Topic: The Culture
Hollywood Notes: The Other Celebrities
As readers might have noticed, last week Just Above Sunset took a stand against commenting on tabloid news. In an item on the close of the Michael Jackson trial the idea was that there wasn't much one needed to say about that whole sorry business, and in Ric Erickson's report from Paris on Tom Cruise and what Cruise was up to there, the idea was commenting on this all was madness. Who cares?
Friday afternoon there was an email from a reader on the current Oprah Winfrey business in Paris - and on how the Columbia Journalism Review calls it a non-story - and the reader argued it really is news, because Hermes may be racist or something. You can read l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) wire story here: "US talk show queen Oprah Winfrey is convinced she was turned away from a Hermes store in Paris because she is black and she plans to tell her millions of viewers about it, a spokeswoman said Friday." Whatever.
This too is not something of much interest to the editor. So readership will suffer. Fine.
But this is Hollywood, and Just Above Sunset is here in the land of celebrity. Perhaps something should be said about Tom Cruise who late in the week on national television strongly denounced all of psychiatry and the medical stuff concerning such things as mere pseudo-science – there is no such thing as "chemical imbalance" and all medications just mask the real problems and vitamins and exercise will fix any problem. Yeah, yeah. As one wag commented: "High school dropout Tom Cruise pulled his Scientology-obsessed, crazy train into New York this morning - his zombie virgin fiancée in tow - to grace Today Show viewers with his mastery of psychiatry."
You could read the whole exchange. It's pretty amazing. And worst case? People who reverence celebrities for some reason, who are depressed and suicidal, will now not seek help, or if now in treatment will stop taking their medications and stop going to see their doctors. They'll trust Tom of "Top Gun." Some will die. And there is something deliciously Darwinian about that. This may be a good thing.
But still, some stories of the famous are amusing, and close to home. Driving home to the Just Above Sunset World Headquarters, as a friend like to call this flat, your editor has more than one time been slowed by the late evening police checkpoint just down the way on Sunset Boulevard – as you drive east in Sunset leaving Beverly Hills the stop is just as you approach the Sunset Strip, right there at the local Jaguar, Land Rover dealership. And as folks who follow the movie business know, Oliver Stone recently got in some trouble there.
Oliver Stone in LA drugs arrest
BBC - Saturday, 28 May, 2005, 20:20 GMT 21:20 UK
"Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone has been arrested for drink driving and possession of drugs. Police said the 58-year-old filmmaker was arrested on Friday night [May 27] at a police checkpoint on Sunset Boulevard, in Beverly Hills, California. ..."
So the man who gave us "Nixon" and JFK" and "Natural Born Killers" and "The Doors" and "Platoon" and "Wall Street" - and last year that "Alexander" film that bombed - got busted. So?
The back-story is cool. According to Brendan Bernhard in the LA Weekly, Stone had had his head messed up by a Frenchman: "Shortly after sharing a table with the ultracontroversial French novelist at the White Lotus, a restaurant in Hollywood known for its deafening noise and nubile Asian clientele, the film director was pulled over by the cops on Sunset Boulevard and taken down to the station, charged with driving under the influence and possession of an illegal substance. It took a $15,000 bail to get him out."
Ah, Stone was driving the other direction, west, leaving the Sunset Strip area and going home to Beverly Hills.
That explanation of what happened is from the long Bernhard piece this week on the visit of Michel Houellebecq, the French novelist, to this neighborhood. Houellebecq is the author of The Elementary Particles and Platform, two books that have come up a few times in online discussions with readers, but not in these pages.
The full item is here:
L'?tranger in a Strange Land
Michel Houellebecq's Weekend in L.A.
Brendan Bernhard, LA Weekly, issue of June 23, 2005
And this assessment seems about right:
Bernhard interviews Houellebecq, on the guy's first visit to Los Angeles, while Michel is "smoking a cigarette at a sidewalk table at Mel's Diner on Sunset Boulevard." We learn he's trying the Santa Fe Chicken Salad, but gives up on it and opts instead for a quadruple espresso. How French. But Mel's is a faux "American Graffiti" kind of tourist trap, with bad food and no carhops at all (they have valet parking, of course). Should any of you visit, we're not going there.
Is Houellebecq out of place?
And that is how Hollywood sees the French, of course.
This is followed by an account of some really dull conversation, but then we get this -
Sounds very French to me. And Bernhard comments that Houellebecq is one of the few French novelists since Camus to win a substantial audience outside France. In recent decades the country "has produced enough incomprehensible philosophers, critics and theorists to fill several large cafés, but precious few writers of exportable fiction." This guy is different. He tells stories.
What kind of stories? Try gloomy realism.
Well, he was acquitted.
And Perhaps There Is an Island, his new novel about cloning, will be published in France at the end of the summer. Should be fun, or something.
What did he do here? He stayed at the Bel Age hotel down the street, was interviewed on KCRW in Santa Monica by Michael Silverblatt on Bookworm, he spoke at the Armand Hammer Museum over in Westwood on Lovecraft.
And there were two "performances" by the Velvet Hammer Burlesque troupe, but it's best not to ask.
That about sums up a lot of how we react to French novels.
Anyway, we also get an account of a dinner at Kate Mantilini's down on Wilshire Boulevard. Houellebecq ordered a steak, heaped his salad on top of it, and had red wine. Much talk. So he got used to LA, and the food is actually pretty good there.
And what did he think of his first visit to Los Angeles, to Hollywood?
He obviously understands life out here. This seems the appropriate response to the world of Tom Cruise and his scientology, Oliver Stone and his arrest, Oprah and her problems, and Michael Jackson.