Larger Than Life: Hemingway, Snipes and Blonde

OK, just a pair of brief encounters that stuck in my mind because they were funny….

Maple PlazaThis must have been summer of 1993. I was coming from Full Moon Entertainment, I think, having picked up a script and dropped off head shots. They had an office in the Maple Plaza complex in Beverly Hills. It was (still is?) a hive of production company offices in a big granite-and-glass block of buildings, hiding out in a quiet, residential area.


I remember it was a bright, hot day outside, and as I crossed the lofty lobby, where currents of air conditioner flicked the pages of the scripts I carried, I was loathe to exit back out to the heat.

Maple Plaza Lobby

Everything about this woman bounced slightly due to her jaunty walk and platform sandals that made her well over six feet tall.

As I neared the tall tinted glass doors they flew open and an apparition fluttered past me in a gauzy white skirt and blouse with a comet-tail of tendrils of honey-blond hair. Everything about this woman bounced slightly due to her jaunty walk and platform sandals which made her well over six feet tall. I felt like a little tugboat beside an elegant frigate as she breezed past me and flashed a perfect smile.

Mariel. Hemingway. 

I had to turn my head and gape, she was such a larger-than-life vision. So I wasn’t at all looking where I was going when I reached an arm forth to push open one of those doors. Instead of my hand touching the handle, it met only air, because someone entering had swung it open from the outside.

I whipped my head back around to see another astonishing figure: a strikingly handsome African-American man with chiseled cheek bones and sleepy-penetrating eyes wearing a banana yellow satin jogging suit. (Photo of suit pictured here was taken much later, but same color!)

As he stepped aside, holding the door for me to pass, my eyes must have widened to the size of saucers: Wesley. Snipes.

For years I went around telling everyone that Wesley Snipes is actually a teeny guy.

Seeing the recognition dawn on my face, he flashed me agleaming perfect smile and, looking me straight in the eye, gave me a friendly nod. I am only 5’2″, but I felt like we were on the same eye-level.

For years I went around telling everyone that Wesley Snipes is actually a teeny guy. He’s not! He’s 5’10.” It’s just that Mariel Hemingway had dwarfed Wesley Snipes.

That is a thing to ponder….

That and the predilection for loud yellow suits.

But also the gallantry. More on that in a second.

****

It must have been sometime during that same year, but on a gray and very rainy day when I was sent to the Sony lot to pick up  — a stack of stuff.

I didn’t get to go there often. It was my favorite lot because it retained much of its classic studio-era vibe (it was formerly the MGM lot). On that particular day I visited the Myrna Loy building, which required passing the Clark Gable building, with the rain casting everything in a sort of memory-lane-magical-mist.

I had picked up a fat stack of scripts and such, and was day-dreaming about old Hollywood as I pulled a cigarette from my purse. [Don’t smoke. It’s gross. I quit a few years later.]

Myrna Loy Building

The deco Loy building is not terribly large. The door to which I was headed was narrow and glass. On the outside it had a half-oval stoop with a matching little roof. It was raining pretty hard, so I’d have to pause there, under that roof, to light my cigarette for the walk back to my car.

With my arms full of scripts I was having a tough time digging my lighter out of my purse and opening the door at the same time. Suddenly it sprung open and a tall, dark man in a dark leather coat stepped from behind it and lit a Zippo lighter under my nose.

Startled, I glanced up to smile, and pretty much saw this…

Michael Madsen

That grin.

This was less than a year after Reservoir Dogs – “Stuck in the Middle with You” which is one of the most disturbing movie scenes of all time in my book. I’m sure my terror shown in my face as I exhaled and whimpered, “Thanks,” because Madsen chuckled… that chilling, boyish chuckle.

I know I should have hung out there too and chewed the fat with Mr. Blonde. But…

He had just started his own cigarette and sort of rocked on his heels as if planning to hang out there, under that little awning, for another five minutes or so to enjoy it. I know I should have hung out there too and chewed the fat with Mr. Blonde. But… that stoop was small. We were elbow-to-elbow — or rather, my eyebrows at his elbow. He is 6’2.” And he really unnerved me. I think as I fled into the rain he called, “You have a nice day” which sent shivers up my spine.

****

I don’t pretend know much about the day-to-day grind of the movie biz, or the celebrity biz. I wasn’t interested in being an actor or even being around actors when I took the gofer job at the Paul Kohner Agency. I was an aspiring writer. I had assumed actors were all narcissistic jerks.

In the four-plus years I worked there, I did encounter plenty of narcissistic jerks. Not one of them, however, was a successful actor. They were the just-starting-out ones who gave themselves too much credit for whatever beauty and talent they possessed. They treated me as if I were either lowly or invisible, but actually, I found that amusing.

Because the real actors never did that. The real actors noticed everybody, even me, the office girl. And they were always respectful. They opened doors, lit cigarettes, shared a joke, gave a wave, offered me tea.

… Well, ok, I can think of one exception. There was this one narcissist who was fairly successful, although certifiably nuts. But even she noticed me… and then I wished she hadn’t… but that’s a story for another post.

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