Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A bit on Steve's place in the fall movie schedule
Studios Hope to Salvage Disappointing Year
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
(08-31) 04:48 PDT Los Angeles (AP) --

Hollywood's long, dreary summer finally is over. Now it's on to the good stuff. And it better be good, if film studios hope to salvage what's shaping up as the worst year for movie attendance since the late 1990s.

After a summer season that left audiences generally uninterested, the fall and holiday lineup offers the promise of fresh films with an exotic cast of characters that includes country music legends, a great ape, teen wizards and a Japanese geisha.


Steve Martin also has a twofer season with "Cheaper By the Dozen 2," reprising his role from the 2003 family hit as patriarch of a family of 12 kids, and "Shopgirl," adapted from his short novel.

"Shopgirl" stars Claire Danes as a Saks clerk wooed by a rich older man (Martin) and a younger guy (Jason Schwartzman). The story originated with Martin's long-held interest in how people go about looking for love.

"There was a time in my life when I was very interested in relationship psychology," Martin said. "Relationships end, but they don't end your life. But people do often spending more time finding out about failed relationships than finding successful ones."

Though he had not envisioned any movie prospects when he wrote the book, Martin said once he had adapted it into a screenplay, he felt should go ahead and act in the film, as well.

"I would have felt a little funny if another actor was playing this role," Martin said.
Sunday, August 28, 2005

Steve apparently didn't go to Scotland

Based on published reports of the Lonach Games and Billy Connolly's celebrity guests out today, it appears that Steve didn't go to Scotland after all.
Thursday, August 25, 2005

Steve at Toronto Film Festival

Just a note: Steve will be attending the Toronto International Film Festival scheduled for Sept. 8-17.

Shopgirl will be premiering.
Saturday, August 20, 2005

Steve -- effective consumer advocate

Chicago Sun-Times
May 18, 2005 Wednesday
NEWS; Pg. 4
A win for the nitwits among us
Shamus Toomey

You can now thank Steve Martin when you buy hot dog buns.

Mark Marcucci, president of bun maker Alpha Baking Co., gave credit Tuesday to Steve Martin's character in the 1991 film "Father of the Bride."

Marcucci said Martin's George Banks "appropriately and courageously" brought the need for eight-packs to the forefront.

Here's what a raving Banks told a grocery store worker:

"I want to buy eight hot dogs and eight hot dog buns to go with them. But no one sells eight hot dog buns. They only sell 12 hot dog buns. So I end up paying for four buns I don't need. . . . And you want to know why? Because some big shot over at the wiener company got together with some big shot over at the bun company and decided to rip off the American public. Because they think the American public is a bunch of trusting nitwits who will pay for things they don't need rather than make a stink.

"Well they're not ripping off this nitwit anymore. Because I'm not paying for one more thing I don't need. George Banks is saying NO!"

Vienna Beef president Howard Eirinberg said people did, in fact, raise a stink. But he and Marcucci denied any secret big-shot collusion. Still, the Martin rant played a role in the new marketing plan.

"We're done ripping off the American public," Marcucci said, jokingly.

Steve -- hotter than Hilary Duff?

NBC News Transcripts
Today 7:00 AM EST NBC
August 18, 2005 Thursday
On the set of "Cheaper By The Dozen 2"; Rob Schneider discusses reprising role of Deuce Bigalow; controversy over new black comedy, "Starved"

KATIE COURIC, co-host:

Wow, I'm impressed. She has her own song, her own little video intro thing. This morning on THE RAPP REPORT, this is very exciting, Jill, we go on location with "Cheaper By The Dozen 2," Deuce Bigalow heads to Amsterdam and a controversial series hits the small screen. Our entertainment reporter, Jill Rapp Rapp Rapp, call her the rapper, Rappaport...


You like that?

COURIC: here with all the juicy details. Hi, Jill.

RAPPAPORT: How about that graphic? I was all mouth, teeth and tonsils, huh? Anyway...

COURIC: Well, what can I say?

RAPPAPORT: If it fits, right? Anyway, can't get enough of that Duff stuff, and we caught up with her on the set of her sequel, Hilary Duff, we're talking about, with Steve Martin, and a look at a comedy about eating disorders. All righty then. It's all on THE RAPP REPORT.

First up, we're off to Toronto for a set visit to "Cheaper By The Dozen 2," starring Hilary Duff, Bonnie Hunt and Steve Martin.

Mr. STEVE MARTIN: When we made the first one, I became, you know, sort of affectionate toward all of these kids. And then to see them again two years later, it's really, really nice.

Miss HILARY DUFF ("Cheaper By The Dozen"): It's really a funny story line and the whole cast is back, which is great.

RAPPAPORT: And like the first one, with 12 kids in the Baker clan, there's bound to be chaos.

Unidentified Director: Action!

Ms. BONNIE HUNT ("Cheaper By The Dozen"): I come from a large family myself. But our house was, you know, much more chaotic than this movie. They could never write the chaos, the real honest chaos of a big family.

RAPPAPORT: On this day, it was somewhat bittersweet on the set, as Duff wrapped up her role and said goodbye to the cast and crew.

Miss DUFF: I haven't gotten to spend as much time on the set and you know, being here every day, because my days were more sporadic.

RAPPAPORT: That's because she's one of the hottest young stars around, and always in demand.

