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THE INSIDE TRACK | T.J. SIMERS

'Driven' to Distraction in Interview With Rambo

April 18, 2001|T.J. SIMERS

Got a return call from Sylvester Stallone. I can't get to USC President Steven Sample, but I snap my fingers and Rambo comes running.

Right from the start I'm guessing he's not very bright because he's a movie star and he never changed his first name.

I've also been advised that he doesn't have much of a sense of humor, as if anyone needs to tell me that after watching him in "Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot."

In that case, I figure he's good for two questions before he hangs up. My older daughter says, "Three. Remember, he's a tough guy."

I'm eager to ask about his mother, who is a self-proclaimed "rumpologist" who gives psychic readings of the buttock prints of celebrities. I'm hoping maybe he can set it up so his mother takes a look at the grocery bagger's butt, so we can find out if he ever makes it out of the store.

*

RIGHT AWAY STALLONE makes it clear he wants to talk about "Driven," his new auto racing movie. I tell him I couldn't care less about auto racing.

I don't hear anything on the other end of the phone. I figure he's mulling it over in his head--what's the box-office potential for "Rocky MCV" with Rocky beating the . . . out of a mouthy Page Two sports columnist?

"What got me about racing is who is the guy in the helmet?" Stallone says. Frankly, I never thought it was that tough to figure out--they have their names on their helmets, their racing suits, their cars, their pit crews. . . .

*

I ASK HIM why he makes sports movies only about sports no one cares about. I remind him he has played a soccer goalie, a mountain climber, a boxer, a road rally racer, and appeared as a puck, I mean, punk in a hockey documentary. I'm corrected later--he played himself in the hockey documentary.

As I'm going down the list, I suggest this is his chance to apologize to all of mankind for making "Over the Top," an arm-wrestling stinker.

"I was drunk--didn't see the script clearly," he says, and I think he's waiting for me to laugh, but I take him seriously because I've seen the movie.

*

LOOKING BACK, I think that's where the interview began to go downhill.

I remember saying something like, "If you're such a big champion of the underdog, how come you've never made a movie about the Clippers?"

I know he's a shrimp, he knows I know he's a shrimp, and I know this is no movie, so the shrimp's not going to blow me away.

"I heard sportswriters can be caustic," he says. As I recall, I hadn't even asked about "Rhinestone" at this point.

To be kind, I was about to steer the conversation back to his auto racing movie, because Dave Morgan, one of the top bosses in the sports department who has some title that escapes me, wanted me to find out something juicy about one of Sly's co-stars, Gina Gershon.

Ordinarily I'm a serious journalist, and when I'm not it's because Morgan has me asking questions about various starlets. This happens a lot, and I find it odd, because he already seems to know a lot about them. This guy might replace aging Sports Editor Bill Dwyre one day, and when you think of it, having a fixation on beautiful actresses as opposed to slobbering over a leprechaun isn't really that bad.

"We also have Estella Warren in the movie, who was voted one of the 100 most desirable women in GQ magazine," Stallone says. I'm sure Morgan will give me his copy of the magazine when he's finished.

*

A PUBLICITY REP for "Driven," which opens April 27, tells me that Stallone plays Joe Tanto, a former world-class driver who grapples with smoldering memories while befriending a rookie driver.

How many people does he shoot? I'm told this isn't one of those kind of movies. So why is he making it?

Stallone explains he likes making movies about sports because it allows him to dramatically go over the top. I stop him right there. I remind him he should never use the words "Over the Top" again, because it's only going to remind everybody what a crummy arm-wrestling movie he made.

Just like that, he tells me he's got to get going because he hears his daughter calling him. At least he didn't say it was the rumpologist who was calling him.

*

I'VE BEEN ON hold now I think 28 hours waiting for Dodger General Manager Kevin Malone to come to the telephone, and it strikes me that the Dodgers don't think much of this year's team. While I'm waiting, I'm listening to Vin Scully give me replays of Kevin Elster hitting three home runs against the San Francisco Giants--last year.

*

WHILE WRITING stories about the NFL's possible return to Los Angeles, I had the honor several times of calling on Los Angeles City Council President John Ferraro, who died Tuesday. I also had the privilege of being there the day he was honored in the Coliseum with a plaque for his lifetime achievements.

What I'll remember most, though, is the joy of dealing with a politician armed so cleverly with a sense of humor. They're very rare, and beyond Ferraro I've never met one with the ability to answer a question with a knowing twinkle all about him--never once opening his mouth. That's really rare.

And to those who chose to honor him in a wonderful Coliseum ceremony a few months ago, kudos for honoring a man when it means the most--when he has the chance to reflect on a grand career along with his appreciative admirers.

*

TODAY'S LAST WORD comes in an e-mail from Kay Ziplow:

"I've been working on a golf book, and I received numerous calls from the [PGA] Tour wives, who were appalled by your column on Tiger Woods . . . and the 'limitations' a wife might present. Perhaps I should invite you to the next interview session to stand tall and address the golfers and their significant others with your ridiculous comments."

I'll have to check with my wife to see if it's OK.

*

T.J. Simers can be reached at his e-mail address: t.j.simers@latimes.com.

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