Sunday, November 23, 2008

Celebrity Sightings in Chicago

On Friday night, I went over to the nearby hostel, after using the computers here at the library, in order to use the phone there. (The hostel is just a block south and a block east of the Harold Washington Library, and there are also dormitories there for Columbia College students.) After using the phone, I walked next door to a small cafe known as Cafecito, in order to get myself a cup of coffee before going home. As I was sitting there sipping my coffee and going through my To Do lists, I looked across from where I was sitting and spotted a face which looked strangely familiar, even though I couldn't put my finger on who it was or where I'd seen the face. Then I suddenly realized (or thought that I realized) who it was. "It's that guy from the Lord of The Rings!" I thought to myself. "None other than Dominic Monaghan, who played Pippin, and who rode atop the shoulders of Treebeard on the way to defeat the evil wizard Saruman!"

I thought about going up to him and introducing myself. I even thought about how I might possibly capitalize on the rare opportunity to meet one of the stars of one of the most successful movies in the history of the Academy Awards. I considered giving him the web address for the web page which showed my pen & ink drawings, with the idea that I would offer to create a similar portrait for him if he'd sent me a photo. But I never got up the courage, and after a while, he stood up, along with the other folks in his entourage, and walked out of Cafecito.

It's a good thing that I didn't introduce myself to him by calling him Mr. Monaghan. As it turns out, Monaghan was the other hobbit who rode astride Treebeard. The guy I saw was Billy Boyd, who played Peregrin Took, also known as Pippin. So I was right about the name of his character, but wrong about his real name. (Meriadoc Brandybuck, a/k/a Merry, was the name of the character played by Dominic Monaghan. I always did get those two guys confused!)

It would have been a bit embarrassing to call Mr. Boyd by the wrong name when introducing myself. Almost as embarrassing as the time when I met musician Todd Rundgren at the Hynes Auditorium in Boston years ago. There was a computer fair there, and Rundgren was one of the first musicians to embrace the Apple computer as a means of creating animations for his videos. He was just sitting there by himself, so I walked over and said, "Excuse me, are you Todd Rundgren?" He affirmed that he was, to which I replied, "I thorta sought so!" Yes, you read that correctly. I meant to say, "I sorta' thought so," but the words came out wrong. It wasn't as if Rundgren was one of my idols or anything. His tunes were nice in their own way, but I was a much bigger fan of Christian rock musicians such as Larry Norman. But people sometimes make fools of themselves when they're in the presence of celebrities, for no other reason than the fact that they know that such people are celebrities.

Fortunately, I've usually acquitted myself more admirably in such circumstances. Not that I've met a huge number of celebrities in my lifetime (unless one counts the numerous well-known Christian musicians I've met as a result of my strong interest in Christian music). Unlike Los Angeles, Chicago isn't just swimming with famous actors. But there is a movie industry here of sorts --- certainly more than there was in my home town of Springfield, Missouri --- so one does see such people every now and then.

Here in Chicago, back in the 90's, I met and talked briefly with John Rhys-Davies, who was playing the part of Elliot Ness' sidekick in the modern TV adaptation of The Untouchables. He was in the ElekTek computer store when I was there, and we left the store at about the same time. I then followed outdoor signs to the Union Club, where they were filming that show that day. Later, I briefly met and talked with Tom Amandees, who was playing Elliot Ness in the show, between takes. I also watched them filming the episode quite a few times, before I got tired and left. Part of my conversation with Amandees took place when we were standing adjacent to one another at the urinals! (A similar conversation took place one day when I met Roger Ebert at the Borders next to the Chicago Water Tower. All in all, a strange place to have a conversation with a celebrity, but hey --- celebrities have to relieve themselves just like normal people.) John Rhys-Davies also played the bearded dwarf Gimli in The Lord of The Rings (after I met him), and he'd previously played an important role in the first Raiders of The Lost Ark movie.

I also saw John Mahoney, who played Kelsey Grammar's father on Frasier, one day when I was walking around out in Oak Park. (Mahoney is from Oak Park.) And I saw David Schwimmer from the TV show Friends one day, in the line in front of me at a nearby bagel place which is no longer there. (That was appropriate, since he's Jewish.) He was undoubtedly doing something in connection with the Looking Glass Theatre here in Chicago.

Of course, I also watched Nicholas Cage across Wabash from me as I worked for a very long day in the Loop as an extra for the movie The Weather Man. I'm even visible behind Cage in an actual scene from the movie. But it wasn't exactly a high point in my life. I thought that the finished movie was a pretty poor movie, particularly in terms of its gratuitous nudity (in a fairly explicit sex scene involving Cage and a woman to whom his character wasn't married), and in terms of the frequent unnecessary profanity.

Too bad I couldn't have been an extra in The Lord of The Rings! Now there was a movie! But they filmed it in New Zealand, not in Chicago. Chicago would have been a pretty lousy choice of locations for The Lord of The Rings.

No comments: