I went to an uncomfortable, schmoozy event in Hollywood a couple of years ago. It was the kind of event at which I park a block away and walk to the entrance because I’m afraid even the valet parking guys may be judging me and my car may give me away as a fraud.
This event was a screening of a film put together about a comedy icon whom I had never met and whose work, frankly, I’ve never liked that much. Still, it was a big deal and there was a likelihood that the whole pantheon of comedy would be in the room to honor this man, so I went. It was everything I had hoped it would be. Phyllis Diller waved vaguely at me as she was wheeled by and I wondered if she remembered having met me years earlier or if she just habitually waved smilingly at anyone who made eye contact.
I ran into an old acquaintance at the after-party. I had once thought of him as a friend. In the late eighties we worked some of the same stand-up clubs, hung out, talked, got high together, dreamt big. Then he became the head writer on a successful sitcom and wouldn’t take my calls. A few years after the show was cancelled we seemed to be close again when we ran into each other at the clubs. He apologized for his treatment of me when he could have offered me a job. Then he sold a sitcom of his own and stopped talking to me again. I was a bit guarded when I ran into him at this party. We stood at the edge of the room, sipping drinks and he did not actually look at me as we made conversation. He scanned the crowd and said, “You’ll have to forgive me. I know a lot of people here and I have to figure out who I’ll need to greet first.”
I didn’t find it surprising. It was that kind of party and he is the kind of guy whose car was chosen specifically for the effect it would have on people who saw it when he valet parked.
As we chatted cautiously, Carl Reiner walked past us on his way to the hors d’oeuvres. He grinned at me and waved off-handedly. I said, “Hello, Carl Reiner. May I call you ‘Carl Reiner?’” a friendly conversational gambit I often use in radio interviews and dealings with celebrities. I wasn’t at all certain he would remember me. He said, “Dylan Brody, you can call me whatever you like, as long as you keep us laughing.” And he walked on toward the tiny foods.
The man with whom I had been speaking turned toward me for the first time. He gazed at me with the intensity of a young woman on a third date with a hot prospect. He said, showing interest in me for the first time all evening, “So. What have you been up to?”
I shrugged and said, “You’ll have to forgive me. There’s someone I have to talk to.”
I moved away from him with feigned purpose and melted into the crowd. I found myself hoping that the cut of my suit, from behind, hinted at the lines of a Lexus.