M. Chariot ran into Mlle Faye Dunaway at the dry cleaner's recently. I was picking up one of my fancier waistcoats, which had incurred a stain resulting from an overenthusiasm for the veal — when I detected an angry, patrician voice coming from further down the counter. There stood Faye Dunaway, a ticket in hand, bejewelled knuckle on hip, looking peeved. She, like all movie stars, is much tinier than one would imagine from watching her films. Tiny, very slender, even stick-like, a coat of expertly applied maquillage, perfectly dressed, artificiel, like a Beverly Hills matron, all whites and creams, with a kind of cloche on her head, an expensive caramel bag, gold jewelry.
She seemed impatient, cold, unfriendly to the staff. A constricted quality. Snatched her plastic-sheathed gown and stalked out, looking like she'd just as soon firebomb the place. I'd heard absolutely terrible rumors about her here in LA, but this was the first time I'd seen her in person. Did not get a good impression, I can tell you that. But - try as we might - how many of us give "a good impression" to a stranger's gaze each and every day?
Here in Los Angeles, seeing film stars in "real life" (if that's the appropriate term for my bumblings about the Boulevard) is quite illuminating. I'm not talking about stars on some kind of publicity tour, signing books, or in a professional situation, gladhanding the fans and smiling warmly at the camera. I'm talking about the supermarket or the dry cleaner, the parking lot or the nail salon. Ordering coffee at Starbuckle. On film, they are typically open and vulnerable and 'giving' to the audience via the camera. When you see them going about their business in the real world, they can appear, by contrast, very closed, guarded, opaque, uninterested, dismissive of the gawping public. It's disconcerting, akin to running into an old friend who has mysteriously decided to snub you.
All of which leaves me impressed with stars who are forever granting autographs and acknowledging their fans while dining in restaurants and the like. It can't be easy. Addressing the so-called 'adoring' public has got to be like making one's way through a snake pit at an insane asylum. You never know what's coming at you. In a crush of strangers, who is going to thank you for your performance in Network and who is going to try to poke out your eyeballs with their keys? Must make navigating the public sphere seem very dicey indeed!