The garbage strike is over! Hooray! Last night I saw a rat the size of a Buick on my street rooting through the trash. Mister Rat and I had a bit of a stand-off, but when he realized that I wasn’t interested in his garbage, and I realized that he wasn’t interested in giving me rabies we went our separate ways neither the worse for wear.
Up early on Friday to get ready for the trip to Los Angeles to interview the cast of Austin Powers in Goldmember. Of course I never plan very far ahead and was folding laundry straight from the drier and packing it as the cab pulled up to take me to the airport. Along the way I had him stop at my dry cleaner to pick up some pressed shirts and finished packing in the back of the taxi. At least I remembered my passport. As we pulled into Terminal Two at Pearson I was finally ready for the trip.
I gave myself two hours to check-in, clear customs and security, and as is always the case when you give yourself more than enough time you get banged through the whole system in about four-and-a-half minutes. Security was less than tight. At the X-Ray machine a guard asked me to turn on my cell phone, presumably to make sure it wasn’t a bomb, but turned away from me before I turned it on and waved me through without a second look.
With time to kill at the airport I bought a couple of magazines (great article on Michael Ovitz in this month’s Vanity Fair) and some ketchup potato chips. The first time I interviewed Mike Myers I asked him what he missed most about Canada. His reply? Ketchup chips. Now he can afford his own ketchup chip factory or maybe to have them flown in from Canada on a daily basis… but just in case, I thought I’d bring some.
Met Seamus O’Regan, host of Talk TV and occasional host of Canada AM (and frequent guest on R2R) at the departure gate. Soon more Toronto media types gathered – Teri Hart from TMN, Dan Duford from CITY-TV and Bonnie Laufer from Tribute TV – and we discussed maybe all going out for dinner on Saturday night. Food, it’s all about the food.
Anyone who read my last on-line diary will be familiar with my obsession with food while on the road. Here’s a list of the culinary delights on Air Canada flight 799 to Los Angeles:
• About 40 minutes into the flight we were given a 14g bag of Krispy Kernel’s Pretzels. They’re small, but you get 21 ½ in each bag (I counted).
• One hour and twenty minutes in the flight attendants started roaming the aisles yelling “Chicken or Pasta!” The guy next to me ordered the chicken so I had the pasta.
“Enjoy your meal,” she said with the tone of someone who has said that phrase 1,000,000,000,001 times.
“Impossible!” I thought as I poked at the lukewarm lasagne she had just placed in front of me. I think in the dictionary next to the definition of airplane food there must be a picture of this meal. The lasagne had apparently been stored on its side as all the filing (wilted spinach mostly) was at one end. The limp salad came with balsamic vinaigrette (how chic!) and the dessert tasted like sugary air. Not one of the more successful airplane meals I’ve had this year. It’ll be awhile before I can bleach the memory of Air Canada’s lasagne from my memory and my taste buds.
Arrived on time, bagged was there and headed to the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to check in, then went to the hospitality suite to get my interview times for Saturday. Nice suite, good food. Had grilled vegetables, pizza and a cookie before checking out the Austin Powers game room across the hall. All sorts of Austin Powers games, including backgammon and a very cool pinball machine. Now pinball is the only sport, (yes, I do think pinball is a sport), I’ve ever been any good at. I racked up 62 MILLION! Points and won a free game before Beyonce Knowles showed up for a photo op with the game. I took off, let Beyonce have my free game and headed to my room.
Shared the elevator with Seth Green, (who had just finished a day of interviews), and his people. His friend joked, “Your homework for tonight is to come up with fresh answers for the question, ‘What’s it like to work with Mike Myers?’” Seth laughed and said he used to be quite obnoxious in interviews, but now he has mellowed and finds that giving solid honest answers is the bet way to deal with the press. “People like that more,” he said.
My room is beautiful. Large with a king sized bed, marble topped desk and a balcony that overlooks the Four Seasons’ garden. Lovely. Oh, and in addition to the Bvlgari shampoos, conditioners etc in the restroom, there is also a television so you can watch the news while you shower. I could get used to this.
