GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Face in the Crowd

One day I was having lunch in Art's delicatessen in Studio City. This was before the big earthquake and Art's still had its counter-space. Always a popular lunch spot, Art's seemed to attract a lot of celebrities from the area which included the nearby CBS Cinema Center where Steve McQueen's grey Porsche 911S was frequently seen in its chained-off parking spaces--Steve got two.

Like most delicatessen's I've known, Art's tended to be a noisy environment--good food, loud talk. As I was having lunch with my companion, a gentleman in the booth across the way caught my attention saying, "Excuse me, but aren't you a director?" I told him that I was, thinking he had assumed from my general appearance that I wasn't an accountant. Then he asked, "Aren't you the film director who does that interview series on cable TV--the one with the fictional authors?" Again, I confirmed his suspicion but now I was curious. "How did you know?" I asked him. "I recognized you," he said. I thought about this for a moment before an obvious question came to my mind.

"How could you recognize me," I asked, "since I'm never seen and my voice is heard off-camera posing the questions?" Without missing a beat, he answered, "I recognized your voice." I thought it extraordinary that a stranger would recognize my voice in a crowded and noisy deli. "How many of the shows have you seen?" I asked. "Lots of them," was the answer. I had a fan!

Of the 500 or so half-hour interviews I produced for the series, there was only one in which I appeared on camera as the author. I wasn't prepared for the recognition that came from the show. I would be stopped in the gym by people who had believed the interview was as real as Charlie Rose and wanted to comment about the book the fictional character had written. Walking along the sidewalk in Brentwood, I would hear people call out, "Sean Miles!" which was the name of the fictional character I played. At the L.A. Coliseum watching Raiders football games, I noticed people pointing me out and making comments to their friends. The character I played had been a homicide detective who, it was suspected, had been killing suspects of violent crimes instead of arresting them. It was a sign of public frustration, I think, that most of those who approached me were very supportive of Sean Miles. An unarmed public can but hope for the best, I suppose.

Recalling this, I am reminded of just how powerful is the medium of television. It also validated my decision to remain off camera--with the one exception--when doing the series as I don't know how people in the public eye cope with the recognition that occurs everywhere they go. I remember seeing A Face in the Crowd, the film directed by Elia Kazan starring Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal and Anthony Franciosa which dealt admirably with this aspect of working in media.

I wonder why--in this era of reality shows--no one has thought to re-make this film.

1 comment:

Chad Glass said...

I've encountered personal microscopic levels of local fame before so I know how it can be to be recognized in public. It is both flattering and sometimes uncomfortable. I tend to prefer people to recognize me who share more of my own interests and world views than just a wide sampling of people who I have nothing in common with. I mean, both conditions can be interesting, and have engaging moments, but I prefer the former.