Mr. MARTIN: Well, I'm much hotter than Hilary Duff, but her blonde hair does a lot.

Ms. HUNT: Who's hotter? Me or Steve Martin? That's who I get compared to? Wow, I might even have a chance of winning this one.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Lonach Games Background

KMT offers you some nice background info on the Lonach games in Scotland along with a pic of Steve in tartan HERE
Monday, August 15, 2005

Grab your sporran. Steve's going to Scotland.

The Mirror
August 13, 2005, Saturday
Scots Edition; NEWS; Pg. 7

BILLY Connolly is hosting a Hollywood bash at his Scots mansion to celebrate landing a top movie role.

The Big Yin will play evil Lord Dargis in the sequel Garfield 2, due for release next summer.

And to celebrate he has invited a host of stars to a bash at his home at Strathdon, Aberdeenshire.

The party ties in with the annual Lonach Gathering near Billy's home later this month.

Now locals are eagerly awaiting news of the stars who will descend on the village games as Connolly is Laird of the Gathering.

Funnyman Steve Martin has already confirmed that he's returning.

And others who have joined Connolly in the past are Sean Connery, Ewan McGregor, Robin Williams, Dame Judi Dench and Michael Parkinson.

The source said: "There's a real buzz in the village.

"Steve Martin has already confirmed, so it looks like there's going to be a top turnout."
Sunday, August 14, 2005

New Steve Article #2
Toronto Star
Aug. 14, 2005. 11:04 AM

Steve Martin has reinvented himself three times so far in his long career, with his latest act being that of the serious artist and Renaissance Man. This phase includes turning his novella Shopgirl into an upcoming film, in which he co-stars with Claire Danes, above. Will there be an Act 4?

Funny man with a plan; From dervish to droll in 30 years

F. Scott Fitzgerald proved himself both a lousy prophet and mathematician when he made the famous observation that "there are no second acts in American lives."

Had the jazz-era scribe lived to watch the career of Steve Martin, who implausibly celebrates his 60th birthday today, he could have counted at least three acts in the funny man's remarkable career.

In Act One, Martin is the proverbial "wild and craaaazy guy," the arrow-through-the-head clown from Waco, Texas, who combines idiocy and intellect to redefine 1970s comedy.

He stands on stage in outlandish fake noses, arrow-through-the-head props and King Tut outfits, making balloon pets (a trick he learned at a Disneyland summer job), playing the banjo (honed at Knott's Berry Farm, another job) and generally acting the fool. A Rolling Stone cover story from 1977 depicts him as a madman in a box, dubbing him "Bananaland's Top Banana."

His sold-out shows, hit LPs, best-selling books and eagerly awaited Saturday Night Live appearances are a form of performance art. Martin sometimes pokes fun at himself, sometimes at others, most times at the whole idea of comedy. He conscripts his entire audience to assist him in mocking a poor mook who gets up from the show to go to the bathroom, and who returns to discover he's part of a colossal in-joke.

Martin tells a crowd of hundreds to follow him out of a concert venue to a drained swimming pool nearby, where he proceeds to swim laps atop their outstretched arms (did Martin invent moshing?) Another gang is cajoled into following him to a restaurant where they order a single French fry to go.

He tells conspiratorial stories of taking drugs, which he calls "getting small" — a term that briefly becomes a catch phrase.

Yet Martin's comedy increasingly tilts toward the intellectual and surreal, befitting a prematurely grey-haired man who studied philosophy at California State University, who dresses in tailored three-piece suits and who is a staunch vegetarian. He stops doing drugs and drinking to excess. Interviewers describe him as remarkably austere off stage.

His jokes make sense only in their exquisite timing and absurdist paranoia. Such as when he claims his pet cat is embezzling his cheques. Or robots are stealing his luggage. Or how the best way to apologize for shooting someone dead is to simply say, "I forgot the gun was loaded."

Act Two launches the movie career, beginning in 1978 with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a colossal bomb fashioned on Beatles songs. Martin plays smirking Dr. Maxwell Edison in a mercifully brief clip based on "Maxwell's Silver Hammer."

He survives unscathed and proceeds to his first starring role, in the hit 1979 Carl Reiner comedy The Jerk, co-written by Martin. He plays "a poor black sharecropper's son" who is too stupid to realize he's the only white boy on the plantation. Modelling his performance after Jerry Lewis, an early influence, as was sad clown Red Skelton, Martin demonstrates that his stage act can be successfully transferred to the screen.

At the same time, he makes a conscious decision to sober up his stage act. He still does sold-out tours of stand-up comedy, including a stop at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens, but he no longer uses the arrow prop and he stops referring to himself as the "wild and craaaazy guy." He tells interviewers he wants to get into a more serious brand of comedy, which for most comedians would be like handing a suicidal person a loaded gun.

Not for Martin. He demonstrates his new resolve in his next big movie, Pennies From Heaven, a Depression-era musical in which he sings and dances alongside Bernadette Peters, his co-star in The Jerk. The film brings mixed reviews and is only a modest success — people can't quite figure him out. But Martin and Peters are now dating, remaining a couple until about 1983.

That's the year Martin makes the hit body-switch comedy All of Me with British actress Victoria Tennant, whom he marries. They remain paired until their divorce a decade later.

