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.

7 comments:

Jeremy Richey said...

Nothing to add here except to say thanks for the wonderful story and to throw some additional love at THE LONG GOODBYE, one of the great films of the seventies (and a personal favorite of mine as well)

Mr. Peel said...

Even though I've brought up THE LONG GOODBYE in two separate posts so far, I still feel like there's a lot I could write about the film. As far as I'm concerned, not enough love has been thrown at it. Thanks very much, Jeremy.

ProfessorWagstaff said...

Thanks for this write-up of your experience seeing The Man.

I, too, am a huge The Long Goodbye fan , in fact, it was that movie that made me consider Elliott Gould my favorite actor of all time.

I like the observation you made about him being the father of Generation X, that's so true. His characters were always alienated even before that became a by-word for a whole generation.

Thanks again and btw, excellent blog!

Cinebeats said...

That was a fun read! Isn't it strange how we can get tounge tied around the people we're most eager to talk to?

For me Elliot Gould will always be "the guy in the only poster my dad owned." You see, my dad loved MASH and Gould, so he had this poster of Gould which hung in his small office at home in our 3 bedroom apartment. It was the first "celebrity" poster I had ever seen. I still have my dad's Elliot Gould poster and I really need to get it framed and hung up.

Now that I'm older and wiser, I can obviously enjoy Gould's performances on my own.

Oddly enough I've told this story twice today. the first time was over at Jonathan's Cinema Styles blog. Everything's coming up Gould.

Mr. Peel said...

Glad to hear that there are even more fans of Elliott Gould out there! Thanks to you both for the comments and all the kind words.

Tucker said...

Great story. needless to say, I'm a fan of Gould's and I love The Long Goodbye. But what I love here is the idea of Gould going out to a deli and getting lunch. In other words, he's walking around in "our world." One might be tempted to say "oh my god, he's real!" all in all, very cool.

btw, found your site from a blurb over at The Shamus' blog.

Mr. Peel said...

Tucker--

Glad to hear that the Shamus sent you over here. I'm still surprised and pleased from reading his item. And I'm just thrilled to discover more fans of Gould and THE LONG GOODBYE out there. Thanks again.