Here are an excerpts from an article about some activist in the rich suburbs of Philadelphia whom theÂ
thought was worthy of 1200 words, as he relentlessly wages an endless war that was already won decades ago, using arguments that are as unanswerable under the reigning mindset as they are pointless. Even the poorÂ
reporter seems to have picked up on how funny this story is, in an unmentionable kind of way.
That reminds me of when I was in the passport office waiting room back in May. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an elegantly dressed elderly man sit down two chairs away. While I read my book, a younger man sat down between us, and started talking to the older man, calling him "Marty" and wheedling him to put in an appearance at his workshop, requests which Marty graciously sidestepped. The man then asked Marty what he was up to. In a cultured voice, Marty explained that he had to get his passport renewed so he could pick up a Lifetime Achievement Award at a film festival, and then he was hoping to make a small movie about an elderly couple, with Ellen Burstyn playing his wife.
I hadn`t yet looked directly at Marty, but I had it figured out by now: Marty wasn`t Martin Scorsese, as I`d first wondered, butÂ Martin Landau
, the master character actor. Then it occurred to me that about a decade ago, I had decided that Landau`s portrayal of washed-up Dracula actor Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton`sÂ Ed Wood
(with Johnny Depp as the world`s worst movie director), was the best supporting performance I`d ever seen for comedy and pathos combined. Perhaps I can`t fully justify that opinion, but it`s not implausible: for that role, Landau finally won the Oscar at age 66.
How often, I asked myself, do you run into a person you`ve previously decided was Best.Whatever.Ever?
So, when my number was called, I stood up and said, "Mr. Landau, I just wanted to say that I`ve long thought your portrayal of Bela Lugosi"
— for about a quarter of a second he seemed uncertain as he mentally sorted through all the roles he`s had (IMDB.com lists 158 different movies and television shows since 1956), then he smiled; yes, he rememberedÂ that
role — "was the best supporting performance I`ve ever seen."
He thanked me very nicely, and I went and got my passport.
That reminded me that of the several dozen celebrities I`ve run into over the years, I can`t think of anything I`ve observed more scandalous than that forty-something actresses aren`t as glamorous-looking when they rush out to the store without their makeup on than when you see them in movies. It would be fun to have outrageous gossip to retail, but, in fact, most celebrities I`ve accidentally met have been superior in manners and comportment.
Most of the celebrities I`ve run into fall into that oxymoronic category of "famous supporting actors," so they are, almost by definition, good at acting gracious to civilians who, like I try to do, acknowledge them respectfully and unpresumptuously formally ... and thenÂ leave
. But, it`s also that to become a celebrity character actor like Martin Landau, somebody with a career distinguished enough that I`ll finally attach a name to your face, you have to be a consummate professional over decades. To have Martin Landau`s 53-year career, you can`t be a mess like Bela Lugosi.
In summary, now that I think about it, Martin Landau isn`t much like Robert H. Landau at all.
But, that`s the point of having a blog, isn`t it — to be able to careen drunkenly from topic to topic without having to gin up a Deep Think justification tying together your randomness?