By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“Known him for 30 years,” growls a burly fellow at the bar. “Great man. Great man.” He hands over his business card: Bill Kolender, Sheriff, San Diego County. Mostly for lack of anything else to say, I admire the pin on his lapel. There is an art to flirting with men three times one’s age, an art that boils down to the time-honored tradition of a low-cut evening gown and indiscriminate giggling.
“You like it? It’s yours.” Undoing the clasp, he lurches forward and nabs the strap of my dress. He grins, wolflike. I’ve been deputized.
Chuck arrives to a fanfare of mariachi violins. His eyes glitter. His teeth sparkle. The crowd parts. A flotilla of couples follows in his wake. Deftly preserved women in red Versace gowns and control-top pantyhose strike poses on the arms of stately William Shatner lookalikes. Chuck, of course, is all smiles. One smile, actual- ly, that doesn’t leave his face the whole evening. There’s a Zen to Chuck that has to do with his black-on-black striped satin tux, the black cowboy epaulets stitched onto the jacket, the craggy cheeks. The grizzly, red beard.
The men swarm. They encircle Chuck and slap him on the back. They reminisce like old war buddies. They abandon their dates. Wives and nymphets alike drift at the edge of the whirl, clutching skinny cocktail glasses. The entire room swirls, kneaded by the great karate hand of Chuck.
There’s Chuck with General Hugh Shelton, retired chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Chuck with the president of Monster Cable. Chuck with a captain from Edwards Air Force Base. Chuck with David “Joe Isuzu” Leisure. I edge into the receiving line to shake the sensei’s hand but am promptly bumped off by a large man in a USA-themed vest and matching boots. I catch a glimpse of Sheriff Kolender as he bear-hugs Chuck and reaches into his coat pocket for another star-shaped pin. Chuck’s circle of portly men collides with that of party host and former tennis star Vijay Amritraj. A momentary hush as Vijay and Chuck grasp arms like sumo wrestlers.
Out on the fringes, I’m introduced to blond Julie Benz from the WB’s Angel (mermaid-blue dress) and brunette Cerina Vincent of Not Another Teen Movie(pearls and rhinestones). They are two of the most gorgeous women I have ever met. That they have not been mobbed by throngs of salivating men and are parking it by the exit at a celebrity cocktail party is testament to the power of Chuck Chuck Chuck. This is no Britney mixer. Saluting, apparently, is a sport for men.
“I thought I was gonna have to crash this thing tonight,” Julie says.
I dutifully repeat my line for the evening: “So how do you know Chuck?”
“I don’t. But, gaaah!” she holds her arms away from her body and bends backward at the waist, “It’s Chuck Norris.” Spying the Chuckasaurus, she squeals, claps her hands and bounds away. And they call it Chuckie love.
Finally, I fight my way through the defense lines for 30 seconds with the master.
Chuck has soft hands. Never mind the tae kwan do, the tang soo do.
“Thanks for coming tonight,” he purrs.
My mind flashes to last night’s episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, “Rookie,” episode No. 524. Chuck’s protégé goes undercover on a drug bust.
“You didn’t get any action on Walker last night,” I offer.
“Hey, you gotta let me take a break sometime!” He does a little half karate-chop-kick. Two winks later, he’s gone.
Chuck may be the master, the justice enforcer, the stony-faced keeper of the realm, but I can’t help drifting toward the other end of the room where Bernie Kopell is making his entrance with a negative amount of pomp just as the band is launching into a chirpy rendition of “Baby, I’m Yours.” His Love Boat tan is gone, replaced by a thin flocking of ashy whiteness. Visions of golf shorts and Doc and Captain Stubing dance in my head. Kopell stands by himself. Serious. Mellow. No cowboy boots, just an elegant black tux and slim, silver-rimmed glasses.
“Excuse me, Mr. Kopell?” I touch his arm lightly. Two companions have joined him, both older men in their late 60s. They tilt their heads quizzically.
“Can I just say that I’ve had the hugest crush on you ever since Love Boat.” For a heartbeat the four of us stare at each other. Oh crap. Should’ve stuck with Chuck.
He slaps his thigh and raises both eyebrows. “Whooo!” he cries, laughing, “Whoooo-hooo!” The night belongs to Chuck. But my heart belongs to Bernie.
Art World: Do You Get the Dance of Darkness?
Five dancers swaddled in peasant rags moved across the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center’s stage in Little Tokyo last Friday with a painful slowness, doubling up on their own bodies, crawling snail-like on their hands and legs, contorting themselves like palsied rag dolls with bulging muscles. Less like The Nutcracker, quite unlike Swan Lake. More like yoga in slow motion, as amber set around the tableau. The soundtrack: clanging Buddhist prayer bowls, helicopters, white noise, church bells, the murmur of a crowd, rain and a familiar Spanish guitar piece that threatened to make the audience sing along, “Ay, ay, ay-ay . . .” (I remembered it from a commercial for salsa, or perhaps it was taco mix.)