Last night, I joined my autograph-hound friend, lovable mailman Rich, at an obscenely crowded reading/signing for the book Lights, Camera...Travel! (Lonely Planet) edited by Andrew McCarthy and Don George. Along with the editors (including Mr. Doe Eyes himself!), contributors scheduled to appear included Alec Baldwin (who's lost weight and looks terrific...mayoral run?), Paulina Porizkova, Anthony Edwards, Bob Balaban and Sandra Bernhard. Not bad!
I showed up after Rich, who'd kindly somehow saved me a spot on a long bench. There were only a few rows of seating in McNally Jackson's lower level, and as the place filled up, I came to appreciate that bench. It was a mob scene, and the signing afterward promised to be a clusterfuck.
I overheard some guys razzing a girl who claimed to be a movie and TV blogger who made the mistake of confessing to them that she'd never seen Star Wars or Star Trek. "And you wonder why nobody visits your blog???" the guy chortled. Star Wars is mentioned a lot in situations where people are gathered to get the autographs of famous people.
The first bummer was finding out McCarthy had taken a last-minute trip to New Zealand so wouldn't be there.
The reading started and was shockingly long. I had figured they'd each say something brief and get to signing, but as it turns out, the lion's share of the people who'd come just wanted to hear them read and gawk at them, not actually buy a book, so it was lucky that each contributor read a healthy hunk of his or her piece.
The book being all about travel, the stories were about a slew of exotic places. And also Los Angeles.
Bob Balaban had an interesting story about the making of The Mexican; far more interesting than The Mexican, actually. And he also answered a question from Twitter that led to a great anecdote about the making of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
But then came the night's second bummer—Balaban had to split and wouldn't be around to sign copies.
Paulina Porizkova's story was really smart and thoughtful, a tale of Communism vs. capitalism that sounded some painful notes about why animals really should just kill all humans on sight.
Anthony Edwards read a beautiful piece about his family going on a trip around the world only to have their trusted pilot die in China. He was choking up by the end, which made it all the weirder that during one part, Bernhard and Baldwin were chatting and giggling briefly; this did not go unnoted by Edwards, who gave them a sidelong glance.
Bernhard's piece was not up my alley; it was a mediation on fabulous Morocco, her second trip there and first trip as a mom. She read some of the words like she was seeing them for the first time, but I don't mean to come down too hard on her—reading your own writing is a killer, trust me.
Finally, it was Baldwin's turn. He'd spent the evening making bizarre faces while the others read, everythign from what looked like psyching himself up to what looked like stifling a yawn to what looked like an SNL sketch in the making. But his story, about his previous hatred for L.A., was touching and hilarious, and he read it perfectly. Still, he contributed the third bummer of the night when it was announced he couldn't stay for the signing, either.
It was unbelievable how quickly the crowd thinned once that happened! Come on, people—buy the $13 book! But I'm glad they didn't, as that meant we were outta there quickly. Got signatures from Porizkova (told her I loved Anna—"Thank you!"—and some, but not all, of her HuffPo pieces—"Thank you again!"), Edwards and the always gracious Bernhard, who I feel I am soft-stalking at this point. I also got pictures with everyone, which I hadn't expected...I looked like shit and had been squinting through my reading glasses while filming, but whaddayagonnado?
I could be mistaken, but it looked like Sandra was coating up to leave mid-way through the rather short line of autograph-seekers. Hope they got theirs as I'm sure some had traveled from all across the...city.