce McCullough at a day spa in Hollywood once. He was on his way out, so I didn’t chat him up, but he smiled a lot. He seemed like a really happy, nice man. I don’t castigate myself for not bothering him; people like to relax after a spa treatment, not get bothered by fan girls.

The cast reunited in 2010 for a mini-series titled Death Comes to Town, which was just as funny as the old show, if not more so. They are also getting together in March of this year to do a reading of their 1996 film, Brain Candy, a movie I still quote liberally from even now.

Now to figure out how I’m going to get to Toronto and score a ticket to that reading …

Next: Upright Citizens Brigade

Super(ficial), Thanks for Asking.

Posted in Celebrity Encounters, WhatNot on October 19th, 2013 by Diva

I grew up in L.A., specifically in the suburbs near the beaches.

More truthfully, we moved there when I was 13 and I left when I was 23, but I figure junior high, high school, and the early college party years inform a person’s life as much as any other. I also still visit the area two or three times a year, since my entire family has yet to leave the state.

Life is pretty normal out there in the ‘burbs. People go to work, raise families, do all the things everyone else does, all without much intrusion from Industry (the catch-all term for jobs in TV and movies). This is near impossible, because Industry is everywhere. There is no escaping it.

In junior high, I knew a girl whose dad worked at a prop house, a place where they keep and maintain every item that might, one day, be needed on set – a telephone from the 1920s, a 1975 Corvette, a covered wagon for a western, whatever.

When I was 15, I went to a cast party for a high school production and met (then) a (future) popular radio personality and sometime actor (Jay Thomas). At a high school cast party. Seriously.

Around the same time frame, a girlfriend and I went to a video store where a highly animated, super geeky clerk weirded us out so much we never went back. When I saw Reservoir Dogs, I realized it was Quentin Tarantino that had given off the creeper vibe back then.

At 18, I worked retail at a chain store which would sometimes share employees between locations. I worked for a few days at a store in Westwood and met or saw several celebrities (whose names escape me now – guess they weren’t that big to me). This is where I learned how not to be an irritating fan girl, by the way, which is a skill I seem to have lost as I’ve gotten older.

Fangirl Moment (crop)
Doc Hammer, me, and Dean Haglund at DragonCon 2007

When I was 21, I worked at a tile warehouse in the Valley and encountered the same, situation, with the occasional star or celeb dropping in to shop (I don’t recall most of them, but I remember Morgan Brittany – I’ve always been a sucker for dark hair and light eyes).

My last job out there was for an entomological supply firm. That’s insects. How close to Industry could that be? Well, did you know Hollywood employs bug wranglers? Seriously. Trained bugs. The dude who handled the spiders in Arachnophobia was a good customer.

So 25 miles and worlds away from Hollywood, the ‘burbs still have to deal with Industry. It’s ubiquitous – you always know someone who knows someone who works for it. Plus billboards, buses, cabs, sides of buildings, video screens, etc. all pimp ads for the latest blockbuster films or television series. I’ve seen advertising like it in other towns, of course, just not as plentiful as in Southern California.

Even Orange County, that bastion of conservatism amidst liberal Hollywood (actually located quite a ways south and west), isn’t immune. Hollywood may have the Industry, but the O.C. has Disneyland, a special yet not-so-different entertainment industry.

Hence, pretty much all of Southern California tends to be a little more shallow and narcissistic than the rest of America, but the ‘Woods – the Hollywood / Westwood / Brentwood area – is a step above.

To say the ‘Woods are superficial is an understatement. West Hollywood is directly adjacent to Beverly Hills and folks there only respond to like kind, if you catch my drift. I once visited the same store on Rodeo Drive on two separate days, just dressed differently, and it’s no accident the preferential treatment came on the day I chose the Chanel skirt and the Hermes scarf. But that’s true of all designer stores – if you look like you can afford it, the level of service is different. Perception is everything.

Hanging out in Hollywood from an early age, I learned quickly no one would take me seriously without a good car, the latest hair, the best makeup, and the perfect outfit, so I scrimped and saved to get all of it. This is when I learned to scour thrift stores for designer clothing, coincidentally. I also stole a fair amount of high-end makeup from the mall. Not proud of it, but there it is.

