He took the bait. "The Wonder Years. I'm Jason Hervey."
I explained I was a paparazzo for Slate, and although he had no idea what Slate is, he agreed to let me take his picture. Jason is mostly in the business side of show business now. He was a producer of I Want To Be a Hilton, and he's working on a reality show with D.J. Quik. (He's a rapper; I looked him up.)
Soon I spotted Brian Grazer. He is not a celebrity in the George Clooney sense, but he is one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, producer of everything from the The Da Vinci Code to A Beautiful Mind. He looks more hungry than powerful, a skinny guy with a hairdo reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands. He had a headset on and was wandering around, slouching in doorways, making deals for his next hundred movies. Terrified he had security goons lurking, I snapped a few long-distance shots. Then my sister placed herself in front of him as a decoy, and I snapped a picture of her with him in the background.
As we wandered Beverly Hills, I was distressed by the number of tourists carrying cameras just like mine. I don't want to be lumped in with these lumpenproles—I was a professional pap. We tried to get away from them by walking up Two Rodeo. This is a grand, outdoor minimall filled with expensive stores such as Tiffany and Versace. But it was crawling with tourists from all over the world, some with camcorders at the ready. Liz and I were baffled—tourists couldn't afford these stores, but what celebrity would walk these cobblestones lest they be assaulted by Japanese schoolgirls? We spotted no one.
We gave up and decided not to even look for celebrities that night. Instead we went to the unchic Factor's Famous Deli. While we were waiting for our matzo-ball soup, I saw a young man escorting a delicate-looking old man with a patch of bright, red hair. Red Buttons! My late grandparents would be so thrilled. I went to his booth with my camera and introduced myself, not as a paparazzo, but a fan. He had me sit next to him and had his companion take our picture together. I asked if he was still working—he's 87—and he nodded yes. He wasn't exaggerating. He recently guest starred on ER.
The next day we went to the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Sunset Boulevard. We did a couple of perimeter searches and found no one, but on my third sweep a redheaded man in his 30s sitting on the patio asked if I was looking for him. I asked if he was a celebrity and he told me he was Butch Bradley, a comedian, who was waiting for an appointment with someone he'd never met. He was just back from entertaining the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and you can hear his take on it here.
As Liz and I were about to leave, I saw a tall man wearing a cap get in line for coffee. He was famous! Only I couldn't remember his name. I waited until he sat outside with his friends then went up to him.
"You're an actor," I said.
"Yes," he replied.
"You played that horrible husband of Julia Roberts in that movie," I persisted (Sleeping With the Enemy).
"I'm a very bad person," he concurred.