I dragged myself to one of those fancy movie premieres, and it was an experience that was embraced as a heroic poem and not just a regular, boring Saturday evening–this was a communal, but at the same time extremely individual moment that felt like an atonement of sorts. I had not been to the movies in over a year (since the short-lived and limited re-issue of Alien) and it was the longest I’d gone without being in a cinema since I sat down to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983 as a little devil child. There was the nostalgic, yet forgotten hint of popcorn mixed in with the notes of cleaning spray and faux-butter sludge to welcome me with open arms. I was a tad bit leery about being around so many skin-sacks, but calmed myself on a few occasions by telling myself that the world was a different place– and it was as simple as breaking free of a routine, and a miserable one at that. In conclusion, the movie sucked, but I enjoyed it nonetheless as a free flowing, maskless and anxiety-free critic unperturbed by low-brow cinema.
The after-party was at the Flamingo Cantina, and their mezcal margarita hit me straight behind my third eye. Matthew McConaughey was making his rounds, flittering amongst the packed club and making benign conversation, but as an ex-denizen of Los Angeles, we just aren’t that impressed by fame. We are used to seeing our screen heroes at the grocery store buying jarred pickles or matzo ball soup and shrugging it off with an, “Oh,” after getting a 10 second cheap thrill. I can enjoy the craft of acting (some would say the basis of the craft is to act like a disingenuous, self-satisfied prick with a set of veneers, tendencies to show-off, and a healthy case of nepotism) without caring a lick about their social life or even trying to be near them to suck their “aura.” And in the end actors simply don’t impress me as much as athletes or musicians (both somewhat based on meritocracy) as most of them are smaller in stature than even the average person on the street. (Hola, Tom Cruise) Size matters–am I right ladies?
Noted Austin-ite and former Oakland Athletic Huston Street was standing in the corner nursing a Bud Light and wearing some vintage-aviator-style Jeffrey Dahmer glasses that are all the rage with Generation Z hipsters and dads in the 80’s if you happen to have access to a time machine. I’m not sure if he was there for the after-party or if he was just hanging out, but the bartender told me he is now a coach for the Texas Longhorns and I had no reason to believe he was being untruthful. Street had a few excellent seasons as a closer in Oakland before moving on to greener pastures and giant sacks of money elsewhere. I remember being impressed at the time that he was a 21 year old rookie who had to learn how to “piss standing up” with very little minor league experience. Mr. Street had been relegated to oblivion in my mind, and now it all came rushing back with a sun-baked bang. I suppose we didn’t know how good we had it considering we had to endure and agonize with the likes of Jim Johnson and Brian Fuentes since his departure, which now seems as if it happened so many moons ago.
I’m old enough to remember his father, James, as quarterback at Texas in the late 1960s. He won a national championship and led the Longhorns to victory in a game against Arkansas that I still consider one of the 2 or 3 best games I ever saw. He was also a stalwart of the Texas baseball team. Like father, like son.
You’re right, v. That’s a cool tidbit of sports trivia.
You have given me yet another reason to enjoy your work: Anyone who is more impressed with seeing Huston Street than Matthew McConaughey is OK with me.
There are exceptions to the athletes over actors ranking, though, if the actor is a true icon. My wife and I stumbled across such an experience in October 2019. We were visiting Los Angeles and a friend of hers took us to lunch at Il Piccolino in West Hollywood. We looked over at the next table and Kirk Douglas, 102 years old, was having lunch with another man. Spartacus had a walker near his seat but he was alert, conversing ( despite a speech impediment) and checking his Smartphone. I must admit, I was a little starstruck, though I didn’t dare show it.
After he finished lunch, Douglas used his walker to depart the place without any other assistance. A car pulled up tight to the curb at the entrance and he got into the passenger side with help from someone inside.
He turned 103 two months later, and passed away two months after that. The day we saw him, the guy displayed more dignified presence than most of those masquerading as stars today.
That’s a cool story, Simba. It’s an odd thing when everyone realizes that a “star” is in their midst, but they have to act like it’s no big deal. It’s awkward for everyone involved, and I bet it’s a big reason why a lot of these people turn to drugs etc. because they realize that underneath it all they really are no big deal.
When I was teaching at SDSU and went to the supermarket near by, I sometimes was spied by a student. It was always very awkward for the kid. One student said, “You SHOP???” and followed me around the whole store. We kind of bonded during that experience over a mutual love of sandwiches. Not more specific, just sandwiches. “What do you eat?” he asked and I said “Sandwiches.” But you’re so jaded even Matthew McConaughey doesn’t get that much attention, huh?
I love your writing. Whenever I get to sit down and actually savor it, I’m always happy.
What a sweet comment, Martha. Thank you very much. Am I jaded? I suppose, but perhaps grounded? “Alright, alright, alright.” 🙂 That kid was on to something because I wasn’t aware that professors shopped either.
Ha ha ha ha! Well, he started hanging around my office a lot and brought me a sandwich once. 😀