At 5:30 there was a poolside party at the hotel before we were to leave for the screening of Goldmember. Foxxy Cleopatra look-a-likes mingled with the 75 or so reporters from all over Canada and the United States. Bartenders pumped out Shagadelic cocktails while we snacked on cheese fondue and guacamole. Left the party for a few minutes to shoot some footage in “The Shaguar,” the Jag that Austin Powers drives in the movie with the Union Jack painted on the hood and sides. Very nice car, and got some cool footage we can use on the show.
At seven o’clock we were loaded onto an authentic London double-decker bus and carted over to the AMC Beverly Connection multi-plex to see Austin Powers in Goldmember. Dozens of cars honked and waved as we drove through Beverly Hills.
You’ll have to watch Reel to Real to see the review, but I will share one joke from the movie. Keep your eyes peeled during the news broadcast, running along the bottom of the screen are headlines, one of which will appeal to Canadian audiences, particularly Torontonians. “Maple Leafs win Stanley Cup…” it reads. I wonder whose idea that was?
After the movie I headed back to the hotel to prepare for Saturday’s interviews. Passing through the bar there were several celebrity sightings. Verne Troyer (Mini-Me) was at a table with two tall blondes, and Eddie Griffin (Undercover Brother) was on the patio. I should say STILL on the patio, as I had seen him at the same table six hours earlier on my way to the pool party.
Back at the room I noticed that the maid service had been through, turned down the bed, replaced the towels I had used, left fresh fruit and tidied up. I like it here…
Saturday July 13, 2002
Woke up early and took a shower. It is a huge bathroom, with a spacious tub and a large shower head. I revved up the shower, stepped inside and was almost blown through the back wall of the stall. Holy water pressure Batman! I braced myself and had a long, hot and thoroughly enjoyable shower.
From there I went to the fourteenth floor of the hotel to check into the hospitality suite. I had to kill an hour or so before my interviews started, so I had some breakfast. I know it sounds like the thing to do, and I am obsessed with food while on the road, but breakfast is my least favourite meal. It’s going to be a long day though so I tuck into a load of scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, hash browns, pastries and freshly squeezed orange juice. I know it sounds like a lot, but the pastries were very small. But like everything else at the hotel so far, they were 10% better than any pastries I’ve ever had before…
Here’s a few words about junkets, the studio funded trips we take occasionally to do interviews. I am often conflicted about doing junkets because on one hand they offer the chance to interview stars and A-list directors, but on the other hand I refuse to feel beholden to the film company who has paid for my flight and put me up for a couple of days. I do very few junkets, preferring the longer form kind of interviews we can do when the stars come to Toronto, but will occasionally do ones that interest me. Just last year I travelled to New York to do Lord of the Rings and Gosford Park, two really good movies, and Pearl Harbour, a really bad movie, which despite having spent five days in Hawaii chatting with the cast and director I still savaged on the air as one of the worst movies of the year. So the bottom line is that a trip to Los Angeles of New York doesn’t buy a good review.
There is also a certain kind of uneasiness to a junket, no matter how well it is arranged. The actors are often on their guard and not as open as they might be in another situation. I don’t blame them. Today each of the actors will do 52 interviews. That is on top of the 30 or so they did on Friday and the 40 or so they will do on Sunday. And that’s just here in Los Angeles; soon they will travel to Europe and do this all over again for the international press. It must get dull answering the same questions over and over, particularly when they are of the “Of all your leading ladies who was the best kisser?” variety. One woman from Miami proudly told me today that she had asked Beyonce to do a promo for her television station. The woman had written new lyrics for Beyonce’s hit song Survivor… “My name’s Beyonce/ I’m in Goldmember/ You’re watching blah blah on blah blah blah…” It’s no wonder the actors don’t respect half the people that come through when people ask them to do stupid, insulting things like that.
My interviews start roughly on time, although my first one, Beyonce Knowles, is late by a few minutes. She’s worth waiting for. She may be one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in person. She’s wearing a bandana, a straw fedora, jeans and a peasant shirt with her bare feet tucked up underneath her. I think maybe she has just gotten out of bed, as she has a dewy “I wish I was still in asleep” look about her. It’s not hard to see why she is a star. Not only is she lovely, but she has a real charisma that shines through, even though she is bleary eyed. We had a nice chat. Tune into R2R to see the whole thing.
