My friend Randall (not his real name, his favorite of his multiple pseudonyms) is a mild-mannered dot.com mogul turned producer of “socially relevant” movies. NORTH COUNTRY with Charlize Theron is one of his, and I went to the premiere of it last night at the Graumann’s Chinese Theatre.
Afterwards, I found Randall outside with his tall blonde girlfriend Paj standing beside him in her light blue pantsuit, and he asked me, “So what did you think of it?”
“Easily one of the year’s best films,” I said with utter sincerity.
We went across the street to the afterparty at the Roosevelt Hotel. I’m not sold on these things — they’re glammed-up versions of office parties, and there’s a stilted, anxious feeling in the air. But I drank my gin and tonics and ate at the buffet and admired the pretty surroundings and talked with my friend Bill the Hotel Guy, who’s about to return to the Dominican Republic but has decided to put himself on “a schedule” that will have him in LA on a reliable basis, because his jet-setting ways are making him world-weary, as jet-setting ways tend to do. They’re also making romantic relationships a near-impossibility, and Bill admitted that one of the reasons he’s been dating early twentysomethings is because they’re more accepting of his lifestyle. But it seems to be taking a bit of a toll on him, and I can recognize an identity crisis when I see it; he’s thirty-five, exactly where I’ll be in a few more years, and contemplating the slide into middle age, something we never think will actually happen to us until we wake up one morning and we’re there. I looked around at the sexy people. Charlize Theron was holding court in a drop-dead slinky gown, and male friends were busy admiring a blonde actress in a red dress who plays the teenage Charlize in the movie.
A highlight of the afterparty was meeting Jeremy Renner, who’s only been in a few things — DAHMER, S.W.A.T., and now NORTH COUNTRY — but has become one of my favorite actors. He has a sly, craggy face that gets him cast as one of the bad guys, and who doesn’t love a good bad guy? “Hey, he and I went partying together like a year or so ago,” remembered Bill. Small world.
And then as the security people were ushering us out of the hotel — “Party’s over, people”, as some of us headed out to the outdoor bars and pool area — I looked over and saw Marty Casey from the recently concluded reality show ROCK STAR:INXS standing off to the side with a dark-haired friend. I was delighted. We made eye contact and I smiled and he smiled back and the gin was moving warmly through my system and I did something I never do: I called out to this person I’ve only ever seen on TV and greeted him like I knew him. Hell, I felt as if I knew him, partly because I’m physically modeling my character Archie (in my YA novel STRANGER) after him — from when he was still in his “mad conductor” persona near the beginning of the Rock Star show — all intense grey-blue eyes and longish flyaway blonde hair. (One television writer compared him to the Vampire Lestat).
Archie had started out as more of an urban cowboy type, but that never felt right — reminded me way too much of Randall Flagg in King’s THE STAND. Archie is a supernatural, highly charismatic and dangerous character, and watching Marty perform helped me identify the kind of sleek, fey intensity I want Archie to convey. I lost the cowboy trappings and gave him some of Marty’s fashion sense, and voila. I was starting to feel like I truly knew my character.
But here was Marty Casey the actual person, and I found myself leaning over the stairwell railing and telling him, “You should have won, except I didn’t really want you to win, because I wanted you to go and do your own stuff.” He told me that he’s opening for INXS on their world tour, and made the kind of self-conscious joking comments that indie artists make when they cross over to the dark side of commercial success. He wanted to know what was going on with all these people at the hotel — I explained about NORTH COUNTRY, the afterparty.
We talked again out by the pool. I was charmed. The fascinating thing about seeing ‘celebrities’ in person is marking the descrepancy between their on-screen starpower and their flesh-and-blood everyday reality. (I was walking through a parking lot with friends when a short dude in a baseball cap talking on a cell phone passed right by me. I barely noticed him and kept on talking. But my friends had fallen silent. “That was Bruce Willis,” said one). But Marty had the same air, the same presence about him; he seemed a bit smaller in real life, as people inevitably do, and he walks quickly, with a slight stoop to his shoulders. He’s this soft-spoken, angelic-looking man with some devil in him, who no doubt causes all sorts of interesting trouble and then manages to talk (or sing) himself out of it. At one point he said, “I need something to read” and I was kicking myself that I didn’t have a copy of BLOODANGEL in my bag to give him — I suspect he’s my kind of reader.