A pattern quickly establishes itself in Martin's movie choices. He alternates between slapstick comedies (Three Amigos, Planes, Trains and Automobiles), grown-up charmers (Parenthood, Father of the Bride) and well-observed satires (Roxanne, L.A. Story). He's not universally applauded for his versatility. Movie biographer David Thomson scolds him in print for seeming false in his performances and for being "fundamentally averse to acting."

Martin will continue this pattern, his best work generally being the stories he writes himself. He also produces, but resists the director's chair, reasoning he's a performer, not a manager.

Act Three is Martin as the serious artist and Renaissance Man. Still a work in progress, it arguably begins with David Mamet's The Spanish Prisoner in 1997, Martin's first role as a truly evil man. He's an unscrupulous businessman out to dupe the unwitting inventor of a potentially lucrative financial innovation known as The Process.

Martin turns 50 shortly before making the movie and unwisely laments to an unsympathetic Esquire writer that he feels he's entering "my last viable decade." He frets about ever meeting a woman again whom he'll want to stay with. He's been left shattered by his last serious girlfriend, the actress Anne Heche, who is less than half his age and who leaves him for another woman. He wonders if he still has any new ideas left in him and ponders if his middle-age crisis has already passed, or is still to come.

His movies become both sillier (Cheaper by the Dozen, Bringing Down the House and the still-to-come Pink Panther remake) and more serious (Joe Gould's Secret, Novocaine and the still-to-come Shopgirl). He's that rare artist who can have movies simultaneously selling popcorn in multiplexes and filling seats at the Toronto International Film Festival.

While promoting Novocaine at that year's Toronto fest, a movie in which he plays a diabolical dentist (shades of Little Shop of Horrors) Martin tells the Star he doesn't think that much about his career.

"I just don't worry about it. I don't have a manager. I don't plot my career. I never have. I've never been clever enough."

The words sound disingenuous; Martin is a very clever man. He's also very astute. About this same time, he lets the public in a secret that he's a major collector of art, one who has steadily amassed a valuable collection of original art by the likes of Picasso, Hopper, Hockney and de Kooning.

His Picasso passion includes a play he wrote called Picasso at the Lapine Agile, about a mythical encounter between the artist and Albert Einstein. It receives good notices and will eventually become a movie by the same name.

Martin also contributes satirical essays to The New Yorker magazine, shaping his absurdist wit to suit a highbrow and high-heeled audience. One memorable piece describes in detail his attempt to have a child with the actress Gwyneth Paltrow, a woman he has never met and who has zero interest in him.

He becomes an occasional host for the Academy Awards, when Billy Crystal doesn't feel like doing it. He's appreciated, but it seems as if he could be Crystal's straight man. His madcap days seem further away than ever.

Will there be an Act Four for Martin? The wise person wouldn't bet against it. He remains as vigorous as always, but unpredictable in his choices. If he suddenly decided to become a champion whittler, a rodeo star or a monk, he'd find ways of making it work — and making it pay.

He continues to insist, as he did to the Star in 2001, that he's on a path with no map and with no ego to guide him.

"Whenever I get to thinking, `Should I do this, or should I do that?' I remember that no one is thinking about it but me. It really doesn't matter."

New Steve Article #1

KMT has been busy again.
Toronto Star

Aug. 14, 2005. 01:00 AM
Martin's magic you may have missed

That arrow through Steve Martin's head got stuck in everyone's mind. But his varied career has had some highlights that never reached that kind of immortality. Casual fans may want to check out:

Picasso at the Lapin Agile: Martin's droll play imagines Picasso and Einstein meeting in a Paris bistro in 1904. When one codger bemoans premature ejaculation, Germaine the barmaid retorts, "Is there any other kind?"

Shopgirl: Martin's first novella, now a movie starring the author, was awell-reviewed, if slight, tale of a doomed romance. "Back in the car, he suggests that she stay at his place for the night. Mirabelle takes this as an expression of his caring, which it is. It is just that his caring is a potion, mixed with one part benevolent altruist and one part chimpanzee penis."

Spanish Prisoner: A rare example of Martin playing the villain, and a scary one at that. It makes his humour all the sharper. As Jimmy Dell, a rich playboy with a hidden agenda, Martin gets hassled at an exclusive club when he is denied lunch privileges. "Are you sending me out for a burger?" he roars. He also utters a line which, in the case of the smiling Dell, is totally untrue: "Good people, bad people, they generally look like what they are."

Happy Birthday Steve

Today is Steve's 6oth birthday.

Since we can't give anything to Steve, other than warm wishes, here is something for you, the reader -- three clips of 1980's appearances on David Letterman's show. You can choose real player or windows media, although I couldn't get windows media to work.

Happy Birthday, Steve.

Steve sighting in Canada

from KMT.

Toronto Star
Aug. 7, 2005. 01:00 AM
Beach bums and old gits together

It was a big week for fans of rap, crackers and pop.

Steve Martin and Eugene Levy, working together in Cheaper by the Dozen 2, dined at Joso's on Wednesday. Art lover Martin checked out the art on Joso's walls and raved about the contemporary collection at the AGO.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Steve's foundation supports the banjo arts

...umm is right on top of things.
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Exhibitions Coming Soon
Picturing the Banjo
December 10, 2005 to March 6, 2006

The banjo has always played an integral role in American culture, music, and social history. For the first time, this instrument and the many images of it found in American art will be the focus of a major exhibition at the Corcoran entitled Picturing the Banjo.