The one mistake I made is I turned my smarts down. Not off; I just lowered them a bit, because what people in Hollywood decidedly do not want around is a young, pretty, smart blonde.

Yep. My natural color is dirty blonde. With highlights. Hard to picture, ain’t it?

Anyway, when I was 21 and well on my way to my first divorce, my then girlfriend – a Puerto Rican and Greek New Yorker and a stunningly hot firecracker of a woman – and I would spend hours getting ready and head up to the ‘Woods to cruise. Occasionally we saved enough to get into The Roxy, Rainbow, Gazzari’s, or the other clubs that lined the Strip.

It was a rough, filthy, dangerous place to be and we loved it. If it were still that place, though, I wouldn’t return, as I have so often these past 10 years or so. It has changed a lot. It was unsafe and stupid way back when to cruise, park, walk, or generally be on the street after dark. Now my love and I get a room within blocks of the Dolby Theater near Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue – best known as the home theater of the Academy Awards – and walk everywhere we like until all hours. It’s cleaner, with better public transportation and services, an entire shopping mall, more police presence, and tourists galore.

One thing that hasn’t changed to this day, though, is that superficiality, so when I visit, I pack better clothes than if I were going to Miami or Dallas. I wear more makeup. I return to the hotel after a day of shopping or visiting family to change clothes for dinner, which I only do in New York and L.A. I always carry a designer purse (thrift stores!), but I take the DKNY instead of the Nine West.

Oh, sure, I could just dress down like everyone else does. It is a tourist area and no one would hold it against me, right? Except in the years I’ve been visiting with my love – who happens to own both a Hugo Boss and a Valentino suit (thrift stores, I tell ya!) – have wandered into opulent private parties by mistake, been invited to secret bars, and attended at least one after hours club we didn’t know was so exclusive until we left and asked around about it.

Try doing that in jeans and a t-shirt.

Not all of L.A. is Hollywood, thank goodness. The suburbs at least try to remain detached and somewhat normal despite being so close to – and somewhat dependent on, especially economically-speaking – the Industry. It’s still superficial all right, but it’s nothing like the epicenter, that Hollywood of legends and dreams.

Surprisingly, the place itself isn’t the top of the scale for me, either. When I can, I attend a great weekly goth night in Hollywood.

L.A.? Superficial.

Hollywood? Super superficial.

Goth club? In Hollywood? Oy vey. Don’t get me started.

The best part of all, though – the ultimate, end of the road, ├╝ber-grande-superficial truth – is that what we collectively call “Hollywood” doesn’t even exist. Only West Hollywood and North Hollywood are incorporated cities. “Hollywood” is actually a large chunk of Los Angeles addresses and zip codes between the two.

Talk about superficial.

Tough to be real in a fake city.

Sing Something for Me.

Posted in Celebrity Encounters on September 4th, 2013 by Diva

I approached the autograph table with a bit of trepidation. I was about to chat up a television legend, after all.

Ed Asner, star of such hit series as The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant, has won seven Emmy Awards, including one for the epic miniseries Roots. He does a lot of work for animated series and movies, too, with that distinctive voice of his: He played J. Jonah Jameson on the 1990s version of Spiderman, Hudson on Gargoyles, Cosgrove on Freakazoid, Ed Wuncler on The Boondocks, and Carl Fredricksen – the old man – in Pixar’s Academy Award-winning movie, Up.

And there I was, standing right in front of him, choosing which of several 8×10 photos he would sign for me.

I may or may not have peed a little.

I opted for the non-character-related photo, a simple one of the actor alone, smiling in a tuxedo. I told him it was because he looked so classy in it. He smiled, thanked me, and grabbed his pen, all without really glancing up. The man is 84 years old and DragonCon can be tiring for celebrity and con-goer alike; I wasn’t surprised he was a bit aloof. Dean Stockwell was outright surly a few years back.

“Do you want it personalized?” Mr. Asner asked.

“Yes, please,” I said. “My name is Diva.”