Next up was Seth Green. We had met briefly in the elevator the day before when he had been joking about the kinds of questions he has been getting asked in this round of press interviews. He was in a good mood, complimented me on my suit and answered each of my questions as though it was the first time he had ever heard them, although I’m pretty sure he had heard some of them before.
My clothing sponsors at Bertoni will be glad to hear that the suit I wore – black ridged pants, a black snake-skin embossed jacket and a white shirt – was a big hit. In addition to Seth Green, Fred Savage, Mindy Sterling, Jay Roach and Michael York all commented on how much they liked the jacket.
Meeting Robert Wagner was a trip. He’s been making movies for 50 years and is one of the few old Hollywood stars who still works regularly. He is gracious and takes a couple of minutes off the top of the interview to ask me about my show and where I am from. When I say Toronto he tells me a story about a friend of his who has a home there, and how much he is looking forward to visiting the city. I hear the next interviewer after me telling Mr. Wagner that he is from Chicago. “My favourite city,” says Wagner, sounding quite genuine. That’s the old school Hollywood training at work. Try and charm your interviewer, and he’ll do a better story on you.
Next up was Mike Myers. (In the interests of full disclosure I should say that I know Mike socially and have been very good friends with his brother Paul for many years.) “This is surreal,” said Mike as I walked into his suite. “This is one of my brother’s best friends,” he told the crew. Before the cameras rolled we got caught up, and I gave him the ketchup chips I had brought for him. Tune into the show for the whole interview.
Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer is even smaller than you think he is going to be. At two feet, eight inches he is barely half my height. We discussed his new-found fame and how he tries to disguise himself when he goes out in public by wearing a hat and dark glasses, although because of his diminutive stature he is still mobbed everywhere he goes.
Michael York was a bit jet lagged, having just flown in from Prague to see Goldmember and do these interviews. Even though he was tired, he was still congenial and told me a great story about improvising an entire scene with Liza Minnelli in Cabaret. He also liked my jacket…
Fred Savage is 26 years old and has been acting for 21 of those years. He plays a spy who infiltrates Dr. Evil’s organization – a “mole” in espionage parlance. Oh, and he also has a giant, honkin’, hairy mole under his nose that Austin Powers cannot seem to ignore. He loved working with Mike, and told me he hopes there is a part four.
The last interview of the day was with Jay Roach, Goldmember’s director. I really like talking to directors because they approach being interviewed differently than actors. They are not performers so you generally tend to get a more honest interview from them. Roach was no exception. He told me that Dr. Evil is his favourite character because they are so much alike. Both have grandiose plans which are always thwarted by something beyond their control.
After the interviews I headed downstairs in the hotel to shoot some “stand-ups” on the Austin Powers Shagadelic set. “Stand-ups” are the introductions that frame the reviews and interviews on the show. The set is very cool with a series of Andy Warholesque prints of Powers and some very groovy 60s bachelor pad furniture. I shot the opening to the show with the help of three go-go dancers dressed in Beyonce inspired 60s garb.
That being done, I’m pretty much finished for the day and it is only 2 pm! I change out of my suit and take a stroll around West Hollywood. Several of us from Toronto and Montreal have made reservations for tonight, but I have a few hours to kill.
Los Angeles is a weird place. The weather is beautiful. Since I have been here it has been 75 – 80 degrees during the day, and then it cools down nicely at night. Compared to the hot, humid days we’ve been suffering through in Toronto this summer, (I have my air conditioner on so high you could hang sides of beef in my living room), the climate in L.A. is very agreeable. But there is no downtown. Everything is so spread out that you can walk for hours and not actually see that much. And there is no one on the street. Near the Beverly Center I saw a few people milling around, but I’m fairly sure they were walking to their cars.
The streets are beautiful, with flowers everywhere and tall palms trees lining the road. I have to wonder how they get all the palms the same height and line them up so perfectly.
There’s an old joke about Los Angeles verses New York. In New York in August it is 110 degrees, the joke goes, while in Los Angeles it is only a pleasant 78 degrees. New York in December is minus 20 degrees compared to L.A.’s average December temperature of 78 degrees. Year round in New York there are 1,000,000 interesting people to talk to, while in L.A. there are only 78 truly interesting people. I met one of those people on my walk.
On North La Cienega Boulevard I passed a costume shop called Jeran Couture. I stopped to check out the incredibly detailed Dr. Hook and Marie Antoinette costumes in the window and started talking with Randy McLaughlin, the store’s owner and designer. He is quite a character and no stranger to self promotion. “I’m one of the biggest designers in Hollywood,” he said with a straight face even though his store looked as though it had seen better days.
In a few short minutes I had learned pretty much everything about Randy and his work. The red sequined gown that Joan Collins wore on her 1983 Playboy cover took 700 hours to make. Connie Selleca commissioned Randy to design her wedding dress when she hitched up with John Tesh. He has made all the women’s clothes on The Price Is Right for the last 18 years. “I’m a household name with people who watch that show,” he said. The list goes on… Loni Anderson is coming in next week with an Italian film crew to do a story. He once dressed a respected L.A. NBC news anchor up in a pink Shirley Temple dress, complete with blonde wig for a news story that was apparently so popular “they ran it 27 times on the news.”
Like so many people you meet in L.A., and in fact, like the city itself, there is a faded kind of elegance to this guy and his shop. Things chance quickly here. One minute you’re on top, the next you’re telling strangers on the street about all the great work you used to do.
I liked Randy, but decline his offer to come inside and listen to his CD of show tunes. “Next time I’m in town,” I said, and you know, maybe I’ll actually go back.
Back at the hotel I hung around the pool for a few minutes, talking to Seamus O’Regan and Bonnie Laufer. It was very hot, but waiters kept strolling by with fresh fruit popsicles, frozen grapes or fruit smoothies to keep you cool. The lemon smoothie was the big winner of the day for me, although Seamus preferred the frozen grapes.
At 6:30 met the other Canadians at the Café in the Four Seasons. We booked a large table outdoors. There were ten of us in total, and I’m hard pressed to remember when I’ve had a better time at dinner in recent months. We stayed until 12:30 – six hours of wine, stories, crab wrapped in avocado, gossip, foie gras that melted in my mouth, cigars and some very delicious bourbon.
Celebrity sightings at dinner included Grace Jones, who appeared to wrapped head to toe in black lace; Liam Neeson, who was looking younger than the last time I saw him and Kate Mulgrew. Mulgrew’s table was close to ours, and we were “treated” to a loud recitation of bad beat poetry by one of her younger dinner guests. Bad poetry is one thing, but bad pretentious poetry being yelled at you while you are paying $50.00 US for a steak is almost sadistic.
We outstayed the “poet” and enjoyed sitting outside until it was time for bed.
Sunday July 14, 2002
Up early. Check out and grab some tea and muffins in the lobby. Split a cab to LAX with some others who have early morning flights. Of all of them I am the only one who has their bags opened and checked by security. They took everything out, examined it and did a gunpowder smear. I guess I looked like trouble. It was difficult explaining what a Dr. Evil Wacky Wobbler nodding head doll was to the very serious security guard. He didn’t seem to get it, or understand why I would want such a thing. But once he realized that I couldn’t possibly hurt anyone with it, (only amuse them), he let me through.
Air Canada flight 760 from Los Angeles to Toronto was on time, and fairly uneventful. As usual the main meal was underwhelming. We were given a choice between an omelette and an egg McMuffin. For reasons that I’ll never understand I chose the egg McMuffin. It had been nuked to such an extent that the cheese had simply liquefied and evaporated, leaving only a thick sludge on the bottom of the plate. That coupled with the “ham” that looked more like minced insects than any pork product I had ever seen made me very glad I had something to eat at the First Class lounge at LAX.
The meal may have been disappointing but the snacks were excellent. They distributed a seemingly endless supply of Chris and Larry’s Clodhoppers, a chocolate dipped vanilla fudge graham wafer cluster with cashews made in Winnipeg. The bag says they are “highly addictive” and they ain’t lyin’.
Back in Toronto there is less garbage on the streets than when I left, although it is just as hot. When I got home I cranked on the air conditioning and unpacked, glad as always to be back home.