On view from December 10, 2005 through March 6, 2006, Picturing the Banjo will explore how the banjo has been portrayed in paintings, drawings, photographs, and other artifacts dating from the eighteenth century through the present.

Originally brought to the United States by African slaves, the banjo has evolved into an almost iconic American instrument, seen in the hands of a cast of characters as varied as folk balladeers, traveling minstrels, vaudeville performers, and proper Gilded Age girls. Over the centuries, the banjo has inspired an eclectic array of American artists, a wide variety of which are represented in the exhibition. From the earliest known painting of a banjo (The Old Plantation, 1790, artist unknown), to contemporary African American artist Kara Walker's monumental mural (Narratives of a Negress, 2002-2003), the banjo figures prominently in the artistic stories Americans have told, and continue to tell, about themselves. Featured in the exhibition will be the Corcoran’s painting A Pastoral Visit by Richard Norris Brooke (1881).

Picturing the Banjo is organized by the Palmer Museum of Art of the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, with support from the Friends of the Palmer Museum of Art.

The Corcoran’s presentation is supported by the Steve Martin Charitable Foundation, Catherine Dail, an anonymous donor, and the President’s Exhibition Fund.

First hand account of the Nantucket Film Fest Steve appearance

I rarely blog first hand accounts of events (because people rarely give them to me), but this one is worth it. You may see a version of it someday published in something more official than this blog, but enjoy the preview. As of now, the author is using a pen name of sorts.

posted on the messageboards:
Aug 9, 2005 12:21 pm
by One Tiny Bite

What if there was someone on the planet who seemed to think exactly the same way you did? Who went out into the world, casting such a similar lens on things, that you were constantly given an eerie sense of having a completely shared sensibility. Then, to top it off, that person wrote about it (sometimes comically and sometimes seriously) and so did you. The difference being that one of you was very famous.

This was how I discovered Steve Martin, the clown-faced comedian whose silly, deliberately exaggerated exterior appeared to mask a person of an entirely opposite nature.

On Saturday, June 18th at 11:30 a.m. Steve Martin sat down in the Nantucket high school auditorium to be interviewed by Bravo’s James Lipton, a highlight of the Nantucket Film Festival’s 10th anniversary. The session began ominously when Lipton pulled out an 8” high stack of cyan-colored cards and began shuffling them. Were these really the questions he intended to ask in a one hour conversation? Did Lipton fear that every answer would be monosyllabic, as Martin had been known for sometimes being terse in such situations?

Lipton’s lavaliere microphone failed and failed again and as the festival organizers rushed to the stage, Martin rushed out too, from behind the curtain, and the crowd broke into laughter when the comedian pretended to repair the problem.

I had come simply to watch but as a journalist and writer/producer, I found myself taking furious mental notes and cursing my failure to bring a tape recorder or even pen and pencil.

Here are some of the things that were revealed about Martin over the course of that day:

1) Martin reported that he “wasn’t very motivated in high school” and that he went to Long Beach State College because it was “near my house.” “I didn’t think about good or great schools the way we do today,” he explained. I had the impression that he was sort of intellectually dormant until something about college awakened him to the idea that thinking people existed in the world.

2) Throughout the interview, Lipton kept grilling Martin about all sorts of minor trivia associated with his films, “Do you remember when you said…?” I thought this was rather tactless of Lipton and revealed a sort of insensitivity and self preoccupation (Look at what a great researcher I am!) that probably gets edited out of his “Inside The Actors’ Studio” shows. It quickly became clear that Martin prefers to focus on the here and now and almost never re-watches his old movies, never mind dwelling on the cinematic minutia.

3) I’ve always found Martin to be a funny dresser, kind of pushing the envelope for effect. On this particular day, he was wearing a pale plaid jacket (maybe seersucker), chartreuse socks and something on his feet that looked like a cross between bowling shoes (circa 1960) and the spikes worn by a competitive sprinter. Just as I was thinking they were the oddest things I’d ever seen on a man of 59, he blurted out, “And I wore the wrong shoes.”

4) Martin evidently wrote 40 odd drafts of “Roxanne.” He laughingly observed, “Sometimes I have to update the scripts, like from horse and buggy to automobile.”

5) The actor/writer largely spoke directly to the audience and he seemed to have an uncanny ability to read the mood in the room. How far could this particular group travel along an intellectual theme? Would they be willing to listen to discussion on quarks and obscure schools of philosophy? At what point would Lipton drag them both into scientific or career details that would be of little interest to the audience? Martin was ready to rein him in. And he did this with the skillful lasso of humor, making repeated calls for brevity. He knew this was not “My Dinner With Andre” or even Salman Rushdie. I was fascinated to observe the dual faces of the man – his skill at communicating as the self deprecating Everyman (what we see in so many of his films) and the other Martin (lurking cautiously beneath the surface) in fear of putting off his audiences with too much brain power.

6) Martin began to talk about his particular brand of comedy and how he saw the sea change away from political comedians in the early 70s. But then he said something quite unexpected, “I began to avoid punch lines to see what people would do with the humor.” I’m paraphrasing here but it was close to that. It was as though he resolved to experiment with two ideas simultaneously – one was that every comedian needed to be absolutely confident, “never desperate for laughs” and two, that these blank spaces (absences of comic resolution) would force the audience into someplace far better than simply finding themselves at a final closing point. I thought this might be like Keat’s negative capability and it maddened me that Lipton didn’t ask him to elaborate. But there were 6 more inches of cards to cover. I vowed to ask him to explain this further during the Q and A.