He looked up for the first time and met my eye.

“Diva? D-I-V-A?”

“Yes,” I nodded and smiled, “Like the opera singer.”

A mischievous look flashed on his face. I think he expected my “diva” moniker didn’t carry the weight of anything other than a nickname, so he sat back very slightly in his chair and offered me a challenge.

“Sing something for me.”

I did not hesitate. I launched immediately into the first eight bars of Mozart’s Placido e il Mar. I watched his eyes moisten a little … or maybe it was mine. Or both. But when I stopped, he looked at me, shook his head in disbelief and said, “Oh, geez, that was beautiful!”

I thanked him. Like, a LOT. I think I even curtsied.

He muttered more praise while autographing for me. When he handed me the photo, he once again met my eye – this time a bit more deeply – and said, “I mean it. That was just beautiful. I can’t tell you how much.”

I smiled so widely my cheeks still hurt now, days after the encounter. I wish I’d thought to thank him right there, on the spot, for all the entertainment he’s given me over the years, but my sheer elation trumped my etiquette skills. He’ll have to settle for me thanking him here, on the old Interwebz.

Thank you, Mr. Asner. THANK YOU.

Hey, Freakazoid …

So … This Happened.

Posted in Celebrity Encounters on April 7th, 2013 by Diva

I once brought a friend to the L.A. area with me and the only celebrity we ran into was Neil Patrick Harris. I didn’t think much of the encounter because his career was post Doogie Howser, M.D. and pre- How I Met Your Mother, so he wasn’t exactly on anyone’s radar at that moment.

In fact, I don’t think anyone else at the Johnny Rocket’s on Melrose even knew who he was. The only reason we did is because NPH is from Albuquerque, the very place we were visiting SoCal from. We both found it funny the only celeb we saw in five days in and around Hollywood was someone from back home.

***

Whenever my love and I head to L.A., we always get tickets for one of the improv shows at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. It is by far the best $5-$8 ticket in town and it gives us the excuse to have an early dinner near the venue. Hence, late yesterday afternoon we headed to Franklin & Company and ate and drank our fill before the show, but when we were done, we still had about 30-40 minutes to kill. So we decided to get some supplies – bottled water and the like – at the nearby Gelson’s supermarket and walk it all back to the rental car.

As we approached the cash register, I glanced about at the impulse items and spotted Ron Perlman – yes, Hellboy himself – pushing a cart to a nearby register.

I elbowed my love and gestured in that “don’t look now or too quickly” fashion only couples and others who are close seem to share. (It’s like a kind of telepathy, really.) He was the very picture of nonchalance when he took a discreet look and nodded at me to confirm that yes, it was indeed Ron Perlman, right there in the flesh.

Neither of us approached the man, but we did have that “oh-my-god-oh-my-god-oh-my-god” moment with each other. I love the man’s work, and though I haven’t watched Sons of Anarchy, I have tuned in to many terrible movies just because he was listed in the credits. (Acts of Violence, anyone?)

Once in the parking lot and safely out of earshot, my love turned to me with a sudden realization:

“Holy crap – I’m taller than Hellboy!”

***

We dropped our bags off at the car and headed back toward the theater. As we crossed the street, I noticed a small crowd had gathered near the door to one of the restaurant/bars, so I scanned for an opening to pass through … and looked right into Steven Tyler’s face.

Yep. Two major celebrity encounters in less than 15 minutes. My charmed life, right?

We walked on by – Tyler hasn’t really been on my list of “WOW” for a couple of decades – but it was neat to see him in person. He is one tall, lanky dude, too.

We checked in for the show and I immediately texted my sister, who is a HUGE Steven Tyler fan. Not to gloat, but to let her know it’s possible to have encounters like this just a few miles from her own front door. Of course, you have to be willing to leave the house and head into unfamiliar neighborhoods in the Hollywood Hills, but I digress …

When I looked up from my phone, I noticed there were three very pretty motorcycles parked on the street right in front of where we were standing. I told my love I just knew Tyler was on one of them, and sure enough, he and his two companions – one of whom I recognized but still can’t place – each made their way to a bike and off they went.

