Living in Los Angeles, I'm sure I see lots of celebrities but I rarely recognize them, mostly because they look so regular. Disappointingly so. There's John Hamm in his flannel shirt and little newsboy cap; he looks like every other wannabe actor, when I want him to look like Don Draper. If I do recognize an actor, it's usually because they are so small. Reese Witherspoon comes to mind, but then the fact that she was with Jake Gyllenhaal helped, and that she looks so very, distinctly Reese Witherspoon. When Alicia Keys walked into Osteria Mozza Sunday evening while I was eating at the Mozzarella Bar, it's not that I didn't recognize her, I just didn't actually know what she looked like. There was a lot of Grammy buzz in the restaurant, in the whole town, already, but when she walked in with a guy wearing a wine-colored velvet dinner jacket, I figured she had to be what's commonly referred to as "someone."
There was the hair in the beautiful up-do. The tight black dress and the dramatic, gold cuff-style necklace. And then there was her face — a masterpiece in small-featured perfection. That's the thing about some famous people that I do see — they are just so much better looking than the rest of us that it makes it quickly apparent that when we (you know we) moved to New York just after college hoping to catch the Famous Bus, we really didn't stand a chance. So I was already onto the idea that she was someone when the friend with whom I was dining took a break from what he renamed The One Percent Tripe (because the stomach lining, usually poor man's fare, is braised in champagne at Mozza), turned around to get a look. He probably would have recognized her since he's in show biz if he could see anything but the back of her head. Instead he said, "Look at her shoes!"
I turned around again and looked down, expecting to see some kind of crazy platforms fit for a drag queen or like those crazy things Gwyneth wore during her performance at last year's Grammys. Instead, I saw the white terry cloth slip-on slippers, the kind you get next to your bed at four-star hotels. Although, yes, it killed the dress, now I knew she was someone. But in L.A. you learn not to look, the same way you learn to walk by movie sets on the street in New York. So I turned my back to them and went on enjoying a stomach lining fit for Mitt, and when I got home and turned on my pre-recorded Grammys, there she was — that face offset by that up-do, with that voice, singing that song... in shoes fit for a drag queen.