7) One of the most moving moments was when Martin discussed a scene in the beginning of “A Simple Twist Of Fate.” Based on the novel Silas Mariner, the tale begins when a drug addicted mother dies. In the film she pulls her car off the road. In the book, the small toddler wanders, frightened and alone, through the mist toward the glow of a fire in a distant window. As Martin was recounting this moment (in both book and film) he stammered and paused, on the verge of tears. This was so unlike anything I’d ever witnessed him do that I was quite astonished. I guess I believe that only people who experience a kind of deep, insatiable loneliness will understand why this was so poignant. I wondered at that moment if Lipton recalled the tiny sign in Martin’s apartment window in “LA Story.”

8) Another tidbit that might be of interest to some was how Martin began, early in his career, to “jot down everyday things” that he found to be humorous. This constant trolling of real life for humor is why I believe his brand of comedy is so gentle and resonates with such a broad spectrum of people. So much of modern humor is based on insult or just plain crudity (witness the decline of Saturday Night Live) and yet there are really dozens of incidents we witness every day that are quite hilarious when captured and distilled into the essence of a scene. It’s a delightful state of mind to forever experience the world this way. As a writer, you take the best of these moments, condense them, and apply sufficient exaggeration to trigger a reaction of laughter. I thought how I am always resorting to satire when I recount events to other people or write opinion pieces. It’s reflexive at this point in my life. Martin suddenly remarked, “I live in a state of perpetual satire.” Again, I’m paraphrasing -- slightly.

9) The Sconset Casino is a homely place, nothing more than a dull-colored tennis court badly united with a main room where events can be held on a small scale. On Saturday evening, red carpet lined the entryway to add a touch of glamour but it seemed somehow vaguely ridiculous. Supposedly the Nantucket Film Festival had wanted to give this screenwriter’s tribute to Martin before but he was unable to attend. My sense was that he was barely there this time. The room was packed with industry sponsors, the old, grey and powerful and the young, nervous, and aspiring. The walls were decorated with posters from many of Martin’s better known films. The actor/writer wore a striped suit of what appeared to be silk and participated in the sort of polite, idle chit chat that people make while marking time before something of consequence happens. Behind him Macauley Culkin and some other youthful actors chain-smoked and acted silly in their beat-up shirts and jeans. I had the distinct impression that Martin was virtually looking through people, readying himself for the performance of “Being Steve Martin Accepting The Tribute,” the grateful millionaire who first beat out a young Lorne Michaels for an Emmy and now was recognizable anywhere on the planet. In real life the quality of his intensity is immediately apparent but not overwhelming. Perhaps this is because the man has managed his career so well that at nearly 60 he is still a huge box office draw, making films that you can actually watch with your children. There is nothing left to prove. Yet, I wondered, did he live in that life or in another world of novelists, musicians, artists, scholars – the frequently broke but the brilliant? Perhaps he simply straddled them, tonight somewhere inside number 1, feeding the celebrity machine that requires constant feeding and attention. There had been no Q and A after the high school interview. Lipton had exceeded his time allotment by over half an hour and Martin had made it clear he was ready to wrap. I still wanted to ask for the elaboration and to understand what Martin planned to do next with the Martin/Stein production company. This was the one subject neglected by Lipton. But I waited too long. It was time for the main event and Martin was hurried off to sit stage front and center while Brian Williams did the first of several introductions. Williams reminded us all of how rich he (Williams) was, how spoiled his children were, how they’d arrived in their own jet, while carrying on about red tide and other aspects of summering in Nantucket. He’d been to Iraq – making a quick tour in a bullet-proof suit, surrounded by armed military. This part of the story was actually connected to Martin because the commanding officer had told his troops to “get small.” I was thinking to myself, “You ain’t no Edward R. Murrow, more like, say, Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore, playing the part of the suave anchor who seldom leaves creature comforts behind.” A few minutes later Martin leapt to the stage and observed that Williams should be given “the award for Pierce Brosnan look-alike.”
Saturday, August 06, 2005

Fly the Friendly Steve -- American Airlines mag
American Airlines
Celebrated Weekend
Another L.A. Story
by Mark Seal

Steve Martin is a wealthy businessman in Shopgirl and a bumbling detective in The Pink Panther. He's somewhere in between as he leads us on a trip through the heart and soul of Beverly Hills.

"I really didn't see Beverly Hills, at least in my consciousness, until I was 21," Steve Martin says, recalling his first glimpse of the place that has become his hometown. We're doing our best to squeeze into a 45-minute telephone interview a mythical place whose name alone is a metaphor for fortune and fame.

Martin grew up in nearby Orange County, where he commuted to jobs selling trinkets and guidebooks at Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. At 21, he was a comedy writer, freshly hired for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Dick and Tommy Smothers invited him to dinner, and after he cleaned his plate at the storied Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the brothers did a very Beverly Hills thing, which still thrills him.

"It was the first time I ever saw anyone treat," he says. "They treated the writers to dinner. I was 21 years old, and nobody treated anybody. I thought, 'What a cool thing to do!' I think they influenced me. Today, I try to pick up the tab as much as possible."

Now, the actor/comedian/director/best-selling novelist/playwright can afford to pick up as many tabs as he wants. But I'm willing to pay my own way as long as Martin shows me where to go. Investigating his hometown proves to be a task worthy of Inspector Clouseau, the French detective that Peter Sellers made famous and which Martin revives this February in The Pink Panther. Beverly Hills is a place whose boundaries are vague and whose citizens are elusive. But its charms, Martin insists, are on display for anyone who visits.

"The strangest thing is, it was kind of a small town [when I first became aware of it], and the point I'm going to make is, it actually still is, in its own sweet way," he says.

"Try to make me interesting," Martin says, when I finish peppering him with questions, demanding names, places, details. He provides a pretty good description of what he calls "Beverly Hills and its environs," which might do for a normal city. But this is Beverly Hills. That requires something more, something extra. So I do the only sensible thing: escape my desk in the flatlands of Texas, slip on my best strategically torn jeans, white shirt, and blue blazer, and fly off to the West Coast. There, I rent a vintage convertible, slide on a pair of sunglasses, and insert Steve Martin's Guide to Beverly Hills into the cassette player.

"It was a place I would pass through," Martin is saying above the roar of the 405 Freeway. "There were a lot of shops that I couldn't afford to go into. I left when I was about 25 and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico; and then I lived in Aspen, Colorado; and then I came back home, came back to L.A. But you have to understand that L.A. was very smoggy then, and so it was a place to leave. They cleaned it up! So when I came back, I was very surprised. They actually did something about it, and now it seems like it is very sunny and has bright, breathable days. It made it more like home."

From the 405, I take the Santa Monica Boulevard exit and drive east. Turning right on Rodeo Drive -- always pronounced Ro-day-o -- I enter a different world. The Los Angeles of strip centers, billboards, and disarray becomes orderly, clean, civilized. The sky is as blue as the topaz in the endless jewelry-shop windows, and the sun turns the white concrete brilliant, as if the whole scene were lit like a movie set, making the world's most famous street come alive. There are flowers and sculptures, and the median is festooned with Herb Ritts's and Mario Testino's "Rodeo Drive Walk of Style" photographs. The three-block-long string of shops that Martin once couldn't afford to shop at are lined up like starlets: Gucci, YSL, Ralph Lauren, and the new Rem Koolhaas-designed Prada store, an indescribably futuristic structure in which mannequins are submerged in see-through, Plexiglas-covered manholes in the floor. Everything seems familiar, because it is -- from movies and television. It's practically a costar in Pretty Woman.

"That's what Beverly Hills is: a place where big companies have their flagships," Martin is saying from the speakers of my car. "There's a lot of money poured into Beverly Hills."

Every other car is a Mercedes, a BMW, or a Ferrari, and the citizenry seems divided into two groups: locals and tourists, the locals discernible by their always-open cell phones, the tourists by their openmouthed stares. There is a mind-set at work here: of being in the epicenter of something -- of being "close," as Chili Palmer, the mobster-turned-movie producer in Elmore Leonard's novel Get Shorty, said. "You're close." Close to the heat, the fire, the magic of the movies...

"I view Beverly Hills, really, as about eight streets long and three streets wide," Martin says. "I'm talking about the little sort of shopping areas. It's Rodeo Drive. Wilshire. And then from Canon to Bedford or Rexford or something like that. I still don't know the names of the streets. Beverly Hills is very close to everything. You can get from Beverly Hills to downtown L.A. in, like, 25 minutes. It's really well located, and it's very pretty. It just has the feeling of an old-fashioned town, even though that's a contradiction almost -- an old-fashioned town, except everything is a million dollars."

But money isn't the only reason it's a different kind of old-fashioned town. From my convertible, I can hear snippets of only-in-Beverly Hills conversations.

"What's her sign? You've got to know her sign!"

"I saw her post-op, and she already looks amazing!"

"Do you have a minute for the environment?"

That last one comes from a hawker with a clipboard. He's practically leaning into the convertible, but I escape with a swift right turn. Not that I'm uninterested in the environment, but the only litter I see in Beverly Hills are the occasional Styrofoam packing peanuts strewn across the gleaming sidewalks.

"In the book Shopgirl, she [the main character, a salesgirl named Mirabelle] works in Beverly Hills at Neiman's -- But she really lives in Silverlake, which is a much more modest student/artist community," Martin says. "I talk about the drive from Beverly Hills to Silverlake, which is like a Monopoly board, where you would go from very expensive to very inexpensive. It literally takes place over one street, Beverly."

Beverly Boulevard practically spans the length of L.A. But I'm not ready to go there, not yet anyway. From Rodeo, I turn right on Wilshire and pass the monolithic honor guard of megaretailing, all obediently lined along the street: first NikeTown, then Barneys New York, then Saks and, finally, Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills, the setting for much of Martin's first novel, Shopgirl, the story of a lovelorn young woman who works at the glove counter of Neiman Marcus. (The soon-to-be-released Shopgirl movie is set in Saks Beverly Hills, not Neiman's. "It wasn't that big a difference," Martin says.

But as I cruise the streets, Martin is imploring me to look deeper. Beverly Hills is more than glitz; its heart isn't a cash register. The place has a soul.