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to pull out my phone and video record the entire experience, but I did manage to get off one decent photo of Tyler before he took off into traffic.

Steven Tyler 4-6-13 (crop)

Truthfully, though, I’d rather run into Neil Patrick Harris again.

Yeah, I said it.

Weird.

Posted in Celebrity Encounters on April 3rd, 2013 by Diva

We stopped at the Whole Foods to pick up some snacks and Emergen-C, as we’d both awoken with that tell-tale throat itch which usually portends a cold or some other bug. It was flu season and we’d spent the weekend clubbing in and around Hollywood, so it was possible we’d managed to pick up something along the way.

We were on yet another “stealth mission” to SoCal, one of dozens we’ve taken over the years. That’s what we call it when we visit but have zero intention of notifying any of my family we’re nearby. Though most of them live in one of the country’s most vibrant, hopping, always-something-to-do region, hardly any of them take advantage of the dining, drinking, shopping, museums, concerts, and other activities offered just a few miles from their doorstep. So we take these “stealth missions” to fill ourselves with all El Lay has to offer without family obligations getting in the way.

We parked the rental car and my love headed for the supplement aisle while I headed for the restroom. We were in no hurry, really – we weren’t due at the airport to head for home for several hours yet – but we did want to get in and out ASAP. The Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s stores in and around Hollywood are always packed with people, no matter what day of the week or what time, and therefore are no place for two cranky misanthropes who just want to fly home and recuperate.

After using the bathroom, I washed my hands thoroughly because I’m conscientious like that. I was craving the fresh, wholesome goodness of the salad bar and if I was indeed getting a cold, I found no sense in spreading the wealth. I instantly got annoyed at the thought other people don’t do the same, because if they had I wouldn’t be feeling so poorly. Lost in this thought I approached the lettuce end of the bar, picked up a plastic container and …

… literally bumped into Al Yankovic.

You know, “Weird Al.”

Yeah, that guy.

Wrapped up in my own head, I wasn’t paying much attention to my surroundings. And it wasn’t a bump, really, more a shoulder tap. Still, I excused myself and apologized before I even realized exactly who it was I’d made contact with. Like I said, I’m conscientious like that.

He smiled a little, said, “No problem,” and returned to filling his own plastic container. I was too tired and irritable to strike up a conversation. I also was more-or-less raised in the area, so I know most celebs don’t wish to be bothered when they go out in public. (Conscientious. Me. Yes.)

On the way out of the store, my love asked, “Hey, was that Weird Al in there?”

Yes. Yes, it was.

I ate my salad in the passenger seat of the car, humming Eat It nearly all the way to LAX.

Have some more chicken, have some more pie …

Mr. President.

Posted in Celebrity Encounters, WhatNot on May 14th, 2012 by Diva

When Bill Clinton was running for what became his first term as President in 1992, he made a campaign stop on the campus of the University of New Mexico.

I skipped an afternoon class that day and found a good spot to watch the activity at the rally. I did not know that I had located myself in the. Perfect. Spot.

I don’t recall a single word he said into the microphone. I was paying attention, but there was nothing particularly memorable about his speech. I have always had the tendency to tune out politicians who don’t really say anything; my lack of recall only signals Mr. Clinton was probably pandering to his base, which really was college students that time around. I am talking about the election that kicked off Rock the Vote, after all.

Anyway, I had planned to leave immediately when it was over, but as Mr. Clinton finished up, I noticed the Secret Service folk heading toward exactly where I was standing. They began thoroughly checking out everyone along what I slowly realized was the exit route. They searched bags, backpacks, purses, patted each of us down, and – I assume – stared coldly at each of us from behind those mirrored glasses, looking for any sign of trouble. Mr. Clinton followed, another contingent of agents in tow.

When I say that man has charisma, I mean it. All he did was look me in the eyes, smile, shake my hand, say hello, and I blurted out that I would vote for him in November.

I hadn’t planned to do any such thing.

I sometimes wonder if the day would have turned out differently had I been wearing a beret. Or a blue dress.

Have a cigar.

