Movie star sightings in my hometown of Bartlesville have not always been common, aside from the good old days of Tom Mix and Ben Johnson. But with the arrival of Apple Studios and the adaptation of Killers of the Flower Moon, our community and the state of Oklahoma continue to grow in their roles as locations for the film industry. Which means we will see more movie stars milling about town which is fun and gossip inducing. However, without the benefit of filtered lenses and make-up artists, my interactions with Hollywood royalty seem more mundane.
Case in point, Dermot Mulroney, who once received a rude introduction to the gales of Oklahoma. I know this because he called me once after he left his front door ajar while walking his dog. He asked me to repair his Gramercy townhome door latch after the wind caught the door and slammed it shut. In these everyday moments I became an indentured Hollywood puppet, obliged to cater to the stars while fixing door locks and unclogging toilets.
In this intersection of fame and reality, the cast of August Osage County, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Sam Shepherd, Chris Cooper, Dermot Mulroney, and others stayed at our Gramercy community in 2012 while filming. The cast often gathered at Streep’s Gramercy townhouse to partake of stuffed goat cheese chicken and imbibe glasses of wine while watching the Presidential debates.
We found The Gramercy Lofts, and put all the cast there. So literally, Meryl was next door to Julia, who was next door to Chris, who was next door to Margo. Margo and Meryl are both excellent cooks, and they would cook most nights for the cast. They would get together in the evenings at Meryl’s house and rehearse for the next day.John Wells, Director, August: Osage County Cultural Weekly December 2013
I hung out next door with the security guard who was from Philadelphia. We talked about the best place to get cheesesteaks and how the Phillies and Eagles were faring while doing bicep curls. I sensed that he had a great pair of biceps along with the other gun he was hiding under those loose fitting sweats. He was a regular guy and I felt comfortable talking with him about anything but Hollywood.
Meanwhile, I love Meryl Streep and think her acting is remarkable, and yet I was within a few feet of her and I avoided eye contact while walking in the other direction. And I watched Julia Roberts wearing cut off jean shorts and a ragged tank top while she hung out with her 8 year old twins who were riding bikes in the street outside my window. I waited until they were gone before walking to my car for fear of saying something I would regret like, “Hello!”, or “Is that the best you can do with the shorts?”
I see friends roaming the streets and alleys searching for movie stars in Bartlesville like some sort of Hollywood scavenger hunt. Some locals are applying for extra roles in the new movie that will begin filming soon. My son-in-law for instance who has a lot of facial hair which is appropriate because apparently, folks around the town of Gray Horse had copious amounts of facial hair one hundred years ago. But I must confess. I’m afraid of movie stars and jealous of my college buddy who once carried on a long conversation with Cybill Shepherd, a woman I had planned to marry before Karen came along. Cybill was wearing sunglasses, not a bit of makeup, and seemed remarkably ordinary as my friend described their encounter in the Memphis airport.
But, I get along nicely with the people out of camera range. Had a steak once with a film production man, a down to earth fellow from solid Vermont farming stock. Although I shy away from tinsel town talent, my wife is a legendary chaser of stars.
Once in a Tulsa Airport restroom, my wife and Kristin Chenoweth talked like old friends about how to operate electronically dispensed paper towel machines while drying their hands. And while vacationing in Orlando, after exiting the Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster at Universal Studios, Karen overhead some girls breathlessly mentioning that John Travolta had entered through a back door and was riding the coaster continuously with his son. Before I could process this information into any meaningful behavior, Karen was gone. She sprinted back into the ride area searching for the man she was going to marry before I entered the picture (think Grease rather than Pulp Fiction). While this ended well for me (she did not find him inside) Mr. Travolta saw a reduction in meaningful movie roles since that time, unless you count Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. I’m sure our ships passing in the night has nothing to do with this career downturn.
Beauty is after all, in the eye of the beholder, and as we share our streets and restaurants and homes with lovely and graceful movie stars in the coming days, perhaps it is good to remember that they are pretty much like everyone else, but only a little bit more so than we want to admit.