"The landmarks are now big clothing stores. I don't think of them affectionately or I just don't really notice them anymore. It's like stores changing all the time. Now it's Prada, Armani, and everything. Especially on one or two streets; those aren't my landmarks. The landmarks to me are the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, which has a beautiful, beautiful facade, and, of course, the Beverly Hills Hotel. That's from a period I call 'Hollywood heyday.' "

Since Beverly Hills has the dimensions of a small town, you can see everything in a half hour. I begin the tour, as Martin instructs, with the Beverly Hills Hotel, a pink-and-green edifice whose every inch is the essence of Southern California, and then move on to the Peninsula, in the heart of Beverly Hills. ("Very, very nice. It's a good place for tea or lunches. It's very good food, really nice.") It's next door to the I.M. Pei-designed Creative Artists Agency building. Then, on the other side of the city limits, bleeding into West Hollywood, is the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, whose lobby and bar are always a melange of A-list actors, rap stars, and wannabes. Whether it's actually in Beverly Hills or West Hollywood is something that locals like Martin don't even know; it's of no matter. It's the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. Fiction is always much more important than facts in
Beverly Hills.

But enough sightseeing. It's time for the local midday ritual. At one p.m. sharp, the conga line of imported cars queue up at valet parking stands at Spago and Crustacean and a dozen other restaurants, the strivers leaping out and heading for lunch. Martin was hesitant to name specific restaurants -- "Because then people go there to hunt me down," he says -- but, with just a little pressure, he names quite a few.

"There's the Farm of Beverly Hills, very nice, good, wholesome food, California food. There used to be a really nice Chinese restaurant called the Mandarin. It just recently closed, but it had been open for years. I was sorry to see it go. One reason we used to go there was because it was always empty. That's why it closed. There's the Urth Caffe on Melrose. It's a Zen-health, happening spot. I've only been there for, like, brunch, Sunday tea."

The Farm sounds good. Parking in a $12-an-hour Beverly Boulevard subterranean parking structure, I walk onto the patio, which looks like a dozen other patios at lunchtime in Beverly Hills. But inside you'd think you were in Iowa: farm implements and pitchforks and giant farm animals. "Fresh Off the Farm," the T-shirts proclaim, as young Beverly Hills sits down to lunch. There's a 15-minute wait, which the attendant says she can assuage by giving me a goat cheese salad to go. "You can eat in the park," she says. I figure Martin didn't mean for me to eat in the park, so I wait for the table, studying the menu and advertisements urging me to send the Farm's famous brownies as gifts: "If it's good enough for celebs to mail, it's good enough for you." After lunch, I'm back in the convertible, and Martin is sending me on an architectural tour, beginning with, of all places, the police station.

"Beverly Hills is very well run. Unfortunately, they are doing away with the street parking, turning it into all valet parking, but they've left some. There is a good police force, and they've got guys on bicycles, police on bicycles, so it has a very small-town feel -- [The police station is] beautiful, they did a great job with some kind of Moroccan/Moorish look."

Past Beverly Hills' main gas station -- a fantastic Union 76 with an enormous swooping orange awning -- I turn in front of a jet-black Bentley and into the complex that includes the Beverly Hills City Hall, with the famous courthouse where the celebrity DWI and shoplifters are rustled; past the Beverly Hills Fire Department, where fire engines are gleaming like new Porsches behind glass; and toward the police station. It's a world unto itself, sort of a Disneyland of municipal government and law enforcement -- everything in blinding white.

From there, it's on to the Flats, residential streets lousy with stars and lined with incredible trees, each street different from the next. It gets my vote as the most beautiful street in America.

"The Flats are north of Santa Monica, south of Sunset," Martin says. "I lived in the Flats of Beverly Hills for about 15 years. They have beautiful, beautiful trees. I used to live on Bedford, the one with palm trees. Then there's Elm and all of that. All the streets have matching trees. Like Bedford is completely palm trees, another street would be completely elm trees, and another street would be something else -- Most of the houses have been modified, which is an unfortunate thing to happen to Beverly Hills. First, it started with what we call "authentic" Spanish homes from the '20s and '30s, and some of them were torn down to build uncontrollable houses that were too big and too high. It used to be a little community and now it's a little more of a show palace for a certain kind of taste. But it's still beautiful."

You can see them for the cost of a gallon of gas. But, Martin says, there's much more, architecturally, to see in Beverly Hills. There is the ridiculous, like the Rite Aid drug store he described in his second novel, The Pleasure of My Company, as "splendidly antiseptic. I bet the floors are hosed down every night with isopropyl alcohol." There's also the sublime, including the new Richard Meier-designed Museum of Television and Radio and the venerable Anderton Court Center, a fantastic space-age Frank Lloyd Wright-designed tiny shopping center in the middle of Rodeo Drive.

"I'm sure that developers are dying to tear it down, but that would be criminal. It was built there a long, long time ago. So it's one of the survivors."

After a long day in the car, I'm ready to run, hike, bike, or yoga. Martin has lots of suggestions. But mostly he rides, biking from Beverly Hills into the woody surroundings above and beyond the city limits.

"I would go up into Bel Air on my bike, from the Flats, or I would go south, south of Beverly Hills, past Rodeo and down past Wilshire and into the parks in Century City. All over. For hiking, there's Runyon Canyon, which is a really nice, big, steep walk, a lot of people there."

