Sharon Stone is really good with kids.
Or to be more specific, she was really good with *my* kid when we met her last night. She was showing E, me and the kid in question (Griffin, a precocious and bossy age 4) around a property in the hills* (in order to respect the various privacies involved, I won’t go into details as to how this rather unique situation came about). She kept telling Griffin she had “surprises” for him, dropping her voice to a whisper as if they were co-conspirators. He took to her right away — adored her — as she introduced him to different elements of the property (a statue of a fawn glimpsed through the bushes, a stalk of lilac, an untamed rose garden, a bed of mint, a private little sitting area high up in the trees off a rock-lined stream). Excited and intrigued by it all, and of course totally oblivious to the fact that he was dealing with one of the last real movie stars to emerge when real movie stars were still possible, Griffin kept asking her “Do you have another surprise for me? Is there another surprise for me?” while his mother knelt beside him and urged him to be patient and polite and let Sharon talk to the grown-ups. Sharon, used to little boys of her own — and suggesting we get together for playdates, like any other Beverly Hills mom — was unfazed.
The thing that’s so interesting — or that I find interesting — about seeing celebrities in the flesh is measuring the discrepancy between their screen selves and their real selves; how the latter can rarely live up to the former; always a kind of statement about fantasy and artifice and our hunger for these things, and how some people just have the kind of features that look better in photographs and film than real life. (Example: one night at Villa I sidled up to the bar and made eye contact with the dark-eyed dark-haired man beside me who seemed open to a little introductory chit-chat. He looks like Colin Farrell, I thought, except he’s not hot enough to be Colin Farrell, since he was kind of short with a soft, pudgy look. I blew him off in the way you do when you quickly signal to someone Nope, nothing here, don’t even bother trying and didn’t think about it again until I saw a picture of the very same dude coming out of Villa on perezhilton.com and realized that it actually was, of course, Colin Farrell.**
And even when someone does look exactly like himself (or herself) — I saw Jonathan Rhys-Meyers at Villa, and since I’m a big fan of the HBO series The Tudors and the excellent movie Match Point his presence in my proximity did not go unnoticed, and he did indeed look as if he’d stepped straight from my TV screen and into a contemporary casual outfit*** — they still seem a little lessened by reality. Sure, they’re above-average attractive, but this is westside LA, where the person taking your order or showing up on your doorstep to deliver your whycook order**** is likely to be dropdead gorgeous and you’re so used to it and jaded by it that you barely even give a second look. In fact, I always wonder if that faint tinge of hustle and desperation that hangs in the LA air like its own kind of smog has to do with all the people who grew up attractive and got singled out for their looks in smalltown USA or wherever it is they came from — places where a tall thin unusually attractive person might be granted a kind of weird pseudocelebrity-like status just by virtue of being a little bit like a freak — and then came to LA to “make it” only to discover that they’re actually not as tall/thin/hot as that smalltown had led them to believe and so what the hell do they do now when it appears that other factors — talent, for example, and maybe even some education and IQ — might be required if they’re to distinguish themselves from the rest of the beautiful herd?
But I digress, because I was talking about Sharon Stone, and she actually does not look like just another everyday attractive person in LA who happens to be a celebrity. She wore no makeup with her hair sashed back from her face (wearing a very cute Missoni halter-top jumpsuit) and her face is so stunning in that fine-edged, symmetrical way that fascinates the gaze, draws it in, because it is so rare as to be a freak of nature in itself. She has a reputation for this up-close-and-personal kind of beauty, so that the last thing you want to do is compliment her on something she hears about a million times a day already.
Sharon and I share one mutual friend in particular — my best friend, as it happens. One night while hanging out on said friend’s amazing deck that overlooks a Bel Air valley and the cityscape beyond, mention of the whole China/Tibet thing came up (where Sharon was blasted in the press for apparently telling a reporter that China’s earthquake was karmic payback for Tibet while on the red carpet at Cannes). Joanna asked me what I thought about it and I said something about how that comment was no doubt taken out of context — it’s amazing how untrue a truth can suddenly become when it’s taken out of context and how embedded that untruth can then get in pop-culture consciousness (Al Gore, for example, never actually said that he invented the Internet or that he and Tipper inspired the story of Love Story but try to find anyone — anyone — who actually knows anything about what he actually said or how those comments then got spun in a way that spread like a fire in the Malibu hills). Still, though, I was surprised — kind of shocked, actually — when Joanna fetched her laptop and played a Youtube video of the actual red-carpet conversation that Sharon had had with the reporter.
And it was so…mild. It was the innocuous, thoughtful, slightly rambling talk of a person who’d been surprised by a question she actually found interesting and was giving her full attention to. It was Sharon describing her unfolding reaction to the earthquake: “So at first I thought this…and I kind of wondered…but then I thought…” and her end point was actually the opposite of the deadly little soundbite her speech got turned into. Instead of saying that the earthquake was ‘karma’, she was actually working her way towards a point about how in the end you should never judge others.
“It’s like she’s talking to a friend over coffee at Starbucks,” commented another person watching the video, which was exactly the same thing I’d just been thinking. He added, “I’m just surprised that she wouldn’t know any better about how to deal with the media, considering her career…”
“She just doesn’t care,” I said. “She just really does not care.” That was the attitude — accurate or not — that I’d picked up from her, kind of this world-weary what more can you do to me air charged with more than a little fuck you rebellion, as in: This is who I am and I will say what is honestly inspired from within me and if you can’t handle that then it is really not my problem, no matter how hard you try to make it my problem and I will not cower or kowtow or apologize for it, ever, or pretend that this game is not rigged, so you go back to your lives and I’ll go back to mine. Peace..
Sharon herself obliquely referred to the incident…she was leading the way down the curving staircase inside the Tuscany-style villa, describing to us her vision of what could be done with the property and talking about some kind of conversation she’d had with a realtor, adding gaily, “…and no doubt I said the wrong thing, as we all know that I like to do.”
* and I saw a wildcat! a lynx or a mountain lion or whatever it was — this sleek unmistakeable golden prowling shape rippling along the concrete edge of a hollowed-out underground parking area — I was thrilled and electrified, calling out my discovery, even as Sharon said, nonchalant, “Well then be very careful, because there’s no way for it to get out of there,” and I immediately imagined it honing in on my kid, waiting for the perfect moment to drop on him from above…”E,” I yelled out, “would you please close that gate right now…?”
** what some people might find surprising — and maybe reassuring — is how male stars in particular really tend to chunk up between movie roles…and they are not gaining weight for a particular kind of role, please understand, they are just taking the opportunity to relax and let themselves go before they have to enlist the nutritionist and personal trainer and private chef to go into battle again
*** Rhys-Meyers forever won my fangirl love when he remarked in an interview about how much he loved style and fashion and how he could never live in LA because then he’d have to lose an entire season of wardrobe. As an LA woman and secret fashionista who loves cloth coats, scarves, furry boots and the like, I understand. Oh, how I understand.
**** or to check for mold. One of the most gorgeous men I ever encountered — this tall, blond, beautifully chiseled Adonis of a man with a soft Texan drawl to boot — showed up on my doorstep at 8 am one Monday morning in response to a call I’d put in about the possibility of mold in our house. I had to recover myself. Alas, our house had no mold. I was crushed.