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Quakes, smog, riots, traffic, carjackings, the recession, troubled schools, beautiful--but shallow--people . . . These days, everybody loves to bash our city. So we asked a few Angelenos (the famous and the not): If things are so bad . . . : Why Stay in L.A.?

April 04, 1993|Richard Rouilard | Richard Rouilard is senior editorial consultant to the Los Angeles Times Magazine.

Why ask for the moon when we have the stars?" the divine Bette Davis insisted at the end of the 1942 Warner Bros. classic "Now, Voyager."

Listen to Bette. So we have a little pollution, a little traffic, a little civil unrest, a little budget problem, 26 strange people running for mayor. Let's not be greedy. We've got the stars.

In truly hideous Paramus, N.J., they have to wait in line in the freezing cold for hours at department stores where celebs are hawking their newest perfumes. Fans nearly kill each other trying to get a glimpse of Madonna at the Cannes Film Festival.

I danced with Madonna at a club. Anyone could have, except for Warren Beatty, her date, who was tired (of Madonna, apparently) and not dancing with anyone.

In Los Angeles, the stars are at your fingertips. Hang out at the Pavilions supermarket in West Hollywood and you will spot Carol Kane or Jackie Collins among the exotic fruit. Paul Bartel, Sharon Stone and Gena Rowlands shop for chicken breasts at Chalet Gourmet.

My favorite stargazing arena is the Rose Bowl Swap Meet. Once, I followed James Spader around for about an hour. A scintillating experience, I felt as though I had gained profound insight into his life.

He was looking for lamps. He didn't want anything new. He favored rusted wrought iron. I spent the rest of the day wondering if this was a metaphor.

And sometimes you can make stars wait for you.

The other night, I was dining at star-laden Matsuhisa on La Cienega. I just couldn't get enough of the yellow tuna collars and continued ordering long after I should have given up my table.

Comedian Albert Brooks and lawyer-to-the-stars Jake Bloom kept on peeking into the dining room, staring at my table. I realized I was holding them up. I ordered more tuna collars.

If you want to spend a little money, try Le Dome for lunch or Morton's, Spago, Tatou or the Monkey Bar for dinner.

One night at restaurateur Mario Oliver's Tryst (he was Princess Stephanie's boyfriend a while back), rock star Billy Idol strutted in with a gaggle of tall blondes in short dresses. Diners, including Harry Hamlin seated at the table next to mine, stopped eating.

The gaggle seemed to all have the same large-sized breasts.

How could that have happened?

The only spontaneous viewing I've had outside of Los Angeles was at Elaine's restaurant in Manhattan. And the star was Woody Allen (pre-molestation accusations.) The diners were falling all over each other, pointing, trying to get his attention. Their behavior was appalling.

Angelenos know that you view a star through your peripheral vision, whispering to the person you're with about the intimacies in the star's life that you've gleaned from the National Enquirer.

Stars are part of our world in Los Angeles. We do not point or stare, except on Oscar night, when that's what they want us to do.

So if L.A. prospects look a tad gloomy, just remember, you could be stuck at the Paramus mall waiting to grab a whiff of Sarah Jessica Parker and her new eau de toilette.

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