Mr. Warmth.

Posted in Celebrity Encounters, WhatNot on April 11th, 2012 by Diva

I’ve written about the day I ran in to Eddie Izzard in all its embarrassing glory, but it occurred to me he’s not the first – nor the last – celeb I’ve ever encountered. Hence, I’ve started a new category here just for these kinds of stories.

I was in the baggage claim at LAX when I saw the man approaching. He had a few people with him – assistants and such, I assumed, or “handlers” as they say in show biz – and all were making their way toward the very area where I was standing.

I’ll be damned, I thought. That’s Don Rickles.

This was in the mid-1990s, and his career wasn’t near done – hell, he’s still touring right now – but hardly any of my friends at that time had any earthly idea who the man was. I was familiar with him because my parents were faithful viewers of the Dean Martin Comedy Hour and the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, and Rickles was a regular guest on both.

I’ve always loved his schtick. He was politically incorrect before it was a term (or a cudgel, some people might say) and he remains one of my favorites. He hasn’t lost his edge, either: His latest appearance on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson had me howling with laughter.

Anyway, close to 20 years ago, one of his assistants stepped in front of me just as I noticed my bag heading toward us on the machinery. As I stepped around and behind him, I intentionally and loudly said:

“Outta my way, hockey puck.”

Then I winked at Mr. Rickles. He looked surprised for a moment, then smiled and winked back. To this day I think he was confused how a 20-something girl understood who he was, let alone knew he called people hockey pucks in his act.

The knowledge made a memorable moment in my life, sure, but it also made this scene in Toy Story

… all the more hilarious when I finally saw the movie, about 5 years after it was released.

If you’re unfamiliar with his work, see the 2007 HBO documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project. Clips and DVD extras are currently available on Hulu.

It’s worth it for getting those in-jokes.

Hey, Ham, look! I’m Picasso!

Portrait: Me and Really Nice Guy.

Posted in Celebrity Encounters, WhatNot on April 2nd, 2012 by Diva

Yes, that’s the one and only Kevin Pollak, who appeared at Comedyworks here a couple of weeks ago. I’m so glad we caught the show, not just because the guy is genuinely funny – we both wiped away tears a few times – but because I had to chance to find out he’s one of the nicest guys in the business.

By the way, his Talkin’ Walkin’ podcast is hilarious.

Wow … cement!

Because This Is How My Life Is.

Posted in Celebrity Encounters, WhatNot on July 29th, 2008 by Diva

Without showering for the day, I made my afternoon run to the gym. Why bathe when it’s Tuesday and I have to spend an hour doing weightlifting? I’m only going to have to shower again when I get home.

I rarely am seen out in public in gym clothes, let alone do I make a stop on the 16th Street Mall while I’m downtown. Today, however, there were a few things I needed at Rite Aid. These items included some rather … personal products.

So there I am, headed for the cash registers with these items on top of everything else in my hand-carried basket, in my sweats and tennis shoes, zero makeup, hair up in a slightly destroyed semi-ponytail, and just generally looking like I’d been dragged through grease and sweat, when I see a person approaching me down the aisle from the opposite direction …

It’s Eddie Izzard.

EDDIE. FUCKING. IZZARD.

Everyone’s favorite crossdresser – excuse me, executive transvestite – comedian is playing the Paramount Theatre tonight and tomorrow night, so it stands to reason he’d be poking around downtown this afternoon. We tried to get tickets when they went on sale, but they sold out really, really fast, which is strange for Denver. Gives you an idea just how popular the man is.

But why was it necessary for the universe to give me this fantastic opportunity to meet, in the flesh, one of my favorite celebrities in the world when I look like shit and I have a 36-pack of Trojans, a large bottle of Astroglide, and a box of Monistat prominently on display?

I simply told him I was a huge fan as I subtly moved the basket to the other side of my body. I didn’t say another word, I just kept walking, which really bugs me now. I’m usually a LOT more outgoing during fan girl encounters. *sigh*

By the way, he’s only about 3 inches taller than I am. And he looks fantastic even without makeup on.

Unfortunately, I do not.