Last night I co-hosted the ‘orange carpet’ festivities for a Chicago-in-Hollywood event at the Melman family’s new restaurant, La Grand Orange. You can read all about in Bill Zwecker’s piece in today’s Sun-Times.
In the photo above, comedian Tom Dreesen and actress Virgnia Madsen. Dreesen, a fellow south suburbanite, was for many years the primary opening act for Frank Sinatra. As I said hello to Dreesen on the orange carpet, I thought of the Sinatra connection and the fact Sinatra once said, “Orange is the happiest color,” which has to be one of the wiggiest declarations of the mid-1960s. Sinatra even wore a startling orange sweater in the original “Oceans 11.” WTF.
As for Ms. Madsen, an engaging and talented actress: I remember seeing her in films such as “Class” (semi-nude cameo appearance) and “Electric Dreams” a million years ago. (Probably shouldn’t say “a million years ago” when referring to an actress.) Not to mention the immortal “Hot Spot,” co-starring the perma-tanned Don Johnson and the very young Jennifer Connelly. What a warm and welcome presence Madsen is these days. How great was she in “Sideways”? (Note: As much as I liked “Sideways,” I have a theory that many film critics had extra love for that movie because it features the schleppy Paul Giamatti as a bitter, frustrated writer who drinks far too much and often has the manners of a wolverine——yet he manages to intrigue, court and bed the lovely Maya, played by Madsen. Of course all those male critics loved “Sideways,” because more than few of them look, sound and behave like Giamatti’s character.)
Also at the party: Harold Ramis, co-architect of many of the greatest comedies of the last 30 years. Earlier this year, I did a Q-and-A with Ramis in which he revealed his first choice to play the lead in “Groundhog Day” was Tom Hanks, but the problem was that Hanks had such a nice-guy persona, viewers would like him from the start, even when he was being a jerk. Bill Murray? Much easier to buy as an asshole. (And to Murray’s credit, he was just as believable as a changed man by the end of the film.)
Ramis was one of the 30 or so guest critics that filled in for Roger Ebert on “At the Movies” after Roger took ill. (Others included Jay Leno, Kevin Smith, Aisha Tyler [my personal favorite], David Edelstein, Lisa Schwarzbaum and John Mellencamp, who did the show mainly because he wanted to tout the documentary “Grey Gardens.”) Nearly every time after I’d finished taping a show with a guest critic, that person would say, “Wow, there’s a lot more to this than I thought,” or, “It’s not so easy to rip a movie or a performance when you realize millions of people are going to see it,” or, “There’s a lot that goes into this show.”
When Ramis finished, he deadpanned, “You call this work?”
Whether I was chatting with Jeff Garlin or Joe Mantegna or for pics with Dick Butkus (!), there were a number of moments when I thought to myself, “You call this work?”
Yeah it’s a bit of a challenge to maneuver your way through one interview after another with an actor or a producer or a sports figure, listening to their answers while formulating your next question as a frantic producer is signaling for you to wrap it up because MISTER BIG STAR has just arrived—–but compared to the real jobs most people do every day, it’s another day at Fantasy Camp.