Friday, October 14, 2005

Celebrity sightings are common in L.A. You’re bound to spot famous people, even if you’re not working at the studios or frequenting the hip clubs or ignoring the restraining orders.

A lot of actors live in Santa Monica -- Viggo Mortensen eats at my local diner; I’ve seen character actor David Paymer several times at the book store, Will from "Will & Grace" at the supermarket, and Angelica Huston looking elegant as ever, even while walking her foofie dog down Venice Beach.

It doesn’t really faze you. You do a double-take, recognize ‘em, refrain from asking Julia Louis-Dreyfus if she could "spare a square", decide if John Travolta looks even fatter and Scientologicalisticaller in real life or wonder whether a strong breeze will blow that stick Renee Zelweger out of restaurant. Maybe you mention the sighting to your friends, but without much enthusiasm. After a week in La-La land, you’re jaded. You see one star, one palm tree, one stretch limo, one transvestite prostitute on the corner of LaBrea and Sunset… you’ve seen ‘em all.

But every now and then, you react in a way that surprises even yourself.

It happened to me several years ago. I was still getting my haircut, a task I always hated. Kinda like clothes shopping. I don’t wanna waste a lot of time, money or my breath. To me it’s a quick errand, not a social occasion. Just cut the hair and cut the chit-chat. Maybe I’m just too much of a curmudgeon or maybe it’s a guy thing, I dunno. When you go to a hardware store, does the man showing you the skill saws give you a plastic smile and chirp, “so… how we doin’ today?”

So I’d skip the expensive salons and patronize one of those franchises -- coulda been Supercuts or Fantastic Sam’s… y’know, a local McCut&Blow joint. But it doesn’t matter where you go. The people there are always perky and grating and make small-talk, passing the time, pretending to want to know your whole life story. And you feel compelled to be polite since they’re standing over you with sharp instruments.

This one time it was a dude -- very tall, very heavy, very ebullient. Sure enough, he chimed in with the standard: “So… how we doin’ today?” Fine. “So… what line of work are you in?” Writer. “How’s that going?” Okay. “Well, I know how it is. I used to be an actor.” You and everybody else ‘round here, pal.

Since he gave me the opportunity to refocus the conversation off me, I asked if he had done anything I would’ve seen. He said, “Well, I was a child actor. I played this ape-boy for a few years on a TV show.” Now I was intrigued. What show? “Oh, I don’t know if you’d know it. It was on a long time ago. It was called ‘Land of the Lost.’”

My eyes went wide. “Chaka? You were Chaka?!” He practically dropped the clippers at my outburst. “I loved that show! With the Sleestacks! And Grumpy the T-Rex!” I started to sing the theme song: “Marshall, Will and Holly, on a routine expedition,
met the greatest earthquake ever known!”

He just nodded. Yep, that was the show.

I guess I was making him feel awkward now. But I had to know: “So, Chaka, what happened? You didn’t wanna pursue the acting thing anymore?” He told me that practically overnight, he went from being that diminutive prehistoric dude’s size to having the linebacker look he had today. It was hard to get work. So he got into other jobs, including hairstyling, and… where is he now? Cutting heads for cash.

But don’t feel bad for him. At the time, he said the entire show’s run was picked up for syndication on one of the cable channels. He would be getting residuals for every episode soon and was planning to quit SchlockyCuts and buy a house. I’m betting that he even got more money recently when they released the show on DVD. Way to go, ape-boy.

And for me, I shared that story with everyone. Most of my friends were just as excited and reminisced about the stop-motion dinosaurs, the mysterious pylons, and how the show jumped the shark when they replaced Marshall.

I started buzzing my head shortly after that. Not just because of thinning hair, or my bristling at bubbly barbers. The guy had done a decent job on my ‘do… nothing spectacular… but that was a great celebrity sighting. Nothing would top chatting with Chaka. That was the best haircut I ever had.


Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting and Trackback by