Saturday, September 22, 2007
The Nicest Neighbor
It’s always nice to take a day off, particularly a Friday in September which starts off with totally clear skies and ends with the sun going down as rain begins to fall. There were several choices for lunch, but something told me that we should go to Nate ‘n Al’s. Nate ‘n Al’s in Beverly Hills, my favorite Deli on the west coast where the food is terrific, the atmosphere is friendly and Polanski has referred to it as one of the things he misses most about L.A. But even with all those factors, something told me that this was a day to definitely go. When we entered, even before we could put our name on the list, I saw why. Elliott Gould was standing there waiting for a table. Elliott freaking Gould. Ted Henderson, Trapper John McIntyre, Charlie Waters, Robert Caufield, Ruben Tishkoff, Harry Greenberg, Jack Geller, Dr. Howard Sheinfeld (feel free to look that one up), Time Magazine cover boy, husband to Streisand, six-time host of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, beauty pageant emcee in THE MUPPET MOVIE, friend of Groucho and, most importantly to me, Phillip Marlowe in THE LONG GOODBYE. Elliott Gould. Waiting for a table. In Nate ‘n Al’s. The woman even called out “Gould, party of two,” for him and his friend when his table was ready.
I’d love to say that I went up to him to tell him how much I worship THE LONG GOODBYE and that it led to a spirited discussion about Robert Altman, but we all know I didn’t do that. Instead, we were led to our table, all the way at the other end of the restaurant, so there was no way I could overhear what Elliott Gould was saying, unlike the time my friends and I were seated right across from Tom Poston & Suzanne Pleshette, eating with Arte Johnson and his wife. The entirety of THE LONG GOODBYE clicked through my brain as if on a moviola and I thought of favorite moments from it. Elliott Gould was far away. But the good news was that the corned beef was delicious.
Just last month I wrote a brief item where I discussed my love of THE LONG GOODBYE and how much I’ve come to connect to it over the years of living in L.A. By coincidence, somebody I know recently commented that Gould’s Phillip Marlowe had reminded them of me. I could never have said these things to him, but I hope he knows that there are people who love his work, particularly this film and how much fun it has been to see his latter-day resurgence of success both as the sort-of father to Generation X-type and especially as Reuben Tishkoff in the OCEAN’S movies.
My lunch consisted of a cup of the Kreplach and a corned beef with cole slaw. After we left and were walking down the street I happened to turn around and saw Elliott Gould and his friend leaving as well, walking in our direction. The man looks older now. He’s pushing 70 and was moving slower than I would have imagined. I remembered him chasing Nina Van Pallandt’s car through Westwood on foot, one of those times where you can definitely tell where a scene is being shot, and it was clear that he wasn’t about to recreate that moment. But I didn’t care because it was Elliott Gould. I hope he had an enjoyable lunch. Maybe I’ll just watch THE LONG GOODBYE again later. It’s OK with me.