The problem with having a very rich fantasy life is that reality so often pales in comparison. Last night I had dinner with a movie star, which wasn’t nearly as fascinating as the many movie star dinners I’ve been having in my head all these years.
First off, the restaurant was nothing special. I go there all the time, as a matter of fact, with my sister and my friends, none of whom are the least bit famous. On this particular occasion I got there early so I wouldn’t be nervous about being late. I chose just the right table and whipped out a script to establish right off that I am every inch the Hollywood type, but nobody seemed to notice. Not the clueless waitress focusing on the minimum basic requirements of her own job, not the male schoolteacher tossing graded papers onto a growing stack with a successively longer sigh. A couple of writers wiling away the afternoon alone got up to leave, the last of the dwindling lunch crowd, minutes before my companion arrived for dinner. Why were we having dinner at a place that closes at seven, anyway? How would the paparazzi find us?
At that point it occurred to me that what interested me most was not merely having dinner with a star, nor even about our working together, but instead by the notion of being seen doing all that. What’s that about a tree falling in a forest and not making a sound? “You guys should order now if you want soup,” the oblivious waitress said once my companion arrived. “It tastes like glue once they turn off the burners and have to re-heat it.”
Have you never seen a movie?” I wanted to shout. “Ask this woman for an autograph, you dolt!” I mean, my God, J. has been in pretty much all of them over the last twenty years, with and without her equally famous brother all girls my age have a crush on. Then again, J. wasn’t even wearing dark sunglasses, just jeans and sneakers like another unassuming Midwest housewife—despite her being one of the most popular comedic actresses of our time, with two Oscar nominations to show for it.
She’s recently started her own production company in partnership with her former agent, whose first big project is a biopic of a famous chef and WWII spy. In hopes of attaching me to write it, my manager had sent my semi-autobiographical sample script about three disinherited siblings who pull off a heist. (No we did not pull off a heist together in real life). J. casually informed me that she’d be ordering the artichoke and goat cheese salad and that she was interested in making my movie, as if these two thoughts deserved equal weight in a single sentence. “I even told my brother about it,” she added, squeezing a lemon wedge over her iced tea. “Do you see any Splenda around?”
“I’m sorry, can we go back?” I said, not about to let artificial sweetener come between me and this juicy tidbit. “What did your brother say about my script?”
“He said he’d do it.”
Star-struck rube that I am, I’ve been around Hollywood long enough to know that about a hundred things would have to happen before the two J's star together in my movie. But the mere idea of it all was enough to release any lingering disappointments I may have had about being in the moment. There I sat, just me and the movie star tossing around a few additional casting ideas. Although real sugar doesn't work as well in iced tea as the substitute, the thing about Hollywood is that every once in awhile, real life does turn out better than the movie version.