It sounds better discussed about than actually done, so I keep cruising and see another only-in-Beverly Hills phenom: office after office of plastic surgery clinics.

When night descends, I'm thinking about L.A. Story, the 1991 movie that Martin wrote and starred in as Harris K. Telemacher. He attempts to land a reservation at an upscale L.A. French restaurant called L'Idiot (pronounced Leedy-O), only to be interrogated about his finances by the Fourth Reich Bank of Hamburg. "He can't have the duck!..." the chef snorts. "He can have the chicken."

I'm sitting in Spago Beverly Hills, which, while pricey, is a great, easygoing place (no financial statements required), perfect to watch the crowd that passes by the bar. A suited local storms in like he's in a parade, greeting three middle-aged, easy-to-spot out-of-towners with the line, "Welcome to Beverly Hills!" But Martin says the movie restaurant L'Idiot is merely "exaggeration," another case of fiction being more important than fact.

"The Grill is a very important restaurant for showbiz. It's just that they have great, great food, and it caters more toward the business end of show business than the celebrity end, but it's really a nice, nice restaurant and they keep the quality of the food really high. It's kind of on the alley. You don't really go into the alley, though."

I pull up to the Grill's valet parking stand on the alleyway behind Wilshire Boulevard and step into another stage set: a New York steak house, transplanted. It's packed and noisy, with precisely one empty stool at the bar, which holds a woman's purse. She removes it with a flourish and says, "Sit right down!" without taking her eyes off the basketball game on the television overhead. By 7:30, agents, studio heads, lawyers, and their clients are streaming through the door, taking every available table and leaving a long waiting list.

Back in the convertible, I toss a five to the valet guys (the fee is $4.50 everywhere) and pop in the cassette to see where Martin is sending me next, which I hope is to dinner. But he's still talking about shopping.

"It's a walking town, too," he says. "You can walk around Beverly Hills. It is very nice after dinner to just take a walk and window-shop. You can go down Rodeo, up Beverly, and just look in the windows. It's very quiet in the evenings."

Rodeo Drive is so quiet at 7:45 that almost every parking spot is empty, quite the opposite of only a few hours before. Back then, every spot was perpetually taken, and I was blasted with a dirge of honking if I dared to even pause a millisecond for a spot to clear. Strolling up Rodeo, I immediately realize Martin is right: It's better at night. The air has turned chilly, like a New England summer, and I have the famous street all to myself. I walk beneath endless designer logos, window-shopping the bedecked windows. Then I climb the street called Via Rodeo, the hilly cobblestone shopping village of high-end boutiques, salons, and bistros, which, a tour guide proclaimed in Pretty Woman, "is the first new street built in Beverly Hills in 75 years!" There's a re-creation of the Spanish Steps, a fountain perfect for tossing coins into, two hours of free valet parking, and tables full of outdoor diners, which, on the evening of my visit, included one Via Rodeo tenant, Elizabeth Taylor's longtime hairdresser, Jose Eber.

It's nine by the time I get back to the car, and Martin's dispatching me away from Beverly Hills Proper and into Beverly Hills Adjacent.

"There are Beverly Hills-type restaurants like the Ivy. It's really nice, but that's what they call Beverly Hills adjacent to West Hollywood. There's Chaya, which is a really nice restaurant adjacent to Beverly Hills."

The Ivy is straight out of the movies. The see-and-be-seen are sitting at flowered tablecloths on a patio beyond a white picket fence. Yes, it's Beverly Hills Adjacent, but in a town where fiction always triumphs over facts, the Ivy is, as Martin promised, 100 percent Beverly Hills. I'm shoehorned into a tiny, pillow-festooned table that adjoins a table of six wildcat Beverly Hills women, their voices as loud and emphatic as machine guns. They are women straight out of a Steve Martin novel, where people have names like Loki and Del Rey. They riddle the topics of the day: men, music, sex, Botox, pilates, and how their feng shui guy just can't seem to get things right. I hang on to their every syllable, as if I'm part of their convivial group, even offering to pony up a five-spot when, divvying up their bill six ways, one of them falls $5 short. They stare at me like I'm an alien, an adjacent instead of Beverly Hills proper, and I want to proclaim, "Steve Martin sent me!" But they're gone in a percussion of high heels on concrete, one accidentally slapping me in the face with her scarlet snakeskin purse as she rushes off.

Since Martin isn't around to pick up the tab, I pay my bill and bid good night to the valet parkers.

Back in the car, Steve provides a perfect coda to the night.

"That's another thing about Beverly Hills. People are really, really nice. At least to me."

(MARK SEAL is an American Way contributing editor whose work has also appeared in Vanity Fair, Esquire, Playboy, and Time.)
Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Steve in designer reading glasses
Comedic Actors & Soap Stars
By Gina White

Not everyone makes a successful transition from Saturday Night Live to film, but both Rob Schneider and Steve Martin have put out some wildly popular movies; Martin has enjoyed critical success for many of his movies as well. Check out the eyewear they're using for their recent movies, as well as what some of ABC's soap stars wore in the bright Florida sun this winter.

Steve Martin wears Contempora 658 eyeglasses in his new movie Bringing Down the House. In the film, Martin meets a woman (played by Queen Latifah) through an online dating service; mayhem ensues when she breaks out of prison to be with him.


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